Old School / New School

This simple activity can activate lots of interesting memories and lead to provocative discussions, as well as throwing up lots of useful school-related vocabulary.

Ask the students to think of all the subjects they took at school and list them on the board. This can lead to interesting cultural and regional differences arising. For example, many students who grew up in socialist countries didn’t have Religious Education at school, see what other differences come up. Ask students if they enjoyed each of the subjects, and what sort of things they learned about, and compare them with memories of your own school time. For fun, you could ask the students to vote and banish one of the subjects from the curriculum.

Ask student’s whether school children today have a similar school day, or whether school subjects have changed much since they attended. Now ask students to think about whether what children learn at school really equips them for life in the modern world. Ask students to think about what pupils could learn that would be genuinely useful in the adult world. Put them in pairs if possible and give them 10 minutes to write down some ideas. Give some examples of your own before you start.

Some ideas that came up in a recent class of mine included:

  • how to start a company
  • how to build a website/app
  • how to manage time/money
  • environmental awareness

Clean the board and write down and discuss the ideas that the class come up with. You could vote the most popular options onto the new school curriculum.

Grammar points

If you want to add some relevant grammar activities to the mix you might consider:

  • used to / would to talk about past experiences.
  • have to / must and other modals of obligation to talk about what was permitted and not permitted at school 

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