English clubs come in many different guises. What they do all have in common, however, is that they provide an opportunity for English language learners to practise using English in a relaxed and friendly setting. They can make an excellent contribution to student life at a university language centre, a state school or at a private language school, for example. English clubs give students a chance to practice English in a relaxed, informal environment, and to meet new people.

Many English Clubs are moderated by English teachers, but this doesn’t necessarily always have to be the case. Student support workers or even students themselves can often make great moderators.
The principles of a successful English club:

  • A good English club should be participant-centred. Some strategies to achieve this are:
  1. Encourage participants to bring in their own content.
  2. Ask participants questions about their lives.
  3. Divide participants into small groups to discuss questions or to do activities.
  4. Give participants opportunities to express themselves creatively in English, for example, through drama, poetry or storytelling. Alternatively, give them opportunities to explore visual communication, for example art or dance, with a post-performance discussion in English.
  • A good English club plays and important social role.

An English club can be a chance to meet new people and make new friends (both for both moderators and participants). This can be incredibly important for students studying English abroad, for example. Try to arrange the schedule so that there is time for people to stay and talk afterwards.

  • A good English club gives people freedom.

Students often appreciate the freedom from syllabi, exams and learning objectives. Teachers usually appreciate this too!

  • A good English club is rooted in the community.

Organize visits to local places or interest, or invite people from the local community in to talk to your participants.

  • A good English club is fun

Fun and enjoyment are elusive qualities. They happen when people are not looking for them. With regard to English clubs, it is almost impossible to predict in advance whether the activities planned will ‘click’ or not. Like a good teacher, an English club moderator should be flexible and intuitive, abandoning activities that fall flat, and embracing the spontaneous and unplanned.


Practical Activities

The following section suggests practical activities suitable for an English club. Three different types of activity are presented: discussions, online activities and activities for a themed English club.


1. Discussions

Having discussions based on a pre-determined theme often works well. Participants can work in pairs, small groups or can talk together as a whole group and discuss questions. For example:


Children and Childhood

  • What games did you play as a child? Can you remember how to play them?
  • What was your favourite TV programme or book when you were growing up? If possible, show a clip or read an extract of it to the group (perhaps at the next club). How does it make you feel when you see or read it again?
  • What is your earliest childhood memory?
  • Who is the youngest person you know?
  • Have you ever wished you were a child again? Why/why not?
  • Talk about a time you (or someone you know) did something very naughty as a child. Were any adults angry?


2. Online Activities

If your participants can get online, then a whole wider world can open up for your English club. This activity is one of my favourites.


Music and Memory

Participants choose a piece of music that reminds them of a happy time in their life. (It does not need to be a piece of music with English lyrics.) They prepare a presentation describing:

  • the song
  • the place
  • the people
  • the time and the situation it reminds them of 
  • what makes the piece of music special for them

Participants can then take turns to play their songs, either from the playlist on their mobile devices or streamed off YouTube, and give their presentations.

3. Themed English Clubs

Some English clubs have a theme, organizing a different activity related to that theme for each time the group meets. This generally works best when the club has a core of members who attend relatively frequently. Below are a few ideas for a club with the theme of books.

English book club

  • Participants bring in a book they are reading (or have read recently) and give a short talk to the group about it.
  • Participants ‘pitch’ their favourite book to the group. The other members decide how good they think the pitch was, and say whether it makes them want to read the book.
  • The moderator distributes a range of different books from the school library. Participants look at the cover only, and discuss the following questions:

Would you read this book? Why/why not?

Participants then read the first two or three pages and discuss these questions:

What is the book about?

Have you changed your mind about reading the book?

How effective is it to ‘judge a book by its cover’?


Summary

To summarise, English Clubs are, potentially, a very valuable part of the English language student experience. This article has outlined five principles of a successful English club, these are that it is participant centred, that it plays a social role, that it gives participants and moderators freedom, that it is rooted in the community and that it is fun. This article also presents examples of three different types of activity suitable for an English club.

 

This article is based on material from an e-book, English Clubs, published by The Round, an independent collective of ELT authors, in March 2013.

Article by Tom Ewens

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Comments

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude towards your article, Mr. Tom Ewens!

As the student, I can say without a doubt that I found this article truly informative as it contains lots of beneficial information for everyone. I do agree with all the data which is given here. I think that one can follow easily all the information when he or she has a big desire to conduct such language clubs. It is felt that this kind of volunteering work has many advantages for students such as self-confidence, valuable experience, improved language skills and so on. Besides, I liked the article`s structure , the way of its being written. It is brief at the same time very interesting. I also wanted to conduct the English club at the college but I did not have any instructions or creative ideas at that time. However, now after reading your article I realized that there are many different ways of conducting the club. Now, I know what must be considered, discussed and delivered to the ones who are interested in practicing their language skills. Nevertheless, I also have something to add here. For instance, it would be better to pay more attention to the importance of pronunciation exercises during the sessions. Because it is believed that students are more motivated when they have more chances to improve their pronunciation. Through this, they keep on talking and talking. All in all, a good English Club plays a significant role in learning and practicing the English language.

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