A Task-Based Travel & Tourism English Lesson That Never Fails

Each fall, I teach an advanced English conversation course at my university in Korea. It’s my favorite class to teach—largely because I have complete control over it! One of my favorite lessons for this course is a three-day, six-hour, task-based lesson that never fails to produce extensive discussion and some very creative results: the students design a seven-day tour of Korea.

Day 1: Planning

At the beginning of class, students watch the tourism commercial above and this commercial advertising the bounties of Korea. I ask them to watch each one and pay attention to what they see; what the Korean National Tourism Board thinks best represents Korea. After each commercial, we make a quick list of everything that was shown: What, according to that commercial, is Korea? Finally, we discuss which of the two commercials appeals to them most and why.

The task: Plan a seven-day tour of Korea

Next, I announce that each group is a travel agency, and they want to design a seven-day package tour of Korea. They must decide the following:

  • What is the theme of the tour?
  • Who is their target audience?
  • Where will they go? What will they see? How will they get there? Where will they stay?
  • What kind of food will they eat?
  • Approximately how much will this tour cost? (Today, in the age of smart phones, I encourage them to use the internet to get an idea of transportation expenses, hotel costs, admission fees, etc.)
  • Why should someone choose their tour instead of another one?
Seoul, Dongdaemun, Gate

Cars speed by Dongdaemun Gate in Seoul, Korea. © Pete DeMarco 2014

Day 2: Advertising

After deciding on the theme, price, and schedule for their tour, each group creates an advertisement for their tour using Animoto. In past years, students just created a poster; but this year, I decided a more multimodal approach might be more rewarding. The students seemed more engaged across the board, and I noticed extensive discussion about photo and music options as well as appropriate phrasing for captions.

Using tech tools such as Animoto can also enlist higher-order thinking skills such as experimenting, evaluating, critiquing, and creating. The final products, such as these, are often impressive and diverse. (Next year, though, I plan to add a feedback step and encourage students to revise their work more thoroughly!) For homework, students watch each other’s advertisements and decide which tours they’re most interested in.

For information about how to create student accounts in Animoto using your free Animoto for Education account, click here.

Day 3: A 4/3/2 Sales Pitch

On Day 3 of the task, the groups usually need a little more time to finish preparing their sales pitches. Each group member has to take notes, since the members will take turns giving a 4-minute sales pitch to a small group of potential “clients.”

Tourists explore Yeongnamu Pavilion in Miryang, Kora. Pete DeMarco 2014

Tourists explore Yeongnamu Pavilion in Miryang, Kora. © Pete DeMarco 2014

Next, one “travel agent” stays behind at the “office” while the other members meander over to the agency of their choice. After everyone is seated at a new travel agency, the agent has four minutes to persuade these potential clients to take their tour. I usually put the time on a screen using a countdown timer; that way, speakers can easily check how much time they have left.

One key feature that separates this sales pitch from other presentations and discussions the students have done in the class is that it’s actually a 4/3/2 fluency exercise. It’s very important that the visitors not speak; they just listen silently. After the four minutes end, the visitors have a minute or two to ask questions, then they go to a different agency. The original agent stays in place, and he or she must give the same sales pitch—with the same content and same level of detail—to the new group of listeners; but this time, they must do it in three minutes. The idea is for students to minimize their hesitation and improve their fluency. I usually don’t include the third (2-minute) stage; the speakers tend to look a bit frazzled and worn after two presentations.

Creative thinking rules!

I look forward to this activity every year. The students seem to enjoy planning the tour, and they often come up with some tremendously entertaining themes and ideas. The most popular tours are typically “couple-making” tours; but themes have ranged from “healing” and baseball to Korean dramas and food. We even had one tour that promised to turn “geeks” into “cool guys”; and one of my favorites was a tour that cost only 500,000 won. It advertised a “free ride” that was actually just customers stowing away on the KTX train instead of buying tickets!

I love this kind of in-depth, multi-hour project for the way it evokes authentic language and meaningful communication, engages higher-order thinking skills, and is a mastery-oriented task that motivates students by giving them autonomy and purpose.

Do you use projects like this in your classroom? Please tell us about them!

Lindsay Herron

Lindsay Herron has been a visiting professor at Gwangju National University of Education in Gwangju, ROK, since 2008. Prior to that, she taught at a boys' high school in Jeju-do, ROK. She loves stories of all kinds: movies, books, anime, operas...and the ones her students give her.

4 thoughts on “A Task-Based Travel & Tourism English Lesson That Never Fails

  1. Christian Hamilton

    Hi Lindsay! What a great lesson plan! I teach an adult conversation class at a school on Geoje Island, where we’re learning how to use superlatives in descriptions of tourist places in Korea, so I’m going to adapt your lesson for this class. Thanks for an inspiring idea!

  2. Leesa

    What a fantastic lesson, thank you so much for posting this! I had the idea to do a project with my class, having them design tours of their city and country, and was searching for ideas to flesh it out when I came across your blog. It was super helpful, thank you so much!

    1. Lindsay Herron

      Thanks for the comment, Leesa! I’m happy I could provide some ideas. Please let me know how it goes! 🙂

Comments are closed.