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Making a holiday trip – a lesson plan
By Rolf Palmberg
Abo Akademi University, Vaasa, Finland


Travelling to foreign destinations becomes more and more common, also for young people. The lesson plan outlined below suggests ways in which EFL learners can be trained to make travel plans using Internet sites while at the same time practising basic communication skills (suggesting alternatives, arguing, agreeing, disagreeing, persuading and defending). The lesson plan includes individual work, pair work, and group work.

There are a few things that the teacher must decide before introducing the project. One such thing has to do with the number of destinations to be covered. The more destinations the learners are working with, the more facts there are to be checked. And the more facts there are to be checked, the more questions there are to be asked and answered. Then again, having only one destination for the whole class makes it easier for the learners to discuss the selected destination in detail and to make relevant comparisons.

Another thing has to do with the choice of destination(s) to be covered during the lesson (or, if needed, sequence of lessons). Allowing learners to make their own decisions increases their motivation. Then again, destinations selected by the teacher will probably result in more carefully prepared and qualified topics of conversation.

Other factors to be considered are the classroom time available and the teaching goals of the learning session. If the teacher wants to concentrate more on learners’ “reading for meaning” skills than on their “speaking English” skills, many of the activities suggested under “possible post-internet tasks” below can be carried out in the learners’ native language. If s/he wants to devote more time to learners’ writing skills, “day-by-day” tasks of the type suggested below can be integrated into the lesson. Such tasks are to be carried out by the learners during their presumed holiday trip and can easily (as demonstrated) be designed to include grammar points (adjusted to the learners’ level of proficiency) as well.

Pre-internet tasks

Pre-teach or (depending on the learners’ proficiency level) invite them to revise select vocabulary items relating to travelling.

Ask the learners, individually, to write a list of the ten most important items to take along when going for a trip to a foreign country. Encourage them to use bilingual dictionaries whenever necessary.

Ask the learners, in pairs, to share their lists and agree upon the eight most important things to bring along.

Internet tasks

Tell the learners that they are going to make a holiday trip. Next, divide them into groups of four and ask each group to find out a number of things about a specific destination using the Internet (and, again, using dictionaries whenever necessary). They must do the following things:

•       Locate the destination on a world map and identify nearby cities and neighbouring countries.
•       Find the most convenient way to travel to the destination.
•       Find out the weather forecast at the destination during the coming week.
•       Find out about the local currency and the current exchange rate.
•       Find a nice, moderately-priced hotel to stay in.
•       Identify half a dozen restaurants in or near the hotel area.
•       Find out how to say “Hello”, “Thank you” and “Where is the xxx?” in the local language.
•       Find and agree upon five places to visit and/or sights to see during the trip.
•       Discuss and decide what to do during each of the five days of the holiday.

While the learners are working, move around in the classroom supervising, providing help whenever needed, and reminding learners that all conversation should be carried out in English.

Some useful links

Since it is in the teacher’s interest that relevant information be found by the learners with an appropriate level of effort and/or difficulty, here is a list of useful internet sites that can be used for the present project (there are, obviously, many, many more):

Google’s zoomable world map
http://maps.google.com/
Opodo – let the journey begin
http://www.opodo.co.uk/
World Weather
http://www.worldweather.com
FX Currency Converter
http://www.oanda.com/cgi-bin/ncc
Foreign Languages for Travellers
http://www.travlang.com/languages/
Quick Fix – Essential Holiday Phrases
http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/other/quickfix/
Lonely Planet Destinations
http://www.lonelyplanet

Possible post-internet tasks

Ask the learners to prepare posters introducing their destinations.

Ask the learners to prepare individual, pair, or group reports based on their worksheet notes to be presented orally in class.

Invite the learners to present their destinations through role-play activities.

Divide the learners into groups (with learners from different groups forming new groups) and invite them compare their destination(s) or daily activities with each other.

Divide the learners into pairs and invite them to interview each other on topics relating to their holiday.

Additional day-by-day tasks

Day One: Ask the learners to write individual picture postcards where they describe their destination to a friend at home.

Day Two: Ask the learners to write individual picture postcards where they tell a friend at home what they really enjoy about their hotel.

Day Three: Ask the learners to write individual picture postcards where they tell their parents at home what they did the day before.

Day Four: Ask the learners to write individual picture postcards where they tell their teacher what they are going to do on the following day.

Day Five: Ask the learners to write individual picture postcards where they describe what they would have done the day before if it hadn’t rained all day.

Day Six (on the way back home): Ask the learners to write individual picture postcards to the hotel manager where they evaluate the hotel and make suggestions how to improve customer services.

Biodata

Rolf Palmberg is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Teacher Education at Åbo Akademi University in Vaasa, Finland, where he has taught EFL methodology since 1979. His publications comprise a number of books and papers mainly in the fields of applied linguistics and EFL methodology.
Rolf
He is also the author of a range of CALL programs and Java applets, available at: http://www.vasa.abo.fi/users/rpalmber/download.htm His non-academic interests include geographical enclaves and tripoints.

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