HomeTeenagersSchool's out! But not for everyone…!

School’s out! But not for everyone…!




Empty School Hallway

Oxford Teacher Trainer, Naomi Moir, offers some lesson ideas for those ‘less than ordinary’ summer schools.

Many teachers round the globe are right now breathing a sigh of relief as the school year draws to a close, that’s it for another year, schools out! But for many, there’s a whole chunk of teaching still to be done! For me, for a number of years, the end of term signalled the start of my busiest and most challenging teaching period – summer school/teaching!

For some, summer means a 6-8 week stint back ‘home’ teaching flirty, chatty, sulky teens. For others it might mean a couple of weeks out in the countryside teaching on a summer camp with kids from as young as 7 or 8 up to the ages of 15 or 16, and for some it’s hot, sweaty days in a stuffy classroom with a bunch of kids in need of extra help. Whatever summer school/teaching means to you, it usually has some of the following elements:

  • Few(er) resources
  • Little or no ‘set’ syllabus/curriculum
  • More varied abilities and ages in a group
  • Longer lessons
  • Extra-curricular activities

These factors all contribute to summer school/teaching being ‘different’ to general term-time teaching. It therefore, requires more creative planning on behalf of the teacher – something that can be tricky to find the energy for on the back of a busy school year!

Here are a couple of ideas I’ve made use of (many times!) over my summer teaching days, I hope they’re useful to you. I would love to hear your thoughts on how they go if you use of any and, of course, it would be great if anybody wanted to share an idea or two of their own!

DIY Board Games

Divide the students into small groups. Give each group a small pile of coloured squares of paper. On these pieces of paper they should write questions or tasks. For example: “Spell your name backwards”, “Name three adjectives beginning with the letter ‘B’” or “What is the capital of Australia?” Set a minimum number of questions/tasks. Put these to one side and as a class brainstorm typical ‘game squares’ (miss a turn, go back 2 spaces, roll again…) list these on the board. Give out more coloured pieces of paper and ask students to make a set number of ‘game squares’. These and the question/task squares are then stuck on a piece of A3 paper to make the game board – students can choose the pattern/shape. Students exchange game boards and play each others’ games. If they’ve written questions such as “What is the capital of Australia?” they could number those squares and make a corresponding answer sheet which can be referred to if necessary by the playing team.


Draw or copy a scrabble board (preferably A3 sized or bigger) and put this on the wall of the classroom or in a communal area. Each day choose 7 letters to display next to the board. You could do this by copying the scrabble letters and then selecting them randomly or you could use letters from particular words or a phrase covered in a previous lesson. Students then write the letters down and make a word that will fit on the board, which they then submit to the teacher. The word that earns the most points gets added to the board. The next day/lesson, new letters are displayed and the cycle continues.

Connecting the Top 20

For this activity you can either use a current version of the Top 20 pop songs or you can generate a Top 20 list with your students.  As a second option, ask your students to write the titles of their 2 favourite songs of all time, and compile a class Top 20.  This would ideally be done in a lesson prior to the following main activity. Display this list on the board, checking any vocabulary as necessary. Tell the students that in pairs they are going to write a short story (200 words), in which they must include at least 10 of the song titles.  They can use any other words they wish, but the titles must remain exactly as they are. It might be a good idea to provide a short example using some very well known songs. Allow the students plenty of time to create their stories, but monitor to offer help, correction etc. The stories can then be posted around the room for students to read and comment on/discuss.

[Photo by Conspirator Design via Flickr/Creative Commons]

Bookmark and Share


  1. I just finished a four-week summer course, and I definitely had all five of the things you mentioned as features of summer classes. The biggest issue for me was the mixed-levels. To deal with the issue (and to take advantage of not having any set curriculum), I really focused on supersegmentals and expression building.

    What we did was listen to a lot of songs and movie clips and then try to reproduce the intonation, word stress, and timing we heard. At first, I just brought in the songs, but later each student presented a song to the class. In the end, we went to a karaoke room and each student sang a song for the class. It was a lot of fun, and I think they got a lot out of it.

    I should add that I teach in Korea where students generally have poor supersegmental skills regardless of how much grammar or vocabulary they know. So, I don’t know that this is right all over the world, but it definitely worked for me:)


  2. I think it’s great to see so much ingenuity going into teaching English over such a short period. There’s always a risk that, given the limited time available to teach, tutors such as yourself are really talking the challenge head on.

    There is such a large number of summer schools out there now and it’s great to see the quality amongst the quantity!

Leave a Reply

Recent posts

Recent comments