Summer fun in the sun
Teaching children on a summer camp can be a challenging and rewarding experience. Yusef Edris and Alistair Jones suggest some tried-and-tested activities to have fun in the sun!
Author: Yusef Edris & Alistair Jones
The first priority on any residential course is to make the children feel at home, and the most effective way to do this is by team-building games designed to help them get to know each other. All of the following games are played outside. Playing games in large spaces, in the open air, is a summer camp opportunity that should be exploited to the maximum!
A name game. Students stand in a circle with one person in the middle. The person in the middle ‘shoots’ (points fingers at) any one student and at the same time calls out their name, eg Santi! Santi then has to squat down and the two students on either side of him ‘shoot’ each other by saying the name of the other person. The faster of the two wins and swaps places with the person in the middle.
A team-building game. The students stand in a big circle holding hands. They begin by facing inwards and must finish facing outwards without releasing hands. The students can be split into two competing teams. Not easy but fun!
A team-building game. Two teams of students stand in parallel lines. The student at the back of each line must crawl through their team mates’ legs to the front. The two teams race each other. The students’ feet must not move when standing!
A team-building game. The students have a time limit to make the tallest structure/giraffe from newspaper and tape. Make sure the children clean up afterwards.
A team-building game. Students spell words with their bodies.
A longer team-building game. The students work in large teams (minimum six). Teams have ten minutes to write a list of songs that the whole team will be able to sing (only a small part such as the chorus). Once the lists are made, the game begins. The teacher shouts Team A! and this team must instantly launch into song, all singing together. After a few seconds, the teacher selects another team. The team that was singing before stops and the new team must instantly launch into another song. No song may be repeated, and the whole team has to sing together.
A longer team-building game. The students work in big teams, with a minimum of ten per team. Half the teams are smugglers and the other half are police. The game is played with two teams at a time. The police wait in the centre of a large playing area (eg a football pitch). Smugglers collect one piece of pasta which they hide somewhere (although not inside any part of their bodies or underwear!). They then have to cross the playing area without being captured by a member of the opposing team (touched lightly rather than tackled!). When a smuggler is caught, they count to ten aloud while the police officer has to find the hidden pasta within those ten seconds. If the police officer is unsuccessful, the smuggler continues to the other side of the playing area, where they deliver their piece of pasta to the teacher. The smuggler can then return to base to collect another piece of pasta to be smuggled. After a time limit, the smugglers’ success is counted. The teams then swap roles. You need a minimum of two teachers for this activity; one to give out the pasta and one to collect it during the game. A league could be set up on camps with large numbers.
A game for camp cohesion. This game works with all the students involved. Every student is given the name of another student and a method of assassination (eg a hug or a pat on the back). This action can only be performed if there are no witnesses (giving an incentive to stay in a group). If successful, the name and method of assassination is transferred from the victim to the assassin. The winner is the one who collects the most names (or the last one left).
It’s a good idea to prepare an Excel list of players to make it easier to assign all the names. Duplicate the list in a column next to the original list and move it down one space so that every student will be matched up with another student. To follow the state of the game, students should report a killing to the coordinator who can confirm who their next victim is and add one point to the assassin. You will also have a record of how many people remain in the game.
All the classes can prepare a little sketch, song or anything to perform in a camp show. They will need four or five hours and lots of encouragement and direction to do this well. This can be the highlight of the camp and a wonderful finale.
All activities can contain an element of English, as we encourage all teacher-student interaction to be carried out in English, but the following activities are designed to promote language learning.
Before the camp starts, prepare a list of questions about the site where the camp takes place (eg How many seats are there in the dining room? Where are the showers? How deep is the swimming pool?). The students go in groups to find out the answers. Groups can have different questions and then give feedback to the other students about what they have learnt.
Camp signs and posters
The students make posters with relevant language to put in various parts of the camp, eg a dining room poster showing vocabulary for cutlery, food, requests, etc. It is important to have all the relevant vocabulary easily available to encourage the use of English in all areas of the camp. It’s also extremely useful to get students to prepare posters showing timetables, cleaning rotas, etc as this will reduce a large number of students coming to ask What’s happening now/ later/tomorrow? They can also make posters promoting upcoming activities such as Disco Night, Hawaiian Night or whatever other activity is planned.
The students write a brief daily diary about what they did the day before. This will obviously entail using vocabulary relevant to the camp and will serve as a record of what they have done.
Finally, here are some ideas to get the most out of your summer camp.
Summer camp is the perfect opportunity to take the kids out of the classroom. Any normal games you might play, take them outside. Moving activities can be much more energetic than in the classroom. A game outside can also be used as incentive or reward for working well or behaving better.
Delegate work to the students
Tidying the classroom at the end of the lesson and cleaning the table in the dining room should be done by students. A rota can be made with groups taking it in turn to do bigger tasks like cleaning the dining room.
Students’ bedrooms need to have a military standard of tidiness! This is especially true of larger rooms. This will help avoid things going missing. Checking this regularly is important.
… to start with! It is much more effective being tough to start with, and then getting softer, than the other way around.
A few basic rules
Hands up, Silence when requested and Work well should be enough. Ask the students why they are important and get them to agree to them and propose suitable sanctions. Refer to them at the start of every class, and enforce them from the start.
Keep the students away from the swimming pool or take them on a walk around the camp to pick up litter if they misbehave. Have a ready prepared list of sanctions of differing severity.
With careful planning, good organisation, a few ground rules and a good dose of imagination, a summer course can be a source of fun, camaraderie and meaningful language learning.
Yusef Edris and Alistair Jones are summer camp academic coordinators for British Summer (in collaboration with Cambridge School, Granollers).