But ESL students, on the other hand, may disagree. Adult learners will argue that they have busy schedules and a life outside the classroom, which translates into “no time for homework”. Young learners and teens may come to terms with the fact that they have to do homework, but do we want them to do it because they are compelled to do it... or do we want them to do it because they are excited to do it? Which would you prefer?
The only way to get young students excited about doing homework, and get adults to set aside some time for it, is through highly creative and thoroughly engaging homework assignments. And here are 5 examples:
Homework Assignments That Work
A Word Book
A Word Book or Vocabulary Journal is a classic among teachers of very young learners who are not adept at using dictionaries; here they have a chance to make their own. Help them design their very own Word Book from scratch, out of construction paper, cardboard, or any materials you have on hand. At the end of a reading task or activity, make a list of the words they have learned for the day. Their homework assignment is to enter each of the new words in their Word Book. The littlest ones simply copy the word and draw a picture of it; older students can use the word in a sentence that illustrates its meaning. There is no need to copy “dictionary” definitions. They may also cut out pictures from magazines or newspapers and get as creative as they like. But one thing is certain… these will be words they won’t easily forget!
Do My Research!
This is an extremely engaging way to provide extended practice of any grammar point. Say you want your students to practice comparatives and superlatives. Tell them you need information on this year's Oscar nominations. Tell them to go to Oscar.go.com and give them a list of questions they must answer:
- Which of the nominees for Best Picture is the longest film? Which is the shortest? The most popular? Earned the most money at the box office?
- Which film has the most nominations?
- Which in your opinion is the best film?
- Compare two of the actresses nominated for Best Actress. Who is older? Younger? Taller? Prettier?
You may assign any number of research tasks: ideal places for a family vacation (LonelyPlanet.com), best restaurants in the city (Zagat.com), or anything based on local information. Just make sure you give them a website to go to, a set of questions to answer or a task to complete, and above all don't forget to plan the assignment with a grammar point or learning objective in mind.
In the News
This is an ideal assignment for adult students. Most read the newspaper anyway, right? Or watch the evening news. Ask them to choose a news story that has piqued their interest, and have them:
- Write a report on the news story
- Write a dialogue in which a journalist interviews someone involved in the story.
- Answer a question like, “What could have gone differently?”, thus prompting them to use conditionals, for example (If the truck driver had not answered his cell phone, he would not have caused the accident.)
This is clearly one of the homework assignments that works best with adult learners or those who specifically study Business English. Give them an email to read and ask them to write an appropriate reply. Or give them a situation that would require them to compose a message, like a complaint over a bad service experience or an inquiry into vacation rentals.
Choose a TV series that is shown in English, either with or without subtitles (you may ask students to cover the subtitles). Choose a show that is suitable to your students’ ages. Tell your students that their homework for that night will be to watch an episode of Modern Family, whether they usually watch the show or not. Give them a task to complete after viewing the episode: a synopsis of the episode, a character description, or a questionnaire (Do you usually watch this show? If not, would you start watching it? Why/why not?)
Another great way to get students actively engaged in their homework assignments is to ask them to come up with some ideas for creative assignments on their own and share them with the class. They may surprise you!
And if you’re still stumped as to which worksheets to assign to practice grammar, vocabulary, or reading, BusyTeacher.org is always available to help, 24/7, with wonderful ideas for activities and great ready-to-print worksheets.
If you have any ideas for other wonderfully creative homework assignments, share them below!
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If you haven’t had luck with assigning homework in the past, maybe it’s time to give it another try!
To Assign or Not to Assign?
Okay, so we know there’s a longstanding debate about homework: does it really benefit students? Seems the verdict isn’t in. In addition to the extra work teachers put in to preparing and grading homework, here are some of the other drawbacks:
- You run the risk of students practicing a skill or internalizing a vocabulary word incorrectly
- It’s difficult to design homework assignments that tap into higher-order thinking skills
- Students often have many outside responsibilities, and homework can cause a burden
- Drill sheets are a common homework assignment, which is not very engaging; bored students don’t really connect with or actually learn with the material
- Students often resent homework
Yet there are many teachers who support the practice of assigning homework. Some teachers are pressed for time in class, and find it’s crucial that students continue their study independently at home. Research has shown that simply going over the same material in multiple locations better commits it to memory.
If you haven’t had luck with assigning homework in the past, maybe it’s time to give it another try. (And if you already believe that homework is helpful, ask yourself: is it time to refresh some of your old handouts?)
Here are a few tips from CaMLA for making the most out of your homework assignments:
- If you give homework, it needs to be every single night—consistency is important for student success
- Give every homework assignment a time limit, and instruct students to stop working on the homework when the time is up
- Explain why the homework is worthwhile—tell students directly what the homework will help them with
- Always set aside time at the beginning of class to go over the homework
- Always assign the homework in both writing and orally, and then give your students a chance to process and ask questions
- Whenever possible, use organic, age-appropriate texts (e.g., People magazine, newspapers, excerpts from popular kids’ books, etc.)
- Think outside the worksheet—consider having students go on a “scavenger hunt” for new vocabulary, snapping pictures with their cell phones, or assign students an entertaining podcast or TED talk to listen to
- Use homework as a way to get to know your students better—they’ll be much more engaged if they are interested in the topic of the assignment, so use every opportunity to collect their opinion on something
What are your favorite homework assignments to give students?