15 July 2016

GUEST POST: Kids Teaching Kids - Start a summer language camp

Each week of the ASU Summer Institute 2016, I'll be featuring ideas from amigos I met through Summer Institute in years past. This week, Stephanie Schenck helps answer the question, "How do I start a summer language camp run by my students?"

One of the very best things I’ve done as a Spanish teacher is start up a Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica at the high school where I teach. This has been a lot of work, but also incredibly rewarding. The thing about an SHH chapter is that it is really up to the sponsor to determine how active it will be… and that requires setting up activities and projects.

By far, our biggest and best service project has been a summer Language Camp for kids. Caitlin Howard, co-sponsor of SHH, did this when she taught in Florida and we were eager to copy this idea! Since our school happens to also have a French Honor Society, helmed by Jennifer Reschly, we decided to pair up and work together. You could also do this camp with Spanish only, as Caitlin did in Florida, and it will be awesome either way.

We scheduled camp for one week in the summer, immediately after the last day of school. We set up in the cafeteria and also used the courtyard and hallways for games. The camp ran from 10:00am – 12:00pm and we charged $25 for the week. The parents mentioned several times how thrilled they were to have a camp that was only $5 a day, AND, their children would be learning at the same time!

That being said, $25 per camper worked out well for us. Our costs were low, because the high school student Camp Counselors participated in exchange for service hours (we require 10 per year, and if they worked each day of camp, it knocked out all they needed for the upcoming school year). The cafeteria was free. The snacks and craft supplies were not terribly expensive, maybe $100 or so for the week. And we had 40 kids sign up. The meant that this camp ended up being a HUGE fundraiser for our SHH!!

You may be saying, “Whoa, what!? Forty kids!?” Yes, all ages 4-10!! We ended up splitting the kids into two groups, ages 4-5 and 6-10 (we had a ton of little ones). And it worked out great!

Find a COMPLETE starter kit including
customizable flyer in Stephanie's TPT store!
In order to advertise, we made a PDF flyer about the camp and sent it to all the elementary schools in the district. Also, we posted it to Facebook and told our students about it, in case they had younger siblings. Finally, we emailed it to all of the staff in our school, and many of them ended up sending their own children to camp!

So, without further ado, here is what you’ll need to run your own Language Camp!

1. The Camp Counselors – We started with a meeting of our SHH students and officers to pick the themes for each day. Since we partnered with the French students, they came, too. We decided our topics would be: Weather, Numbers, Colors, Animals, and Food.

2. The Curriculum – Once the students had picked the topics, the teachers and students (who chose a day they wanted to lead and teach) sat down and made a list of ten words in Spanish and French. For example, on Animals day, the Spanish lesson would be on under-the-sea animals and French would do farm animals.

3. The Lesson – After we came up with the list of words, we assigned the “teachers” (the high school SHH students) the job of making picture flash cards. They could print them in color, print black and white and then color them in, or draw them from scratch. Then, they had to mount them to colorful construction paper. At the start of each day’s lesson, this is how the “teachers” would introduce the vocabulary.

4. The Activities – We planned for a song, game, and/or craft for each day. This ranged from finger painting animals on paper plates to Simon Says in the hallway to watching a children’s video in the target language. As we planned, we made our supply list of what we would need to buy for that day. We also tried to balance with what the French group was doing. For example, no need to do paint in both groups on the same day.

5. The Logistics – Camp finally arrived! Along with 40 little kids (and we stuck a name tag on them as soon as they walked in the door!)

What we did was group them ages 4-5 and 6-10, to have approximately 20 kids per group. The little kids went to Spanish first for about 45-50 minutes and the big kids went to French first. Then, we stopped and had a themed snack. For example, on Animal Day, we gave them animal crackers and juice boxes. The high school counselors sat with them and quizzed them on the animal names before they could eat them, which was adorable. After snack, the groups switched and the lesson was repeated a second time.

6. The Groups – Still, 20 little kids at a time is a lot! And 45 minutes is a lot to fill! What we ended up doing (after a chaotic first day, ha!) is subdividing the kids into stations. We did a 5 minute full-group lesson to introduce the vocabulary, and do things like “Do you like the tortuga or the tiburón more?” And of course, all the kids wanted to share their favorite!

Then, with 40 minutes left, we split the 20 kids into two or three stations, depending on the day and activities planned. For example, some would go in the hall and play a game, some work on a craft, some go in the courtyard and sing a song, etc. We had about 10 high school camp counselors there each day, so it was easy to assign a few counselors per station. It also kept the chaos to a minimum!!

7. The Send-off – After a whirlwind of a day, with Caitlin, me, and French teacher Jennifer Reschly keeping an eye on the proceedings and watching the clock to tell groups when to switch, it was all over! Since we were in the cafeteria, we used some empty tables to put masking tape with the kids’ names and that served as their “spot” for their French craft, Spanish craft, and……. The take-home sheet for parents! This sheet had the list of vocabulary the kids learned that day, as well as a summary of the activities they did. The parents truly loved this part!

How cute are these counselors and their campers??

8. Basking in the Praise – And that’s it! That is how we planned and ran the camp! The best part was definitely after it was over, we received many emails from parents thanking us for sponsoring the camp and telling us how much their kids enjoyed it. We even got a hand-written thank-you note! These emails were great to forward to our principal to say, “Thank you for allowing us to sponsor this camp!” and to show how much positive press we generated for the school and our program. Banking good will, y’all!

Stephanie Schenck, 2016-17 AATSPSC president, is Spanish teacher at Clover High School, SC and PhD student in Literacy, Language, and Culture at Clemson University. She is also an NBCT and reluctant technology embracer as well as an occasional #LangChat participant --when not drowning in grad work. 

Connect with @SraStephanie on Twitter and TeachersPayTeachers for more help setting up your own summer language camp!

Stay tuned for more great ideas from Appalachian Summer Institute alums 


  1. Wow! What an incredible idea for a summer camp. A program like this not only makes language learning engaging for young learners but also creates a positive community dynamic between high school students and elementary school students. Not only do the high school students receive community service hours but they gain valuable experience working with children and get a glimpse into how rewarding teaching can be. Did the students learning the language do any type of TPR activities? I bet some type of charades or total physical response during the vocabulary learning session would really resonate well with the campers. It would also help the counselors solidify their own French and Spanish vocabulary! Were all of the counselors enrolled in high school Spanish or French?

    The send off sounds like a great way to end the camp while also giving students something tangible to take home and potentially encourage parents to send their child back the following summer. Did you guys use technology during any of the lessons? Such as vocabulary powerpoints or flashcard websites like Quizlet? I am really looking forward to discussing the possibility of sponsoring something similar with my cohort. Do you have any words of advice not included in the entry? Thank you for the excellent post!

    1. Hey! We did play charades and things like that. And we also used minimal technology, such as a video in the target language on a laptop. It would be a little tough to do a lot of technology in the cafeteria and we kept the vast majority of activities hands-on crafts and active games. But the possibilities really are endless depending on what resources you have available to you!

      Also, the "counselors" were all Spanish/French Honor Society students. They had all completed at least 3Honors, if not AP.

      I included our actual lesson plans and curriculum in the TpT product if you'd like more details!