Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Camp Preperation: Themes

For those who work in public schools around Korea summer and winter are not only time for vacation it is also our time for camp.

Camp at Korean public schools is probably not what you have in mind when you think "camp." For example, the kids are not in tents and they don't learn outdoor type activities. It is a period of learning English inside the school and usually lasts 5 days.

Depending on the organization and communication skills of your coteacher(s) you may either plan camp well or in a rush. You might be told, "You can do anything" or "No let's not have a movie day."

I was blessed this year to have a coteacher who let us (two foreigners at my school) plan whatever we wanted. She really wanted us to make it fun. We put our minds together and came up with 5 different "day-themes" for each day of camp.

Our camp schedule will be 3 weeks.
  • First week = 3rd & 4th grades together
  • Second week = 5th graders
  • Third week = 6th graders
We plan on using the same themes for each week, just change up some worksheets for the older kids.

Here for you in this post I will show you the themes we chose. It is my hope that these ideas might come in handy for you when you have to plan your camp. Certainly planning for camp depends on how much time you have. Remember that camp is usually just you in the classroom with 20 kids of mixed levels. Sometimes the school separates the kids by level but I actually think that is unwise. In my experience the advanced kids help the lower level ones and this is a real boost to their English confidence levels.

Overall Theme:
Let's move on to the theme of our summer camp. We are calling it:
"Passport to English."
If you are truly lucky you will get the privilege of titling your English camp. If not you could end up with "Fun Fun English" or something similarly bland. We came up with this title because I suggested the idea that since we have two Native Teachers it would be great to have the two classes move from one to the other. Meaning Class A would be with me for 1 hr and then Class B would move to the other teacher for an hour and so on. They liked this idea and so I pushed my next thought was that the kids carry passports.

Everyday there will be target sentences they will have to study. As they leave our classroom they have to speak the target sentence, which rewards them with a stamp in their passport. 

This led to more creative thinking and produced that our classrooms will be themed as a specific country. Since I am from America my class will be the American classroom. At the beginning of camp they will pretend to "enter" America with their English Passports. 
Above is an example of the passport template I made in Microsoft Word. They will end up making it on the first day. 

The idea is that as the days progress they will practice target sentences based upon the daily themes and receive stamps. By the end of the week those with the most stamps receive a prize. We also have found ways to incorporate it into a few games. 

Day 1 Theme: "Passport and Get To Know You"
The first day of camp is an important day because it will set the standard for the rest of your week. You want to make sure you lay down the rules and concepts of camp so that the students aren't lost throughout. Also they need to know what actions will get them rewards and what will get them punishments. 

This day you get down the basics, such as group formations and ice-breaker games. You want the kids to feel comfortable at camp and be friendly with their peers in their group. Grades 3 & 4 are pretty good and make a working together feeling but grades 5 & 6 will end up sticking to their own personal groups. One way to combat this is group kids randomly instead of letting them choose who they get to be with. Make sure to play games and activities that gets them up from their group and play with everyone. 

During Day 1 we plan on having ice-breaker and get-to-know-you games. Here are a few examples:

Get to know you BINGO: Using the handout Ss go around the classroom and try to find a student who can do a certain thing on the bingo. When an Ss gets a BINGO they sit down and get their prize. *Afterwards ask Ss who can do what related to the handout 

Name Game 1: Ss sit in a circle and pass a ball around. First Ss: “My name is Lisa. I like apples.Second Ss: “My name is Tom. Lisa likes apples. I like bananas.Third Ss: “My name is Brian. Lisa likes apples. Tom likes bananas. I like oranges.And they keep playing this way till everyone gets a turn and they have to memorize everything.

Snowball Speaking: Ss will practice a sentence and have it gain more words as they play. They will line up in their groups. NT will write the sentence on the board. “I like to eat apples. First Ss in each group starts out saying this sentence then the next Ss has to say the same sentence and repeat the first item and then add an item of their own. (Ex: I like to eat apples and bananas. The point is that the Ss must remember every new item and add a new one. This is a speed game so when the sentence gets to the end of the line that Ss has to run up to the board and write the sentence including all the items.

As you can see Day 1 will be a kind of relaxed day meant to get the kids into camp and in the mindset to work together. We also have peppered in learning some songs. 

Day 2: Drama and Role-Play
What camp would be without a day full of drama and role-playing? Actually, in my experience, teaching drama to students can at first be a bit challenging. Mostly because you are asking the kids to get up and act out in silly ways in front of their peers. But if you join in and act silly yourself you can get them to play along. 

This day we plan on switching the kids from class to class. My class will be learning the parts of a story and character types. This will be achieved with a PPT and a worksheet activity (or group activity). 

Then the kids will have a chance to create their own story and practice acting it out for a performance. In this case I made a handout where the parts of their story are determined by rolling the dice.

Since they need an ample amount of time to practice and perform their role-play this consumes most of Day 2. There are few drama games thrown in for fun, too. Examples:

Sculpting Figures: Using the same cards Ss will try to shape their group members to make other teams guess what it is they are doing. Example: Team gets the card “playing baseball” So they will position their team members in a way that makes them look like they are playing baseball. 

Story in a Bag: NT prepares different object cards in envelopes for each group. Groups will take out their cards and try to make a story.

Day 3: Nutrition, Shopping and Cooking
One of the basic necessities of camp seems to be a role-play shopping and cooking day. Don't let your coteacher fool you into making sandwiches. Have you ever made a sandwich before with pre-sliced ham and cheese? It takes all of 5 minutes and doesn't really present much creativity. Instead search online for fun kids cooking recipes. There are whole lot to make that are out there. Do you remember Ants on a Log? Putting peanut butter on top of celery or apples? That is really fun.

Well for our camp we tried to break out of the "sandwiches" mode by coming up with two recipes to make. Backing up this day are lessons about nutrition which will lead into the cooking part where kids choose either "healthy" or "unhealthy" toppings. 

Our recipes: 
  •   Funny Face Sandwiches: Here the kids will toast bread and cut out shapes in the bread, cheese and ham with cookie cutters. They will try to make a funny looking sandwich in this way. They will have a choice of candies too. 
  • Yogurt Parfait: This will be my part. Just your basic recipe of building up layers with yogurt, cereal and fruit toppings. Of course they will have a choice of candies.
 The other activities on this day include a shopping role-play where they compete with each other to shop the fastest. One group will get a shopping list while the other groups pretend to be different types of shops. I have already played similar games in class and so know how much fun it is. Since cooking, eating and cleaning up takes up some time this day is pretty much wrapped up.  

Day 4: Science  
I love Science! And this subject is so much more fun with kids. When doing a science day try not to get too technical with the kids. One theme I did before was learning the different types of senses (their language) and then have a taste-testing session with mystery foods. 
This time for camp we decided to do the famous Egg Drop!

 If you have never done this as a kid than I truly feel sorry for you. But definitely try this out with your students. At the mountain camp I went to last year the science class did this and from what I heard it was a real hoot. 

The basics are that you get the kids to design the egg basket in their group. Have them make it together. Then the teacher climbs up to the roof and drops their eggs. Afterward a discussion is held to talk about what happened. 

Here is a look at the handout I made for the pre-drop time.
 I am really looking forward to this day, because out of all the things I have done with children in Korea this looks to be the most creative. I hope it will be a surprise for the students as well.  

Day 5: Sports and Outdoor Fun
The last day of camp is one of tired students who wish they could be at home. That is why it is a great day to hold outdoor sports and mini-competitions. 

We split up the day in this way:
  1. Sports Language & Rules: Korean kids can't help but shout Korean when playing games. So before we start playing we plan on teaching them phrases to say in English while playing. Also we will add in general sportsmanship rules for them to remember.
  2. Relay Sports on the field: Your basic games. For example putting a balloon between the knees and racing this way. Classic run backwards race and so on.
  3. Water Balloon Challenge: Just what it sounds like. Hopefully we can get our hands on lots of water balloons.
  4. Mission Impossible Game: This is a bit of a slower activity. Kids will work in groups and get a handout listing missions they must complete. On the paper are clues about certain places around the school. They have to figure out the clue and then make their way to the location. At the location will be a stamp where the kids stamp their paper. Below is an example of the mission handout.

 My coteacher was kind enough to add Korean to the paper so that the kids had a better chance of figuring the stuff out. 

After the games the kids will come back to the classroom to eat a snack and sing a song. Then it will be the closing ceremony. For some reason at my school the Principals like to have an opening and closing ceremony where they speak Korean to the kids and everyone bows. We usually give out the prizes at the end of this. 

I am really looking forward to summer camp this year. Mostly because we are getting to do stuff we really want to do and also because last camp's coteacher no longer works with us. (The old lady). She disagreed with every idea we had and thought the students levels were that of super-beginners. 

Anyway, I hope this synopsis of the themes of our camp will give you some ideas for your camp. If you are going to teach your first camp this summer then I wish you the best of luck and just have fun with your kids.



  1. WOW!!!
    Lots of great ideas & effort. Save all this in a portfolio (digital & hard copy) for future use & job searching, etc...
    You may want to think about writing & publishing a book alone or w/a co-author about teaching English in Korea with these exercises & other info! Just a thought...........

  2. Thanks! this has been very helpful.

  3. Thanks! this has been very helpful.


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