Published 20th March 2018
In the EFL classroom there are certain topics which are churned out again and again in coursebooks. There is no doubt that they have enough content and substance to cover quite a few lessons but after a while they can feel a bit same-y, both for the teachers and the students.
There is one topic, though, that is used again and again but which will never run out of steam; one topic which seems to interest learners no matter their age, English level or background; one topic on which there is a seemingly endless amount of related activities: travel.
Are you interested in travelling? Probably, you’re a TEFL teacher. Are your friends interested in travel? Presumably, if they enjoy going on holiday. Are your parents interested in travel? More than likely, if your mom’s stories of backpacking around Europe are to be believed.
Can you see how travel is one topic that transcends all boundaries? So let’s look at different ways to include travel in your lessons:
The world map
This is an activity which can be adapted for different ages and levels. Draw a world map on the board or find an outline of the world map which you can project. Highlight in different colours countries you have been to and countries you would like to go to, but don’t tell your students which is which. Ask your students to guess what the different colours represent – it usually doesn’t take long for them to figure it out.
Then you can describe your map using appropriate language structures. For example, for a Pre-Intermediate class you can use this to practise the contrast between the Past Simple and the Present Perfect; for an Upper Intermediate class you can use your stories to highlight idiomatic language. For younger classes or classes who have not travelled much you can focus on the countries they would like to travel to or the countries they are familiar with.
The National Geographic Travel website has short video clips on a range of geographical places and phenomena. Videos include the Great Wall of China, 7 Cities to See Powerful Street Art and Top 10 Things to Do in Hawaii – in other words, you are sure to find videos which appeal to your students.
Before you watch the videos, prepare a set of questions related to the clip. These can be factual or linguistic. Let your students work together before they watch the clip to see if they know any of the answers and then let them watch to find out if they are correct or not. Afterwards, discuss the video in terms of whether or not the students would like to visit that particular place.
Twenty Questions is a great activity to practise question forms. Each learner chooses a destination. The other learners have twenty questions to ask the learner to try and guess what the destination is. An alternative version of this is for each learner to be given a secret destination and they have to ask their classmates the questions to find out what it is.
Travelling seems to be a universally pleasing topic. If you feel stuck in a rut in the classroom, take some time out from the coursebook and focus on a topic that both you and your learners will find interesting.