Sometimes students are a bit reluctant to get out and speak to people. Here is a simple homework exercise that can motivate them to use their English and practice questions and answers.

Tell them that over the weekend they need to speak to three people and take some notes about what they say.

If you’ve already done the top ten questions for ESL students, you can have them use those questions. If not, click here to get the handout:  interview-3-people-a4,  interview-3-people-us The can be edited if you want to use other questions.


Who can they ask?

More importantly, who CAN’T they ask? They can’t ask any student in the class. They already talk to them enough. In addition, they can’t ask anyone who speaks their own language. It’s too easy for them to cheat, and do it in their L1. (If you are in an environment where they don’t have contact with people from other countries you may have to reconsider this one.)

I tell them to talk to their host family or roommates, if they have them. They can talk to other students as long as they are not in the class, and don’t have the same first language. They can talk to the neighbours, the person who sells them their coffee, or anyone they meet.

Practice questions and answers in class

Before you send them into the big, scary world, get the students comfortable with the idea. Have them practice questions and answers with each other. I tell them to start with: “Can I ask you a few questions? It’s for my English class.”

Have them practice with their classmates.

Follow up check

On Monday, I check one of two ways:

  1. I have the students partner up, then report on what one of the three people said. After two or three minutes, find a new partner and go onto the next one. One more time, and you’re done.
  2. If I have time, I give the group something to do, and I ask each student individually to tell me about one of the people they talked to. I find this helps me become aware of any problems the students have, especially using the third person.

Everyone hates homework, and this can be very stressful. At the same time, it gets the students actually speaking English outside the classroom, and they love that. The best thing is that they pretty much do all the work, and you can enjoy your weekend!