Author: Anita Bamberger, EAL Specialist
Holidays and homework can seem an incongruous mix – and this is especially true for EAL students, who need both time off, but also to continue concentrating extra hard in order to understand curriculum content. It is therefore crucial that the homework set is fun and rewarding. Workbooks and worksheets, although pleasing to parents, may be offputting for students, who may start with good intentions, but then avoid completing them. Generating enthusiasm and motivation are the key factors when considering holiday homework!
Keeping a diary/scrapbook
For more advanced students, a holiday diary is a great way for students to practise their writing skills (leaving every other page for pictures). Giving the students a book before the holidays and telling them that they will be able to share it with their peers is highly motivational. They enjoy either drawing the pictures or taking photos and the expectations of the length of writing (around 4/5 lines per day) makes it easily achievable.
Furthermore, if the teacher and the student can edit the diary together, this becomes a validating experience, and a great way of highlighting areas the student may need to learn. Students can gain more from the individual editing than from any formal grammar session, as it is individualised learning, examining grammar in context, which has meaning and is relevant to the student.
The use of a remember book or vocabulary book over the holidays, in which the learner can write any new or difficult words, is also a good idea. They can share this after the holidays and try to put the words into sentences, to help expand their vocabulary and the use of new words in context.
Writing a book review
Students should be encouraged to read over the holidays, by choosing any book in which they are interested (thus giving them ownership of the choice and increasing their motivation). They can then be asked to write a book review.
This is a great way to check their understanding and to encourage writing. It could culminate in a display of book reviews, to validate their efforts. Such a display could be organised in advance, so that they are aware of this expectation. Boards outside libraries can be seen as very prestigious and allow learners to share what they have read with their peers.
You can download a free book review template for EAL learners by clicking on the buttons at the top and bottom of the article.
More creative students will enjoy story writing – and having an outline to use as a guide may prove a useful tool. The British Council website has ideas for a Holiday English book.
Children’s TV programmes
Beginners will benefit from watching young children’s programmes such as Peppa Pig and those on CBeebies, where the English used is at an easy level. Youtube, meanwhile, features many nursery rhymes and children’s songs, which are a fantastic way of learning rhyming words, as well as building basic vocabulary and structures. A great site is Johny Johny Yes Papa and Many More Videos, a collection by ChuChu TV including popular nursery rhymes. It is aimed at quite a young audience and contains simple language structures, with audio.
Great EAL holiday homework should be fun – and should ensure that the learners can complete it successfully, whilst actively revising or expanding their vocabulary and developing their ability to use language structures confidently.