Short field trips to local businesses can help English learners begin to try out their language skills. However, it is a good idea to make sure that your students are prepared before taking these short field trips. This lesson plan helps provide structure to what can quickly become a rather overwhelming event without specific objectives for the field trip. This lesson is meant for classes which are held in English speaking countries. However, there are also a few ideas in the lesson notes on ways in which the lesson might be changed for short field trips in countries in which English is not the primary language.
Aim: Developing speaking skills / practicing interactions with native speakers other than the teacher
Activity: Short field trips to local businesses / government offices / other sites of interest
Level: All levels except for absolute beginners
- Begin lesson with a short warm up. Ideally, tell the students about the first time you did some shopping or tried to accomplish some task in a foreign language. Ask some of the students to quickly share their own experiences.
- Using the board, ask students to describe reasons for some of their difficulties. As a class, look for suggestions on how they might plan ahead to deal with such problems in the future.
- Inform students of the rough outline of your planned short field trip. If there are issues surrounding permission slips, transportation, etc. discuss these at the end of the lesson rather than at this point in the lesson.
- Choose a theme for the short field trip. If you are going shopping, students should be gathering information around a specific theme. For example, students might look into purchasing a home theater system. One group cold explore the options for TVs, another group options for surround sound, another group blue-ray players, etc. Other tasks for short field trips could include:
- Gathering information on health insurance options
- Trips to the zoo
- Visiting the local employment office
- Planning a meal together by going to the market
- Visiting a local gym to find out information on work-out possibilities, facilities, etc.
- Visiting a local tourist information center
- Going to a a local event such as a state fair
- As a class, create a list of the tasks that should be accomplished on the short field trip. It's probably a good idea to have already created a basic list on your own before class to get the ideas flowing.
- Have students break up into groups of 3 - 4. Ask each group to identify a specific task they would like to accomplish from the list you have developed.
- Have each group divide their own tasks up into at least four separate components. For example, in the example of a visit to a large retailer in order to buy a home theater system, the group responsible for researching TV options might have three tasks: 1) Which size is best for which living situation 2) Which cables are required 3) Warranty possibilities 4) Payment options
- After each student has chosen a specific task, have them write out questions they think they should ask. This would be a great opportunity to review various question forms such as direct questions, indirect questions, and question tags.
- Circulate in the room helping students with their questions.
- Ask each group to role-play the situation switching roles between salesperson, tourist agency representative, employment officer, etc. (depending on the context)
- Go on the short field trip!
Follow-up In Class
Here are some ideas to use as follow-up exercises in class or as homework to help solidify what students have learned on their short field-trips:
- Create short role-plays based on their experiences
- Draw up vocabulary trees employing new vocabulary used / studied during their preparations and short field trip
- Ask other students in small group to take their roles while they take the role of the shop assistant, employment agency personnel, etc.
- Short writing assignments summarizing their experience
- Group reports back to class
Variations on Field Trips for Non English Speaking Countries
If you don't live in an English speaking country, here are some variations on short field trips:
- Have students take short field trips to each other's place of business. Students ask each other the appropriate questions.
- Visit local businesses, but have students role-play shop assistant - customer / employment agency officer - citizen / etc.
- Take short field trips online. There are many sites that offer real-time chat. Have students take advantage of these sites to gather information.