Teacher Tour Leader Guide to: Engaging students of different abilities
We asked our Teacher Tour Leaders for their advice, top tips and secret weapons that they swear by for the best school trips possible. In this guide we asked them:
How do you ensure a group of students including those of higher and lower ability get the most out of their overseas school trip?
Passion, enthusiasm, mutual respect, clear boundaries. Make sure that you have fun too! You need to enjoy the trip as much as the students do. Enjoy being with them and looking at Iceland through their eyes. You may have seen and experienced Gullfoss before but they haven’t, so look at how their faces light up and how they say “wow” at every turn. Excite them with your excitement, this will ensure they look forward to every day, and every stop (even if it is raining and blowing a gale). Remember there is no such thing as bad weather – just bad clothing!
Preparation in school is key, our trip runs for GCSE geographers and we use Iceland for many different case studies. Knowing Iceland and the curriculum well makes a huge difference. Once in Iceland it’s all about having a close working relationship with the tour guide and often building on what they say to make direct links to our curriculum.
I make sure pupils get the best experience possible by researching where I want to go and what I want pupils to see and do. I aim to provide pupils with a geographical, cultural and fun experience so that there is something for everyone.
Forget the clipboards and focus on what is observed with the senses. There’s nothing like seeing the force of the Atlantic relentlessly smashing the coast of Iceland to hammer home the power of nature. Make time for conversations at the locations and facilitate that by not packing too much into every day. Fewer stops and slower time can mean a better quality discussion.
Deliver technical factual content in easy to understand chunks that are short, interesting and specific to the age group. Where there is a range in student ages present, explain which level the content is aimed at for example saying ‘A-Level/GCSE students may be aware that…’ Explain who the particular bit is for (and don’t talk for too long).
Pre-trip preparation is essential! Decide on your reasons for the trip and how to target the different ability groups as early as possible. Get in touch with your teacher tour guide, get academic advice and their expert knowledge. When students have a good background to Iceland the guide can build on this and give academic stretch and greater knowledge to students. Remember the guide has limited speaking time at each site so the better the background knowledge of the students the more they will be able to get out of this time.
Students are very diverse in their understanding and learning, but being out in the field allows them to use a variety of different senses to engage their minds.
Trips are an ideal opportunity for staff to give one to one teaching, which can be difficult in the hurly-burly of the school day and is made easier when the group has a tour guide to organise the logistics. Combining the trip with adventure helps, after all, there is nothing as disconcerting for a student who has never ridden a horse or white water rafted, for them to quickly forge new friendships and so learn new skills or see the teacher in ‘another light’! Having some pause time-a cup of tea and cake is a great opportunity to deal informally with student questions. Move around the coach and dinner tables, have a natter over breakfast, ask if they have any photos. Enjoy being away from school, enjoy working with students in a new environment.
Talk to your travel specialist for more advice on how to create an itinerary that caters for your cohort.