Benito Vacio

A 'one of a kind' camp

Organising the perfect English camp for students

There are a lot of different kinds of school camp - science camp, Thai language camp, scouting Camp, and self-sufficiency economy camp. The 'campers' usually go through several learning stations - with one or two camp masters - as students get involved in the planned activities, fill up their 'passports', and have fun. In my experience, these camps have become so common that some students have become bored with them. 

So, last term, I tried a different kind of camp. The theme was "Enhancing English proficiency in preparation for ASEAN 2015 through games and dance." I can say it was great because my students said that it was the most enjoyable camp they had ever been on. Being different, it yielded maximum student participation, offered a lot of fun, provided more learning experiences, and gave more opportunities for speaking.

What prompted me to do this? It was raining cats and dogs one day, so instead of having activities at designated stations outside the classrooms, we held them inside the school canteen. If I had put the stations in the school canteen the place would not have been big enough to hold four stations with 20 students in each group from Kindergarten to Grade 6. Other than that it would have been noisy and chaotic.

Thanks must go to the six Filipino teachers from Chulalongkorn and Ramkamhaeng Nonthaburi English Teachers' Project who suggested that staying inside the canteen and modifying the camp format was better than sticking to the old plan.

One activity was Spelling Quiz where students had to spell words using cut-out letters of the alphabet formed on a sentence board in a team race format. Another activity was Speech Olympiad where representatives from each team answered questions from all lessons studied during the term. The ABC game, was also done by level and gauged the students' understanding of English. All questions had 3 options. Anyone who had chosen the letter of the wrong answer was eliminated. The lone survivor of the game was the winner and got big points for the team.

The camp schedule was not strict except for meal breaks and resumption of activities. When everything was done, the teachers held games like Wrapping the Mummy, The Longest Line, and a dancing competition.

With the centralized camp format, every member of the team had the chance to participate in each competition and did their best to earn their teams points. There was so much learning going on, especially in the ABC game because the questions asked were facts about the school director, the teachers, the school, and even about information they never knew before. Of course, English practice was very evident too especially in the Speech Olympiad for students had to answer questions in English on personal information, greetings, hobbies, and much more. The most fulfilling part was spelling because students from Kindergarten to Grade 6 could practice spell words.

I have compiled this list of tips to help make an ideal camp.

1. Prepare the camp activities three months ahead. Time flies. If we procrastinate, we might overlook some important matters.
2. Have a checklist of all the materials to be used or things to de done from proposals, invitations, to little things. This helps in getting the materials ready for immediate use.
3. Prepare the things needed. Having the things ready gives peace of mind to the teacher and gives ample time in case there are interruptions in school.
4. From time to time, go through the checklist and mark those what have already been done.
5. Teach the skills to use in the activities of the camp by integrating them in your daily lessons so that when camp time comes, students are prepared.
6. Use the most exciting games and the most popular action song/dance learned from other camps attended.
7. Involve the Thai teachers in welcoming the visitors, taking care of the guests, judging, scoring or just being mere spectators.
8. Don't handle any station or activity yourself. Just oversee the camp activities. It's good to invite extra teachers to pitch in when invited guests fail to come.
9. Run the show. Don't let your coordinator do it for you. This is your time to shine.
10. Likewise, assign your guest teachers to facilitate everything. Your students are already used to you, so give the students a chance to interact with the foreign teachers.
11. Be flexible in your schedule in order to meet the needs of the time.

I've done these things in my camps and they've worked well. Next time consider some of the pointers I have given. Without a doubt you'll have an ideal camp in your school. How about that?


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