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18 fun activities connected to the topic of amusement parks

By Alex Case
I sat down to brainstorm these ideas and write some of them up as lessons to match a particular unit in the Oxford University Press textbook for teenagers Challenges 1 that I am using, but this is such a popular topic for young learners and teenagers that I would use many of the ideas again […]

I sat down to brainstorm these ideas and write some of them up as lessons to match a particular unit in the Oxford University Press textbook for teenagers Challenges 1 that I am using, but this is such a popular topic for young learners and teenagers that I would use many of the ideas again even with classes that didn’t have this in their textbook. I would also recommend the same for other teachers of these ages. Here are some ideas of how to make the most of this interesting and motivating subject:

1. How do I feel amusement park brainstorm

Ask the students to come up with as many things in an amusement park as they can that make them feel dizzy, sick, scared (or frightened or afraid), relaxed, irritated, impatient etc.

2. Design an amusement park/ theme park

Students draw an amusement park on a piece of A3 paper and label things on it, perhaps turning it into a map or poster. To add language and speaking to this, you could give them a list of possible rides, give them other useful vocabulary like “path” and “kiosk”, give them a list of adjectives they can use to describe those rides, give one person the pen and paper but tell them they have to follow their teammates’ instructions, ask them to keep to a budget, or ask them to present their ideas to the class and vote on their favourite from other people’s ideas.

3. Design a ride

This can also be combined with the feelings vocabulary above and superlatives by getting them compete to design a ride that makes you dizziest, the most frightened etc. This can also be done with things that are in an amusement parks but aren’t exactly rides such as a haunted house, a house of mirrors, a cafeteria, an adventure playground etc. If you give different students or groups different tasks, they can put them all together to make a whole amusement park at the end of the class. You can boost the amount of vocabulary used by giving them a list of possible things that the ride can do like “spin” and “drop”. Another way of organising it is to ask students to combine two rides, e.g. a roller coaster where each car also spins around like tea cups.

4. Design rides based on animals

This is a way of combining animal vocabulary (also a very popular topic with young learners and younger teenagers) with amusement parks. Students try to come up with ideas like a rollercoaster that looks like a caterpillar, a spinning ride in which people are strapped to the legs of a spider or octopus, etc.

5. Amusement park dialogues

Give students two counters that represent people and ask them to imagine going round a map of an amusement park (one that you have given them or one that they have prepared as above) and to act out the conversations they will have (e.g. “Let’s go on that” “No way! It’s too scary!” “Chicken!”) If students can’t improvise such dialogues or they need more emphasis on accuracy, you can get them to write out the dialogues first, after or instead. These dialogues can then be connected to the point on the map where they take place with an arrow or piece of string and drawing pins. Alternatively, other teams can guess where on the map people are supposed to be by reading the dialogues or watching them being acted out. Writing dialogues can be livened up by using www.xtranormal.com

6. Roleplays

You can add extra challenge and amusement to the idea of dialogues above by giving them roleplay cards like “Try to persuade your friend to go on the scariest ride” and “Ask for your money back because the ghost train wasn’t scary at all”

7. Amusement park numbers practice

Research some speeds, heights, costs, dates, visitor numbers etc of amusement parks around the world, for example record breakers or theme parks your students will know about, and get students to guess the numbers, e.g. “How many people visited Tokyo Disneyland in 2004?” Tell them if their guess is much too high, a little low etc until they get exactly the right number. This ties in quite nicely with superlatives.

8. Amusement park Top Trumps

Another thing you can do with data on different theme parks is to turn them into a pack of cards. Students take turns choosing a number they think is high on the top card of their pack and seeing whether their partner’s card has a higher or lower number. The person with the highest number wins their partner’s card and goes next.

9. Online games/ CD ROMs

There are several games you can find by googling “design a rollercoaster”, “design an amusement park” or “design a theme park”.

10. Amusement park rules

Students make a poster of rules for an amusement park (e.g. the one they designed themselves in the activity above). They can then compare to real rules from Disneyland etc. This leads nicely onto the subject of classroom rules, and is also good for modals practice. Another way of covering this topic and this language is for the teacher or a student to describe the rules of one ride (or another place like the toilet or cafeteria) until the other students guess which one they are talking about. The class can then discuss whether they think those are the right rules for that place.

11. Mind the Baby Mr Bean

Using Mr Bean videos in EFL classes is a well established classroom technique, and luckily there is one that ties in perfectly with this topic as it has Mr Bean trying to look after a child in a small English amusement park. You can do so many things with Mr Bean videos and almost all of them would work with this one too, e.g. getting students with their backs to the screen to listen to their partner’s description of what is going on and complete a worksheet.

12. Documentaries

There are quite a few documentaries on roller coasters, e.g. an episode of the National Geographic series Megastructures. There are also a few suitable things on YouTube.

13. Advertisements

Ask students to design a poster, magazine ad or TV commercial for a real or imaginary (e.g. the one they made up) amusement park. You can find ads for Disneyland and other theme parks on YouTube to give them ideas.

14. Spot the difference

Give students two very slightly different pictures of amusement parks and get them to find the differences without showing their pictures to each other. Such pictures are often available in puzzle books for kids, but if you can’t find something suitable you can take one picture and change parts of it.

15. Picture dictation

Describe a picture or map of an amusement park that you have found or drawn to your students and see if they can draw what you are describing. This is good practice for prepositions of position. It is easier to explain and complete if you give them a partially complete drawing, e.g. with blank faces that they draw the emotions on (“The boy who is riding a roller coaster is feeling scared” etc) or writing the dimensions on the picture by what you say. Students can also do the same thing in pairs, e.g. explaining the amusement parks that they designed themselves in the activity above.

16. Pairwork picture dictation

Picture dictations can also be done in pairs and small groups. Give students the same picture with different parts tippexed out, e.g. the names of some rides, the cost of other rides, dialogue in the speech bubbles, and the faces of people (or animals) on the rides. They then ask each other about the missing parts (e.g. “How is the boy on the log flume feeling?”)

17. Picture rows

Cut a long picture or map of an amusement park into vertical strips and give the strips out to the class. They have to explain what they have, find which strips join together by bits in common and decide how they should be put in order before showing them to each other. You can make the organization easier and add some movement by asking them to line up in the same order the picture before the look at each others’ pictures and check.

18. Chain stories

Students take turns continuing a story about a day in an amusement park, either by speaking or by writing it down. You can add to the challenge and fun by giving them words and phrases that they should try to use in the story.

Written by Alex Case for Tefl.NET June 2009
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic and the Teaching...: Interactive Classroom Activities series of business and exam skills e-books for teachers
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