I gave this presentation on Sunday 12/04/2015 at IATEFL Manchester.
With only half an hour, I think I did a good job of providing a general framework to making excursion-based lessons. In this post, I’d like to give a bit more meat to each stage of lesson prep for those who were able to come, and also for those who couldn’t make it:
This is an instructor-led stage, for example in a classroom, eLearning platform or blended approach. I personally use a mix of printed packs, eLearning and WebEx video conferences. This means my pre-excursion lesson is split into parts, with self-study, an assignment submission and feedback, as well as a video conference with the excursion group for relevant speaking practice.
These tasks have the overall aim of inspiring interest, pre-teaching vocabulary and speaking sub-skills, all with the requirements of the excursion tasks in mind. This symbiotic relationship means I need to think about pre-excursion and on-excursion tasks at the same time to be sure they nicely complement each other, and to maximise the chance of vocabulary consolidation.
This is a student-led stage, where the role of the teacher becomes overseer and director. I design tasks that require students to move around and interact with the excursion venue, using text, listening or simply visual resources available on site as the stimulus. The teacher explains one of these tasks, lets students loose to complete them individually or in groups, setting a regroup time to discuss and compare results. This can be repeated as long as you think students’ motivation will endure, though for me I find 2 hours enough before we need to take a coffee or lunch break.
This is an instructor-led or self-study phase where follow-up tasks are designed that consolidate the language practised in the pre- and on-excursion lessons. I use email as my preferred medium, setting the task of writing an email to their colleague or friend to describe the location they saw and what they learned. It could equally be collaborating on a shared wiki to write a newspaper article or tourist flyer on the location; the theme and activities should be adapted to the group’s learning objectives.
All three stages share an intimate connection, and should be designed in sync to ensure a coherence that will justify taking students outside on excursions. With proper pre- and post-excursion activity preparation, students will constantly feel a new level of motivation with traditional classroom or self-study activities, given that it connects to a high-pressure public display of the skills and language they’re practising.
I hope this helps. If you try this method, or are already using it, please absolutely let me know how it goes, I’d love to hear from you. Good luck out there!