After the success of using text message as homework in one of my ESP classes, I was tempted to try on a new project in a business English class that I taught last month. The business English class was set in a tour and travel company in Denpasar, Bali. It was a short course that lasted for only a month focusing on business (email) writing, communication and presentation skills. At first I planned to have the participants – who are mostly accounting staff – to present a tourist destination in Bali. However, after thinking that this might be too easy for them (as their level of English is somewhat above elementary to pre-intermediate), I changed my mind.
Just like the previous post, in this blogpost I will share about the activity – how I did it and what I achieved – and hopefully it will be useful for all of us.
The aims of the activity:
- To meet the objectives of the short course.
- To increase students’ engagement and participation.
- To promote creativity and active learning.
What activities were there:
There were 4 main sub-activities involved in this ‘Imagine tourist destination’ activity. They were:
- Students made their own original promotional brochures of an imaginary tourist destination of their choice.
- Students presented their imaginary tourist destinations in front of the class (their ‘audience’ – including me).
- Students wrote an inquiry and/ or reservation email playing a role to be an interested tourist to a selected presenter (or ‘the tourist destination’s management or reservation agent’).
- Students – acting as the company management – replied to an email from the interested tourist for a follow-up.
Skills practiced through the activity:
- Business (brochure and email) writing,
- Communication and presentation.
For how long it was done:
It took me at least a total of 5 meetings to complete the whole activity (note: a meeting lasted for an hour/ 60 minutes). 1 meeting for introductory activities and introduction to the activity, 2 meetings for presentations (there were a total of 10 students in the class), and 2 meetings for discussing email writing and giving feedback.
What the results were:
Most of the students came up with what I thought amazing ideas on imaginary tourist destinations. Here are some of them:
- The Moon Holiday by Spectacular Planets Attract Cosmic Explorer (SPACE)
- Magic Mountain Home Stay (on the foot of Mount Everest)
- East Bali National Park – Best Safari Journey Experience by Putra East Bali Safari Tour and Travel
- The Resto Plane (a dining experience on a plane around Bali)
- Waterfall Restaurant – Best Balinese Restaurant (a dining experience at the bottom of a waterfall in Bali)
All brochures were made and prepared well with shapes, images, and information that are enticing. Since the tourist destinations are imaginary, most of the titles successfully raised curiosity.
I enjoyed the presentations mostly because both presenters and audience seemed to enjoy their roles. Although there were times code-switching happened, for example when a presenter suddenly switched to Indonesian when she could not think the English for some Indonesian words, the flow was smooth and communication was done right on target. Both presenters and audience were active, adding to the Q & A sessions’ dynamic. Some answers could be funny too. In short, it was fun and engaging.
Each student had to write 2 emails: one they wrote as a tourist and one as a reservation agent, replying to a tourist’s inquiry and/ or reservation. This is where the challenge lay. As accounting staff, their company might not ask them to make brochures. However, email writing is pretty much their everyday task. As the example above shows, minor mistakes in grammar were seen in most of the emails they wrote. I had only 2 meetings to discuss these mistakes when in fact I think the explanation and practice on email writing needs more time than that. It will be discussed in my conclusion below.
What I learned from this activity:
What made it work
- The activity promoted creativity, active learning, and critical thinking.
- It increased students’ engagement and participation.
- Students learned English using topics that are familiar to them and their work. This is important, especially in adult English classes.
- It helped build students’ confidence and fluency especially in communicating and presenting.
Why it did not work
These are the things I should fix if I wish to use this activity for future classes.
- Students needed more time to have grammar lesson, application, and practice. The best option would be discussing only grammar points that are specifically related to (their) email writing or exploring only parts where the mistakes were found the most. I did give introduction to email writing for 1-2 meetings before starting the activity, but it was not enough.
- A student felt (through the class questionnaire) that the activity did not have a ‘clear goal’. This was probably because she did not feel like ‘learning’. I need to check on my method in delivering the aims of the activity.
As usual, I am open to any input or suggestion. Or if you want to try applying something like this in your class (or something that is even better!), let me know. Until then, see you in another post. 🙂
Doehla, Don. (2011, April 21). Using Project-Based Learning to Teach World Languages. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/world-language-project-based-learning-education-curriculum-don-doehla