Sunday, 15 May 2011

Beyond the Classroom - Breaking down the four walls

Beyond the Classroom - Breaking down the four walls
Homework! Groan work! Put it down and moan work!
(Homework, Oxford Resource Books for Teachers. Lindsay Painter)

Why do we set homework?

Of course a simple answer to this is ‘because we have to’ but actually homework is really important for both us and our students.

We have to remind students that they can’t just be taught English they have to learn it. And they can’t do that just in 90 minutes 2 times a week.  Homework is about using the language and learning the language outside the classroom.  It is not an assessment it is something that helps students get exposure to English. 

Homework can help us as teachers to diagnose the students need and also prioritise classroom time; setting the students things to do that they don’t need support on.

But we need to be careful when we set homework, we need to make sure we are consistent.

These are the golden rules of homework that people suggested as I went around Poland.

1.Students should see the usefulness of homework.
2.Tasks should be relevant, interesting and varied.
3.Different tasks may be assigned to different ability/learning style groups.
4.Homework should be manageable in terms of time
5.Homework doesn’t need to focus on a written product.
6.Increase learner involvement and motivation by encouraging students to contribute ideas and design their own tasks
8.Tasks should be challenging but achievable.
9.Find out how much time, what facilities they have, and what their preferences are.
10.Homework should consolidate classwork, it should not replicate it.
11.Home is the outside world and tasks which are nearer to real life use of language are appropriate.
12.If homework is set, it must be recognised, and feedback given.
13.Motivating students to do homework is an ongoing process
14. Don’t lose the homework
15. Reward students who do their homework so it is clear that homework should be done.
16. Homework can look forward  to the next lesson as well as looking back.

The Homework Book by Lesley Painter, referred to earlier, has some nice questionnaires about homework that you can ask your students to do as homework to find out about them.  

We have plenty of resources for homework, the student’s book, the work book, the website,  the weblinks  etc. Lindsey Painter’s book I mentioned earlier has a rich seam of ideas for homework, such as the photographing English idea or the Dog Ate it idea.

There is also the New English File Online Skills Practice which you can find more information about here.

So remember…
·         Homework is a chance to practice English outside the classroom
·         Homework shouldn’t be assessment
·         It should be a chance to consolidate what’s been done in class
·         It can be chance to look ahead and prepare for future lessons
·         We hope that it isn’t something copied from a classmate  3 minutes before the start of class.
·         We hope the students think it isn’t pointless
·         It is a chance to diagnose the needs of students
·         Sadly it is something that is done on the tram on the way to school but we’d like it not to be.   

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