Back to School Post-Summer ESL Lesson: Sunny Day Vocabulary

I’m going to start this by saying that today’s lesson plan is not specifically for IELTS students. However, I do teach it to my IELTS classes. I am currently working at a university in China, and today was the first day back to school after the summer holidays. I needed a class that was interesting, informative, and related to summer. I’ve been teaching for many, many years, and I’ve tried lots of different post-summer ESL lessons, and this one went pretty well. I picked up a tan when I was travelling around Thailand last month, and I thought I’d preempt all the “Teacher looks so dark!” (or worse) comments by teaching some more appropriate vocabulary.

Lead-in

My lead-in was simple. I just told the class about my own summer holiday! I showed a few photos and spoke slowly and simply (remember, some of them haven’t used English in two months). That got their attention and helped build up some rapport.

Discussion

Next up, I ask my students a simple and predictable question:

What did you do during the summer holidays?

I have them discuss this in groups, and then I walk around and talk with them. I teach classes of about 50 students so it is difficult, but not impossible, to run activities like this. Some teachers might prefer to stand back and let the students talk among themselves, but with my students you really need to push them or they’ll just be lazy.

Vocabulary

Here is the input section. I wanted to give my students some useful but unexpected vocabulary. In China, people are generally very afraid of the sun and they dream of having milky white skin. They also talk openly about others’ skin tones. Well, if they’re going to be so rude, they should at least have the right language when doing it in English. As such, I put together this PPT to teach the necessary language.

As this is Slideshare, the PPT needs to be downloaded in order to look right. I try to show a picture that illustrates the language first, and then show the language later. I give my students a minute to think and discuss each word. After that, I show examples, and at the end there are two tests.

Note: There are some pictures of people sunbathing here. If you work in a particularly conservative area or school, this PPT may need modified.

Postcard Writing

I’m sure some people may disagree with this next exercise as it is not entirely practical these days. After all, when was the last time you wrote a postcard?! Certainly, we have transferred into the realm of Facebook and Instagram posts replacing the hand-written postcard. I don’t mean to lament the decline of the postcard, but it really does give more scope for writing good (if somewhat short) English passages.

I begin by giving my students some travel brochures that I have made. I made these many years ago and I think it was copy and pasted from Wikitravel, which is Creative Commons, so it shouldn’t matter much… but I do apologize for not attributing properly in any case.

You could easily substitute these for something else if you prefer. Any informative, interesting source of travel information is fine.



Next, I show my students some examples of postcards. You can find many of these online, or make your own. I liked this one:

(Source)

I ask my students to do the following:

Imagine you visited the country on your brochure. Write a postcard to a friend or relative explaining what you did there.

Ending the Lesson

You can deal with the postcards in different ways. I go around and mark a few of my students’ postcards, and then gather some common mistakes for group feedback. You could also take them all in at the end and mark them at home.

Personally, at the first lesson of the year, I always put a big cereal box on the front desk and ask my students to fill in suggestion forms for the year. I can then cater better to their interests over the coming year.

Head Teacher
I'm the founder and editor of Beatdom Literary Journal, author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' and World Citizen: Allen Ginsberg as Traveller. I'm also a teacher and operate the popular website, TED-IELTS.

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