English Teaching – the Varsity way

24th April 2019

A morning with me, Amy Huggins the Academic Manager at Varsity International.

It’s 7.30am and I’m sat with the English Teachers in our daily morning meeting discussing the day ahead alongside our Camp Manager and the Activity Instructors. There’s a buzz in the air and a real sense of team spirit, fuelled in part by our fantastic staff, many of whom return year on year to be part of Varsity International’s unique Residential Camp. Our camp has become renowned among our returning teachers not only as a fun and energetic place to work but also as an opportunity for some truly creative, interactive and student-centred teaching which I’m looking forward to seeing today!

After a hearty breakfast the teachers find their students and settle into morning classes. This is a great opportunity for me to move from classroom to classroom and see the teaching in action. The morning is broken into 3 sessions with each focusing on developing the students’ language skills through a variety of themes and topics. A lot of our students have had English classes throughout their academic school year, where there is often a greater focus on reading, writing and grammar than speaking and listening skills. I have designed our programme to focus primarily on developing each student’s confidence and fluency in communicating, as well as their listening and literacy skills. This gives students the opportunity to put into practice the more theoretical knowledge they may have already, as well as developing their accuracy and presenting skills. For our lower level English students this is an opportunity to learn and practice expressing themselves in a supportive and relaxed environment, where class sizes are small, and teachers have more time to devote to each student’s individual learning needs. I include writing and reading tasks into the teaching sessions too as it is important to develop these core skills however I have built mainly on our unique ability to allow students the opportunity to interact, play, learn and practice their English with local British children (our ‘Buddies’) who attend camp each day.

It is my firm belief that children need to be given the chance to absorb and practice their English in a natural environment, enjoying themselves and taking part in the sports and activities they love alongside British children. This is where authentic communication and learning takes places and the academic programme that I have developed is designed to equip students with the practical skills to encourage participation and self-expression, as well as pushing them to improve their overall English language level. All the sessions are led by qualified and experienced teachers, using the Varsity International curriculum however, I encourage all our teachers to use their experience and practical teaching methods to tailor the lesson plans to suit the needs and interests of their students. This is the bit I enjoy, when observing the lessons, I always see new ideas and ways to develop and expand the student’s English abilities. This is especially evident in the final session of each teaching period which involves an activity with the English ‘Buddies’. Sessions can range from role plays and vocabulary building games, to practical tasks requiring communication and team building – the teaching team and I are always introducing new activities to make it a fun learning experience for everyone involved. Unique to our programme, this controlled environment gives my teachers an opportunity to monitor and correct students while they authentically practice their English with the ‘Buddies’. 

As I move from one classroom to another, I interact with the Teachers who closely monitor each student’s progress in order to make sure they’re achieving tangible results in all the core competencies. These are reflected in the student’s end of course report where teachers give details on what progress has been made, as well as suggestions for further study. While our approach to teaching English is slightly less academic, it has nonetheless proven to yield highly successful results with students feeling much more confident in their ability to communicate in English. What’s more, all the students have fun, make new friends and enjoy an unforgettable summer at camp, inspiring them to continue learning English.

My morning ends with a quick de-brief, speaking with each Teacher to gather feedback on sessions and students. Time goes quickly on Camp and students are with us for relatively short periods of time so I’m always conscious that we must make sure students are happy and learning every day. Before you know it, they have completed their time with us and it’s their turn to receive the certificate and board their flight home with great memories and an improved confidence in their English language. Although it is sad to say goodbye I’m always happy that they have enjoyed learning the Varsity way!

Written by: Amy Huggins, Academic Manager