5 alternatives to an old-fashioned "How I spent my summer holidays" essay

"How I spent my summer holidays": alternatives to the task

"How I spent my summer holidays": alternatives to the task


  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Tips & Strategies

No matter how many years you have been studying or teaching English, there will always be a teacher who will ask students to write an essay on “How I spent my summer holidays” at the beginning of the school year. Let me disappoint you, but this kind of assignment is not really something that our adult and young students look forward to. We offer several alternatives to this old-fashioned task that will interest your students and be useful in the context of language practice.

Discussion list

First, give the students 5-7 minutes to brainstorm ideas on how they spent their holidays. However, for this they will need to list the following:

  • what they did in summer;
  • what they didn’t do;
  • people they met last summer;
  • food they tasted in summer;
  • places they visited during the summer.

You can add your own ideas to this list according to your students’ interests.

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Next, students work in pairs or small groups and tell each other about what they managed to brainstorm. It is important for the task to have a communicative purpose. So don’t forget to add, for example, that students have to decide whose holidays were the most fun, or identify 3 things that their pair or the whole group have in common.

Such a task is suitable for any level because everyone can tell about what happened to them during three months.

Newspaper article

Ask students to choose one aspect of their summer holidays. It can be the most boring or the best things, the worst or funniest situations, etc. Also suggest or ask students to come up with interesting headlines, such as “A teenager dies of actual boredom on summer holidays” or “Netflix overload leads to squaring of girl’s eyes”.

Allow students to imagine and use, for example, an interview with a sibling and the police, or an interview with an eye doctor and a girl with square eyes. This activity will work great for those students who keep saying they did absolutely nothing over the holidays

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Video report about the holidays

This task is similar to the previous one, but here students will not only have to write, but also make a small film about summer holidays based on their own script. 

Let them use photos and videos from their phone and try themselves as a stand-up artist. This modern genre of comedy art will not leave anyone indifferent. Especially since many of our students make videos for TikTok, and your English class will be an opportunity to create new content.

This is, for example, the video of how one guy from the network managed to do it:

Creative writing

If your students have mastered the grammar of past and future tenses well enough, give them a choice between writing about the past summer holidays or the upcoming summer.

For this, offer them to answer such questions, for example:

  • Are you going to write about your last or next summer holiday?
  • What did you do? or What are you going to do?
  • Where did you go? or Where will you go?
  • Who did you go with? or Who is going with you?
  • How long did it last? or How long are you planning to stay?
  • Was it your first time there? or Will it be your first time there?
  • How did you get there? or How are you going to get there?
  • What did you see and do there? or What are you going to see and do there?
  • Did you enjoy it?  (Explain why?) or Why do you think you are going to have a good time?

First, students can discuss these questions in pairs, and then give them a task to write, for example, about one of their classmates. In this way, they will conduct a small interview with a partner, practice using grammar and appropriate vocabulary, and have something to write about if they do not know what to say about themselves.

Spot the differences

This task can be done in different ways. For this you will need two pictures with some differences.

Option 1. Hand out ready-made worksheets to students, and in groups they read sentences about what is shown in the two pictures. The task is to compare the pictures and find out whether what is written in the sentences is shown on both pictures or only one.


Option 2. Only pictures without text are needed here. Divide students into 2 groups. Give each of them Picture 1 or Picture 2 respectively. Give students time to prepare — write sentences about what is shown in the picture. Next, students with different pictures work in pairs and tell each other about what they see. The partner’s task is to say what exactly is wrong with his picture.

After completing the first or second version of the task, you can make it more difficult and ask students to draw their own pictures. And also tell how they spend the summer. Such a task will be interesting not only for children, but also for adults at the beginner or elementary levels of learning English.

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What to do if there were no holidays?

This also happens, and not everyone manages to rest in the summer. However, such a situation can also be beneficial for written or oral language practice. Have students discuss or write an essay on the topic “3 fun things to do if your summer holiday has been cancelled”.

To do this, give students time to brainstorm ideas. And then go to the discussion in groups, for example. Don’t forget about the communicative purpose and offer students to choose several best options for spending the summer if the holidays were cancelled.

After the discussion, you can safely proceed to writing an essay. Again, here you can formulate the task however you like. For example, compare 2 ways or write about the attitude towards one of the ways of spending summer time.

We hope your students will like the suggested tasks, and they will help you start the school year smoothly!

Article authors & editors
  • Yulia Chorna

    Yulia Chorna


    DELTA Module 1, CELTA certified teacher of General & Business English



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