10 entertaining homework ideas for online English Language Learners
Did hearing the words, “do your homework,” when you were a child excite you?
For most of us, the word homework doesn’t conjure up exciting or fun memories.
Homework was likely one of the last things you wanted to do as a student!
However, what if you could make homework fun for students? What if homework was entertaining?
In this article, we share some entertaining homework ideas for English language learners to help them improve their English while having fun!
You might be familiar with lots of ESL games and activities for your students , but assigning the right homework can feel overwhelming.
This is particularly true if you don’t want to burden your students with a tremendous amount of information.
Have you ever thought about combining games with homework?
There are many alternative ways to create memorable lessons, such as incorporating karaoke songs to learn English.
Here are 10 fun and entertaining homework ideas for your ESL students:
- Cafe hopper
- Tiktok star
- Let’s go to the movies
- Hello Mr. Teacher
- Interview a stranger
- Shine like a Karaoke star
- Expert on the loose
- 24 hour challenge
- It’s a wrap!
- Masterchef in the making
1. Cafe hopper
Most people love checking out cafes and this is an easy homework task to assign to your students.
Have your students visit a variety of cafes as part of their homework.
Then, consider what they could do for homework in a cafe of their choice.
Here are some fun ideas for turning cafe-hopping into homework:
- Practice ordering in English off of the menu.
- Take a photo of the cafe’s and share the differences and similarities with you in class.
- Speak to a stranger in each cafe in English and ask them some interesting questions about their life.
- Interview the barista about their favorite kind of coffee or beverage.
This is a stress-free homework idea that your students will love, especially if they are coffee or tea lovers!
2. TikTok star
Tiktok is a fun social media application where you can watch videos and songs from creators. You can also watch creators lip-synching to catchy tunes.
Show some fun examples in your class of some famous TikTok songs being lip-synched to by others and practice doing one together.
- For homework, have them choose their favorite song on TikTok.
- They can lip-synch to the song and download the song to their camera album without having to actually post it to TikTok.
- Have them share their creation with you in the next class!
Depending on the age and location of your student, TikTok might not be an option for them. If you are teaching older students or adults , then it might be easier for them to use social media for this homework assignment rather than young children.
If they are too young to use the app, have them find an online video of their favorite song and ask a parent to record them singing!
3. Let’s go to the movies
Going to the movies doesn’t sound like homework, does it? Well, as you might already be discovering, homework doesn’t have to be conventional!
Find some interesting movies that are playing in your students’ area or ask them to watch a movie of their choice in English.
Tell them that their homework is going to be based on the movie they watch.
Here are some ideas for making going to the movies part of their homework:
- Have them write a summary of the movie or their favorite part.
- Tell them that they have to give you a movie review in your next class.
- Have them act out their favorite part of the movie with a sibling or family member and record it (in English of course!).
- Ask them to make a poster advertising the movie with captions, titles and text to accompany any drawings.
If you are struggling to find movies they can go and watch in the cinema, you can always use these ESL movies and TV shows as a resource.
Students can also watch movies from the comforts of their homes.
4. Hello Mr. Teacher!
Students love playing the role of the teacher!
This can work for in-person or online ESL classes.
Tell them that as part of the next classroom activity, the first 5 – 10 minutes will be their time to shine as the teacher!
For homework, ask them to:
- Think of one topic that they know a lot about (This could be a sport, musical instrument, game, topic, etc…).
- Have them prepare 5 important things that someone needs to know about their topic.
- Tell them that in their next class they will be the teacher and share their knowledge! (They can even give you homework!).
Have fun with this homework idea and role-play the student where you ask them questions after they finish.
Your students will love this one!
5. Interview a stranger
This one might need some parent support and guidance if you are teaching children, but having them interview someone is an entertaining homework idea for English language learners.
- It encourages their own voice as they come up with ideas.
- It helps with writing skills as they write out their questions.
- Interviewing encourages conversation and role playing which is a fun way to learn English.
You could have your younger students interview a family member and ask questions related to that family member’s childhood.
Here are some sample questions you could help your students form:
- What kind of things did you like to do when you were my age?
- What was your favorite thing about school?
- What types of sports did you play when you were young?
- Tell me about what life was like when you were a child.
Have them choose and write out 5-10 questions and come back to class to report on their findings!
6. Shine like a Karaoke star
Who doesn’t like a bit of karaoke? Imagine….singing your heart out to “I love rock n roll” in the privacy of your own home!
You don’t need to go to a karaoke place to actually sing karaoke songs. There are lots of great karaoke songs available online to learn English with your students.
YouTube is a great place to start, just by searching for your favorite song + “karaoke lyrics” in the search bar.
In class, help your student(s) choose a song and task them with finding the online karaoke lyrics to sing along.
Have them sing this for homework! You could even ask a parent to help them record it if they are comfortable with that.
Here are some fun and popular karaoke songs online to learn English:
- “I Will Survive” with Gloria Gaynor
- “Livin’ on a Prayer” with Bon Jovi
- “Summer Nights” with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John
- “Don’t Stop Believin’” with Journey
7. Expert on the loose
There is an expert in all of us, including your students!
In this fun and entertaining homework idea, have your student share their expertise on something!
To add a different dimension to the homework idea, “Hello Mr. Teacher,” task your students to dress up as the expert and make a short speech on their topic of choice.
Here are some examples:
- Harry Potter
- Michael Jordan (to talk about basketball)
- Favorite sports athlete
- Insect scientist
- Astronaut (if your student knows a lot about space)
- Presidential candidate
- Pilot (for students who know a lot about countries)
Even if they are not an expert on the topic, part of the homework assignment could be to do some research and learn more about their chosen field.
You could even ask them to dress up and come to class in the role, ready to share their knowledge with you!
8. 24 hour English challenge
This one is self-explanatory and incredibly fun!
Set a challenge for your student to only speak in English for 24 hours.
This means that you might need to get parents involved with the homework assignment, so that they can help out.
The idea is that they have to speak only in English (as much as is possible given their situation) when interacting with family, friends and at school.
Your students might already be immersed in English environments, but, oftentimes, they are speaking their native language at home with family and friends.
Having your students force themselves to only speak in English is challenging and a great way to encourage English outside the classroom.
9. It’s a wrap!
Lots of students love to rap! Rap music is poetic and encourages a lot of ESL language skills that we want to build in our students.
This is an activity that you can model with your students in class and assign it for homework for them to create their own rap.
Again, they can come back to class and rap their new song to you! It might, however, work better with older students who have a good base level of English, to begin with.
Here are some fun homework assignments incorporating rap:
- Create their own rap if they are the creative type
- Find a well known rap online and practice it to present in class
- Assign your students to find a rap online that they sing and record with their friends
10. Masterchef extraordinaire
For the food lovers, creating a homework assignment that includes cooking can be really fun.
Most kids love the idea of cooking, especially if it centers around cooking their favorite food!
When considering this as a homework idea, consider these possible assignments:
- Create and write out a recipe for a unique culinary dish.
- Make a video about the cooking experience.
- Record a tutorial of how to cook something.
- Turn it into a competition if you have multiple students.
Plus, this works with physical and online classrooms.
Of course, if you have a physical classroom with multiple students, this could be a really fun in-class experience with some homework assignments to accompany it.
Who doesn’t love a food-related assignment?
If you choose Masterchef extraordinaire, allow your students to share the food they make with the class and encourage lots of conversations in English.
Homework doesn’t have to be boring!
As you can see, homework doesn’t have to be boring!
Most of your ESL students have a lot to do even outside class, and that’s why assigning homework that doesn’t feel like homework is ideal!
This is an opportunity to get creative, creating excitement for your students to learn English.
If you use some of the homework ideas mentioned here, make sure you document the experience and continue to discover new activities that bring laughter and joy to the classroom.
And when you are applying to online teaching jobs , be sure to share how you plan to creatively incorporate class assignments and homework for your students!
Enjoy the process and make learning an enjoyable experience for everyone.
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13 Exciting Homework Ideas for EFL/ESL: No worksheets!
Who likes homework? Nobody, right? Especially not if it’s the same dreary worksheets and textbook exercises every time.
Well, some students actually do like homework! That’s because their teachers give them engaging, interesting and unique activities to do.
I used to find setting homework a challenge in EFL/ESL classes. What can you do to give them good practice and develop confidence without boring them to tears?
Simple – do one of the activities on this list!
- Narrative Telephone
- What Do You See?
- Write a blog
- Record a vlog
- Scavenger photos
- Watch films & series
- Write a journal
- Listen to podcasts
- Write to a pen pal
- Prepare a mini-presentation
- Read the news
- Enjoy some English music
The first six entries are creative and unique, suitable for classes where you really want to get students active and involved. The following seven are just as engaging, but a little more focused and “normal”.
1. Word Hunts
A Word Hunt is a vocab acquisition activity (a technique I describe in my article How to Elicit Vocabulary ).
You can do it in class, with students searching for things they don’t know the word for in English. They take a photo and add it to a list of vocabulary to learn.
The home version is similar. Students go around their house and photograph things they’d like to learn the name for in English. They bring the pictures to class and start learning the words.
It doesn’t have to be restricted to things in their home, either. If they go shopping, to the park, on holiday, etc. they can take photos of things they see and share them with their classmates.
Any student who has their own phone can do this activity. For younger kids, you’ll need the support of the parents.
For more on vocab learning techniques, check out my article Ultimate ESL Vocab Teaching Guide: Revolutionary system .
2. Narrative Telephone
This game features in my 9 EFL/ESL Games and Activities for Advanced Learners article, so it’s an advanced activity. You can adapt it for intermediate students, but it won’t work well with beginners. It requires everyone to have email or a messenger app on their phone. So not ideal for young kids.
You can play it in the classroom, but the homework version is just as fun, if not more so. It’s like the Telephone/Whispers game, but with stories instead of words.
The way it works is the teacher records themself reading a short story and sends it to one of their students. That student listens ONCE. Then they record themself re-telling the story and send it on to the next student who does the same.
This continues until the last student, who records themself re-telling it. They can send the final audio to everyone, or keep it until the next class to share the hilarity.
Here’s a video I made on my YouTube channel that explains how it works:
With a large class, you can set off multiple telephone chains. If you have 30 students, instead of having the chain go all the way around the 30, have three chains which go through 10. Then see which chain transmitted the story the best.
When choosing a story, keep it relatively short (a couple of paragraphs at most) and use it to introduce or consolidate new vocab and grammar.
3. What Do You See?
What Do You See? is another great activity for expanding students’ breadth of language.
They should go somewhere: to the street, the park, into the countryside, etc. You can tell them where to go if you want to direct their learning, for example if you’re learning about transport, they should go near a busy road.
With a pencil and paper, they find a comfortable place and write what they see.
For beginners, this can just be individual words. For intermediates it could be sentences like “I see a woman jogging with her dog.” And for advanced students, challenge them to create a full description of the place, taking into account all the senses.
While they are doing it, they are allowed to look up individual words. In this way they learn language that is immediately relevant. However, they shouldn’t translate sentences. By writing what they see, they develop sentence formation skills.
If you want to avoid making them writing, or want to repeat the activity in a different way, get students to record themselves talking about what they see.
4. Write a Blog
Blogs are a fun way of getting students to explore their interests while using English.
This one isn’t great for young kids who aren’t used to using tech yet, although if their parents are on board, they can help get things set up.
It’s super easy to set up a blog nowadays, and students can post articles from home or from their phone while travelling.
The way you set up the homework really depends on your class. With an individual student, you could get them to write one short article a week, then you can take a look at it in the next class.
With a small group, you might want to alternate who posts an article each week. And with a large class, you may want to choose a few students each week to post their article, or get everyone to write something short every week.
The content of the articles is up to you, or up to your students!
You could make it an account of what they did that week, an explanation of something they know a lot about, or a review of a film or series they recently watched.
5. Record a vlog
Recording a vlog is just like writing a blog, but challenges students speaking skills while on camera.
Yes, it requires students to have access to video recording technology, but let’s be honest, even 10-year-olds nowadays have powerful cameras on their phones.
If you really want to push your students, challenge them to record a short post every day for a full week. Maybe when they’re on the way to school/work or in their free time afterwards.
Again, the content can be whatever you or your students decide.
A word on privacy and safety. If you’re going to do this with students under 18, DEFINITELY get their parents’ permission. Most will be perfectly fine with this.
And if you’re worried about privacy concerns, you can keep the videos private – only for those in the class to watch. Most video content platforms like YouTube and TikTok have this option now.
6. Scavenger photos
A fun challenge for kids and adults alike, scavenger hunts with photos are great fun. Give students a list of things and over the week they have to take a photo of one.
With beginners, this can be household items, food, common things in the city, etc. It’s a great way to introduce new vocabulary.
Challenge students with more abstract things, like “something that is squishy” or “something that you can’t break”.
And go a step further: “something you couldn’t live without” or “something which terrifies you”, or “something worth over a million dollars”.
In the next class, students can share the things they photographed and, with the more abstract ones, talk about why they chose that thing.
7. Watch films & series
Everyone loves watching films and series. Since most of the famous ones are in English, they’re a great resource for fun homework.
You can make things as structured as you like – focus on specific words and grammar that appear in dialogue, or just have a chat about what happened in the film/episode in the next class.
I like to let students recount the events. Older students can even make predictions about what will happen in the next episode.
A word on subtitles: Advanced students should try to watch the English version without subtitles. For most, though, this is too difficult. Just make sure subtitles are in English, not their native language, otherwise you lose all benefits of the activity.
8. Write a journal
Either at the start of the day or before they go to bed, writing a short English entry into a journal is a powerful way of embedding English in students’ day-to-day lives. This activity is for most ages, except the youngest kids.
As a journal is a private endeavour, I would never expect to see it. Just encourage them to write a few sentences, not worrying too much about accuracy.
When they’re writing, they’ll come across words they don’t know. They’ll be motivated to learn this vocabulary, as it’s immediately relevant to their lives. It’s valuable .
This is an example of organic acquisition, something you can learn about in my article What Vocab Should You Teach in EFL/ESL .
9. Listen to podcasts
Podcasts get more and more popular with every year. You can find them on pretty much any topic, and they provide excellent listening practice.
Advanced students can attempt to listen to natural English podcasts in their original form.
For beginners/intermediates, there are some podcasts designed for EFL/ESL learners, podcastsinenglish.com being one example, with British English, and Effortless English for those wanting to learn the American way of speaking.
10. Write to a pen pal
Writing homework is always a tough sell. Pen pals can provide the kind of motivation which is impossible to get from the usual writing assignments.
The challenge is finding pen pals who will write back consistently. PenPal World is a good option to connect with people online, although there are plenty of other sites which do the same.
Alternatively, write the responses yourself. Have an ongoing back and forth of letters between you and your students, where you can get to know each other (and give some helpful corrections!)
11. Prepare a mini-presentation
Mini-presentations are a great peer-teaching activity. Give students a topic (can be anything: grammar, a famous person, a favourite hobby, etc.) and have them do a 1-minute presentation on it in the next class.
Scripts are optional. Personally, I prefer my students to speak without a script, but for those who aren’t as confident, encourage them to make brief notes.
12. Read the news
Reading the news is a more advanced activity. Most newspapers and websites require a fairly high level of English to understand, and the content isn’t interesting for most children.
However, there are websites designed for EFL/ESL students, such as News in Levels and Simple English News . Also, try CBBC Newsround . It’s not specifically for EFL/ESL students, but it is perfect for kids.
For more advanced learners, any news network is great. I prefer BBC News for the quality and clarity of writing.
News-based homework can be formal, with a conversation and questions about specific articles in the next class, or you can allow your students to pick what they read and share their findings.
13. Enjoy some English Music
This one applies to learners of all ages and levels. Many students will already listen to music in English, as it’s popular around the world.
You can make this a structured homework, assigning specific songs, with the aim of recognising certain words or grammar structures. Supplement this by studying the lyrics in class.
Or keep it relaxed. Introduce your students to some new artists, and encourage them to share songs they’ve enjoyed over the week. Ask them why they like the music, how it makes them feel, etc.
With younger kids, just having them listen to English songs is enough. Give parents a playlist to put on in the car or when they wake up in the morning.
Homework can be fun. In fact, I’d argue it should be fun to get the best results.
The important thing is to know your students and keep things varied – that way you won’t have to chase your students up every week.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you use these ideas for wonderful teaching. If you’re looking for ideas of what to do in the classroom, check out my article on Why All EFL/ESL Teachers Should Use Role Play Activities
If you’re looking for more games and activities, check out my other lists: 9 EFL/ESL Speaking Games & Activities Perfect for Beginners 9 EFL/ESL Games & Activities for Intermediate Learners 9 EFL/ESL Games and Activities for Advanced Learners 9 High Energy EFL/ESL Games for Boosting Vocabulary 9 Engaging Homework Ideas for EFL/ESL: No worksheets! 9 Exciting EFL/ESL Activities for Writing & Spelling 9 Fun EFL/ESL Games & Ideas With Standard Playing Cards 9 EFL/ESL Games With No Materials or Preparation Needed 9 EFL/ESL 5 Minute Games Every Teacher Needs to Know 9 Superb EFL/ESL Games & Activities Using Just Pen & Paper 9 Classy EFL/ESL Games & Activities for Adults (+ tips) 9 Confidence-Boosting EFL/ESL Speaking Games for All Levels 9 Exciting Flashcard Games for EFL/ESL Classes
I’m Will, a teacher, blogger, and fantasy author. I grew up in England, but now I live in Spain where I teach private English classes to dozens of wonderful students.
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20+ creative alternative homework ideas for teachers
When giving homework, it must always be based on learning goals your students have to reach, just like in your lessons. But it’s sad to see that lots of teachers are using homework as extra lesson time. Of course, as a teacher, you’re on a clock. But that doesn’t mean your students have to suffer from it and keep working on those boring textbooks and worksheets at home.
Consider goals like attitudes, real-life experiences, and practice, physical exercise, social encounters, creative solutions, and philanthropy as crucial as your lesson goals. These are things students don’t just pick up in your classroom. These are things they pick up in life.
In this blog post, I’ll give you some innovative homework ideas that will engage your students more. These alternatives to traditional homework will thereby also teach your students new things that can’t be taught in the classroom. You will find a variety of homework ideas: online and offline.
I will mention homework alternatives for primary school and high school. Some of these ideas can be changed a little bit, so they are the perfect fit for the right audience.
20 Creative homework ideas
You can divide homework tasks into the following themes or categories:
- Crafts & arts
- Outdoor activities & outings
- Games and activities
- Physical activities
- Digital or computer activities
- Philanthropy & social work
💡 Good to know : all the ready-to-use homework activities are created with BookWidgets . You can easily create activities like these yourself or duplicate an activity below for free, edit it if needed, and share it with your students. You can do so in the examples separately, or you can find all the homework examples in the BookWidgets Blog group folder .
Crafts and arts homework
1. prepare a dish from a recipe book.
2. Make a board game
3. Create a birdhouse
4. Transform a fictional book character into a hand puppet
Outdoor homework activities and outings
5. coupon game.
Students can also go grocery shopping with their parents. Here, they have to read the ingredients of the products and help their parents choose the healthiest products for the best prices, figure out the best deal between the sizes of items, …
6. Visit the zoo
7. Visit the local dumping ground or container park
8. Build a tree house
Games and activities as homework
9. bookwidgets games.
11. Play Cards
12. Play Zoo Tycoon or Rollercoaster Tycoon
Physical homework activities
13. rope skipping.
Many rope-skipping songs let your students do different tricks while rope-skipping. This is an excellent opportunity for homework as well. Ask your students to transform a rope skipping song into a song with lesson content. Let them count or spell or even sum up the different states or capitals. To engage their lifestyles even harder, you can additionally give them the assignment to create a TikTok in which they are jumping and singing.
Click here to see how you can get Tiktok more involved in the classroom.
14. Walking quest
If there aren’t any walking quests in the neighborhood, you could ask your students to create a walking quest like this for their fellow students. What a fun day it will be!
15. Obstacle Quiz
In order for students to answer the questions, they have to run and pass a challenging parkour. This is a fun homework exercise, and in the end, it’s a great lesson starter or lesson end.
16. Swimming games
After the activity, they can fill out an Exit Slip:
Digital or computer homework activities
17. create a picture album.
This teaches them to handle the online software, add pictures and write without spelling mistakes. And of course, creating memories is so much fun!
18. Video job application
19. Your life in 10 minutes - video
20. Email pen-pals
Is it still too complicated? Read the messages from your students, before they send them, and provide them with some feedback.
Philanthropy and social homework
21. grow a community garden.
22. Help in a retirement home
23. Help at a homeless shelter
24. Collect litter
Here’s another homework tip: Don’t call homework “homework”. Call it a challenge. Homework has become a negative word for students, and I bet they start rolling their eyes as you even mention the word.
Still looking for more inspiration? Check out the blog on short films and lesson activities that spice up your Google Classroom . Tip: even if you don’t use Google Classroom, there is a lot of inspiration back here.
Above you have read single assignments. But, you also have the option to involve your homework in a project. Find out more here .
So, as I mentioned earlier, there are many fun alternatives to traditional homework. Now it’s up to you to apply this in the classroom as well. In this folder , you will find all the examples you have come across.
Which idea do you or perhaps your students like the most? Let us know on Twitter . Of course, there are many more alternatives. If you have other ideas, you are always welcome to share it with other teachers in our Facebook group .
One more thing: don’t forget to say hi👋 on LikedIn .
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Learn A Language Through Stories
11 ESL Homework Ideas To Engage Your Learners & Simplify Lesson Planning
Are you looking for ESL homework ideas for your classes? If you’re thinking about setting homework you’re onto a good thing. Learning a language requires a lot of exposure and practice. And much of that happens outside of class.
The more students make contact with English outside the classroom, the faster they’ll progress. And if you can connect their homework assignments to what you’re teaching in class, you’ll make lesson planning a lot easier for yourself.
So, without further ado, here are 11 ESL homework ideas for adults that you can use with groups, individuals, in-person or online.
If you want to become a qualified online language teacher and earn a living from home, I recommend checking out CeOLT (Certificate of Online Language Teaching).
Click here to find out more .
How To Make Homework Work For You &Your Students
Many ESL teachers are wary of setting homework because students often don’t do it! You may remember being set useless homework in language classes that you weren't motivated to do, such as learning lists of words for a test.
The problem is, if ESL learners rely too much on you or on coming to lessons, they will make slow progress because so much language learning takes place outside of the classroom.
The trick then is to integrate homework assignments into what happens in class so that it becomes non-negotiable. In the list of ESL homework ideas below, you’ll find tasks that are fun and motivating to do as well as ways to fit them into your class time.
1.Read A Short Story Or Short Book Chapter
Reading is the foundation of the StoryLearning method and makes for the perfect ESL homework idea.
Instead of spending time reading in class, get the students to do it between classes.
They can find a quiet time to read the story or chapter as many times as they like.
In my short story books , they’ll find tools to help them understand the material such as glossaries and comprehension questions.
In class, students can then discuss the chapter or story together. If you’re teaching 1:1, you can ask them to present a summary and show you new words they learned from the chapter. You can then discuss it together.
For more ideas on how to use my short story books for teaching check out my Short Stories teacher’s Guide .
2. Listen To A Short Podcast Episode
Many ESL students struggle with English listening skills so they need as much practice as possible.
If you teach conversation classes then this activity will also mean fewer lesson planning headaches. And you won’t waste any class time on listening.
Tell your student to listen to a short ESL podcast such as the BBC’s 6-Minute English podcast. Ask them to prepare a summary of it to present to you in class. If the episode includes show notes, they can compare their summary with those notes.
You can also adapt this homework activity for groups and ask them to discuss the podcast in pairs in class. This is also a great opportunity to use class time to clarify and new words, or structures that came up in the episode.
If you’re feeling ambitious or your students have a high level, you could plan a whole series of lessons or a semester around a particular podcast such as a true crime or other investigative journalism show.
3. Presentation About A Passion
Not everyone is passionate about learning English and many ESL students come to class because they have to. But even if they’re not interested in English, they must be interested in something, right?
You can harness their hobbies and passions and generate some excitement for the English language by asking them to present a special object to the rest of the class.
This can also work well in a 1:1 online lesson. You can ask your student to prepare a short talk about an object that they hold up to the webcam to show you.
You can use time in class to work on presentation and storytelling skills. You can model this type of presentation by telling them about your own significant object so they know what to aim for.
4. Write A Review
Who doesn’t love sharing their opinion whether it’s about the latest movie they’ve seen or the hot new restaurant they had dinner at?
You can harness this desire and get your student to practice useful language by getting them to write reviews as homework. These could be movie reviews, product reviews, restaurant reviews etc.
In class, you can take a look at the structure of reviews in English plus the language used such as colourful adjectives or phrases for giving opinions.
That way, your students will have a model they can use to write their own reviews at home. Back in class, students can share their reviews with each other and discuss them – would they see this movie, buy this product etc or not based on the review.
You can also give feedback both about the content of the reviews as well as any language points to improve.
5. Get Creative
Creativity requires constraints and there’s no greater one than writing a story in your second, third or fourth language.
You can challenge students to write a short story based on words they’ve learned recently in class or on a particular topic you’ve been discussing. Give them a word count to respect as well.
Again, you can use class time to read stories together and analyse their structure so that they know what to aim for.
After they’ve written a short story at home, they can come back to class to read and discuss each others’ stories.
6. Share Amazing Anecdotes
Telling an interesting anecdote is a real skill in any language, especially in a new one that you're learning. But it's a great way to work on your speaking skills.
You can use your class time to read or listen to anecdotes in English. You could even tell your learners a funny or sad story about yourself. Once they’ve understood what makes a great anecdote, it’s time to create their own one for homework.
At home, learners can write their anecdotes, or even better, can prepare and rehearse them orally, so they’re ready to tell them in class.
During the lesson, you and the other students can react to the anecdotes and ask follow-up questions.
7. Blogs And Blogging
Did you know that blogs are an incredibly rich resource for language learning and teaching? You can use blogs in many ways both inside and outside of the classroom.
As a homework activity you could ask students to read a blog post of their choice and leave a comment for the writer.
If your students prefer watching YouTube videos, they can watch videos and leave comments underneath them.
In both cases, in class time, students can report back on the blog they read, why they chose it and what comment they left and why.
If you and your students are feeling really ambitious, you could start a class blog or they could start writing their own individual blogs about their English learning journeys.
For even more inspiration for your teaching, check out these best ESL bloggers .
8. Start A Podcast
This one is a bit more ambitious, but as well as listening to podcasts, learners can also consider starting their own!
In fact, English learner Daniel Goodson from Switzerland started his podcast, My Fluent Podcast , to develop his speaking skills and gain confidence. He interviews other learners who have similar projects.
Of course, your students don’t have to make the podcast public. It can simply be a project between you and the members of the class. They could interview each other or otherwise upload short episodes on a topic of their choice.
Again, if they do this outside of class as homework you can use time in class to give them feedback on their work. Their episodes can also be a springboard for further discussion as well as a listening comprehension activity for the other students.
9. Class WhatsApp Group
Another way for students to use English outside the classroom thanks to digital tools is to create a class WhatsApp group.
Other chat apps like Telegram or Voxer would work just as well.
In this group, you can ask your students questions or share material for them to discuss.
Their homework in this case could be as simple as sending at least one message per week in the group. For more ideas about using apps check out this post about English teaching apps.
10. Write A Letter
Do you remember writing letters to a pen friend when you were learning languages at school?
Instead of writing letters to someone else, your students can try some creative writing activities that involve writing letters to themselves.
That’s right, you can ask them to write a letter to their younger self with advice or to their future self about goals and dreams. There’s even a website where you can write and schedule a letter to your future self called FutureMe .
This activity is quite a personal one so you’d need to be willing to get vulnerable yourself and share your letter before encouraging your students to talk to each other about the content of their letters.
11. The Student Becomes The Teacher
Here’s an interesting reversal of classroom roles that works well with groups. For homework, you can ask your students to teach the rest of the class some new vocabulary or a spelling or grammar rule.
You won’t expect them to give a whole class on the topic. But they could do a short presentation of the topic in the format they prefer – through song or story or in a more traditional way.
As long as you keep expectations clear, they’ll benefit from peer teaching this way. After all, you can only teach what you’ve understood well yourself.
11 ESL Homework Ideas
So there you have it – 11 engaging ESL homework ideas that your students will actually want to do outside of class!
As you can see, these ESL homework ideas are a million miles away from the types of boring worksheets that you had to fill in for language classes at school.
Thanks to these engaging ideas, you’ll make your lesson planning easier and your students will be excited to do their homework. And they’ll start to become more independent learners who make faster progress.
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Homework ideas for English learners
- Tips & Strategies
Raise your hand if you enjoyed doing homework at school. No? Neither did I.
Despite the fact that students do not prefer to work outside the classroom, the practice of English outside of school has not harmed anyone. Moreover, such tasks help students take responsibility for their learning and notice their own progress.
We, as teachers, have a task to make homework meaningful, relevant, and engaging, i.e. it should occupy an important place in the student’s life, be useful and practical, and even interesting.
If learners know the answer to the question Why am I doing this? (and preferably not “because it will be checked by the teacher”), then you will not have to make them do homework.
Learn about English language teaching
So what homework assignments can we give to our students so that they ask for more? Here are some ideas .
Watch TV series and shows
Choose one of the English series with or without subtitles . It should match the level and age of your students. For homework, students have to watch one of the episodes and:
1) record a summary of the episode; 2) write characteristics of a particular character; 3) answer the questions; 4) write down new and / or interesting vocabulary (including slang) that they hear while watching; 5) interview one of the characters in the film or play the role of this character while a classmate interviews them; 6) discuss with a partner what they liked and what they did not like in the movie; 7) write a review of the film, etc.
Here is our list of the best adult TV series by levels to learn English:
A1 – A2 Elementary
- Extra English
- The Simpsons
- Sarah & Duck
- Katie Morag
- How I Met Your Mother
- Desperate Housewives
B1 – B2 Intermediate
- Sex Education
- The Misfits
- Game of Thrones
- House of Cards
- Grey’s Anatomy
- Black Mirror
C1 – C2 Advanced
- Black Adder
- Peaky Blinders
- A Downton Abbey
- Happy Valley
Best games for recycling vocabulary
Prepare for the test
This task works best with teenagers and YL. It is also a good reason to revise what you learned at home and is definitely much more interesting than an individual test.
If you want your students to memorize new verbs, tenses, or new vocabulary better, ask students to revise everything at home and tell them that the next time you will put them together as a team. Teams will answer the questions of the quiz. The winning team receives a prize.
Ask students to select a few English songs for homework and then do the following:
- mime intonation and rhythm;
- pay attention to slang and cultural features;
- draw what feelings the music evokes in them and share with the class;
- share their favourite lyrics and what a particular song means to them.
This is a great way to get to know your students better. You will learn about their musical tastes , and you may find something in common. Or maybe they will share a personal story that is associated with a song.
You can also send students short videos to train their listening comprehension or longer podcasts for general listening practice. Both are great ways to help students reach a new level of comprehension. Again, it is important to do this as appropriately as possible and according to their age, interests and level of English.
Some of our favorite websites include TED Talks , The Do Lectures and The School of Life Podcasts are a little trickier because they are usually longer and very specific, but there are thousands of them. A quick Google search will help you find a free podcast that’s perfect for your students.
Developing listening skills
Another fun and meaningful homework task is to ask students to shoot a short video on their phone (up to 2 minutes). If you can do it, then it is a pleasant and useful task. Students only need to shoot and speak, of course in English.
Videos can be about pets, other family members, overviews of the food they have tasted, the working day, places where they live or visit, etc.
In the next lesson, students share their videos with each other and ask questions about what they saw.
Our students can really know a lot and even be experts in many things. Allow them to share their knowledge with everyone. Invite students to prepare 5 must-know facts about their hobbies , and tell about them to their classmates in a creative way.
Have each student present their creative project to the class , and then give everyone five minutes to ask questions.
Set specific requirements, such as speaking in full sentences or having each student ask at least two questions after the presentation. Students will enjoy sharing their hobbies, and they will receive a lot of information to discuss, as well as teach the rest of the class interesting vocabulary.
Write lesson plans for CELTA
We have previously written about this popular approach, also known as blended learning. It is popular in many institutions because it can connect students’ school life with their lives at home.
New information is first introduced through homework , so students work independently on the content such as video, listening or reading. Ideally, they then come to class with some prior knowledge and possibly some questions or ideas that they can share with the class.
This requires students to be well-motivated, so we recommend using this approach only from time to time, but not for every homework assignment.
Distance learning. Maintaining student discipline and interest
You should also think about time frames , as well as opportunities to complete tasks for all students. We hope you find our ideas useful in working with your students.
Article authors & editors
DELTA Module 1, CELTA certified teacher of General & Business English
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Creative Homework Ideas For Your Students
Setting appropriate homework tasks is a big part of your teaching role. Setting homework is an opportunity to ensure that your students have absorbed the lesson and can apply what they've learnt to individual study. Homework allows students to reflect on your teachings and broaden their understanding of a particular subject or topic.
However, motivating your class to view homework this way might be something of a challenge! Most young people find settling down to complete homework outside of school hours challenging. If the task feels overwhelming or difficult or seems monotonous, they might just go through the motions of getting it done rather than giving it their full energy and attention and completing it the best they can.
So how can you ensure students' love of learning continues outside the classroom and that they not only give their all to completing homework but actually enjoy it too?
By getting creative with the work you set and thinking about how you can engage and motivate students to complete their homework, you will undoubtedly see better results.
Here are some excellent homework ideas to help encourage creative, student-led learning.
Exciting, engaging homework ideas to keep your students paying attention
Write their own lesson plan.
If you want to give your students a chance to step into your shoes for the day, why don't you ask them to create their own lesson plan around a topic they've learnt about or are about to learn? This will give them a chance to showcase their knowledge, do research and think creatively. You'll also learn more about how your students like to work and what would make a good lesson from their perspective, which could help inform how you shape your lessons in the future.
Write a speech or story from a different perspective
If your students are learning about a famous historical figure or studying a classic text, why not get them to think about different perspectives? You could ask them to embody someone influential from a particular period or a character from a play or story and write a speech or story from that person's point of view.
Create a board game
Gamification is always a fun idea to try to inject energy into the classroom, and getting your students to create their very own board game is a fantastic way to keep things fun while also getting them engaged in their learning. Games could centre around a particular topic; they could be quiz-based, matching games, or number games - let them get as creative as they like. You can then have fun in class playing the best ones too.
Go on a treasure hunt
As a fun homework task that will get your students out and about, ask them to go on a treasure or scavenger hunt, finding certain things that are related to your topic. For younger children, this could be as simple as collecting leaves, flowers, or twigs they might find in their local park, or particular shapes or colours, but older children can benefit from this kind of task too by setting more complicated challenges.
Create a collage
Creating collages can be a fun and interesting way for students to demonstrate their learning, improve their research skills and use their creativity and imagination and can be based on a variety of different topics so they work well across lots of subjects. Encourage them to stick cutouts, fabrics, tickets, photographs, and any other relevant materials to make up their collages, and then they can take turns presenting these in class.
Film a video
If your students are older and have mobile phones, you could set a video-making task for them to do at home. This could involve interviewing friends and relatives about a topic or filming themselves talking about a specific subject, or answering a particular question. Students could share their videos in class and will love being able to use their phones in school for once!
Create a crossword
Get your students to think creatively about questions and answers by asking them to create their very own crossword puzzle, using the material you've taught them in class as a basis. You can ask them to bring all their crossword puzzles into class and then swap them with each other to see if other students can fit the answers in correctly.
Find fun facts
Almost every subject has weird and wonderful facts surrounding it. Did you know, for example, that the word 'hundred' derives from an old Norse term 'hundrath,' which actually means 120?! Or that water can both boil and freeze simultaneously? Encourage your students to find the most obscure or interesting facts about the subjects you are teaching them, and then you can all share your findings in class.
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Outside-the-box ESL homework ideas
Are your students reluctant to do homework? Do they think that doing it is time-consuming and not worth the effort? If that is the case, it’s not because the idea of homework itself is boring or useless, but because students often spend too much time doing meaningless activities and at some point realize that they prefer to manage their free time differently. Let’s face it: they are probably right. But there are ways to make students like homework again. Why? Because the role of an English teacher is not only to teach English, but also to teach how to learn English , to equip students with the necessary tools to become independent English users. You can tell your students how to use grammar, or explain what words mean, but it’s up to them to actually ‘make language [their] own, … assert [themselves] through it’ , as the linguist Henry Widdowson puts it. 1 So instead of giving your students pages of exercises and getting irritated because they don’t do them, use some of the ESL homework ideas below. They will help your students make English their own.
Students choose what they need
Start with a question for your students: In what situations do you use English outside the classroom? Then ask them to choose two or three words covered in the lesson which they think will be of use to them. Give them a minute to think what words might come in handy in the everyday situations THEY often find themselves in. The words might be different for a student who uses English at work, or who has friends they chat with in English, or who lives in an English-speaking country, or who doesn’t speak or write in English outside the classroom, but watches American series or reads celebrities’ posts on Instagram. Once they have chosen the words, ask them to use each of them at least once before the next lesson. They can use them in a conversation, an email or a message. They should simply be on the lookout for situations where the words might be used, e.g. while watching a film, they might want to respond to what an actor says using the word ‘hilarious’.
In the following lesson, ask your students to report how the task went: Did they achieve it (partly or fully)? What situations did they use them in?
Students use and listen for grammar in context
The same goes for grammatical structures. For instance, after introducing and practising Present Perfect Continuous, ask your students to think of out-of-the-classroom situations in which they are likely to use it. Thinking about a new tense for a couple of days might prompt students to say (if only to themselves): ‘I have been cleaning for an hour’, or ‘I’ve been waiting here for too long’.
If you think this might be too challenging to start with, make the structure more approachable first by asking your students to notice the new language while they hear people talk (at work, in films) or when they read something in English (a post, a blog entry, the news). When they’re back in the lesson, ask them to tell you what they were listening to or reading when they recognized the structure. They could take notes on it before the lesson, but they might also talk about it on the spot. As it doesn’t require much preparation, it is probably the easiest of the ESL homework ideas presented here, so you might choose to try it first.
Students use functional language
Lower-level students often struggle to start speaking English, first in the classroom, then outside of it. To help them open up and get accustomed to using the language in different situations , their homework could be going to a café and ordering something. They could also ask someone for directions, or have a chat with an English-speaking colleague. Back in the classroom, ask them to report how it went, what they ordered, etc. Give your students a couple of weeks to do the task – some may not get the immediate opportunity to do it, others might need time to pluck up the courage.
This idea works especially well when students either live in an English-speaking country, or are going on holiday abroad. If the latter is the case, make the task more demanding, as they will probably be forced to speak English anyway. They could ask detailed questions about a menu in a restaurant or haggle over a price.
Students predict and plan
The flipped classroom approach will give your students plenty of opportunities to ‘own’ English. Tell them what the topic of the next lesson will be (e.g. recycling) and give them the following homework: look up five words that they think will be useful to talk about recycling. They will then have to use them in the next lesson. This task will make students research the topic and plan what they might say, which is a great step on the way to becoming an independent learner.
For this to work, students need to be honest with themselves and choose words that are actually new for them, not just come up with some they are already using. But if they truly want to learn, tasks like this one will provide strong motivation.
Once the lesson has finished, ask your students what words they had prepared and whether they were able to use them all.
You can also use one of our Flipped Classroom lesson plans and ask students to use the tasks as a guide to get ready for the conversation you are going to have in the lesson.
Students read, listen and watch to create their own ESL homework ideas
If your students are not used to reading online articles in English or watching authentic videos, you should definitely encourage them to do so. A simple idea to start with would be to ask them to find an article, a video or a podcast (in English) on a topic they are interested in, and report to you what they found out about the topic. You and the rest of the group could then ask some follow-up questions, or it could be the student who prepares some talking points for the group. Nothing motivates a student more than talking about what they like, and not what the course book dictates.
You could also choose one of our Critical Reading Club lesson plans . Ask your students to read an online article at home and have a discussion about it in the lesson. This will help them become independent readers and will maximise the student speaking time. If you study a foreign language yourself, try to use some of the ideas first, in order to better understand what they are about and to pick those which your students would benefit from most. And don’t forget to let us know what you think about these outside-the-box ESL homework ideas in the comments below!
1 This idea is nicely exemplified by the author and teacher trainer Scott Thornbury in his blog entry about motivation in language learning .
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Thanks for the great tips!
Thank you. I hope your students find them useful.
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Great homework ideas for ESL students
Discover great homework ideas for ESL students in your classes
While most people don't want to do extra outside of class, there is no denying that having some English input between lessons is a great way for our students to take ownership of their learning and see faster English improvement.
So here are five great homework ideas for ESL students:
1. Truth or lie?
Students prepare three short stories about themselves for homework. One is true, the others are false. In the next lesson they tell their partner their stories while their partner asks questions to decide which story is true. Then reverse roles.
A game element is really motivating and this works with many different language levels.
2. Prepare for a quiz
Do you want them to remember new verbs, tense structures or vocabulary? Are you doing a general revision lesson next? Ask your students to revise at home, telling them you’ll put them into teams next week to answer questions. Have each team make up a distinct buzzer sound if you like so they can ‘buzz in’ with the right answer. Winning team gets a prize.
Works best with teens and kids; a neat reason to revise at home and much more fun than an individual test.
3. Set up a FB group for the class
Ask a question a week, invite responses and encourage respectful conversation and debate. Be careful; not everyone likes social media and you may choose a more appropriate platform for sharing ideas outside of class.
Collaboration in English outside of class can be stimulating, build relationships and practice real-world English.
4. Riddles/puzzles/tongue twisters
A cowboy rode into town on Friday, stayed three days, and rode out again on Friday. How did he do that? (*answer at bottom of the page)
Lateral thinking questions like the above can be fun and all the while, students are reading English. Alternatively, have students practice tongue twisters at home and either translate one from their own language or make one up. Have them share with the class next time.
It is a lot of fun hearing tongue twisters translated from other languages.
5. Watch YouTube video stories and report back
There are plenty of great story videos ESL students can watch at home and which are graded for level.
In the example video at the bottom of this blog, you'll see a short past tense story, suitable for low level learners. After watching it for homework, here are two ways you can work on it in your next class: 1. Ask general comprehension questions on the video. 2. Re-create the story as a class, eliciting it from students piece by piece with the help of key words from the story as prompts on the board.
Alternatively divide the class into A and B.
For homework, A's watch one video and B's another. Pair an A and a B up in class afterwards to summarise the stories to each other.
Video is so engaging and it is much easier to get students to watch something than write something.
As teachers, we can help our students by giving homework tasks that are meaningful, relevant and engaging. Also students are more likely to do the work if it will be checked or used in some way in the following lesson.
We hope we have inspired you to choose fun, task-based homework activities that have a solid focus and outcome. Notice, too, how there is always a meaningful follow-up to the homework task in class.
When planning homework tasks, you can also take your inspiration from the real-world and ask students to do things like text each other or listen to English music.
The possibilities for productive homework tasks are endless.
*Answer to lateral thinking question: Friday is a horse .
The Global English 120 hour TESOL Premier course . contains great content on crafting lesson plans and a section on how to give homework effectively.
Check out our ready-to-print and use TEFL lessons here.
Ask any questions about TESOL training and ESL classes directly here or join the chat in our friendly Facebook group .
- Author: William
- Date: 06/11/2018
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