I spent a couple of years teaching English at a Middle School in a small, rural countryside town, located in a hill valley in the mountainous province of Gangwon-do, South Korea.
My first semester of teaching had gone really well and was coming to an end. I was sitting at my desk in the staff room, happily daydreaming about my long summer vacation, when I was told by my co-teacher that the local education office had chosen me and a teacher from another school to run a week-long English camp.
English camp? Ok, that could be cool for a week. So, we do a bit of hiking, canoeing, building campfires etc, while conversing with the kids in English? Erm, not quite.
As it turned, the word 'camp' was a bit misleading. English camp is described as an added enrichment activity for Korean school children during the summer and winter vacations. But, essentially, it is just more school for those unlucky students whose parents sign them up for it.
With this in mind, I think it is important to make the camps as engaging and fun as possible. I actually found them to be really rewarding experiences for everyone involved, and did a number of camps over the 2 years I was in South Korea.
1. As a teacher, I found that the way you conduct yourself matters as much, if not more than what you say. This is certainly the case when conducting an English camp with students you have not spent time with before. Approach the first day as you might the first day of school:
2. Plan lessons to be as fun as possible, while ensuring the students are still learning. Here are some ideas.
There are loads of things you can do.
3. Make sure you are able to contact someone in the case of an emergency. On day two of my first ever camp, a student twisted his ankle and needed medical attention. The Korean co-teachers had disappeared and neither I nor the other foreign teacher had a phone that worked in Korea. The other teacher had to run around looking for help while I stayed with the injured student. The next day I made sure I got my UK phone unlocked and put in a Korean sim card. I found out how to unlock my phone here.
4. If you are doing a summer English camp, go outside and enjoy the great weather. South Korea is a country of extremes in regards to weather with freezing winters, but really warm and sun-drenched summers.
5. Don't be afraid for some of your lessons to fail and have backup plans for when they do.You never know when a computer might break down or a lesson doesn't work out how you thought. Having lots of extra lessons and games available could save you if disaster strikes. Games can be really simple things like taboo and the flyswatter game or even crosswords and word searches. Anything to keep the kids occupied.
The main focus of the camp is to have fun and learn English. Many of the students will arrive on day one wishing they were playing with friends at the beach or riding their bikes around town.
My advice is give them a reason to not miss that by combining learning with fun. Put as much, or even more, energy into the camp as you would a lesson at school.
And remember, it is also your free time that is being used up, so you want to enjoy the experience too. English camp can be a time for you to have fun with the kids and develop your teaching skills.
If you have a camp coming up, I hope some of the tips in this article will help you.
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