Very little is talked about nowadays concerning homework in the Language Teaching environment. Some may say it is something of the past – perhaps gone the way of the Dodo or the dinosaurs?
Some might argue that homework was just a way to threaten students with, in case they misbehaved – “give’em more homework”. Or maybe it was just a manner to keep them busy instead of idle – the “devil makes work for idle hands”. (Me and my Puritan upbringing).
But while watching a video presentation by Penny Ur (Cambridge University Press – “My top 30 Teaching Tips” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQvFGyD3b78) I was led to remember how important homework can be for the learner as a tool to review, practice and clarify points seen or to be seen during the lesson. Not to mention it is a great source of feedback to the teacher.
Ms Ur presented some key steps when dealing with homework:
- Don’t leave homework assignment to the end of the lesson, as if it was an afterthought. Tell students in advance what they’ll have to be doing afterwards.
- Define homework by apportioned time rather than quantity. Tell them to see what they can do in 20-30 minutes for example.
- Find ways to check homework without wasting half the lesson – that’s a tricky one. Today I spent 30 minutes (out of a 60-minute class) correcting the homework. Instead have students self-check; dictate the answers; check for problematic points; have pair correction; etc.
One key factor that we as teachers and students must always bear in mind is that Homework allows exposure to the language and consequently, it leads to practice and consolidation.
I remember the time I was learning how to play the piano and my teacher would assign me 4 or 5 easy songs to practice for the next lesson. The objective was to get me to practice daily and familiarize myself with the notes, the piano, the tempo, etc.
Yes, I know that some students will never do their homework, others will do it 30 minutes before class (and I’m talking about grownups), but as a teacher I know the value of a well-thought homework assignment and the benefits that it brings.