Post Writing Exercises

Post Writing Exercises

OK, so you’ve corrected the essays, now what? In many ways the hard part is over. You and your student have something to work with—a personalized tool to help the student improve. The goal now is to reinforce those corrections. Here are some ways you might do that.

Rewrite For the next class, ask the student to rewrite their essay.

Rewrite (No Looking) For the class after that, ask the student to rewrite their essay without looking at the first one.

Sharing is Good Rather than peer editing, how about peer bragging? Partner up the students and tell them to choose a couple sentences from their essays that were difficult for them to write, explain how they wrote them, and why they’re correct.

Peer Editing But let’s not forget this tried and true method. Give the students a rubric and that will help them correct each other’s essays.

Use Those Mistakes Choose three key mistakes in the essay. Now, give a new topic and have them include sentences that practice the structures they had trouble with. Did they write “I have eaten there yesterday”? Tell them to include present perfect sentences in the next essay.

Use Those Corrections Again, target three key mistakes. Have students copy the corrected versions of those sentences. Then, give them a new topic, but tell them they need to use those same three sentences in the new essay. For instance, if they wrote “I have eaten there yesterday” and you corrected it to “I ate there yesterday”, their next essay should include the sentence “I ate there yesterday.”

Grammar Games Sites like,, and seemingly have practice exercises for everything. Do a bit of a web search and you’ll be able to direct your students to some sites where they can practice the stuff that troubled them in their essay.

Pair Students Up If a student makes an error with, say, the passive voice. Look for a student who wrote good passive voice sentences. Match them up and have them write an essay together. Students are often better at explaining things to each other than you are.

Straight Memorization Students rarely memorize full sentences, but they should. Full sentences are just as important to memorize as vocabulary. Highlight some of the corrected sentences from their essays and make them memorize them. Then, give them a quiz later.

Motivational Homework

Motivational Homework

Ideas for giving homework to medium-motivated students

Some students are going to do any homework you give them…and then go watch an English movie before falling asleep to English music.

Some students would rather sleep with a cactus than do the homework you give.

But some students will do just enough to get by. Maybe they’re finishing assignments right before class, but they usually make an effort. Maybe not a big effort, but they do want to learn.

The problem, of course, is that they really don’t enjoy studying English all that much. The best students do. How do we, as teachers, help the students get into studying at home more? Here are some general strategies and specific ideas.

Send them to websites Students who do simple tasks on websites might find themselves using the site for a lot longer. If every night you send them to a new site, they’ll eventually find a site they like. Plus, someday when they think about how they’d like to have better English, they’ll know just where to go to practice.

For example…if they go to the British Council’s site and play a game for homework, they might start playing some more games. If they go to to read a news story, they might start reading more stories. (You might even send them to the Stuart Mill English blog and have them find a site they like on their own.)

Make it fun Yes it’s important for students to write essays and do fill-in-the-blank exercises. But it doesn’t need to be the only homework you give.

For example… Have them listen to an English song. Ask them to summarize a movie. Have them do Google image searches for funny vocab words. Tell them they should find the best scene from a movie on YouTube and email you the link.

Personalize it On the first day, pass out a survey and ask each student what they like to do in their free time. Try to give them homework that matches their interests.

For example… Do you have a bunch of sport fanatics? In a travel unit, have them research the best place to play their favorite sport. In a directions unit, have them explain how to play a new sport.

Maybe lots of students in your class enjoy eating. For a get-to-know-you unit, they could make a list of the top ten restaurants to take a new friend. For a unit on cities, they could research food in a different city.

If a bunch of your students like shopping. Ask them to plan outfits (with prices) for a clothing unit. Or tell them to bring in a cool piece of technology and describe how they decided to buy it instead of a similar product.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

Homework Compromise


A compromise solution for giving homework

Teachers, have you checked out the Student Stuff section of the blog? In it, you’ll find a lot of good ideas—particularly for homework.

A lot of ESL teachers don’t give homework for two big reasons.

“Students don’t do it, and then the next lesson plan is useless.”

Fair enough, but homework is essential to learning. Unless you’re with the students twenty hours a week, you really don’t have time to do all the review and repetition that they need. Moreover, when you give up on giving homework, the students give up on doing it. You hurt your best students—the ones who would have done it.

So, why not give the homework and just have them hand it in?

“When students hand it in, then there is too much stuff to mark.”

Well, that kind of negates the first point, but what’s still needed is a way to give homework that the next lesson doesn’t depend on and doesn’t require so many hours for teachers to correct.

Try this As homework, direct the students to an ESL website and give them a simple task. At the beginning of the next class, give them a quiz that they can’t fail if they visited the site.

Call this the fishhook method. Once you get the students to the sites, you’re hoping they’ll be hooked. Even if they only need to stay for a couple of minutes to be able to pass the quiz, many will stay for much longer.

Here are seven sites and possible homework/quiz ideas. Write down the name of three games. Describe one of the stories from the site in three sentences or less. Practice the present perfect. Write three present perfect sentences. Choose a sound and practice. Which sound did you practice? Choose one interesting thing on the site and describe it. Watch a video and write a three sentence description. (send them to a specific article) What were three words in the crossword puzzle?

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