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Great homework ideas for ESL students

Great homework ideas for ESL students

Hands up if you liked doing homework at school?

No? Me neither.

While nobody wants 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.

As teachers we can help our students by giving homework tasks that are meaningful, relevant and engaging. I have also found students are more likely to do the work if it will be checked/used in some way in the following lesson. However, if all that sounds easier said than done, read on; we’ve got five simple and fun homework tasks to share with you:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. The video below is a short past tense story for low level learners as an example.
There are 3 ways you can follow up in class after they have watched a video at home:

1. You 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.
3. Alternatively, divide the class into A and B. A's watch one video and B's another for homework. 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….

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Summary
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. Enjoy.

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*Answer to lateral thinking question: Friday is a horse.

What next?

For more on crafting effective ESL lessons, view the Global English 120 hour TESOL Premier course

Why not add our ready-to-print and use TEFL lessons?

Ask any questions about TESOL training and ESL classes directly to me, Louisa Walsh or join the chat in our friendly Facebook group.

  • Author: William
  • Date: Tuesday 6th November 2018

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Great homework ideas for ESL students