Exploring House and Home | Activities for the EFL Classroom

Written by: TEFL Toolkit



Time to read 11 min

The theme of ‘house and home’ provides many possibilities for TEFOL and ESOL teachers to interest and engage their English Language students. It is a theme the students are usually familiar with and provides a wealth of vocabulary that can be built on and extended in other parts of the English curriculum. For beginners and younger students, naming, labelling, and colouring various features and rooms in a house is a good way to begin. But what about intermediate and more advanced learners of English? In this article, we provide some teaching suggestions and ideas for learners of all levels. While reminding ourselves of some of the basic vocabulary-based activities most of us have used from time to time, we also suggest ways to expand on the theme for older and more advanced students.

An Englishman’s Home Is His Castle

This is a well-known phrase despite being somewhat sexist and dated. But what does it really mean?

The sentiment behind "an Englishman's home is his castle" is not limited to England; similar ideas about the home can be found in various cultures. It's a recognition of the importance of home as a place where one can feel secure, comfortable, and in control of their surroundings. In particular, the concept of home implies a sense of privacy, security and personal control often underlined and enforced by legal rights.

Privacy: The idea is that one's home is a sanctuary, a place where you can retreat from the outside world and enjoy a sense of privacy. This notion has historical significance, particularly during times when privacy and personal space were highly valued.

Security: The ‘castle’ in the phrase also suggests that a person's home is a stronghold, a place of safety and protection. This aligns with the historical context where castles were symbols of strength and security in medieval Europe.

Control: Just like a castle, a person's home is seen as their domain, where they have the right to govern and make decisions. This emphasises the idea of autonomy and independence within one's own living space.

Property Rights: In Britain, there has historically been a strong emphasis on property rights and the rights of individuals to their own homes. Therefore, the phrase ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle’ has come to reflect the value placed on home ownership in Britain and countries with similar values.

Depending on where in the world you happen to be teaching, there may be a lot to be unpacked in the notion that a person’s home is their castle. For example, does privacy hold the same value if you happen to be teaching in a location where it is common for many people to occupy the same living space (or even sleeping space)? In your teaching locations, is there such a big emphasis on home ownership or do most people live in rented accommodation? What does this say about the local culture? These may be interesting questions for discussion or essay writing with more mature and advanced students of English.

What kind of building do you live in?

If you ask your students to picture a typical British home they might describe or draw a stereotypical two-storey house with a chimney, surrounded by a garden. In reality, the average British citizen is more likely to live in terraced housing. Do your students know what is meant by ‘terraced housing’? Other Brits may indeed live in a detached or semi-detached house. That vocabulary often requires a lot of explaining. In America and much of Europe probably more people live in apartments, but those apartments may vary greatly in size and style. Then there are lots of more unusual buildings that people live in, from Igloos and houseboats to farmhouses and mansions. (We have provided a lesson plan which focuses on some of these terms which you can download at the end of this article).

Asking students to describe their living spaces requires them to master a lot of vocabulary and make associations between locations and the objects found there or the activities that take place in parts or rooms of the house. (For example; In the kitchen you will find the cooker and cupboards containing pots and pans. In our house it is the place where the family come together to cook and eat).

For more mature students there is much discussion to be had about how the places where people live reflect the culture of their region and how that compares with life in other countries. For example, the design and materials used to construct Japanese buildings historically reflected the need to deal with earthquakes, while in Alpine regions houses were often built with overhanging roofs to protect the entrance from a build-up of snow. All these possibilities for English discussion stem just from the architecture of the buildings people choose to live in. Not all buildings are homes of course. What turns a building into a place that people recognise as a home?

What makes a house a home?

At the intermediate level a good introduction to the theme of ‘House and Home’ may be to ask students to brainstorm or mind-map vocabulary. Start with the word ‘home’ in the centre of the board or paper and ask students to suggest linked categories and list as much vocabulary as possible in each category. The students will probably list features such as roof, chimney, windows, door and garden. They might go on to list the rooms of the house and objects you might find in each room. However, they might struggle more if, after the brainstorming activity, you ask them to explain what it is that makes a house into a home. The school has windows and doors, is the school a home? A hotel has many rooms that people stay and sleep in; can a hotel be a home?

What makes a house a home is quite personal and subjective, but it might be interesting to put your students into groups and see what ideas they come up with. They might mention some of the following things. (Alternatively, give individual groups specific headings to brainstorm and discuss).

  • Family and Friends: The people you love and care about, sharing the space with you, create a sense of belonging.
  • Personal Touches: Photos, artwork, and mementoes that hold sentimental value can make a space feel uniquely yours.
  • Comfort: Soft blankets, cosy furniture, and a warm atmosphere all contribute to a sense of comfort.
  • Memories: The things you have done and shared in the same space, Christmas, birthdays and special events… Memories are a big part of what makes a house a home.
  • Safety and Security: Feeling safe and secure in your space, both physically and emotionally, is important.
  • Favourite Scents and Sounds: The aroma of home-cooked meals, the laughter of loved ones, or even the sound of rain against the windows can all add to the feeling of home.
  • Functionality: When a house is organized and tailored to your needs, it feels like a place where you can truly live and thrive.
  • Love and Care: Taking care of your space, whether through cleaning, decorating, or maintaining it, shows an investment in making it a home.

The idea is to stress that a home is more than just a structure, it is a place where individuals and families feel safe and secure and can express their own personalities, tastes and priorities.

Bringing the structure and the more emotional aspects together you can ask your students to describe what their ideal home would be now or in the future. This gives scope for debate and discussion, essay writing, project work and presentations.

Further Classroom Activities For All Levels

In the final part of this article, we would like to suggest some specific classroom activities on the theme of ‘House and Home’ starting with beginner levels and moving on to intermediate and more advanced levels.

Level A1/A2

The emphasis for younger or beginner level students is on building vocabulary and building confidence in using it in context.


Buy or create flashcards with pictures of household items: bed, sofa, lamp, etc. Ideally, the English word should be on one side and the picture on the other. Ask your students to practice saying the words aloud while looking at the pictures. They can check with you or test each other. The same cards could be used for memory games and for organising vocabulary according to the rooms of the house. As an extension, you could have verb or activity flashcards and ask students to associate actions with objects or places in the house. And we have just the flashcards to do this!


While in the classroom, label common objects with sticky notes. For example, put a note saying "door" on the door, "window" on the window, etc. This helps reinforce vocabulary. Encourage your students to do the same when they get home until they are fluent in the vocabulary.

Simple Sentences/Describe Your House

When students have mastered the basic vocabulary described above, ask them to describe their own house or a picture of a house in simple sentences using the learned vocabulary (you could write up some scaffolding phrases on the board). For example: "My house has two bedrooms. The living room and kitchen are downstairs."

To adapt the above activity into a game, show a picture of a house (or a room in a house) and make statements about it. The students have to indicate if the statement is true or false. With younger students, you could get them to stand up when you read a true statement and sit down when you say something false. You can adapt this to emphasise any element of vocabulary you want to practice, such as prepositions. For example, ‘There is a sofa under the window’ and ‘The cupboard is next to the door.’

Role Plays

Give pairs or small groups of students the name of a room in the house. They must write out or improvise a dialogue that would take place in that location. They then perform their simple role plays while other students have to guess what room the speakers are in.

Level B1/B2

In the intermediate levels, the emphasis should be on extending vocabulary and using it in more complex scenarios related to the theme.

Describing Homes

Ask students to describe their own homes or pictures of homes from magazines. While at the beginner stage, you were focused on basic vocabulary, this time, encourage the use of adjectives and comparatives to underline more subtle differences between homes.


You could provide a list of more unusual adjectives such as, spacious, cosy, or cluttered, and have learners find photographic examples of these phrases online. You could make this into a race whereby you call out or write up a phrase such as ‘spacious apartment’ or ‘cluttered living room’, then see which student or group can find the first or best photo depicting the phrase using their phones or tablets.

Give learners two different pictures of houses (e.g. a country cottage and a city apartment). Have them compare and contrast the features of each. Use prompts such as, ‘Describe the similarities and differences between living in a country cottage and living in a city apartment.' This activity mirrors what many of them will be required to do in school or external exams.

The above activity can be developed into a role-play in which a visitor from the country comes to stay with relatives in the big city (or vice versa).

Further Writing And Drama

Ask your students to write a short story set in a unique type of home, such as a treehouse, houseboat, or underground bunker. For those who are not keen on writing, they could illustrate it or write it in the style of a comic book.

You could also ask your students to think about homes of the future. How will they be different? This could also form the basis of an essay or could be done as an annotated poster or PowerPoint presentation.

Both the above ideas can be extended into drama work with the students acting out scenes based on the homes they have described.

Project Work

Depending on the exact level and maturity of your students choose housing related topics for students to research in groups and then present to the class using posters or PowerPoints as visual backups. For younger or lower-level students you could assign particular types of housing such as caravans and terraced housing and ask them to highlight the pros and cons of living in such a place. For older and more advanced students ask them to look into the social and political aspects of various types of housing around the world. For example, they could make a project about the ‘Favelas’ of Rio de Janeiro.

Level B2+ C1/C2

For more advanced and older students, the theme of ‘Home and Housing’ can be used as a springboard for debate and discussion about the wider social, economic and political aspects of the theme.

Debates and Discussions

You can discuss and debate topics formally or informally in the classroom. This could be an opportunity to practice more formal and stylised forms of debate. Topics could include things such as rent control or the impact of Airbnb on housing markets. There may also be local issues in the area where you teach that the students could debate in English. For example, ‘Is tourism damaging our region?’

Other topics for debate or discussion could include affordable housing (how much do you need to earn to live comfortably), renting versus buying, locals being priced out of the property market, pros/cons of living with family until you are older, causes and solutions for homelessness. While these topic all relate to housing, they also give an insight into social life in Britain (or whichever location you focus on).

Writing Activities

The subjects used for the debates and discussions mentioned above could also be used as titles or inputs for essay writing. Alternatively, you could ask your students to write a report or summary of what they have debated in class.

Projects and Presentations

Housing Trends. Give your students a set time to research and present current housing trends (either locally or around the world) such as net-zero energy homes, lack of affordable housing, or segregated communities. What is the historical context of these developments? What policies would your students support to overcome present housing problems?

Online UK Housing Research

Older students could also tap into online resources such as 'OnTheMarket'. Give each student a made-up profile of a buyer (name, age, marital and family status etc) details of what features are most important to them, a budget and a location. They must look through the site and suggest three recommendations for suitable properties to buy or rent. This would help give students a real sense of what properties are really like in the UK, how they might vary from place to place, and what home ownership and renting really cost (most sites also have a quick mortgage calculator that they can play around with!) There are similar sites in most countries.

Welcome Home!

Hopefully, we have demonstrated that the theme of House and Home has the potential to motivate and engage students across all levels of ability. In our free download, you will find a lesson plan which includes a reading comprehension text about British Homes designed for B1 level students. The lesson plan is designed to be easily adaptable to different levels. So please, make yourselves at home!