Teachers often say that they would like to provide more authentic opportunities for students to experience language and culture out of the classroom but may feel constrained by a lack of time or lack of attractions in their areas. The good news is that you do not have to take on the impossible or live in a metropolis to take learning out of the classroom. Take advantage of the resources in your local community to create meaningful and authentic opportunities to apply student learning to real-life experiences.
Shops in the Neighbourhood
Visiting shopping malls with the class can reinforce vocabulary related to everyday items. Why not take your students to a grocery or department store and visit the various departments? Arrange for a Q & A with an employee or store manager about everyday tasks and job responsibilities.
A Visit to a Park
Most parks are community landmarks commemorating historical events or people, so plan a visit to your local park to explore the great outdoors. Mont Royal Park is the focal point of my city, Montreal, Canada. Prior to visiting the park, short readings inform students about the history of the mountain from early discovery by French explorers to its transformation into an urban greenspace featuring an array of seasonal activities. Students enjoy class picnics, sharing recipes from their home countries in the warmer months. In the winter months, ice-skating on the frozen pond is an all-time favourite. Special bonds are created during these types of activities as students socialize with their peers in English.
Newspapers are a great reading resource for ESL students. Articles are short, mostly accessible (or highly adaptable), and packed with language. Perhaps your students would enjoy a guided tour of your local newspaper. They will learn about the printing process and the history of the newspaper, and they can even speak to the editor or a journalist. This visit may spearhead your own class newspaper project documenting stories and events in your school or community.
A visit to a local museum is suitable for any level of learner, especially when the content in class can be tied to an exhibit. Investigate a painter, period of history, or an indigenous species from your local area prior to your visit. A few weeks ago, we studied Darwin’s theory of evolution before visiting the Redpath Museum of Natural History. The museum features a small exhibit on Darwin, but the students most enjoyed the scavenger hunt full of rich vocabulary in geology, biology, and ancient civilizations. Working together in small teams, they followed instructions, negotiated meaning, and shared their cultures with peers.
This is just a small sample of the variety of activities we do at my school. These activities are the result of a lot of teacher collaboration, creating materials and projects to support student learning before taking the learning out of the classroom. Curricular activities add value to the quality of your language program and enhance the student experience. So how are you going to take learning out of the classroom?