Lesson plans

Summer suitcase mingle for YLs

This lesson plan might come in useful if you’re teaching summer courses with Young Learners! I tried out this lesson before the pandemic, so I’ll show you what I did then, and how I adapted it to be photocopy-free and online-friendly to use with my groups this year.

Language point and vocabulary: possessive pronouns (mine/yours/his/hers etc.) and summer holiday vocabulary (suitcase, flip-flops, beach mat… you get the idea).

Before the mingle:

Students need to be familiar with the vocabulary of the task. I had recently discovered WordWall (can you tell I’m a huge fan?) so I used the templates on there to get learners confident with the lexis. You can use my set by clicking here, or if you’d like a more challenging set, click here.

Set the context:

The course book we were using built up really nicely to this activity. It focused on a brother and sister who were packing to go on holiday, and struggling to fit all their belongings into their suitcases. Learners had to complete the dialogue they heard using the correct possessive pronouns. Then, they heard the next part of the conversation, where the siblings had arrived at their holiday destination, but had picked up the wrong suitcase at baggage reclaim. Learners completed a summary of the conversation, also using possessive pronouns. The context for the freer activity was therefore that the learners had been on the same flight and had each picked up the wrong suitcase. The aim of the mingle is therefore to “return” the items they picked up to the correct person.

I created the dialogue below to practice the target language. You can use the same dialogue in all the scenarios I outline later on. I also added animated clouds that cover up some of the dialogue, so that the learners are challenged and have to remember what was there before. You can download the PowerPoint template at the bottom of this post and edit the text boxes as you see fit.

Blank dialogue
Examples to demonstrate the activity

PRE-PANDEMIC

Cards: Think Happy Families / Scavenger Hunt. I copied and pasted pictures of the holiday items into a table on Word. I printed the sheet so that each student would have a copy. On each sheet, I drew a star next to one item: I put a star next to the camera on page 1, a star next to the towel on page 2, a star next to the suitcase on page 3, and so on, until I had starred all the items. I kept one for myself to demonstrate the activity. Then, I chopped up the cards into sets, making sure that each set had one card of each item, and that one card had a star.

The aim of the game is to collect the cards for the item you’ve lost. For instance, Ana’s starred card in her set is the camera, so she needs to collect all the camera cards that the other students have in their sets. She also needs to find the owner of the sunscreen, the towel, the beach mat, and so on, so that she can return those cards to the right people. The first student to collect all their cards, AND return the other items to the correct student, wins the game.

While this was really fun, it was also a hassle chopping up all the cards, and with a large class there were cards flying everywhere. Fun, yes… but it involved a lot of unnecessary faff. So I tried a different approach.

Handouts: You can use the same table from the cards activity, making sure that each set has a star next to a different item. The aim is exactly the same as the card game, but instead of chopping up cards, students simply write the owner’s name next to the item. The first student with a full worksheet wins the game. Remember, though, that in smaller classes, some items won’t have an owner: if there are 11 items on the handout but only 9 students in class, 2 items won’t be needed. Tell the students which items these are, and get them to cross them out. Use the same dialogue as for the cards game.

MID-PANDEMIC

Paperless (or at least, less paper from you): In a previous lesson, my students had drawn pictures in their notebooks of the holiday items and written the words below the pictures. They used this page as their “handout”. I secretly assigned an object to each student, and they drew a star next to it in their notebooks. I did this by pointing to a picture in my book, and the learner drew a star next to that item. I then gave the next learner a different word (make sure you do this, or the activity won’t work!). I repeated the process until everyone in the class had “lost” a different object. After that, simply follow the same procedure outlined above in Handouts, and students wrote the names next to or under the picture (ideally in a different colour so it’s easier for them to see how many names they’ve got or still need to win).

Online: I did this when our lessons were still entirely online. I wanted to move learners between break-out rooms so they could talk to everyone in the class, but decided that fiddling around with them would be too time-consuming and I would risk losing at least one of my learners in the Zoom break-out room vortex if I chopped and changed them too frequently. So I had to change tactics. I made an information gap activity, demonstrated the activity, then sorted the learners into pairs. I nominated students to be Student A, shared the PDF, then nominated the others as Student B, and shared the other PDF. Then I sorted everyone into break-out rooms, and I could monitor the pairs by visiting the rooms. To complete the activity, students take it in turns to ask a question. Here’s a sneak peak of the worksheet:

I learned on the IHCYLT that materials work to the teacher’s advantage if they can be used in more than one way. So, once the learners had successfully completed the information gap, I assigned one student in the pair the role of Teacher (or Quiz Master, or whatever title you think your learners might enjoy). The Teacher created sentences about the items, and their partner had to decide (without looking at the completed activity) if the sentence was true or false. Here’s an example: The flip-flops are Ben’s. The student would then reply, No, they aren’t his. They’re Sophie’s. I usually tell students that they have 5 lives, and that an incorrect answer costs them a life. A correct answer doesn’t win them points, but keeps them going. Of course, you’re relying on your students’ honesty and there are inevitably a couple of cheeky monkeys who will cheat, but there’s only so much you can do to manage that!

I also deliberately left some space in the table for learners to draw their own pictures of the items. I wish I could say there was a pedagogical rationale behind this, but it’s mainly because my own drawings are so terrible!

You could definitely use the Online approach in a face-to-face class, too. If you teach hybrid classes where some students are online and others are in the classroom with you, you’ll probably find that this one is more user-friendly as you’ll only be giving instructions for one activity.

Here are the various templates and handouts I mentioned. As ever, if you use them, please let me know how you got on with them – all feedback’s welcome!

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