Apart from teaching regular classes, we also conduct language clubs from time to time in order to boost the confidence of the learners to use the target language in more real life, ad-hoc situations. Moreover, if classes target a specific group of people enrolled in the course, language clubs give us the opportunity to work with a wider and more varied audience.
Things to Consider
When getting ready for a language club, a couple of things should be taken into account.
- The target audience – before planning the club, it is crucial to study who your audience is going to be. It will help you to plan your session effectively and make sure that it is interesting for the attendees. By the target group we mean age, occupation, interests, sphere of work, nationality, culture and religion. Knowing these can help you to either succeed or fail the session.
- The aim of the session – clarifying what the session is about is half of the job. You need to have a clear image of the outcomes of the sessions and what the attendees will take with them after it. Sometimes we conduct clubs that are fun and interesting, everyone is happy and entertained, but the outcome is intangible.
- Materials needed – As it is with every class we conduct, materials that are going to be used during the session should be prepared in advance and very minutely. By materials we mean the number of copies you will need (I normally plan +10 more if the club is an open registration, as more people can join), equipment (to be checked in advance), anticipated problems (even/odd number of students, uninterested participants, early/late finishers, etc.)
To me, planning a language club is much harder than a regular session, as here the chances are high that you will be working with people you have not worked before. Hence, you don’t know the most effective ways of engaging with this audience.
Language Club Ideas
Some activities that I normally use during language clubs are as follows;
1. Debate and/or Discussion
People love talking about their experiences and opinions. This is a great way to get them speak using the target foreign language.
Before the class, choose the topics you want the students to debate about. Some ideas can be;
- Boys are better drivers than girls
- Capital punishment should be legal again
- Women are better managers than men
The last club I conducted was based on topic 3.
- To begin with, ask students who they think are better at management, multitasking, time management, etc. See what the students think.
- Deliver Men Vs. Women conversation questions, set students in pairs and ask them to comment on the questions by explaining their ideas and giving examples. Example questions can be like this;
- Is it possible to be close friends with a member of the opposite sex and have absolutely no romantic feelings for that person?
- Which is better for academic and social developmen – single sex or co-ed schools?
- Do you prefer working with men or women? Do you prefer to have a female or a male boss? Give your reasons.
- Should a man hold a door for a woman because she is a woman? Why might this practice annoy some women?
- What are some common learning differences between girls and boys? Why do they seem to have different strengths?
Once the students are done with the discussion, elicit some ideas open class.
- To summarize, play the video and asks the students to comment open class on how much they agree with it. The video is hilarious and gets a good round of laughter.
Alternatively, you can split the students into 2 groups and assign roles; Group 1-agrees with the statement, Group 2 disagrees. Time the students for 2 minutes to generate ideas on the topic and choose a person who will represent it. Once the speakers from both groups are ready, ask them to face each other, time them for 3-5 minutes and let them debate on the topic. When the time is up, invite open class ideas around the statement.
- Speed Networking
This is another fun activity that the students enjoy doing. Before the class prepare some questions. For example;
- What do you like doing in your free time?
- Tell about your last holiday.
- What did you want to be when you were a kid?
- Who is your role model?
- What’s your favourite pet and why?
To save time and paper, you can post these questions on PPT. I normally have 5-10 slides with 2-3 questions on each depending on the number of the group.
During the session, ask half of the student to stand with their back to the board. Those who are looking at the board can see the first slide with the questions and need to interview the person standing in front of them. Encourage the students to give as many details a possible and ask follow up questions. Allocate 2-3 minutes for this.
When the time is up, ask the students to swap places and proceed with the next slide and so on.
Alternatively, to have the students work with more than one person, deliver all the questions to each student and ask them to go and stand next to the person they want to talk to first. When the pairs are formed, time them for 3 minutes and ask them to interview each other with the questions. When the time is up, ask students to find a new partner and carry on with the task.
When the students have had a chance to interview at least 3 people, stop the activity and ask for open class feedback on some findings about each other.
This activity is also a very nice ice breaker and students learn about each other quite a lot.
- Movie Club
Everyone loves watching movies, so why not use it to boost foreign language competency as well?
Before the session, send out the trailer of the film you are going to watch. It prepares the students to the club and they are already in the mood when they arrive.
It’s better to choose not so famous movies or new releases, otherwise, the chances are most people will have seen it. However, if finding a new one is hard, you can simply choose an old favourite and highlight the language learning process more.
Merely watching the movie is not enough for a language club though. It should have an educational purpose as well. To do so, prepare some key words and phrases that might interfere with understanding and pre-teach them before starting the movie. You can either prepare a matching activity, personalized examples, realia or any other way from our previous article on Vocabulary presentation here.
Along with it, prepare some T/F or WH questions that the students will need to comment on during or after watching the movie.
It is also a good idea to ask the students to write a review of the movie in the end to summarize the session and practice some writing skills as well.
4. Book Club
This probably is an old favourite. In contrast to the previous ones, this club can be more long term.
Choose a book or a series of short stories you want the target audience to read and set deadlines to meet and discuss several chapters.
To make the audience more engaged, you can assign the students to prepare the discussion questions themselves. So, you will have a different student running each session.
This works well with teenage learners better and can be used to motivate the students to take more responsibility for their home reading tasks.
This is another reading activity but a short term one.
- Before the session choose 2-3 texts you want the students to read.
- Take out some key words and phrases from each text and board them in separate sections.
- During the session split the students into 2 or 3 teams (depending on the number of texts), ask them to look at the words and phrases taken out from the text and try to recreate the text. Students usually come up with very interesting and fun texts, sometimes better than the original one. As for the type of the text, it can be anything – recent news, a short story, an advertisement, etc.
- As soon as the students are done, ask them to present their text to the rest of the group.
- Distribute the original text, ask the students to read them and see how close their stories were to the original.
- Then, rearrange the students in a way, so that in a group of 3 there are students from all 3 teams.
- Time the students and ask them to tell their texts to each other.
This activity is full of talking and boosts fluency and creativity very nicely.
6. Game club
A bit more fun and interactive audience? Try the game clubs!
There are some favourite games that can be played to combine joy and learning. Those are;
Mafia – here are the instructions to the game. Students enjoy this game. It is very useful if you want to cover the language of arguments, expressing opinions, etc.
Alias – a very popular one, available on Apple Store and Play Market. Can be played with B1 and higher level of learners as the words are sometimes quite challenging. This is also a very nice opportunity to learn new words and phrases.
Alibi – this one is personally my favourite.
- Tell the whole group about a crime which has recently been committed, for example:
Last night between 6pm and 9pm a bank was robbed. Nobody knows exactly when it was done but it was certainly taken between 6pm and 9pm. Two people were seen outside the shop last night and have been taken in for questioning by the police. At present, they are the prime suspects and unfortunately they are in this very room! However, only one of them is guilty.
- Point out two ‘suspects’ in the group. Choose the most confident students who are OK to be interrogated. Tell the students that only one of them is guilty. They need to choose which one. They need to come up with a story, like – they went to a club, drank whiskey, they shared the bill and that they went home on the bus. The stories should be close, so that it is hard to get who was guilty.
- Tell the two students to leave the room and to create an alibi.
- Tell the rest of the group that they are police people and they are going to interrogate the suspects. Arrange the classroom so that you have two equal groups and put one group on one side of the room and the other group on the other side of the room. Ask them to prepare questions that they would like to ask the suspects. Tell them that they need to find differences between the two suspects’ stories.
- After a few minutes, allow the two suspects back into class. Seat one suspect in front of one police station and the other in front of the other police station. Tell each group to interrogate the suspect with their prepared questions. After 10-15 minutes swap the suspects over i.e. move one suspect to the other police station and move the other suspect to the other.
- After both police stations have spoken to both suspects, ask the stations to decide who they think was guilty.
This develops critical thinking skills and is very fun especially when conducted with teenage learners.
Try these activities out and let us know how they worked for your class.