Reading, Listening & Writing Homework for Beginners

Hello colleagues, I'll be teaching a 6-week summer class with beginners after the 4th of July holiday. The learners will have a little bit of English, so they are not at the very lowest level, but not really high beginners yet. Learners in this class typically have a literacy foundation in their primary language.

I am a strong believer in the value of homework. The short amount of time we have in class is simply not enough to accelerate learners' English skills as much as they want and need. For a long time, I've offered reading and writing activities for homework, with fairly good results. Not everyone has participated, but a significant number have. This time, I want to add a listening component for students who have access to the internet, even via a cell phone. Most students in our classes do have cell phones.

I'm planning to use the Reading Skills for Today's Adults readings for the homework activities. (Thank you, Marshall MN Adult Education!) We'll start with the readings at the.7 level. I will print out the reading as well as the accompanying writing exercise for each student. In class, I will demonstrate to the students how they can read and listen to the stories at the same time. We'll practice this in class first. I will then encourage them to take a story home to read and listen to and then to also complete the writing exercise. When they turn in their writing, I will provide feedback. I also want learners to keep a log of the reading, listening and writing they do at home.

I'd love to hear members' thoughts about this homework idea. Have you offered homework? If so, how has it worked out for you? What tips can you offer?

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP



I teach a group of Intermediate level adults and homework has usually just been worksheets that accompany the textbook I've been using, Step Forward 2.  It is not my favorite but it is usable.  

The idea of giving students listening homework by way of internet or phone really interests me.  Last term I experimented with using Google Voice to get some oral communication going between my students and myself  outside the classroom.  It worked fairly well.  I would post a question in the form of a text message and the students would call and respond in a voice message.  I responded to them in a text.  (I won't go into the particulars about how to set it up here.)  The downside was that I didn't have a way to leave them a recorded message  or to create a group to send out messages to.  There are so many great apps for learning and communicate out there.  I just wish I knew a better one to use for leaving and getting group voice messages.  Does anyone have any suggestions?  I suppose I could record myself and create a private YouTube channel just for my class... Hm....

Thanks for the topic.

Hi Carrie, Thanks for sharing your homework practices. Having students respond to a question by recording their voice is a great idea. You are using Google Voice, which I have not used, but I know you can easily upload audio files to Google, so maybe that would be a solution to the teacher responding via audio.

What do others think? Do members know of other ideas/tools for exchanging audio files -- which could be used for homework activities?

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

This is an interesting idea. Interacting with voice might be more engaging for some students, and it is excellent practice for English Language Learners.

One of my college professors used VoiceThread a few times with our class. I haven't used it with my own classes, but it certainly looks like it has potential. The moderator can post audio/video, and others can respond with audio, text, or other options. They can also see comments from their classmates. I know you can post links to Facebook or Twitter (or on a website); since it is mobile, I imagine you could text the link as well.

You can register for a free account (looks like it is $99/year for an individual instructor). I don't know what the limitations of the free account are, but VoiceThread would be an interesting option to explore.

Thanks for the great listening and speaking homework ideas!

Shine bright,

Susanna L. Lee

Smart phones are excellent tools for listening/ speaking practice. Our students use the voice memo option on the phone to create recording of each lesson. This is a follow up/ homework activity. We discuss the reading, practice pronunciation and complete the comprehension activities in class. As an extended learning activity our students are asked to re read the same text using the pronunciation techniques they practiced in class. They practice several times before  recording their reading and e mail the recordings as Mp3 recordings  to check their pronunciation and fluency. This has worked  very well with our students. We also have Whatts App group. This App is an excellent tool for ESL students, that uses wifi connection. It has video chat, audio chat and sharing options. We share relevant materials for students to read. Student also share. For homework we also assign writing depending on the ability of students. Low level students are encouraged to write a simple sentence using at least a couple of vocabulary words that we cover in each class. Higher level students are expected to write a paragraph or page. I strongly believe in writing road to reading. Writing is also a productive skill and most  ESL students do not understand the need of independent writing for higher learning as majority come from exam based comprehension type writing.

Hi Susan,

I have an optional homework assignment utilizing  leveled readings from Marshall Adult Education, I have three different colored boxes in my room that include the reading, questions and the answers. I change the readings periodically with new readings. I also have an ongoing reading assignment this summer. Each student has to read a piece of nonfiction and then complete a graphic organizer I have which requires students to address how they are using text features. Each student will also read a library book at home and then give an oral book review using a template from ReadWriteThink. My students are mostly reading on the fourth and fifth grade levels.

Have a great summer,


Hi Naomi, Thanks for telling us about the ways you are offering optional homework. As I indicated at the outset of this thread, I have been using the Reading Skills for Today's Adults stories as optional homework with all levels of learners for several years. Since these materials also include a listening component, this summer, I'm planning to incorporate listening as well as reading.

Interestingly, I just came across some research that seems to indicate that adding an aural enhancement while reading as well as increasing the number of times learners read and/or listen to the same text may accelerate language learning. This finding seems rather intuitive to me, so I'm planning to encourage learners to read and listen to the story as many times as they can and keep a log of their efforts.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

SUSAN and EA members,  Just to add my two cents. I think the issue of homework can be improved if we use technology more. Leecy just raised this question of increasing our use of technology.

Besides Pumarosa, I use WhatsApp to send students online lessons for homework, including “tests”. I send these via my smart phone either as text messages or in my WhatsApp groups. Audios can be sent and are popular. Anyone can set up a YouTube account and add personal videos.

I also use other web based lessons or homework. YouTube Songs with lyrics are very popular. And I use Facebook groups. Facebook recently added live video streaming, which can then be saved as a video. 

In short, the more we use technology, the more eager students will be to do my opinion.