Cecilia Lemos

How important is homework? – Cecilia Lemos

Homework, by definition, is an assignment that a teacher gives students to do outside of class, but just how important is it? If you ask that question to most teachers, very likely their answers will include:

  • It increases the amount of time the students will be studying the language (especially important if, like me, you only meet your students for two hours and thirty minutes a week)
  • It can help consolidate what is being studied and/or give the student a chance of recognizing doubts and difficulties they may have on a topic. Many times, in class with the teacher guiding them, students don’t notice their weaker areas but these become more evident once they are on their own.
  • It promotes student autonomy, and hopefully establishes a study habit.

We all have heard, read, said and discussed these things, but the key issue is to make students see those benefits as well. How can we do that? By doing things like talking to them about it and doing learner-trainer activities to raise student awareness… Yes, that may help. However what I have found to be more important and effective is to make homework meaningful to the students. They have to see the point in doing it. It helps if we are able to come up with assignments that they find interesting, relevant and… (Dare I say it?) fun. That last bit seems to work especially well with teen students. I know we are talking – or are we? – utopia here. It’s not always possible to do so, but I try my best to do it as often as possible. Have the students choose the topic of the homework and give them the guidelines, language, and functions to work with. Find situations your students will actually face in which the language will be useful or that are part of their everyday lives — such as transcribing the dialogue between two characters in a game they play or their favorite TV show, or having them create such a dialogue. That’s fun. The important thing is that they do the homework with attention, that they do it without finding it a waste of time, and that it actually becomes a bridge, a continuum between classes.


6 thoughts on “How important is homework? – Cecilia Lemos”

  1. Guess I’m the first to comment… :)

    It is great to know that we think very much alike, especially when referring to teens, and my methodology/rationale differs very little from what you suggest: getting them to work around something they like and … yes (!!)…enjoy.

    There’s always the mechanical, close-ended activities they need to do as reinforcement of structural input, but the amazing part is that (on Facebook) when I ask them to work on a more meaningful task (giving their views, describing pictures, videos) there is a 100% task completion rate. No pressure needed, followed by lots of smiles. :)


  2. I eventually assign the mechanical activities too, Lucia – sometimes it is what works best. And I loved the idea of using Facebook with the teen students for homework! Do you create a secret group for each group of students you teach? How do you do it? I’m curious to know now :-)

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. Yep, a secret group works really well…our meeting place away from class. I am amazed at how great they have been at doing their work.

    I also keep in mind some ideas I got from a recent #eltchat on Homework, where great ideas were shared on how to present more meaningful tasks for them. And pictures, videos play an important role here, since teens love these.

    Another hw idea I plan to use soon is to get them to write a ‘tweet’ (the limited character usage idea) on something that they would normally ‘overwrite’ on …sort of a challenge to get them to practice summarizing. :) That’ll be a fun challenge. :))

    Hugs to you!

  4. Hello Ceci!

    You’ve got a point there. I couldn’t agree more on the importance of raising the students’ awareness as to the significance of extra-class tasks so as to develop autonomy and self-help skills. Students need to consolidate what they learn in class. I also agree on the fact that those extra-class tasks should be as motivating as the class tasks for students to enjoy them as much.


  5. Hi Marisa and Christina!

    I guess we’re all in the same page as to what should homework BE… the problem is, have we been able to assign such homework? For me it has been about 50% :-( On other groups I have to use the coursebook and worry about covering content.

    Thanks for your feedback, ladies!

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