English Camp Winter 2013

Due to the large outpouring of support I recently received, and the surprise that people are actually reading this…I decided to continue with my blog on teaching.  Instead of summarizing and critiquing articles, I’ll try a more useful tact this week.  I’m beginning to prepare for winter English camp which will have approximately 10 students of the same grade level and is one week long.  I’m quite excited about this, as the English camps have been a period when the “douche quotient” is exceedingly low.  Students are willing to work in groups, classroom management issues are absent, students follow directions, and overt apathy is less prevalent.  Thus, something approximating teaching is possible.

Here is a basic outline of what I intend to do.  I’ll comment briefly on each hour and I have a few questions which may very well inform and enrich my English camp.  This is a rough outline of where I want to go.  I have to put the more specific pieces together in the coming weeks.  Perhaps feedback gained through this post will help me complete the outline:


  1. Students will practice speaking orally in a presentation format.
  2. Students will practice composition writing through guided writing paragraph compositions.
  3. Students will increase processing time through a series of fluency development activities.
  4. Students will be trained in goal setting and practice the skill.
  5. Students will engage in vocabulary enrichment activities based on multiple exposures to similar content.
  6. Students will practice selective listening via completing a series of cloze documents.
  7. Students will be exposed to the concept of “World Englishes” through a selective listening assignment.

Basic Schema for English Camp Winter 2013

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5
Hour 1 Introduce Goal Setting Lecture

Provide Models

Students Brainstorm Goals Students Receive Feedback

Students Revise Documents

Students Model Presentations and Receive Feedback Students Make Final Presentations
Hour 2 Reading Speed

Previous Semester Fluency Development Activity

World Englishes Task

See Day 1 See Day 1 See Day 1 See Day 1
Hour 3 Funny Video

Guiness Video

“I Gotta Feeling” song listening

See Day 1

Paragraph Modeling

See Day 1

Paragraph Construction

See Day 1

Paragraph Revision (Students Receive Feedback)

See Day 1

Paragraph Completion

(Book Compilation)

Hour One

The main thrust is to have students generate five specific goals which will be labeled their “New Year’s Resolutions (not Lunar new year).”

The criteria for effective goal writing are taken from one of my various diversions, the ISSA, which claims good goals have the following elements:

a)    Well-defined

b)    In writing

c)    Are positively stated

d)    Have a specified deadline

e)    Contain emotional appeal

f)     Are difficulty, yet realistic

Basically, students will contrast good and poor models of goal writing as indicated by the above criteria, brainstorm, receive feedback, prepare for a presentation based on their goals with as yet to be specified criteria.  Students will practice their presentations once, receive feedback based on as yet to be specified criteria, then re-present.  Simple enough?

Hour Two

At the KOTESOL International Conference in October I saw a useful presentation from Neil Anderson concerning faster reading methods and fluency development.  Rumor has it that High School Koreans read at a rate of 62 words per minutes in English (go here for empirical verification of said rumor: http://nflrc.hawaii.edu/rfl/October2012/articles/jeon.pdf) , which would be equivalent to underperforming third graders (of the elementary, not middle school variety) if it were in the native tongue.  Thus, I postulate my students could use some improvement in their reading performance.  Basically students will read the same article 5-10 times throughout the course of the week.  Reading rates will be measured and the objective is for students to increase their speed each time.  The question for me is where to find a suitable reading passage.  I suppose scouring my schools English café may be appropriate.  I used this site for my less than motivated after school students: http://www.famouspeoplelessons.com/.  I don’t think it is appropriate for my goals here, as the vocabulary level is rather high (though the length fits my purposes exactly).  Thus, I would have to do some explicit vocabulary instruction.  There is nothing wrong with that per se, but it is somewhat counter-productive to the goals of increasing reading speed.

Beyond that, I will simply recycle games produced from waygook.org which I customized to fit my target language needs during the previous semester.  Students will complete the games aiming for speed and accuracy (at a rate of about 20 questions in 4 minutes with 90+ percent accuracy—their prize is the beloved candy—this is a whole class activity btw).

Finally, I will attempt an activity which John Pfordresher introduced in his recent presentation, namely having students listen to a short sample of speech from one of many varieties of global English and have them orally transcribe the text.

Hour Three

This is a little more relaxed.

First students will watch a “funny video.”  The length will be about 30-45 seconds in length and students will complete a cloze-version of the transcript.  I’ll also drill students on the meaning of three expressions contained in the aforementioned “funny video.”  I will introduce a new video everyday and recycle the old content throughout the week.  Here’s an example from last camp:


Basically, I’ll do the same thing sans the cloze document with a Guinness Book of World’s Records or Ripley’s believe it or not video and I will finish with students listening to the Black Eyed Pea’s song “I’ve Gotta Feeling.”  This song repeats a lot of the same vocabulary and it will serves as fodder for one of the projects of the class namely composing a paragraph on what makes for a good night.  The cycle will follow a similar, though not the same, logic as that detailed in hour one.  Ideally I’ll compile all of the students’ work into a mini-book complete with illustrations.

So that is my basic plan for English camp.  There are no heroic attempts at anything grand, just trying to expose students to English and keep them relatively entertained.  As always it is subject to change.

I have a few pertinent questions:

Anyone have any brief funny clips that fit the aforementioned criteria they care to recommend?…Otherwise I’ll be scavenging youtube in the coming days.

Reading material, are there any good sources of reading material, which is a) grammatically correct, b) between 500-1000 words in length and c) appropriate for students with a low-intermediate grasp of English?  I’m specifically looking for material that doesn’t overtax students in terms of grammar or vocabulary.  Therein lies the challenge.

Any more general comments and opinions?




About cmiller112

Teacher, Father, Jogger, Sleeper, Husband, (add extra label here)
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One Response to English Camp Winter 2013

  1. Hi Chris,
    I’m very glad to see you back on the blog.
    I’m also spending some time planning for our winter camp (three weeks; 8 class hours/day) and your post has given me some ideas about how to format my classes, language-wise.

    For reading material, I want to recommend Kevin Stein’s short fiction for English language learners: http://theotherthingsmatter.blogspot.jp/p/short-fiction-for-ells.html and http://theotherthingsmatter.blogspot.jp/2012/08/for-one-perfect-picture-short-fiction.html <- my personal favorite. The stories were written exactly for the purpose you have described.

    For funny videos, there are just too many possibilities out there. I would like to recommend English Central's website. It's free to register and they have a vast collection of video clips organized by level and topic. http://www.englishcentral.com/videos Some of these videos are also available on youtube, but I've found this site easy to navigate.

    Thanks again for your post and sharing your camp planning and ideas.

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