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Three days in paradise: Planning your own vacation as an EFL exercise

Writer(s): 
Tom Fast, Okayama Gakugeikan High School

Quick guide

  • Keywords: 4 skills, project-based learning, student-centered, authentic materials, e-learning, geography, CALL, Internet
  • Learner English level: Intermediateto advanced
  • Learner maturity: High school and university
  • Preparation time: 2 hours
  • Activity time: 8to 10 hours
  • Materials: PC, Internet connection, PC projector, screen

Introduction

While looking at a New York Times Travel slideshow, I realizedmy students could makesomething similar. Theyhad a great time learning how to plan a vacation to a foreign country—in English.I went with a simple 2 nights/3 days and no budget format but they did need to report the cost (i.e. airfare, accommodations,and food). Students presented their vacations in pairs with a simple slideshow.

Preparation

Step 1: Make a sample presentation. For expediency, I stuck with my hometown. (My travelogue can be viewed by going to Yahoo Travel. Click “Travel Plans and Journals” in the Research tab drop-down menu. Then search for “Bucolic Oregon”).

Step 2: Create a worksheet describing the project, along with presentation guidelines (see Appendix 1 for an example worksheet), and the script of your presentation.

Procedure

Step 1: Show students your sample slideshow presentation. Give students a sample script describing the daily schedule, where to stay, what to eat, do, etc. Allow timefor questions at the end.

Step 2: Have students choose travel partners and discuss what is important for a good vacation (e.g. beautiful beaches, good shopping, museums, amusement parks, etc). Teach the necessary discussion phrases so they can define their vacation criteria and choose a location.

Step 3: Students choose a destination. As this is only a short trip, I recommend they limit themselves to a small region or city. New York Times Travel should give them plenty of inspiration (see <travel.nytimes.com/gst/travel/36hours.html>). Also Yahoo Travel(see<www.YahooTravel.com>) will give them access to an interactive world map and photos of users’ recent vacations.

Step 4: Once they have a destination, they will useYahoo Travel to help them locate everything they need: airfare, accommodations, attractions, restaurants, etc. Students should organize all their information on note cards, which they’ll use during their presentations.

Step 5:­­ Flickr.com has an exhaustive collection of images for their slideshows.Students should download their photos onto a PC desktop folder and rename them “photo1,” “photo2,” etc. so that they can be automatically arranged in chronological order. Their first image should be a map of their destination. For Windows PC users, to show their presentation, click the “slideshow” feature on the left drop-down menu of their folder.

Step 6: Now that the students have their note cards and their slideshow, they should be ready to present. Remind them again on the English to be used in their presentation. Tell the rest of the class to listen for key information and ask questions.

Step 7: As a final step, students should write up their presentation. I like to do this last, as a follow-up to the presentation, so that students don’t read from their paper as a scriptduring the presentation.There are many formats the written piece could take depending on the ability level of your class: brochure, travel article, journal, etc.

Conclusion

The project achieved three main goals: (a) using all four skills,(b) learning about the world beyond the classroom, and (c) planning a trip to get there. My students went shopping in Istanbul; visited Santa Claus at his headquarters in Northern Finland; and learned how to Meringue in the Dominican Republic. In sum, we all had a great vacation from traditional learning.

Appendix

The appendix for this article is available below.

PDF: 
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