‘School’s (nearly) out for summer’ may be a little inappropriate given that many of our students haven’t actually been physically attending school for the last few months. Nonetheless, the term is nearly over and the time is upon us to send our charges on their (virtual) merry way with an English task or two to do over the summer. What’s the best policy here? Attempt to get them to do a lorry load of homework? It’s very ambitious, can create real resentment and students do need a rest. Tell them to forget about English and switch off? 10 weeks is a long time. Perhaps the best approach is to set fewer tasks that motivate students and propose other ideas for them to explore. What sort of tasks and advice can we give them? This blog post has ten ideas:
- Put your phone in English
Given the time many of them spend on their phones, it’s a safe bet students already know how they work and won’t get lost. Apart from navigating around their phones, you might even suggest they use siri or google assistant – speaking to them in English, of course!
- Go on a free tour in English
While we’re still not sure what tourism will look like this summer, the situation currently looks more positive than it perhaps did a month ago. Many may well plump for national rather than international tourism, however. Whether you’re based in Spain, Portugal or any other country, most cities offer free tours in English (and they’ll be available if international tourists can visit your country this summer)– why not encourage your students to seek one out too?
- Go on a virtual tour in English
Virtual tours have been a way to ‘travel’ in lockdown and this post includes quite an exhaustive list with tours of museum, zoos and even theme parks. We can set our students the task of ‘visiting’ a different place virtually and recording 3/5/10 things they learned.
- Share a holiday snap with a caption in English
Many people love showing others what they’re up to (those facebook and instagram sites seem to be doing ok, don’t they?), so let’s encourage our students to do it too – sharing a holiday snap with a caption and, why not, a hashtag or two, in English. Where do we share them? A whatsapp group, a closed facebook group, a padlet or using a twitter handle are options. We can share a ‘model’ with them first, for example:
Here I am on a hike at Oribi Gorge, South Africa, with my little boy
#greatviews #southafricaiswonderful #wherearethemonkeys #heisgettingheavy
- Keep an audio diary
This sounds like hard work, but it can be as simple as recording a sentence (or two, or three) every day (or couple of days, or week). Eg ‘I went to the beach today and ate a delicious chocolate ice cream in the sun’. You can get a free recording app for your phone to do this (so your recording are mp3s, and not the difficult to export whatsapp recordings). This will amount to quite a few recordings by the end of the summer, which we can ask our students to join with a free online tool. This is quite a nice finished product for them to keep and also share with one another – can you find someone who did the same as you? Who did something in the summer you love / don’t like doing? And so on.
- Watch a film in English
This is a popular one, of course, but we might need to provide further advice for our lower-level students to get the most out of this activity and for them to enjoy it (who really wants to sit down for two hours watching something you can’t follow?).
+ watching something you’ve already seen in your mother tongue makes it easier to follow in a foreign language
+ watching with English subtitles will aid comprehension
+ watching something in chunks can make it more manageable
- Watch a YouTube video in English
To follow on from point 6, many YouTube videos also have subtitles (for faithful subtitles, look for the CC (closed caption) icon under the video – automatically generated subtitles can be a bit ropey). What might you suggest they watch? How about a How-To video? The clear visual cues here make them easy to understand and you can have some kind of task for students to report what they learned how to do. You might even have them make their own how-to videos – here are seven top tips on simple video creation.
Another ‘YouTube challenge’ is to have your students sing along to their favourite (English language) song with subtitles. And, depending on how outgoing and gutsy they are, to share the result (either an audio recording of their performance, or indeed a video!)
- Do some revision on an online platform
Online platforms which accompany your course typically involve practice activities which are automatically-graded and therefore appropriate for self-study. One such platform is MyEnglishLab. While doing the activities, your students will get hints and tips as well as instant feedback and there are activities across the four skills, grammar, vocabulary and a number of video-based activities too. Find out more here.
- Use a language-learning App
As well as well-known options like memrise (flashcard-based, good for vocab) or duolingo (more sentence-based), quality course material will also come with an app that allows students to practice their English on the go and can be used to consolidate what they have been learning over the year. Pearson courses, such as Real World for teens, Gold Experience for teens doing exams and Roadmap, for adults, offer such apps to help students consolidate their learning.
- Read a book in English
The list wouldn’t be complete without the classic summer task, sometimes accompanied with a book review to be presented in September. Here is a post with 20 suggestions for learners of different levels.
Which of these do you get your learners to do?