I never understood the point of homework as a student. Hollywood will tell you that lazy students copy other people’s homework (see ‘Back to the Future Part 1’ – Biff and George McFly). To me, even that seemed like too much hassle.
Now I’m a teacher and I wish my students would do their homework. Thankfully, most of them do it enthusiastically, but there are a few problem students who leave it undone.
Why assign homework?
An essential part of language study is regularity. If you are teaching English abroad, your students may have only one or two contact hours a week with you. Getting them to study outside of the classroom, then, is essential.
The benefits to you and them
The advantages of homework include:
- Prepares students for the next lesson
- Gets the students thinking in English
- Encourages independent learning
- Gives the students are a chance to apply what they are learning
- Can be used to assess progress and ability
- Assignments can be incorporated into the lesson
Preparing for the next lesson
Assignments that are relevant to the theme of the lesson, such as preparing presentations, researching topics, or making questions and answers on a certain theme for use in a given context (hotel, airport, business meeting etc.), have several benefits. The language that they studied will be utilized in the lesson. Also, the homework itself can be used a warm-up activity. Further, homework develops interest in the subject matter.
Revising the last lesson
Using homework as a way to revise new language is another valid method. For example, sentences can be made from words learnt during the lesson, or a role-play could be prepared based on the theme of the lesson.
The teacher has to do several things:
- Create interesting and relevant assignments
- Communicate the assignments clearly so that students will know what to do on their own
- Apply the homework and show its benefits
- Mark the homework, or correct mistakes
Things to be avoided:
- Homework that is not practical, or is too time-consuming (students may well lose interest, or feel too much pressure)
- Assigning tasks that are too difficult for individual learners
- Being too lax – make sure you students realize that doing the homework is essential, not optional
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