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Vicky Saumell - Turning homework into an effective learning opportunity

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Homework is a complex issue with many factors affecting its success or failure.

Homework is a complex issue with many factors affecting its success or failure. To begin with, homework is usually loaded with negative connotations. How can we turn homework into an effective language learning opportunity?

It is important to consider the teaching and learning context when we examine the homework issue:

  • How many contact hours a week do these students have? Do they really need to extend exposure and practice beyond classroom time? How often?
  • Are these students voluntarily attending English classes, or are these compulsory classes within their education system? What is their motivation to learn English?
  • How much time do they have for homework assignments?
  • Is homework your decision as a teacher or are you required to assign homework regularly?
  • Is there a chance that students do not do the homework themselves?
  • Are you going to check homework later? Will it be necessary the next class?

Here are a few considerations and suggestions:

  1. Make sure the homework is tied to what has been done in class. A clear connection as to why it’s important to do this assignment is essential.
  2. Make sure the students can solve this task autonomously.
  3. Tasks that are not advisable to be done in the classroom should be best assigned as homework. Some of these tasks can be: writing tasks, personalised tasks, extensive reading tasks, research tasks, other tasks that take up too much time individually.
  4. Tasks that can easily be replicated or copied from another student are not good choices for homework.
  5. Tasks that need certain technology that you might not have available in the classroom are best assigned as homework: watching a video to be discussed later during class time.
  6. If you have to assign homework regularly, balance the type of homework and time needed to complete it. Long homework tasks are tedious…though sometimes necessary.
  7. Take advantage of technology to set up speaking homework: record yourself reading or speaking with a voice recording tool on mobile phones, record a video of your family as you explain who they are, record a video tour of your house.
  8. Flip the classroom. Have students watch videos about new topics, grammar explanations, discussion triggers, etc. Then you can use class time more effectively to discuss what they have watched.
  9. Assign personalised/differentiated tasks to address particular tricky areas for students.
  10. Assign listening homework! Let them choose a video to watch, something they are interested in, and have them report on what they watched the next class.

I am not very fond of homework unless it is really necessary. Above all I try to make homework fun!