Nothing is more exciting for the learners than leaving the desks and books behind and going outside to have the class in the open. From the teaching point of view, taking the class outside acts as a metaphorical departure from the classroom theory into real world practice. Yes, that’s very profound. Feel free to use that reason to justify the special outdoor lesson, although we know you just want to leave that stuffy room as much as the learners do. In any case, simply going outside isn’t good enough as now you need to give your pupils something to do to prevent them from descending into chaos. Below are five ideas for engaging your students in outdoor activities, all involving the English language.
Level: A1 and higher
1. Before leaving the classroom, write as many words on the black board as possible. The words should be things you can find in the real world, such as a car, house, cat, police officer.
You can take suggestions from students or simply hand them the chalk and let them go crazy.
2. Each student creates a grid with 4 by 4 boxes. They can draw it in their notebooks or on a separate sheet of paper.
3. Next, instruct the students to pick 16 words from the black board and write them inside the boxes.
4. They now each have a bingo ticket. Instruct them to grab a pen, take their papers and follow you outside.
1. Once outside, instruct students to look for the objects they’ve written in the boxes. Make sure to keep the group of students together so they see and write the same words.
2. When a student sees an object from their bingo ticket they should cross it out.
3. The first one to cross out 4 vertically, horizontally or diagonally wins a price
4. The first one to cross out all 16 words wins a better price.
5. The first one to discover a new element wins the Nobel Prize.
Level: A2 and higher
1. Before leaving the classroom decide on a list of 20 things students can find outside. Write them down on the black board. Circle the 5 most difficult things to find.
2. Put your students into small groups of 3-4.
3. Each group copies the list into one notebook or a sheet of paper.
1. Go outside.
2. Set the time for 20 minutes. During this time your students can walk around the designated area and look for the objects. Each time they find something from the list they need to record its location in the notebook.
For the 5 most difficult things to find they not only need to make a location entry but also take a picture, proving that they have found it.
3. Back in the classroom compare the lists and award the group which scored the most amount of points.
Award 1 point for all the regular things and 3 for one of the 5 most difficult ones.
Level: A1 and higher
What you’ll need are 2 water guns (and, if possible, get much more for a full on water battle after the game) and 2 blindfolds.
How to play:
1. Divide your students into two teams with the same number of people. Each person has their opposite (or nemesis) on the other team.
2. All students stand (or sit) around, forming a large circle.
3. Two people enter the circle – the two opposites from each team.
4. Cover their eyes with the blindfolds.
5. Place two loaded water guns in two random places on the edge of the circle.
6. Each team gives instructions to their blindfolded teammate so he or she can find the water gun.
7. The moment the gun is found they can rip off the blindfold and shoot at their nemesis. This gets 1 point for their team.
When the game is over hand out all the other guns you have to the two teams and enjoy yourself while all hell breaks loose 😉
Level: B1 and higher
1. Take your students to a large supermarket.
2. Put them into teams of either 2 or 3 people.
3. Handout shopping lists to all groups.
4. Agree on a time (i.e. 5 minutes) and a rendezvous point (i.e. the produce section)
5. The groups need to go around the shop with a basket and collect the items from the list.
6. The first one to complete the task wins (but then you can give your students another, more complicated, list).
7. At the end buy everybody ice cream (this step is crucial for the exercise).
Level: B1 and higher
1. Before you leave the classroom prepare the surveys with your students. These can be related to the current study subject or on a completely different topic.
2. Put your students into groups of max 3 people. Each group will get a piece of paper with the survey, a pen and a clipboard.
1. Instruct your groups to walk around the neighbourhood and approach strangers, asking them questions from the survey.
2. If you’re teaching in a foreign country it might be best to organize it as a trip to a place where many expats hangout. That would normally be the beach, popular park or a street with foreign restaurants and cafes.
3. Back in the classroom, have each group read their answers out loud and transition to the next exercise that uses data you’ve collected
This is a very good real world practice exercise as often people will want to engage in a casual conversation with your students which will allow them to use their skills in practice.