Everything in moderation, including moderation, of course – that’s my motto when it comes to the idea of homework. There are those who believe in the magic of Thomson and Martinet, there are also people who prefer to teach without any homework at all. Maybe the key to success is not limiting homework or getting rid of it, but changing our approach? What about adjusting homework to our students’ needs and interests?
Teaching EFL seems much easier – at least in terms of homework – than other subjects. Students (schoolchildren and adults alike) usually understand the importance of learning the language, especially now, with the opportunities of travelling abroad, with more and more people working or studying abroad, with online games forcing people to communicate… All we, as teachers, need to do, is to shift our mindset; we live in a world where literally everything and everyone encourages people to learn English, even more – students themselves realise its importance and are mostly keen on learning after school. We must not spoil it with dull grammar drills on paper copies that are so easy to be forgotten, lost or ignored.
I believe we should share our enthusiasm, our true passion for not only teaching but using English and adapt homework to our students’ needs, styles of learning and interests. Homework assignments may be yet another way to personalise our approach and show our students the benefits of taking responsibility for their own educational process. Today, when there are many tools online ready to use, we can share them with our students, enabling them to study on their own and develop not only their linguistic skills, but also broaden their horizons.
1 Online grammar exercises
There are many useful websites for students to do their drills and doing them online may give them result immediately after they finish, without waiting fr the teacher to correct their work. You may create a padlet with all the useful exercises and tell your students your next graded test will be based on those exercises, thus motivating them to work after class.
Examples: englishgrammar.org, perfect-english-grammar.com
Everyone likes watching videos as homework – so why not use it more often? You can pick an interesting video summing up the lesson or introducing the next topic, you may also ask students to write a composition referring to the video. Here you may base on your students’ interests, changing boring homework into fun activity.
Examples: ed.ted.com, www.ted.com, youtube.com, truetube.co.uk
Listening exercises aren’t very varied in the classroom, mostly referring to the coursebook content, so we may assign a song or a podcast as an interesting homework activity – this may be their contact with “real” English, not the somewhat strict classroom environment.
Examples: lyricstraining.com, elllo.org
4 Mobile applications
Asking students to use a chosen application on their mobiles on a regular basis may prove to be a true homework of a 21st century. We may ask the whole group to use the same application in a manner of year-ling competition, or adapt various apps to our students’ individual needs, enhancing individual approach.
Examples: memrise, knudge.me, 6 minute English, various applications by the British Council
Apart from having fun in the classroom, you may assign a test as homework – be it a ready-made grammar test or a self-designed vocabulary check. There are many various online test applications, however for teenagers I recommend quizizz as it’s free, funny and you can use various memes.
Examples: quizizz, kahoot, quizlet
6 Class blogs
This form of a schoolyear-long project may be a great idea for a focused class of students who are already familiar with self-assessment. You may decide various topics the blog should be written about – school life, books, film, celebrities etc., but why not design a blog on classroom notes from English lessons? That would be a great help for absent students, not to mention general help before tests.
This application is designed for students learning foreign languages (not only English). You may ask questions about language and culture to native speakers around the world – and get the answer, and what is even better – you may be asked questions about your native language as well. This may be a great tool for students who want to learn more about culture, or those who need to try communicating with native speakers but are somewhat shy.
It seems quite obvious, that with such availability of online sources, we should feel encouraged to use them on a regular basis, not only in the classroom, with the help of IWB and other tools, but also as homework activities, giving our students the chance not only to feel more at ease with the idea of extra activities, but also actually enjoy them.
The full post was first published in “The Teacher” nr 5(159)/2018