Reflections on First Day of “Unplugged” Travel-to-Disneyworld Lessons

Just me, 8 students and a whiteboard. And one imaginary millionaire (one student suggested “billionaire”) who is sending us on an all-expenses-paid trip to Disneyworld, Orlando.

Overall I think the lessons went well. The main issue that needs improving is the pace.


The ‘’problematic” 8th graders didn’t bother to show up. There was only one tall, lanky, hyperactive boy who kept moving either his chair, the desk, rolling a water bottle or doing something else. But he was participating too.

We started off with a discussion in Hebrew (which I didn’t even try to add English to) just to set the framework of the story. I “introduced” our benefactor and asked what you need in order to go the States. Some kids didn’t know the difference between “a passport” and “an identity card”. Many didn’t know what an embassy was or that you needed  a visa for such a trip. They didn’t know the words for these things in their L1, it wouldn’t be effective to work on these words in L2 when others are more commonly used.

The “action” began when I asked them what they would pack for their trip. I wrote what each student suggested on the board in a full sentence, asking them whether to add “has to take” or “wants to take” . That may sound a slow process but for that part the pace was actually fine. This is because a lot of discussion was needed whether some of the suggestions were logical  or not. For example, one student suggested bringing a winter coat. I pointed out that I had told them that the weather in Orlando is hot and rainy. He replied “See! You said it again! You said it is rainy so I need a winter coat”, In Israel it only rains in the winter, when it is cold, rainy and hot is a difficult combination to imagine!

At some point they all started giggling and one boy handed me a note, saying this is what he wanted to take. They all looked at me to see my reaction. It was a word badly spelled in Hebrew and I thought it said “hay”. I told them I don’t understand why they want to take food for cows. There was some consultation and the note was corrected. Turns out they meant “bra”. “Of course” I said, “very important item to take! Don’t forget underwear too”! There was a lot of positive laughter and that was good but I didn’t cooperate when they hyperactive boy wanted to drag on the topic and learn the words for different kinds of underpants (remember, these are 13 and 14 year olds!).

But now that there were all these sentences on the board I couldn’t go on – there was a lot of new vocabulary there.

So, I pulled out a travel game called “trouble” whose main appealing feature is that the die is encased in a plastic bubble. Fun to press (you have to press hard!). One by one each student pressed the die, and I erased a corresponding number of words on the board. That student had to come and fill the words back in. The student at the board could ask the others for help.

Here was the problem with the pace. On one hand, the students liked the activity and did help each other. But it took a long time and there was a lot of unrelated talking in between.

I didn’t want to split them into groups for two related reasons. I don’t know them well enough to build balanced groups AND it is much safer not to encourage competitive behavior. Some of these children respond badly to pressure and I don’t know which ones. So I really don’t know how I can improve this part. I’d be most grateful for suggestions!

6 thoughts on “Reflections on First Day of “Unplugged” Travel-to-Disneyworld Lessons”

  1. Glad to hear that you got off to a good start. I like the game idea too. You could get the other students towrite themissing words on paper at the same time as the student at the board. They get more practice and have something to keep them occupied. Then they could show you the words or just compare them to the board.

  2. The “bra” episode made me smile. Many years ago, when I was teaching 8th grade, a student passed a note which I caught. My policy was to read the notes aloud in hope that that would deter the kids from passing them. Ooops! The note read: “Did you notice that Naama is wearing a bra?” (Naama was a late bloomer.) Hmm… If I recall, to the great disappointment of my students, I chose not to publicly share the content. A while later a second note came my way. This time it read, “Judy! Isn’t it fun to read notes???”

    Apart from that, I found your project not only interesting but challenging. While planning a trip to Disneyland is really cool (I am a great Disney fan!), I am curious whether the kids saw it as something achievable.

  3. Sandy,
    I like your idea about having the kids write on their own while their peer is at the whiteboard but I have had negative experiences with that. Perhaps I didn’t present it in an appealing way. when someone is writing the answer on the board to anything (not just this type of activity) many of the kids do not want to bother trying to write it on their own. The girls in particular are concerned that they may have to erase it and the paper won’t look nice…
    Thanks for taking the time to make suggestions!

  4. Judy!
    What a great “note” story! I know where you should post that story! LOL!
    Some of the kids have been abroad, a few to the U.S. Amusements parks are very attractive to my pupils and young deaf people travel abroad on their own.
    The challenges here (I’m after the second day) are that the groups aren’t the same and different kids came in who had entirely missed our intro and weren’t with it…

  5. Maybe you could give them some scrap paper towrite their versions on? That should get rid of the problem of spoiling nice paper. Or you could try to choose different words each time so that inthe end they have the complete list of words in their books.
    Does that make sense?

  6. I really like your idea with the different words.
    The problem with scrap paper is that it isn’t saved, so it isn’t “important” to some kids (some are fine with it, of course). So why bother, those obsessive girls (mainly) say. If it is important it should go into the notebook and then they wait till they are sure what’s on the board is right so as to copy it neatly…

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