The typical way to learn transactional language like shopping and asking for directions in a town or finding out where to buy items is by firstly, learning the necessary vocabulary, then the functional language and finally putting it all together by devising a scenario. And all this in a classroom. But a better, more authentic and much more fun way to learn is by getting into a real shop, meeting real people and buying real items.
Here’s an activity some children did recently when they came to Active English Homestay.
I had first gone to four different shops to speak to the shopkeepers letting them know that three young Swedish children would be coming the following week to buy items
Pre teaching vocabulary
This names of shops and items which could be bought there were taught by looking at photos of each shop which I’d photographed earlier. The children were able to zoom in and read language such as ” Newsagent”, “The Sun” newspaper and roadsigns.
The next step was to find the shops on a map thus allowing the children to make their way to each venue with confidence. The activity was not only a speaking task, but also something of a treasure hunt as the previously viewed photos allowed them to recognise the shops once they got there.
I had told them the items which they had to buy in each shop so satisfactory completion of each task was easy – they’d bought the correct thing. In the newsagent they had to choose two postcards to send to their parents back in Sweden. They even had to buy the correct stamps.
This ended in a writing task where they decided what to put on their cards. A fun and unexpected outcome was that they had never written their address before and had to ask for help. 21 st century kids only use messaging and emails!
This simple and effective lesson made the children speak English non-stop for two three hours. It gave them so much confidence to speak and understand real people and gave them a real sense of achievement. Not to mention how much exercise they had while touring the town of Alyth.