Teen Summer School HCMC: Successes and Struggles

Oops, it appears I’m already halfway through Summer School at BC Ho Chi Minh City, so a post is well overdue. What can I say, I’ve been busy shovelling delicious Vietnamese food in my face between Brexit-wallow sobs.

I love summer school as an opportunity to focus on teaching different age groups (young teens this year), as I have predominantly adults the rest of the year. The convergence of 14 new teachers on induction days has been a great opportunity for ideas swapping and the summer has given me a chance to try some things out, some more successfully than others….

SUCCESS! Points with playing cards – Assigning team points in YL classes is a pet hate of mine. I forget a point, or give points to the wrong team/person, it gets messy, there are arguments. An ace alternative suggested by a colleague is giving out playing cards. You can either hand out a card to the team/student, or allow them to pick one out of the pack unseen. In team games, I offer 3 cards for winners, then two cards and one card for second and third place. Cards can be taken off students for speaking L1 or other infractions of class rules. Jokers and face cards can also have additional meanings e.g. get a joker, swap cards with another team.

I love this idea so much for it’s  randomness and simplicity. I don’t have to keep track of their points on the board and it also avoids that issue of the strongest group always winning, as their points are the total value of the cards, not total cards, adding a random element. The teams keep hold of their cards until the end of the class for a final tally although you can check on scores at points to maintain the competitive atmosphere. I tend to combine this with…

SUCCESS! Forfeit Dice – A revived favourite. Get Ls to come up with 6 silly forfeits, e.g. lick you elbow, say the alphabet backwards in English, sing a song etc, which we board, numbered 1-6. At the end of class, whichever team has the lowest points roll a dice to pick their forfeit to perform. If Ls moan, remind them they chose the forfeits themselves then remind them again at the start of the next class so they choose forfeits they’re comfortable with. This becomes part of  beginning-of-class routine and students can set it up themselves.

SUCCESS! Cash Prizes – I picked this up observing a colleague’s excellent lesson, wanting to troubleshoot some behaviour issues with a particularly rowdy class. Combined with the previous tongue-in-cheek forfeits, the winning team at the end of each class receive a fake bill (100,000 VND in our case) to ‘spend’ at the end of term on small prizes (sweets, keyrings etc), happy little capitalists. What I like about this is it’s not necessary to keep groups together for the whole term for the sake of team points, I like to switch around for classroom management/differentiation reasons. However, this way I can still reward individual students without having to keep track of individual points as it becomes their responsibility to keep hold of the booty. I appreciate this probably wouldn’t go down so well with too-cool-for-school european teens but it works a treat with Vietnamese learners, thanks Adam!

SUCCESS! Lead-In ActivitiesThis winner of a blog post has taken the pain out of thinking of fresh ways to engage my students this summer.


FAIL! Technology – This isn’t a failure of the activities themselves as such. We have a class set of iPads here and wifi access, plus all my students are technology natives judging by the swathe of tablets that appear during break-time, so I was super excited to try out some of the techy activities I’ve been collecting in recent months, namely:

  • QR treasure hunts and other activities using that squarey bar-code
  • Augmented Reality particularly using an app called Aurasma (resume from IATEFL with teaching suggestions here)
  • Various Whatsapp activities
  • Using Padlet more regularly to integrate students’ own devices and the IWB/projector in a more interactive way, particularly in terms of uploading video for the whole class to watch, and making contributions to brainstorming, or quizzes

The big BUT, despite the technology we have access to and pre-lesson trials, in practice, it’s been a bit of a struggle. Whilst I’m still committed to integrating technology in class, I’ve had to accept that with the best intentions and preparation in the world, things like flaky wifi access, maxing bandwidth by uploading videos simultaneously, websites mysteriously failing to load, and dead batteries, continue to be the reality in many situations. The simple solution: ALWAYS HAVE A BACKUP. I haven’t given up completely yet though.

SUCCESS! CLIL arts and crafts – The summer school materials are 50% core syllabus and 50% ‘project’. This term’s project theme is arts and culture (beautifully broad). Every second lesson involves some kind of arts activity. I was a little dubious about the flimsy learning aims at first – With these type of extended activities, if unstructured, Ls tend to lapse into L1. I’ve had zero issues with this though and it’s been an absolute joy seeing my students get so into painting and sculpture making, something they don’t do at school. The amount of real natural communication through negotiation and teamwork going on is wonderful and so much useful emergent/process language has been generated as a result. Plus, students are so relaxed when they’re not focusing on learning! This is surely the very reason why we teach language in the first place, right?? I’ve really treasured these moments.

So, we’re mid summer-school season at the moment. I’d love to hear from other teachers about their successes and struggles too…



One thought on “Teen Summer School HCMC: Successes and Struggles

  1. I love the major focus on arts on crafts! Me and my pair teacher have been having issues with a couple of teen boys who are finding it difficult to focus and as a consequence have become quite disruptive in class. This might be exactly what they need! I’ll give it a go.

    Liked by 1 person

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