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Super Simple Summer Activities Series: Pt 1

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Super Simple Summer Activities Series: Pt 1


3 activities to whet your appetite – more to come!

It’s that time of year again when many of us TEFLers are off at a summer camp or summer school. Our goals tend to be more communicative, the atmosphere more relaxed, our learners more energised. We may also have additional activities like sports afternoons and drama clubs etc.

Are you teaching YL this summer?

Do you have…

  • Large classes?
  • Mixed Ability?
  • High spirited kids on “holiday” with energy to burn?
  • No time or energy for anything that isn’t super simple and super easy to prepare?

I’ve got you covered with these no-fuss, low(to no)-prep, faithful old favourites.

Port – Starboard 


Picture source:


What: Listen and do game

Who: Great for 7-11, but any age really

Resources needed: None, just space

As a kid this was one of my favourite games at summer camps. The basic premise is that a teacher/leader calls out prompts. The students do the appropriate action. E.g. leader calls out “port!” and the students run to the left of the room. Leader calls out “Starboard” and the students run to the right of the room etc. Last one to do the action is out. Last person standing is the winner. Simple. Adaptable. Fun. Super!

Upon googling this fabulous game I stumbled across this amazing resource , a list of different actions and extra ideas for the basic game.

I love the original game, but I love how the basic premise is so adaptable. Last week my 8 year old learners were doing animals and habitats but had so much energy to burn they could have run a marathon. We played our own version of port-starboard with connected animal and habitat vocabulary. It was a real hit!



What: Vocabulary drilling with a difference

Who: 3-8 love it, but no reason you can’t go older.

Resources needed: Flashcards*

*Don’t have flashcards? No problem. Students could draw the pictures. Students could write the words on a slip of paper. No paper no pens? Also no problem. Students could choose an action and act out the word they are allocated (or choose).

The first time I did this with my pre-schoolers (as they were zombie obsessed) I had no idea it would become such a hit.

  • All students stand in a circle facing other (but could equally be scattered around a room or garden). Each student has a flashcard.
  • One student in the middle is the Zombie.
  • The student in the middle holds their arms up like a zombie and walks toward any other student. But, they must chant the word for the card that student has over and over in a zombie like voice. e.g. “appppplleee….apppllleee…apppllleee”
  • The child holding the apple card needs to say the name of another item being held up by another student.
  • If the student says another word before the zombie reaches and touches them, the zombie must change directions and head for the new word, again, chanting the new word. If the zombie touches the student before they say one of the words another student is holding, they become the zombie.

Super easy. Super adaptable. Super fun.


Fruit Salad


What: Vocabulary or grammar game

Who: All ages depending on how it’s adapted

Resources needed: Chairs

I think everyone knows this game, right? But maybe by a different name? It’s an oldie but a goody. and SO so easy to set up, play, adapt.

Students sit on chairs in a circle. There should be one fewer chairs than students and the student without a chair stands in the centre of the circle.

In the simplest version of the game the teacher would allocate different fruits to the children. e.g. walk around saying pear, banana, apple, orange, pear, banana, apple, orange until everyone is given a fruit. The child in the middle then calls out a fruit. e.g. “banana” and all the bananas must stand up and change seats. Meanwhile the child in the middle runs to an empty chair. The child left without a seat is the next to call out a fruit. for added fun, if the centre child calls out “fruit salad!“, EVERYONE must stand up and run.

I like to use this at the beginning of summer programmes to work out what learners can and can’t do. I get them to say anything at all about themselves and students, for whom the information is also true, get up and change. e.g. “I have a brother” “I like chocolate”. 

It’s so easy to adapt. Anything from “Stand up if you’re wearing blue”, “I’ve never been to Paris”, to “This time next week I’ll be on holiday”. Vocabulary and structures practices are only limited by the teacher’s imagination.



If you do have time for a bit more prep, here is a summer school/camp idea from last year. Especially good for dog lovers!


Teaching VYL

Teaching VYL

I’ve been busy the last year being a part of the writing team for a new IHWO teacher training course, the IH VYL.

International House Certificate in Teaching Very Young Learners

We piloted the course face to face  in 4 different schools around the world and now it has been released online via the IHWO OTTI (Online Teacher Training Institute).

First online course starts 27th September 2014 October 25th!

Wall Street, Feline Intelligence and YLs.

Anne Petzer is an uber experienced BE Teacher, published author and YL newbie. She kindly agreed to chat to me on skype about the new additions to her, normally adult filled, timetable. A class of preschoolers and a class of 8 yr olds. Fun times ahead!

Kylie Malinowska: Shall we start the interview? I’m excited. I’ve never interviewed anyone before 🙂

Anne Petzer: Ok. Yes. Fire away.

Kylie Malinowska: So Anne, you blushed when I referred to you as an ‘uber experienced BE teacher’. How long have you been teaching Business and general English? And is it true you worked in ‘Business” for a long time before teaching?

Anne Petzer: 🙂 I started in 2002 in Akcent IH Prague and before that I had worked in business since 1989 as a PR Manager, then in charge of Credit and Returns for a National Radiator in their OEM dept.

Kylie Malinowska: So I think I can call you ‘uber experienced’ then 🙂 So why the change? Why does a woman with a background in business and almost 10 years of teaching Adults (predominantly) Business English decide to teach YL’s?

Anne Petzer: Well I do like children, but it all really started after the YL session on DELTA. I decided to give a go. Businessmen tend to be mostly stressed and bogged down with the pressures and stress of the business world. They can be ‘hard work’ to get them motivated about doing things in English. So I decided to observe a Pre-School class and LOVED the excitement and enthusiasm.

Kylie Malinowska: Well, motivating YL’s certainly involves different techniques as opposed to motivating businessmen. They say a change is as good as a holiday, but surely there was some initial apprehension before making the move? Was there anything you were/ are worried about? What is the scariest thing about the prospect of facing, for example, a class full of 5 yr olds?

Anne Petzer: I was mainly worried I wouldn’t  be able to make the class interesting at their level. One can’t go in and say ‘So, what do you think about the crash on Wall Street?’, and expect a whole discussion evolving. Would I keep their interest in activities? Knowing their attention span is not the same as an adult class.

Kylie Malinowska: It’s not easy to go into a YL class without any experience or YL specific training. Sometimes teachers who don’t teach YL underestimate just how difficult our job can be at times and that we use a whole range of skills that courses like the CELTA (and even the DELTA)  don’t even begin to cover. Do you find that you have a greater appreciation for us YL teachers now than you did before the move?

Anne Petzer: O I have always great appreciation for you YL teachers. I come from a huge family and have always been around children. I did sub a few YL classes and that wasn’t easy.

Kylie Malinowska: Can you give me an example of one of the big differences you’ve noticed between YL and Adult classes?

Anne Petzer: Do you mean in planning them, teaching them or the response from students.

Kylie Malinowska: Good point. So many differences in so many areas. All or any? What is the biggest or most important difference for you?

Anne Petzer: In planning and teaching a YL class as mentioned the activities are arranged to keep their interest and attention for example action activities and then calm them down. In adult classes it’s not the case. Secondly,…the children are open and willing to try anything – not embarrassed to give it a go whereas this is not always the case with adults

Kylie Malinowska: I really like that part of YL teaching too. I find their honesty refreshing.

Anne Petzer: Sometimes to be honest it’s like pulling teeth.

Kylie Malinowska: Hehehe I like that analogy. You mentioned doing a ‘sub’ and finding it difficult. Many teachers do a ‘substitute’ YL lesson and afterward state they never want to teach a YL class ever again. What advice would you give to such teachers?

Anne Petzer: Go with an open mind, be yourself (the kids will see straight through you), and allow yourself to have fun with them.

Kylie Malinowska: Now that you’ve had a taste, do you see yourself continuing to teach YL in the future? Any plans to do the IHCYLT?

Anne Petzer: 🙂 Well I am definitely looking forward to this year teaching them. I haven’t thought beyond that regards the IHCYLT yet.

Kylie Malinowska: I highly recommend it. It makes those teeth easier to pull J I mentioned in my intro that you have recently published your first novel and the second one will be released very soon. The fantasy element of your book appeals to children. Will you be using similar ideas in class? Despite what psychologists claimed all those years ago kids love humanised animal characters. Perhaps ‘Zvonek’ can report back to the class via email on the mistakes he has detected in their work hehehe

Anne Petzer: LOL now there’s a story I hadn’t thought about. I will use acting in story telling, yes.

Kylie Malinowska: Will you at least be introducing your 8 yr olds to the characters in your book? Who wouldn’t love a feline spy?

Anne Petzer: I hadn’t thought about that but am sure can use a cat somewhere 🙂

Anne Petzer: I already have a cool idea for Halloween.

Kylie Malinowska: Can you share your idea for Halloween or is it a secret?

Anne Petzer: Well, it involves getting dressed up as a cat and the cat being involved in the learning process…. The rest will be revealed at a later date 🙂 So, yes, I guess I’m already planning on using ideas from my book to motivate the students.

Kylie Malinowska: Well, I promised this interview would be short, so I should wrap it up. Thank you so much. I’d like to chat to you again after a few more classes to see if you still like the YL side of the fence 🙂 I’d also like to invite comments from anyone reading about their first YL experience. Thanks again for chatting to me Anne.

Anne Petzer: Ok, no problem. Thank you 🙂 that was fun-my first ever interview.

Kylie Malinowska. Thank YOU Anne 🙂

Are you new to YL? Was it scary? exciting? Please feel free to leave comments and come back soon to see the next interview with Cesca K, an experienced YL teacher and IH CYLT tutor who has kindly agreed to share some teaching tips, ideas and useful links.

If you are interested in supporting fellow YL teacher Anne Petzer by buying her first published book, you can do so on the link provided on the ‘links’ section of this blog.

Until next time….


YL Teacher and Blogging virgin (Well, I was until I hit the ‘publish now’ button)

Everyone has a blog these days, especially if you’re a ‘serious’ teacher. Right?
It’s the beginning of the new school year here in Europe, so here we go. Pens, check. coursebooks, check. Twitter account, check. Bucketload of technology and dogme and whatever else the latest and greatest teaching tool is, check. Blog, check. Wait, what?
I’ve read a few and they’re very impressive. Some are about dogme. Others are about dogme. Some more are about dogme, and the rest are mostly about the latest and greatest technological advances in the teaching world complete with videos and what-have-you and other exciting gadgets I don’t know the name of. Don’t get me wrong, many of these blogs are great. I’ve really enjoyed reading most of them and have learnt a lot. Some bloggers are the first with all the news, some have fantastic ideas and some are such good writers you wonder what an earth they are doing teaching English. I really take my hat off to these bloggers. They are the bomb. But what about those retro teachers like me who are still playing past simple battleships on a bit of scrap paper and not ebeam spacemonkeys? Are we in danger? Will we be left behind? Do we need to blog, tweet, ‘Elluminate’ our lives in order to prove our worth?
Maybe, maybe not, but I don’t want to get left behind. I’d just rather walk at my own pace. So in the spirit of taking that first step, I recently gave in and decided to have the seasons must have accessory. A blog. And yes, yet another TEFL blog.
Unlike other bloggers out there, I’m not a writer, I’m not up with the latest and greatest and I don’t have any groundbreaking ideas. What o what to blog about? And while I’m at it, actually, I don’t even know how to blog or where to start! I was about ready to ditch my blog dream until last just week during induction, when I had an epiphany of sorts. I was eliciting from the new teachers that their greatest resource was each other. Each other! That was it!
Have you ever sat on a park bench watching people walk by and wondered who they were and where they were going? Or maybe you’ve heard the kids in the class next to yours perfectly quiet or very noisy and wondered what is going on? Well….here is my blog idea. I want to interview other YL teachers out there in the TEFL world and find out who they are and what they are doing. I want to ‘walk’ through the TEFL world and grab some bits and pieces of info at a leisurely pace. I want to ask ‘real’ teachers what they are ‘really’ doing in their classrooms. What goes well, what flops? What are their favourite resources, games, websites, blogs, and even technological gadgets!! Anything really. So here I go. I’m doing it. I’m blogging baby! I hope you will join me on my walk 🙂

Oh, and stay tuned for my first interview with uber experienced BE teacher, published author and YL newbie Anne Petzer.

Until next time…

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