The ESOL Showcase


An example of an ‘ESOL Museum’ at a London College.


The reasons for visiting museums are varied and very valuable.

ESOL teacher can’t always take advantage of a museum visit for many reasons. Besides the risk assessment that we now need to complete prior to taking a group of students out, there might be other limiting factors to taking a group out.  There may not be a museum close by.  If there is, the class time might not be long enough for a meaningful trip to occur if you take in to consideration travelling time, etc.  So with that in mind and to respond to the demand of the class reps at my college I decided to organise an ‘ESOL museum’.

Purpose of the exhibition

  • To showcase the ESOL department with a temporary exhibition and celebrate the range of culture and identities at the college.
  • To provide an opportunity to take part in an enrichment activity
  • To raise awareness of and visibility of ESOL at the college
  • Provide fun and innovative ways for language practice and acquisition


  • Before the Christmas holiday, ESOL students were asked to bring an object  from their country or something that represents their culture / cultural identity and their identity
  • Students were asked to write a label for their object
  • They were also offered the possibility record their stories (journey to the UK for example , description of their country etc.)
  • The objects were loaned to the college and students got them back when the exhibition finished. Some teachers took their students to the Museum of London to not only learn about London but also get some ideas about what to contribute to the showcase

Preparation for the display

Some teachers took their students to the Museum of London to not only learn about London but also get some ideas about what to contribute to the showcase

10 ideas to use with the exhibition

  1. If the object could talk?  Imagine what the object would say for example what is the story of this object?, who used it? When ? … now that it is ‘hanging in the reception ( or trapped in the glass cabinet) what is it thinking? Who are the people coming to college? What are the people saying about the it now?
  2. Storytelling , select 3 to 5 objects and invent a story using these objects
  3. My favourite object, choose an object, describe it and say why you like it
  4. Compare and contrast , which object do you think is the most expensive? Cheapest ? oldest? Nicest, Etc  Do you have similar objects in your home?
  5. Eave’s dropping’ Using your mobile phone record noises reception and talk about what your hear , what do people say about the objects?
  6. The odd one out which object within a given gallery doesn’t belong there…. (or which object is missing)
  7. My ideal home select objects you would like to have in your home / wardrobe
  8. Write about the display and get an article ready for a magazine or newspaper
  9. There are 4 cases representing 4 continents , divide the class into 4 groups , each read the information about the
  10. Make a catalogue, using your mobile phone , take a picture of the objects and organise them differently in a word document using picture insertion and labelling , possibly contact the students (via their teacher) and find out more about the story of the objects displayed

Additional ideas for numeracy 

  1. Embedding measurements and calculation around items displayed
  2. Embedding statistics ( percentages etc)

Additional Resources

 ‘It’s not about language, it’s about people’: Do ESOL learners benefit from engagement with museums? Julie Carr  British Council Seminar

Outside the Glass Case, Julie Carr from the Museum of London on learning from objects  Outside the Glass Case

A massive thank you to the staff and students of the ESOL Department at Morley College and Mike Harrison for their support and ideas!

Laila El-Metoui is an Independent Education Consultant and Teacher Educator with over 25 years’ experience in the Further Education sector. Her Curriculum background is in EFL and ESOL.

Her staff development training sessions include LGBT inclusion for managers and teachers with practical ideas for inclusion in lessons, tailor-made to the need of your education institution.

She also runs webinars (online seminars) see links below

The Ideas Factory Webinar Serie 

Queer Fridays Webinars

Visit or email her


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