Abel Cadias

Good morning campers

Themes and ideas for your English camp

Ten years ago, I was invited to facilitate a "fun" activity for high school students for their English Camp. I got curious about how this English Camp was done because honestly, there was no such thing when I was a student back home. But for the record, we were trained starting at the elementary level until college to compete in literary and musical competitions including oration, declamation, extemporaneous and impromptu speaking, debate, and campus journalism both in English and Filipino. Anyway, from the name "English Camp" alone, it wasn't difficult to get the idea. I was certain that it's similar to scouting camps only it's all about learning English with lots of fun and twists. So, it was my first immersion in facilitating a few English Camp activities. It was indeed fun and challenging!

A year after, I was getting paid to facilitate the activities. Then I was asked to design a plan for one-day, two-day and three-day English Camps. The longest was five days! It was evident during those years and even until now that English Camps have also become a seasonal business opportunity to many.

After those long stints in taking part of this English Camp craze, I thought of sharing a few tips and ideas that might help you spice up your activities a bit. I hope this helps.

English Camp themes give meaning to your activities. It also guides you on what kind of activities, how these activities should be facilitated, what specific skills do you require from your facilitators, and how much would the whole program cost. In any case, make sure that your themes are contemporary and co-curricular related.

For example, in 2004, I designed a combination of REALITY TV SHOWS (contemporary), and GREEK MYTHOLOGY ( co-curricular) themes which helped me in conceptualizing the activities. Imagine some stations were doing "America's Next Top Model," " Amazing Race," and "The Apprentice," to name a few. Meanwhile, group names and presentations (usually done in the evening) were focused on depicting famous Greek gods and goddesses.

Activities whether in the form of "stations," presentations, songs and the like should always be new, challenging, interesting and language-task based. Some English Camp designers or directors never let go of the traditional like categorizing stations as "songs," "games," "reading," "writing," and so on. The presentations are also typically labeled as "storytelling," "Mr. and Miss English Camp," "skits," and the like. The Ecamp (short for English Camp) songs are the usual "Banana Song," "Hokey-Pokey," "Melody in My Heart," kind of songs that are available online. There is nothing wrong in "reusing" these old strategies but it is also nice in learning how to "recycle" them. I mean it is interesting and challenging to take a few risks by going beyond the common. Again, activities should be contemporary and co-curricular related.

For instance, this summer, we're doing three combinations of "Entrepreneurial Skills", "FaceBook" and "Lady Gaga" inspirations (contemporary) as an interpretation of a simple-sounding general theme called " Play It! Learn It! Show It." Some station activities are designed to give the campers (students) some worthwhile income-generating skills like baking, cooking, building crafts and even bartending (non-alcoholic of course). This set of activities requires us to hire "specialized" facilitators. Other fun activities are based on FaceBook games (contemporary) like "Music Challenge," "Café World," " Family Feud," and "Treasure Isle." It might sound like "the same old concept" but we incorporate technological tools and challenging tasks with twists. The campers' presentations include "choral reading and singing" based on Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody (of course edited and re-arranged to suit the need), "Lady Gaga inspired Outfits for a short Fashion Show," and themed group presentations that are related to G8 countries (co-curricular) which aimed at team building and leadership skills.

Another thing that you should be reminded of is that all activities should be related to your Ecamp Theme even in selecting a list of your Ecamp Songs. Interestingly, we selected a few lines from the famous songs of Lady Gaga, and converted them as repeat-after-me and round songs. This makes the idea of using "Lady Gaga" as one of the groups' fashion show presentation related to our risky Ecamp Songs. I believe you get the whole idea.
Themes and Activities for the "Advanced"

Designing Ecamp activities for young kids with a "Beginner" English proficiency level isn't really that complicated. It is always safe to common activities. However, what if your campers belong to the English Program whose English levels are likely "Advanced"?

You might have tried the activities that I am about to tell you but I'll tell them anyway. In 2006, I introduced a quite sophisticated theme called "language and technology" to our Ecamp for our third year high school EP students. The tasks are to produce "MTV," "Documentary," and "TV Plugs." These activities require good detailing of list of songs to choose from, language skills, clear procedures and ample timetable, teamwork coordination, and of course cost budgeting. Oftentimes high-budgeted Ecamp get the best deals. In three days time, we needed to get their outputs done (which involved late hours work) for their graduation day presentation.

There are many variations that you may use like "news broadcasting and reporting," "acting using famous movie lines," and " TV commercials." The strengths of this type of Ecamp are: appropriate culminating activities of co-curricular trainings on campus journalism; provides good assessment on how students use some micro-language skills and emotions naturally; inspires students to learn computer software applications; challenges students to work as a team; and the outputs can be submitted for local public viewing.

In conclusion, I believe that you have tons of good ideas for your Ecamp activities (well, if the school administration supports them). Whatever you want to do think of the two important ingredients to spice up your Ecamp activities: contemporary and co-curricular related.

(Please visit my blog)


Dear Cabel, Sounds interesting... How do we get in contact with you if we have someone that may be interested in attending the English Camp you are designing?

By Charlie, Bangkok (18th March 2011)

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