Few language learners (if any) will achieve their full potential without studying at home. Homework provides the learner not only with the opportunity to reflect on what has just been taught without the pressures associated with the classroom but also to prepare for new materials and for the next lesson.
Traditionally homework is set after each and every lesson or according to a clearly defined school homework policy. The homework set will vary and may involve doing additional practice of a language point studied in class, writing a composition based on a theme already examined or preparing a reading passage for classroom discussion. Irrespective of what is set two points should be remembered:
- Learners should not be set homework tasks they have not been adequately prepared for.
- Setting too much homework will discourage learners and is indicative of the weaknesses/inadequacy of what has been done in class.
Bearing in mind that some homework tasks will take more time to complete than others, learners should be given adequate time for completion. Written exercises such as those provided in a grammar workbook can be completed for the next lesson whereas a composition (which will require planning, drafting and re-writing) will require more time and can be handed in after a week. As such, once homework has been set it is important to agree deadlines and stick to them so that learners aren’t faced with a backlog of homework and teachers with a sudden large amount of correction. As a rule of thumb, allow yourself as much time to correct homework as you gave the learners to do it e.g. if you gave a class a week to write a composition then hand the corrected work back to them a week after you have collected it in.
The setting of homework to young learners requires some additional thought and attention. Children in general are very forgetful so make sure the homework set is written up clearly on the board and that all learners copy it down. Alternatively make a note of what has to be done on a slip of paper and give each learner a copy. Parents too may wish to play an active role in their child’s learning so it may be wise at the beginning of the academic year to communicate your homework policy to them either face-to-face in a “getting-to-know-you” meeting or in writing. This policy should provide some guidance on what parents can do to supplement their child’s learning either through simple activities (e.g. hangman, memory games etc) or through suggesting additional materials such as graded readers or short stories.