We are now well and truly into the holiday season and many of our in-company English course participants have recently been on holiday or will soon be leaving for one. I often find myself making conversation with my learners about their holidays:
- Learners enjoy talking about holidays
- It gives them the chance to practise using the past simple and the past continuous
- It can help them build up their small talk skills
- Reporting back on something you´ve done is also a good skill to have in the business world
- My Easyjet boarding pass for the flight from Munich to Edinburgh
- A tourist map
- A fridge magnet I bought in a kilt shop
- A receipt from the Marks & Spencer´s store at Edinburgh train station where I´d bought a sandwich and a fruit salad
- A floor plan for the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow
The learners in this high B1/ low B2 group didn´t know that I´d be away on a short trip the week before , so I gave each participant a different “holiday artefact” and gave them four questions to answer about it:
1. What is it?
2. Where did I get it?
3. Why did I get it?
4. Should I keep it or throw it away?
It was great to see the learners exploring the things I´d given them: turning them over, examining them from all angles, looking closely to get a better look at the text and speculating aloud in English about why I´d bought something or where I could have got it from. After 10 minutes or so they were ready to share the results of their deliberations. Most of the time they´re guesses were accurate, but I filled them in with some more details and we went through any unfamiliar vocabulary. Some of the topics we discussed at this stage included:
- Would you visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum if you were in Glasgow? Why/Why not?
- Do you collect anything from your holidays? I collect fridge magnets.
- Do you use a paper map when you visit a new place, or do you use your intuition or your smartphone instead?
- What´s your opinion of low-cost airlines like Easyjet? Do you use them?
- Would you like to visit Scotland? Would you try haggis, if you did?
When everyone had responded, I asked all five learners to get together and decide what I had done on my trip: playing holiday detectives, so to speak.
During this lesson, the learners had been alert, full of enthusiasm and very engaged with the language they were getting and with the business of communicating it to everyone else. At the end of the lesson I suggested that we could repeat this activity if any members of the group go on holiday and could bring some things they´d collected on their holiday, preferably which incorporated English texts, into the lesson. Two weeks later, one of the participants returned from a short trip to Venice and brought a wide range of leaflets, mementos, maps and other bits and pieces back for us to look at, not only this but she also created a PowerPoint presentation with photos from her trip, which she presented to us. She also gave me a Venice fridge magnet as a gift, after I´d explained that the reason I´d bought the fridge magnet in Glasgow was because I try to always collect a fridge magnet whenever I visit a new place. This also became an excellent lesson and collecting things from trips and holidays and bringing them into the English lesson to talk about has now become a tradition in the course.