Field trips are an opportunity to explore and learn in new and exciting environments, but for most of us, they’re not an option right now. Thankfully, as the world adapts, some new, immersive and engaging virtual tours are emerging, giving you a free ticket to some of the best exhibitions the world has to offer.
Go on your own virtual adventure!
The best thing about this for you is that ALL of these virtual ‘excursions’ are opportunities for you to engage with the English language, whether you’re learning solo or with your friends online. As a teacher, I take my own students on weekly ‘trips’ to some of my favourite museums (details below). Before embarking, I always put together a few easy pre-questions, level adjusted to ensure that my students are learning English while having fun. Here are some ideas to inspire you:
- First, start by asking yourself (or your friends) some questions. What is a museum? Have you been to one before? What are your favourite exhibitions? What’s the strangest/most interesting thing you’ve ever seen at a museum? Write down your answers, and see whether they change after your finish your virtual tour!
- As you embark on your virtual journey, make a note of any new vocabulary that you come across. Use this to create your own personalised wordlist using this free tool from the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.
- Museum visits can be tied into any lessons, for example:
- Numbers: Count how many animals you see at the museum [for natural history or science museums, or zoos!].
- Colours: Find a peacock – what colour is it?
- Adjectives: Describe what a mammoth looks like.
- Most of the virtual museums have online floor maps that can be used for directions. I love this aspect of museum tours!
- Get competitive! Challenge your friends to find certain objects on the tour, and tick them off as they go. Or maybe give them certain words to listen out for, you could even create a unique bingo card for each of them to use.
Now, on to my top 5 museums to visit virtually (I’ve also added some learning ideas that you could try, but make it your own)!
There really is so much to see here! Animals, gems (including the Hope Diamond), dinosaurs, plants, geological history, etc. You can use it for directions (there are arrows that lead the way virtually), naming animals, colours, comparisons, and past tense.
This museum is beautiful. There are 7 other Vatican museums that can be visited virtually, but the Sistine Chapel is one we all know. This is a great environment to practice colours, adjectives, (it is huge – even online you can sense it), and body parts.
This museum is awesome! It is what it says on the tin: a pretend city. Use it for practising directions, signs (lots of stop signs), names of buildings in a town, colours, measurements (there is a neat feature where you can measure the size of the room), Wh-questions (see a pattern with all the museums?), imperative, comparisons, likes/dislikes etc.
This exhibit is where fashion and art meet! Great for exploring vocabulary around fashion and clothing, and creating comparisons using words and phrases like “same” and “different”.
Although this isn’t an actual virtual visit to the museum, this video takes you on a tour of the Lego House museum. The tour guide speaks at a moderate level, so it’s great listening practise for more advanced learners. Younger and less-advanced students will get a lot out of this tour also: colours, size, likes/dislikes (actually all of the museums are good for this!), vocabulary, numbers, etc.
There are so many virtual experiences out there for you to get lost in, we haven’t even mentioned Google Earth yet! But we hope that these ideas are useful. If you know of any other virtual tools or experiences to visit, please do add them to the comments and share them with your fellow learners.
Mireille Yanow spent 6 years teaching English to primary and secondary students in Greece and Spain before embarking in her publishing career. Mireille spent 4 years as an editor leading the development of a primary English Language course before moving back to the United States. She is currently Senior Publisher at Oxford University Press and volunteers at the local library as an ELT teacher.