General: setting homework
Author: Jim Scrivener
Level: starter/beginner, advanced, elementary, pre-intermediate, intermediate, upper-
intermediate Type: teaching notes
Tired of setting the usual homework tasks? Here are more than 18 unusual ideas
for "homedo" tasks.
Tired of setting the usual homework tasks? Sick of "Write answers to this exercise" or
"Write a story about blah blah blah"? Here are 18 unusual ideas for "homedo" tasks.
They might not be appropriate for your class but could inspire you into thinking of other
ideas to get students doing things with their English.
1. Watch a TV advertisement you like in your own language and write an English
version of it. Next day in class, rehearse and perform it with your group.
2. Talk only in English for one full hour this evening – even if no-one in your
house understands you!
3. Cut up 50 small scraps of paper. Walk around your home with the scraps and a
pen. Write labels (e.g. 'fridge' 'plug' etc) for as many things as you can and place
them on (or next to) the objects....
4. …. then get a friendly person to walk around rearranging all your labels
randomly. Can you put them back in place?
5. Next day… bring in all your labels and compare them with your colleagues.
How many items can you label in class using these?
6. Search your home for as many items with English on them as you can find (tin
labels; instruction leaflets; names on the back of the TV etc.).
7. Your teacher will give you a joke (or a poem). Learn it by heart.
8. …. or practice - then record yourself telling it, as well as you can, onto a cassette
recorder. Bring the cassette to school next day.
9. Cook some food (e.g. scones, biscuits etc) using instructions given by the
teacher. Bring the results into class for 'marking' by the other students.
10. Watch 1 minute of an English video tape and replay it till you understand every
11. Your teacher will give you an 'English' tea bag and some instructions. Go home,
make a cup of tea and relax following the instructions precisely.
12. Decide on your favourite English word.
13. Teach your family an English game (using instructions given to you by the
14. Walk for half an hour around your local area and give a running commentary to
yourself, as if you were a newsperson giving a live report on what you (or the
President or pop star or sports hero) is doing.
15. Dream in English. Well … at least try falling asleep with English thoughts in
16. Tune your radio across all the wavelengths till you find an English language
programme. Keep listening long enough to work out what the station name is,
what country it's from and what the programme is about.
17. Choose your favourite English language song (on CD or cassette). Bring it in to
class (with the lyric sheet if you have it).
18. Find someone at home whose English is a lower level than yours. Offer them a
free half hour lesson… then teach it.
19. Write your shopping list in English
20. Discover culture: http://www.britishcouncil.org/
21. Here is my challenge to you…, eg. What would be the consequences of
following „what if humans beings always told the truth?‟ write a short essay,
give it to your teacher for correction
22. What things do you look for in a new desktop or laptop computer? Using your
criteria, search for a computer vendor in a newspaper advertisement or
magazines that sells the product you want. Be prepared to explain your reasons,
including price, quality, and service, for selecting the computer and the vendor
you settled on.
23. To practice grammar of vocabulary http://www.isabelperez.com
24. Complete the dialogue, eg
Ben: My God!
Ann: To London
25. Try to recall your last telephone call and tell it aloud to yourself in English
26. Have a penpal /keypal on the internet
27. Discuss: be authentic, have empathy, show respect
28. Raising awareness on the importance of phonology: how good you think your
pronunciation has to be? What are the different aspects that affect your
pronunciation in Englsih? Train your accent: http://www.trainyouraccent.com
29. DO WHAT YOU USUALLY DO – IN ENGLISH (read your horoscope,
crossword, quiz, read the morning news online, make notes on your shopping
list). Students are supposed to either keep track of their use of English or recap
orally in the next lesson.
30. CHALLENGE – give them a riddle, race or puzzle to solve for the next lesson.
I tend to award my students (even adults!) with stickers (“Well done!” and this
sort of thing). Dogs are trained best when you count on their curiosity. And so
are we .
31. BROWSE THE WEB – send your students a link to something interesting,
provocative, awakening or entertaining on the internet. Work with headlines,
brief news, videos or anything they can manage during their coffee break. Ask
for their opinion, comment or specific task. I ask my students to reply to my
emails. On Thanksgiving Day, I sent my students a link to the following video.
Their task was to remember at least ten out of 50 things mentioned. I was really
pleased to hear that they watched it several times to understand more than 10
things. I knew that it‟s not difficult to recognize 10 things but asking for 50
could have been de-motivating for some of them. I Avoid traditional project
works that are usually pretty time-consuming and result in copying of texts from
32. ENGLISH AT HOME – we usually work with English materials and forgot
about the vast range of sources of material in the mother language of our
students. Try doing things vice versa. Do you have a favourite song in your
language? Try to translate it! Are you watching new dubbed episode of C.S.I.
Miami or your daily soap opera? Sacrifice few minutes and translate the
dialogues simultaneously in your head or aloud (if alone at home). Have you
bought a product with instructions only in your mother tongue? Translate or
create a new label for it in English.
33. I SPEND MY TIME ON IT ANYWAY – do what you like to do in English –
it is usually connected with watching TV, reading books or newspapers. It is an
easy, painless way of learning that creates associations. I love watching Sci-Fi
TV series and even though I learn pretty useless words like Warp drive or Roger
that! , I keep learning many slang phrases and very common expressions. Many
of my students love watching the Discovery Channel because there is always
something interesting. They can watch short episodes on YouTube as well, see
here for example.
34. KEEP A RECORD OF YOUR FINDINGS – however, it is necessary that
your students report back on what they‟ve done every week or so. You can
choose to do it in the form of a warm up group discussion or through writing.
My students write diaries. They are allowed to write anything there, but there is
a condition that they must at least write something by the next lesson. They can
write down their notes on any of the above-mentioned tasks or just write their
reflections from the day. It is up to them what they choose but they know they
have to keep a record of their progress.
35. Finally, ALWAYS FINISH WITH FEEDBACK – the golden rule of feedback is
MEDAL AND MISSION (give praise and set a new task, to work on their
36. use the time when you are waiting for a bus (or anything else:)). Can you name
the things you see in English? Can you describe the place using There is/There
37. Write your own English diary. You don‟t have to put there only your feelings or
description of the day. Look for the lyrics of the song you like and write it down,
describe the movie you have seen, book you‟ve read, keep the notes on your
favourite TV series episodes. You can write down absolutely anything. Commit
yourself to write into your diary at least once a week or so.
38. Have you ever wondered what‟s written on your shampoo or facial cream? Use
all ways to look for examples of English.
39. Libraries- of course, they are amazing source of learning material. Choose
something you are interested in.
40. Use Internet. And again choose something you like. Do you read a horoscope
every day? Why not reading it in English for a change?
41. Use email and find someone to write with in English (at least your teacher ).
42. …and finally, have goals and start with small steps!