Over the summer, I worked as an ESL teacher at a summer camp for children and teens from abroad. This was my third-year teaching at the camp and I had a great time!
As expected, it was chaos, with students arriving every week from countries like Mexico, Brazil, Italy, South Korea, and Japan. There were lots of new faces with students coming and going.
There were also students who stayed for several weeks, and I appreciated seeing their familiar smiles.
As it turned out, I mostly taught children ages 8-12. In previous years, I taught teens, but the younger students brought a different energy with lots of excitement and I appreciated it.
The Best Laid Plans
My days started off very early in the morning at home where I created a lesson plan and activities for the day. No matter how much I prepared, once class started, I had no expectations. Anything could happen, and my plans could turn any which way.
Classroom Management—Vacation Mindset
My major challenge was classroom management. I had a lesson plan, materials were printed, and we had something to do, but this only turned out to be a loose framework that was subject to change.
It is very hard to engage students suffering from jetlag or those who don’t feel up to it—vacation mindset. Nevertheless, we got a lot accomplished, although in unintended ways.
Down to Work
I figured that I could get a solid hour at the beginning of class to teach and have the students work on exercises, do an assignment, or work on an art project. Then, they had a break and all classroom work was often tossed to the wind.
Take It Outside
That is when I took the students outside. We had a good stretch and played vocabulary games with a ball or did a scavenger hunt. Name-tag was a popular game and at one point we even used a blindfold. The more fun the kids had, the more they interacted with each other, and, in turn, used English.
Learning Can Be Fun
So, that was my take-away this summer. Unstructured play offers opportunities for interaction and learning, as well as having fun for fun’s sake. This made everyone happy—including the teacher. After all, it is a summer camp and the last thing students want to do is be cooped up in yet another classroom. Classroom management solved!
More on Svetlana’s experience at camp this summer can be found on Twitter at @lanavrb.