Sunday, August 31, 2008

Is homework a waste of time? (Lecture by Ms Olha Madylus – IP Exhibition, August 2008)


Before I start, I would like to thank Ms Madylus who gave me her permission to publish her work and also because she has been an inspiration to me for so many years. She may not know it, but she has completely changed the way I feel about my work and the way I teach! Keep up the good work!

Is homework important? Should we or should we not give our students homework? It depends actually!

So when is it really a waste of time?

- When students lack the support to do it well…

We cannot expect our students to do things that they haven’t been taught or that are above their level. They just don’t know how to do it!

- When kids in Greece are so overwhelmed with studies, they are so tired to do it well

- When it’s learning by rote. Learning by heart is sometimes not effective.

- When it is just easier to copy off your friend tomorrow (especially True/False or multiple choice questions)

- When we haven’t actually planned how it integrates with what is done in class or considered its value

So what we should think, when we give homework is:

- Does it maximize use of time?

- Do students have the knowledge / skills to do the work alone?

- Does it encourage independence?

- Does it allow for personalization?

- What will students benefit from doing it?

When is it god to give homework?

- When students are well prepared in class to do it on their own

e.g. writing a composition

Have you:

-brainstormed vocabulary?

- pre-taught useful vocabulary?

- reviewed grammar to be used?

- discussed ideas?

-provided input e.g. reading or listening?

- drawn up plans together?

- When there’s a point to doing it…

Examples:

1. Letters to teacher

2. Preparing input for next lesson, e.g. doing research, collecting materials, rehearsing dialogues for taping, designing tasks to be done by classmates.

e.g. find something (Internet, magazines, newspapers, materials) and bring them to class,

Find a text and give it to students to make their own cloze test (missing words are usually pronouns, articles, prepositions, collocations). Mostly teenagers like challenging their friends.

3. Part of an ongoing scheme of work e.g. extensive reading, a project, portfolio work

- When the medium is appealing and tasks integrate with class work, e.g. CD’s from course books

- When homework tasks can be chosen.

Students can choose which exercises they do from workbook or grammar book and with higher levels; they can use newspapers or the Internet and choose the articles they find interest in.

Generic comprehension questions:

Who

What

Where

When

How

Why

Students could also use a “Homework diary” (especially with As, Bs, C Classes)

e.g.

This week:

I read…

I watched…

I used the computer to…

I revised…

I prepared…

My teacher asked me to…

- When parents can help and encourage their children at home…

- We teachers should train/ explain to parents:

A. how they can help children at home, e.g. buying books, videos; reading with kids, asking them to explain what they’ve been doing at school; encourage regular communication with teacher; allowing them to rest / relax at home too!

B. what not to do e.g. Do homework for the child; teach children from their old books; think they know best

- When it’s a pleasure to do…

Why do we set homework?

- Maximize use of time

- Encourage independence

- Allow for personalization

- To increase motivation to learn English?

- Or just because we should?

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