Stuck doing the same old activities each week? Try these out for something fresh and new!


1. Describe a picture or a story

Oftentimes, the very first thing tutors have students do is read stories or the news. Unfortunately, many times the learning opportunity stops there. Instead of explaining what you just read, the two of you quickly move onto the next activity.

Next time you have an italki session, ask your tutor if you can describe a picture in the article or even summarize the article itself. This will allow you to work on two vastly important skills. Firstly, you will get to practice using adjectives to describe something. Secondly, you will get to check how much of the article you actually remember. By trying to recall the correct sequence of events to your tutor, the two of you can check your ability to hold onto and understand the information you are reading.


2. Write an essay about what you read

While not a new activity to the academic world, I have rarely done this with a student on italki. However, one student and I did this regularly, and the gains she made were impressive. What will writing an essay help you learn? The skills you can develop are endless really, but three things quickly jump to mind.


Firstly, you’ll be able to strengthen your understanding of what you just read by revisiting the material. Secondly, you’ll have to look at more information to write an effective essay, which will make you a more informed expert on the subject you read about. Lastly, you will get to practice verb tenses, word choice, and all the other important writing skills that you rarely get to try out.


3. Guided conversations

Conversation-based classes probably account for the majority of sessions on italki. However, more often than not, tutors will not use a structured list of questions.

Using a set list of questions will ensure that you conversation does not stall, and the questions can be designed to review vocabulary and reinforce recently-learned material, such as new grammar points. They can also be used to to make you express yourself in different ways. While all the questions should focus on a similar subject, guided conversations keep the dialogue from running out of steam.

I recommend asking your tutor to stay away from teaching you new vocabulary during these types of sessions. The focus should be on seeing how you can respond to any question on a given subject.


4. You lead the class!

This is a fun one! For instance, let’s say that you and your tutor planned on having a conversation class. Instead of letting the tutor ask the questions, you take on that role. In this example, it would be best for you to come up with the questions yourself so that you can get practice in this important skill. The added benefit is that you will get to see how the native speaker structures his or her responses.

It’s not just conversation classes in which the roles can be flipped. A writing class, practice interview, practice presentation all have great potential. You can see how your tutor would act in a given situation, giving you the best insight into what is best to say, know, and do in any given situation.


5. Have a silent class


Now, you might think I am being crazy. Of course, we take Skype classes for a reason: to be able to speak together and see one another. However, a silent class is great practice for improving two skills.


Firstly, it’s a great way to practice your writing skills using the Skype chat function, and you’ll get real-time feedback in writing from your tutor. Secondly, it will allow you to pick up on your tutor’s body language. If you respond correctly or incorrectly, your tutor will most likely show it. Body language is different everywhere, and it is key to understanding a conversation and its context.

I hope these five new activities and ways of learning will be of use to you.


More importantly, all of these are fun and are great ways to learn a language in a less formal manner. Even better, these can be adapted to fit in with other activities that you are already doing with your tutor. Doing a crossword with your tutor this week? Try doing it silently! You get the idea!


Lastly, always make sure that your tutor is aware of what you would like to try. Don’t spring one of the above methods upon them at the start of a class; rather, send them this list of ideas, and give them time to come back at you with any questions. Then, together pick one of the ideas, and set which class session you will devote to it.

Good Luck!


HERO IMAGE by Raysonho (Steacie Science and Engineering Library at York University) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons