The Garage Sale Trail is happening on October 21/22 – an Australia-wide community event. So if you’re using the reading book The Garage Sale to practise the language of recounts, now could be a perfect time to link that reading with some community awareness.

A confession – I actually hadn’t heard of the Garage Sale Trail before spotting the flyer at my local library. You may know more about it than I do; I’m now aware that it’s been growing steadily since its inception in Bondi Beach way back in 2010. It’s a huge network of community-based garage sales, all listed on an excellent website that allows you to plan a ‘garage sale trail’ – or promote your own neighbourhood, school or group event.

The group sales may be a few neighbours getting together, or may be a market-style event with children’s activities and food for sale, as well as stalls to browse. It’s all clearly marked on the website.

The ESOL connection

For language learners, I like a number of things: the clarity of the website, the language learning and practice available, even for beginners, the potential for a small project, creating a ‘Treasure Trail’, and the invitation to discussions on recycling and reuse.

There’s also the connection with many local councils (and the follow-up of looking at the events page on the council website to see what else is happening soon).

Is it relevant to my learners?

  • You can see if local councils around your learner catchment area are involved.
  • To find if there are sales in your area, type your postcode into the search box at the top left of the page – I immediately found several near me, marked on a map. You can filter by Saturday and Sunday.
  • It’s not just about second-hand shopping – here are the reasons they give for getting involved: “Perhaps you’d like to declutter your life, buy someone else’s treasures, help keep stuff out of landfill, fundraise for a cause, connect with your neighbours or teach your kids about commerce and sustainability…”
  • Of course, learners don’t actually have to GO to a sale, but attending a council-run group sale and talking to people there could be a nice low-stress ‘community participation’ activity.

Links to Pre-employment English

  • There’s likely to be a lot of volunteering happening around charity sales, and a lot of teamwork happening. Learners might not realise that people running a group sale or participating in a charity sale can use this experience in an job interview.

Ideas for the classroom

  • Use the search box to find a sale near you. Use the map to describe to a friend how to get to the sale from your house. (Turn right at Main Street, then left at Harper Avenue…)
  • Use the Treasure Trail planner to collect links to a few sales near you. How long do you think it would take to walk from sale to sale?

Language to explore (beginner)

  • What’s for sale? Click on a sale in your area, to read ‘What’s happening’ and ‘What’s for sale’.
  • What could you say at a sale, if people are friendly? We live just down the road/ We live a few streets away/ We live on the other side of Thomas Street.
  • Look at the pictures of sales in the Media Kit images. What’s for sale? Can you describe the people? (Some are quirky!)

Post-beginner language

  • Words like ‘decluttering’.
  • Names of the sales (Tomorrow’s Treasures, Vintage Wonderland, Out with the old, in with the new, Decluttering Central, Mike’s Spare Room Cleanout). What would you call your sale? What’s funny about Cheep Cheep Garage Sale (or other ‘play on word’ names)?
  • Look at the shoppers’ checklist. If you’re already an expert garage sale shopper, is there anything missing, that you’d like to add?

Discussion topics (also see the Teacher’s Guide to The Garage Sale)

  • Attitudes to recycling, reasons to recycle, concerns about landfill.
  • Ways of recycling : garage sale, op shop, car park sale, street verge collection (and rules around this!), school fete sale, Gumtree, Ebay etc.
  • Personal security issues (especially if selling at home or entering a home).
  • Things that are risky to buy second-hand (baby car seats, electrical goods etc).
  • Community events in your area – planning to go with a friend.
  • What’s the best recycled thing you’ve ever found/been given?

I hope that’s given you a few ideas – please let me know if you can think of more, or if you’ve used the Garage Sale Trail in some creative way as part of your ELT teaching.

A postscript: if you haven’t read ‘The Garage Sale’…

If you haven’t read The Garage Sale, it’s a light-hearted mini-novel in 6 chapters, for strong beginners/post-beginners, set in an Australian suburb (sample chapter here). The plot: Ben and Tori live in a house overflowing with ‘stuff’ – not a problem until Ben’s sister asks to come to stay. Then they panic. Tori’s nephew, ‘Lucky Luke’, suggests a garage sale, and all goes well on the day, until Luke accidentally sells their dining table…