Diary submitted by Aoife B., Valencia, 2020
Section 3: How much homework do you give? And what would you do if your student wasn’t handing in his or her homework on a regular basis?
To give homework or not to give homework – that is the question.
During my internship, I have only given my students homework on a few occasions. There are two main reasons for this.
Firstly, the entirety of my teaching experience has been during the Covid-19 pandemic. This has had a massive impact on students’ education, both the education they receive at school and learning English extracurricularly. As schools are closed, children and teenagers are spending all day doing homework-style work in place of the education they receive at school. Their classes with me on Zoom are the only face-to-face teaching they are receiving at the moment as they tell me their school work is set online to be completed individually. I therefore feel that adding extra-curricular individual homework to this workload is not going to be the most effective way for them to learn, or the best for their general well-being during this time.
The second reason is that my classes (the classes where I am the sole teacher, not referring to classes I share with another TEFL intern) are 1-1 lessons. In these lessons, we can go at the speed the student needs. For example, if he or she needs to spend more time practising a particular grammar point, we can spend time in class doing that without holding back other students who are ready to progress. I also find that 1-1 lessons are also more intense for the student as he or she has to answer every question. He or she spends much more time talking than if there were a larger group of students in the class and puts in more effort in 1 hour than they would in an hour-long group class. For this reason, I do not feel that it is necessary to give a lot of homework to these students as they cover a lot in class. Although, if a student was really struggling with a certain topic that we have already repeated a few times in class, I would set homework on this area.
Having said that, I have given homework on occasions where we did not get through the amount of work I expected in the lesson, so in order to be able to move on in the next lesson, I set the remaining work as homework. I also set homework when it involves research, which would take up too much class time. Students then bring and present their findings at the start of the next lesson.
In addition, I frequently ask my students to learn the new vocabulary they wrote down in class that day and then I often start the next lesson with a short test, dictation or game (such as hangman or pictionary) using this vocabulary to encourage them to learn new words and be able to write them as well as understand them. I know from my own experience of second language learning that vocabulary tests are not popular and learning spelling can be boring, but they have helped expand my vocabulary and I believe they are a successful way to learn to use new words, not just recognise them.
From reading the blogs and websites listed below, I see that homework is an important aspect of learning as it encourages students to take responsibility for their own education and promotes good time management, creativity and problem solving. Therefore, it can be used to develop a variety of skills as well as consolidate their knowledge of the language.
On reflection, maybe I could have set more homework for my students, especially writing tasks, as this style of activity is less suited to an online classroom. However, I found that setting homework can be more difficult for online classes as it isn’t as simple as handing out a worksheet to be completed at home and brought to the next class, and it can take a long time at the start of the next lesson to go through it as I cannot mark it while they are doing another activity.