Do your students groan when you ask them what they did on their summer vacations? Do you groan a little as you wait for someone to answer? That could be because some people have had a fabulous summer, while some students have not. Some students might have jetted off on vacation, perhaps taking a flight booked on Jettly or another booking site, and had a more adventurous summer, and others might have decided to stay at home, visit somewhere local for a few day trips, or even sunbathed in their garden for 2 months. Some do however not like the heat of the summer so much so they may have been cooped up inside with their AC unit (you can visit this link for more information on a service that can help with that), still enjoying their time off watching tv shows or spending quality time with their family! If you and your students had the summer off, it’s pretty impossible to avoid the what-we-did-this-summer topic. You’ll have some students who have spent weeks abroad, others who have visited a city like Houston for a long weekend (cramming in some of the things listed on .Dailytourist.com), and some who won’t have had a vacation at all. Wherever they have or haven’t been, you can guarantee they won’t want to talk about it. So instead of dragging “not much” out of them, or assigning the question as a journal or essay topic, can you think of some new ways to ask the proverbial back-to-school question?
Just don’t tell them what you did in your summer if you spent 3 weeks smoking CBD joints in Amsterdam! Save that story for your own friends…
Here are a few ideas to get you thinking. Please share your own ideas in the comments below. And don’t forget to check out our Back To School Lesson Collection.
Alternative Back-to-School Discussion Topics
- What I DIDN’T DO this summer
- A unique person I met this summer
- My most memorable moment of the summer
- One thing I learned this summer
- The person I spent the most time with this summer
- The best meal I ate this summer
- A day that I wish didn’t happen this summer
- What I wish I had taken a picture of this summer
- Something educational I did this summer
- Something I bought this summer
- Something I made this summer
- The best word to describe this summer
Alternative Back-to-School Classroom (and Homework) Activities
- To warm up, play a class game of categories using “summer things” only (e.g., things I did, things I ate, things I saw, things I accomplished, things I should have done). After the topic is shouted out, go around the class giving each student a chance to share a word or phrase about his or her summer. The topic changes each time a student hesitates for too long (5 seconds or so). More advanced students can create their own “summer thing” categories. Teacher can name the category for lower level students.
- Instead of asking your students, “What did you do this summer?” have each student take a turn changing the verb do to another verb (e.g. eat, sing, play, find). Go around the room to get a response from each student for each new verb.
- Make movies about My Summer using an online movie maker tool such as Dvolver
- Play My Summer – Fact or Fiction. Students tell something that did or didn’t happen this summer. The class has to guess whether each story is true or made up.
- Have students interview each other about the past summer. Student can report back to the class about the highlights of their partner’s summer. Students can turn the discussion topics (above) into questions, or write their own.
- Have students create their own Find someone who…this summer. Students can do the writing in pairs and then break up and survey the class (e.g., Find someone who got injured this summer, Find someone who went to the USA this summer, Find someone who worked most of the summer).
- For homework, have students write true stories from their summer as if they were found in a newspaper. (Tell students it’s okay to embellish.) Put the stories together to make a Summer Digest.
- Make a My Summer collage (with old magazines) and describe it. Or divide a page in half and have partners work on their own collage on each side. They can present the collage to the class by comparing the two summers.
- Have each student ask you a question about your summer. The earlier they get to know a bit about the real you, the better.
- Find Someone Who Didn’t
- Summer Categories
- Adjectives with a Twist
- One Summer – Collaborative Writing Prompt
What ideas do you have for avoiding the dreaded summer vacation topic? Share your back-to-school ideas and links in the comments.