With the second week of the holidays (Yes, already!) starting, some of you may be packing your luggage and preparing for the well-deserved getaway with your family.
Going on holiday doesn’t necessarily mean the learning stops though. It just means the learning gets even more fun as you hop on that plane, immerse yourself in a different culture and take in the sights and sounds of another country. Apart from the lure of endless inflight entertainment and late night suppers with family, there is certainly a lot for children to look out for while they travel.
Here are some ways your children can continue their passion for learning while on holiday, and long after they have returned from it.
Yes, learning can take place even when it involves walking up a mountain through a thousand Torii gates
Activity 1: Travel Bingo
You know the drill. Any number of people can participate in this game of Bingo and the winner is the first person that gets a line of five items crossed off their Bingo sheet. Everybody has a different combination of words on their Bingo sheet to make things more exciting.
How does this help with learning English? In the sample bingo sheet that we have prepared below, we made used of words commonly related to taking a plane ride. In other words, through this simple activity, your child is learning the different words contained in the lexical field (words that are commonly associated with each other in a given situation or category) of riding an airplane.
Being familiar with vocabulary like these at the snap of their fingers will have your child writing like the high-flyers they are (both literally and figuratively) when their composition writing assignment calls for say…. a story about a favourite holiday with their family or how somebody might go about visiting a friend overseas. Of course, if the cloze passage or open-ended comprehension sections use a passage related to this topic, the prior knowledge your child has will definitely come in useful for him to make relevant links in understanding what he is reading.
The best part about an activity like this? It is easily replicated for learning different baskets of words, some of them possibly more technical in nature, commonly and specifically used in other kinds of activities. For example, you can use this activity to have your children learn words to do with the cooking process, or playing soccer. Having knowledge of these words, what they mean and how they are used in specific situations lays the foundation for their understanding of how genre writing works (something they can expect to learn in secondary school) and expands their vocabulary greatly for future writing.
Activity 2: Caption This!
One of the things we like to do as a family when we are on holiday is look through the photographs we have taken at the end of each day. When we do that, we invite our preschooler to tell us where we were when the photograph was taken, what she was doing in the photographs and what she felt then or if she notices any else about the picture. It helps us spend time together giving thanks for the day, reliving the fun times we had and also bringing out some teachable moments as we recall the not-so-fun times in the day.
This is a simple activity you can try with your older children as well, and while you’re at it, hone their skills of description and holding a conversation about the picture they are looking at – which is exactly what the oral examination aims to bring out of them. For more ideas on how to hold a ‘stimulus-based conversation’ with them, you can visit an previous post here written by Mrs Chew.
But this activity does not need to be limited to your time holidaying! It can even be continued post-holiday when the photographs have been printed. You can then involve your children in the process of captioning your photographs.
If they keep a journal or you have a family board for displaying their work, you may ask them to pick a favourite photo and encourage them to write about it. They could write about why they have chosen this photograph, what it means to them, and what the person in the foreground or background is doing, thinking and feeling. They could also share a related memory of the theme of the photo. For example, they could write about the experience of riding the train in Japan versus doing so in Singapore.
Activity 3: Putting together an itinerary
To get the children excited about the trip, you could involve them in the process of putting together an itinerary for the trip and doing some research on possible places of interest such as where to eat, stay, or visit and when. Not only will they gain research skills from navigating websites under the guidance of a trusted adult, putting together an itinerary and then discussing it with you will give them awareness on how to sequence events, and develop the language needed for that purpose. If your child has always struggled with using connectors to do with time or sequence such as ‘then’, ‘before’, ‘after’, ‘later’, ‘first’, or ‘lastly’, this activity is a good way to encourage them to use these words as they share their ideas with you. To make this activity a more visual affair, you could ask your children to present their ideas in the form of a table or a flow chart with pictures documenting the trip’s events and activities with the time and sequence connectors highlighted in their presentation.
Other language competencies can be honed through this activity too. Firstly, they can expand their vocabulary by using different words to mean ‘go’ such as the words ‘adjourn to’, ‘proceed to’, ‘move off to’, ‘embark’, or ‘disembark’.
Secondly, they can sharpen their accuracy in the use of prepositions like ‘to’ and ‘from’ as they describe where they will travel to next on holiday.
Lastly, the act of gathering information from various sources will give them plenty of opportunity to practise their skills of reading and picking up important information such as when the opening hours are and how much tickets cost. These skills are precisely what are tested in the visual text component of the English exams.
Don’t worry if you have already returned from your trip because this activity can also be done post-holiday as you get your children to reflect and plan an itinerary for relatives and friends who may have expressed interest in visiting that country in future. That way, they can take the time to reminisce the fun times they had on holiday and the sights they saw while practising their English language skills.
We hope that these ideas help you to engage your child in bettering their language use even during the holiday, and perhaps beyond it as your children see the learning of English as something that happens not just in school but also outside our little red dot.
About the author: Karina is a stay-at-home-mum to her two babies, with a keen interest in the stuff of languages, ignited no less by her studies as a linguistics major in university and her prior experience teaching at the secondary level.