As the school year comes to an end, busy parents start to look around for something for children and teenagers to do during their holidays. The question of what activities, courses and workshops are available, affordable and of academic benefit to kids is always a challenging one.
A good option is to take the opportunity of the holiday weeks to have children make progress with their language skills, as these are skills that allow them to also socialise and have fun. In fact, languages in general are much better learned not in a traditional classroom setting, but in conjunction with using a range of skills to complete tasks that feel real, useful and relevant.
One option for studying English in the holiday is the British Council’s Young Learners Holiday Programme. This year, the British Council is commemorating 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare with workshops and courses for children based on the life of Shakespeare and his plays. The aim is to make the works of this great British writer accessible to students: children will get into character and act out scenes from the plays, as well as studying Shakespeare’s story-lines and themes. Above all, the principle is that Shakespeare’s plays were supposed to come to life as performances on the stage: we should not approach them simply as reading texts but as the dramatic, dynamic performances they were written to be. “The reason why many children grow up with little knowledge and appreciation of Shakespeare’s work is that it has often been badly taught in schools,” says Sarah Howard, Head of Young Learners at the British Council. “We aim to bring out the richness and vitality of the plays by setting them in a context that the children can understand.” The courses and workshops will of course simultaneously help children to improve their language skills – the aim is for the children to be immersed in an English-only environment.
Katie Butler, British Council’s Director English Language Services, comments about holiday courses: “What children need is to continue their learning and development while having the opportunity to interact with others in a relaxed environment. We aim for children to have fun while also keeping their minds stimulated and active.”
All the courses have been carefully written by specialist, trained teachers to help students explore language, develop critical thinking skills and build confidence. Parents can expect their child to be encouraged to think about their learning throughout, thus improving children’s self-reflection and study skills. Parents are also invited to view the work - or the performance - produced at the end.
In addition, younger children will take part in fun activities to develop vocabulary, improve writing and build confidence through multi-sensory and engaging tasks such as songs, stories, arts and crafts and speech and drama. Older students can expect to learn a number of strategies useful for school, exams and beyond, including public speaking and working in teams towards solving problems.
All in all, holiday activities should be a chance for kids to grow and develop skills and knowledge for life – as real people, not only as school students.