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Author: Anita Bamberger, EAL specialist

Holidays and homework seem incongruous especially for the EAL students who need to concentrate extra hard in order to understand curriculum content. It is therefore crucial that the homework is fun and rewarding, workbooks and worksheets, although pleasing to parents, may be off putting for students who may start with good intentions but then put off doing them. Generating enthusiasm and motivation are the key factors.

Keeping a diary/scrap book

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 it together it is a validating experience a great way of highlighting areas the student may need learn. Students can gain more from the individual editing than any formal grammar session as it is individualised learning examining grammar in context which has meaning and is relevant to the student. Taking pictures of any interesting adverts and collecting leaflets from any museums or exhibitions is a great way of collecting personal data to be used in the EAL class.

Remember book

Expanding vocabulary and learning new language structures is also a helpful support for developing their language.

“Research on learning from context shows that such learning does occur, but that it requires learners to engage in large amounts of reading and listening because the learning is small and cumulative (Nagy, Herman, and Anderson 1985; Nagy, (1997). This should not be seen as an argument that learning from context is not worthwhile. It is by far the most important vocabulary-learning programme. For fast vocabulary expansion, however, it is not sufficient by itself. There is no research that shows that learning from context provides better results than learning from word cards.” (Nation, 1982).

To encourage this, the use of a remember book or vocabulary book to write any new or difficult words can be used. They can share this after the holidays and try and put them into sentences to help expand their vocabulary and the use of new words in context.

Writing a book review

In addition to an expectation for writing, students should also be encouraged to read by choosing any book of interested (giving them ownership of the choice and increase motivation) and writing a book review.

This is a great way to check understanding and to encourage writing. This could culminate in a display book reviews to validate their efforts. Maybe a display could be allocated in advance so they are aware of the expectation. Boards outside libraries can be seen as very prestigious and allows learners to share them with the their peers.

Story writing

The more creative students would enjoy story writing, having an outline as a guide would be useful. The British council website (click here) has ideas for a Holiday English book.

Children’s programmes

Beginners would benefit from watching young children's programmes such as Peppa Pig and CBeebies where the English is at an easy level, Youtube has many nursery rhymes and children's songs that are also 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, which has popular nursery rhymes, as it contains simple language structures that are written and shaded simultaneously to the the audio. It is, however, appropriate for quite a young audience.

Great EAL holiday homework will be fun and ensure the learners can do it successfully whilst actively revising /expanding their vocabulary and ability to use language structures confidently.

Click here for an interesting article and website on holiday English. Some fun worksheets can be found here.


Nation, P & Waring, R (1997) Vocabulary size, text coverage and word lists in Schmitt & McCarthy (1997) Vocabulary, Description, Acquisition and Pedagogy, Cambridge.

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