Teach English in Hongxing Zhen - Aba Zangzu Qiangzu Zizhizhou —

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Topic: What outdoor activities can help with teaching English? (Option 122) Title: Using nature to nurture: enhancing EFL learning by educating outside L M Pincott Introduction Dreary-eyed students, staring out the window instead of focusing on your thoughtfully prepared lesson. This is something many teachers have experienced at some stage in their career. Atkinson (2010) states that while indoor education focuses only on the mind, successful learning requires the interaction of the mind, body, and the world. Larsson (2014) subsequently explains that outdoor education allows for this interaction, and beyond this, it allows for experiential learning, thereby complementing classroom teaching. On this basis, outdoor education is shown to be a highly beneficial, and even necessary part of the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learning process. Consequently, this essay will present an activity for EFL teaching outdoors, ‘taking a hike’. It will examine the processes and considerations for this activity, and how it can enhance EFL teaching. The activity will be approached through a task-based methodology, which was popularised by N Prabhu, who believes that completing a task helps students to learn language more effectively than focusing purely on the language itself (Prabhu, 1987). The task-based framework will follow the standard chronological order of a task-based lesson as presented by Ellis (2002). This includes a ‘pre-task’ (activities undertaken prior to and in preparation for the main task), ‘during the task’ (completing the main task), and a ‘post-task’ (a follow-up and reflection on the main task), with ‘during the task’ ultimately being the most essential part of the process (Ellis, 2002). By showing the benefits and logistics of an activity such as this, it is hoped that subsequent activities, such as doing a confidence course to build cooperative language, could be planned following a similar framework. The overall task The first outdoor activity is taking a hike with students in order to develop sensory language. To do this each student should have a ‘sensory reflections worksheet’ which should have each sense written on it, along with a visual to prompt as to what the word means, for example, a nose next to the word ‘smell’. Students should be put into pairs to assist each other throughout and encourage conversation. At various and appropriate stages, the teacher should ask the students about one of their senses. For example, if they are next to a river, the teacher may say, ‘Please put your hand in the river. Then, tell your partner what it feels like’, some answers might be ‘It feels cold’ or ‘It feels wet’. After this, the students could fill in the worksheet with what they discussed. By the end of the hike, students should be able to describe how things taste, feel, smell, look, and sound. In comparison to learning this simply through a textbook, students will create personal connections to the English language used while experiencing the hike, which, according to Wyner (2014), makes remembering a concept fifty percent easier, than doing so without a personal connection. Pre-task For the pre-task, it would be beneficial for the students to understand what they are working towards, so when they study the language necessary for the task, they are more motivated. Initially, the teacher should explain the overall task and the objective (as outlined above). The teacher could then go through each sense individually, eliciting sensory language related to that sense. For example, if they were doing taste, they could show a lemon, and a person’s reaction to it, to try to elicit ‘sour’. Then, students could do a practice task within the classroom, with the same layout of worksheet as they will use on the day, where they must describe their classroom sensory experience, in much the same way as they will on the hike. At this stage, the teacher should also pair up students for the day of the task. During the task Students will be asked at different stages throughout the hike to describe with their partner and record in their ‘sensory reflections worksheet’ what their sensory experience is, focusing on one sense each time. The teacher should be available and going around the different pairs to make sure they are speaking in English and helping when necessary with describing concepts. The teacher may want to ask various pairs to share their ideas with the group for a greater cooperative learning experience. Post-task The post-task could take place either at the end of the hike or on a different day. Students can share what their senses were for different aspects of the hike with a group if it’s a bigger class, or the whole class if it’s a smaller class. At this point the teacher may like to get students to do some creative writing or write a poem about the hike, using the language they recorded. Doing this would further cement students’ knowledge of the language they used. The teacher can then check with a survey or a class discussion on whether students felt they could explain their experience confidently, what was easy and difficult, and any remaining questions they might have. Conclusion ‘Taking a hike’, and other outdoor activities alike, both offer students a chance to use language and grow their language use in a practical way, that engages their mind, with their body and the world. In the particular example presented in this essay, we can see how students can create strong personal connections with sensory language in English and a real-life experience of hiking, helping to create longer-lasting memories of the language used. Outdoor activities bring new life to EFL teaching, create purposeful objectives to motivate students, and ultimately engage what is fundamentally necessary for students to learn and retain knowledge of the English language. References: Atkinson, D. (2010). Extended, embodied cognition and second language acquisition. Applied Linguistics. 31(5). 599–622. Ellis, R. (2002). The methodology of task-based teaching. Retrieved from https://www.kansai-u.ac.jp/fl/publication/pdf_education/04/5rodellis.pdf Larsson, D. (2014). English teaching outdoors – Student responses and attitudes towards outdoor EFL teaching. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/c63f/1345ee755178b92e285dc76939fcb7a08f76.pdf Prabhu, N. (1987). Second language pedagogy. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. Wyner, G. (2014). Fluent forever: How to learn any language fast and never forget it. New York, NY: Harmony Books.