Ideas for outdoor lessons which will have an element of English in them.
More ideas for outdoors classes that have more of a physical side to them. They are intended for classes of adult, young adult or teenage learners.
Note 1: These lesson ideas are for classes in countries where English is NOT the main spoken language. Classes in English-speaking countries can use/adapt some of these, but of course have a wealth of other possibilities.
Note 2: These classes all presume that you are actually able to leave the classroom. Find out if you are allowed to do so before attempting these activities. If it isn’t possible to leave your school with your students, you’d better stop reading here – otherwise all the following is just wishful thinking!
In a scavenger hunt, participants look for a series of items on a list, usually provided by the teacher. Scavenger hunts are great for an outdoors class when all the students are studying in an English speaking country. But they can also be used in a country where English isn’t the main language spoken. Here’s how to organize a scavenger hunt:
- Divide the class into teams.
- Give each team the list of things they must 'hunt' for.
- Tell the students to go and find the things on the list. Every time they see something, they put a tick next to the word. Set a time limit.
- Have students report back what they have found, in English.
Here are some sample lists of things that students could look for. Adapt to suit the environment you are in.
- Different kinds of buildings: Find a building with more than five storeys (and one with less than three), a place of worship, a square, a monument, a shelter, a lawyer’s office, a doctor’s office, a library, a bookshop …
- Colours: Find a green door, a red car, a white bird …
- In a shopping centre: Find English words on different labels or brands. Write the English word down and the item it was on (in English).
- Unknown words: Bring a bilingual dictionary and find names for things in English that you didn’t know before – record the new word with the translation into your own language.
- People: Find a young couple, a mother and child, a tourist, a police officer, a bus driver, etc. Write a short description of each person (tall, short, clothes …)
If your students have digital cameras or camera phones, they could bring these to the scavenger hunt. They can use these to take photos and provide proof of their findings.
If you are close to a park, or beach, organize a picnic. If students are all from different countries, ask them to bring typical dishes from their country to the picnic and be prepared to explain them. If your students are from the same country you could make a themed picnic (vegetarian, English food, American food …). The language work could be done before the picnic, in the planning stages. This could involve:
- language for suggestions and planning (Let’s go …; Why don’t we bring ...)
- brainstorming food and drink lexis
At the picnic, you could also use the situation to teach expressions for:
- thanking and compliments
- asking about and describing dishes (What’s in this? It’s a dish I learned from … It’s got … and … and a bit of …)
You could also organise popular outdoor games like the ones below.
There are a large number of outdoor sports games that you can play with your students. You probably know several already. To make it a more English experience, use the class before to teach the language of games (my turn, pass, over here, switch sides …) as well as the rules for the games you want to play. You could also ask students to suggest games. Students should be prepared to explain the rules for any games they suggest in English.
During the game, have a penalty system for anyone who doesn’t use English. Team names can also be in English.
For a list of outdoor games and how to play them (in case you and your students are really stumped for ideas), look at this website: https://funattic.com/game_list/
If you are teaching in a place near a swimming pool, that’s always a possibility too. Opportunities for using English in the pool would be to peer teach how to do a certain stroke or any number of pool games.
Drama games outside
A final possibility is drama games. Most drama games in the classroom are suitable for outdoors. Here are some that I have done with classes in summer schools. They seem quite standard in the classroom, but it’s amazing how the grass under your feet and the sun shining above your head can revitalize an activity for you and your class.
- Charades – There many variations of this game, with students you can mime simple actions, idioms, phrasal verbs, etc.
- Truth or lies – Put one person in the centre of the circle of students. Each student must ask that person a question. The student must give alternate answers true and false. He/she must do this without laughing or smiling, otherwise he/she is 'out' and the turn passes to the next person.
- All arms – This works really well with younger learners, but I’ve seen it with adult learners and it’s fun. Assign two students, A and B. A stands with his arms loosely behind his back, hands linked. B stands behind A and puts her arms forward and under A’s arms, so as to become A’s arms. Now A begins talking, and B moves her arms and hands to go with what A is saying. This activity becomes even funnier if you have a mini role-play involved with a third student, so that A (with B’s arms) must converse with C.
Speaking skills: Teaching ideas
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Get out of the classroom 2
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