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How important is homework? – Christina Markoulaki

Try to picture this: you have just got home after a very satisfactory lesson (no matter what that was) and you are now ready to put your feet up, listen to some music or socialize. Out of the blue, a dreadful thought springs to mind; you have to do your HOMEWORK! It is a time of sheer sacrifice of all the wonderful things you wanted to do instead, which makes indignation drum into your head.

That scene has been described by the parents of certain children I teach, the latter being perfectly happy with the lesson, but totally reluctant to do any work at home. This is why I have decided to highlight the importance of continuing to study outside the classroom not only in every parents’ meeting I organize, but also in discussions I have with the students themselves.

Great benefits can be derived in doing a reasonable amount of homework. As long as it is related to classroom work in a moderately demanding and stimulating way, it can allow students to:

  1. Consolidate grammar, vocabulary and complex concepts. A case in point is my latest lesson with an advanced adult group that was about tolerance, prejudices and subconscious discriminatory behaviour; phenomena that cannot be entirely digested unless they are given serious thought in private space.
  2. Be creative. Homework can be combined with imaginative drawings or even arts and crafts, and creative written expression that can be cultivated through it as well.
  3. Understand that learning does not stop in the classroom. True learning is not only about attending a lesson; the primary aim of every learner should be to constantly try to build on previously acquired knowledge in any way they desire, such as listening to a podcast or watching a YouTube video in the foreign language.
  4. Choose which extra activity they want to do – one that suits their tastes or needs. More specifically, teachers can allocate obligatory and optional homework. My experience has shown that, more often than not, students do both. They willingly decide to carry out the additional ‘mission’ simply because they are under no obligation to do so.

Even if all the above does not convince students to do their homework, all of you readers of the iTDI blog did not fail to do yours; that is, read all thought provoking texts on this blog and make a further step towards becoming the teacher you are, as Chuck Sandy says. I am deeply grateful for your time and I certainly welcome any comments you may wish to leave underneath.

Christina

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Christina

Christina Markoulaki is an Athens university graduate and an EFL teacher in Maria Markaki Language School in Heraklion (Greece), where she was also born. She is fortunate enough to have been trusted with students of all ages and levels within her working years, their ages ranging from 5 to 50 years old! Using all types of modern technology along with traditional books to create new learning experiences is what fascinates her. In her free time, she relishes in blogging and cycling, while she never fails to attend her favourite book club sessions. All links concerning the school she works in can be found on this colourful glog!

7 thoughts on “How important is homework? – Christina Markoulaki”

  1. Hi Christina,

    I am with you on this. If we manage to show the students (but really make them understand, not just nod their heads and say they do!) the importance and the benefits homework bring, how it can make the difference, it is exposure to the language outside classroom time, etc – we can engage them in it. The key issue is on how to do that, isn’t it?

    Thanks for your great post! :-)

    1. Hi Cecilia and thanks for the lovely comment!

      It is very difficult to make students understand that they need to do a certain amount of work on their own and, most importantly, how useful this will be to them, but we teachers will never stop trying, will we? Graham Cartlidge (on Facebook) talked about how students feel under a lot of pressure when having to complete loads of extra tasks for all subjects at home and I thought that this is the wrong type of homework. Homework should be about consolidating, not doing the teacher’s job!

      The people who are Yitzha Sarwono’s friends and are also interested in joining this conversation on FB can click here: http://www.facebook.com/yitzha.sarwono/posts/10150643709039376

      Thanks again Cecilia! I loved your post on homework, as well!

      Online hugs,
      Christina :-)

  2. Hi Christina,

    I completely agree. I prepare adults for their IELTS exam so I am working to make them more autonomous. As they’ll be going on to university they won’t be spoon-fed so they need to see the value of what they can do themselves to improve their English. Many students aren’t used to taking on this kind of responsibility so they need to be trained. Often when they see the progress that others make they are then keen to do it themselves.

    As my students are managing their course, job and family life, I don’t expect all of them to be able to set the time aside for homework, so instead it’s about creating habits and setting their own goals. I’m doing the Grad Dip right now so I’ve got plenty of homework to get on with and it reminds me how working and studying can be hard to balance!

  3. Hello Emma and thank you for your comment!

    Yes, completing a certain amount of additional work at home is a burden- there is no doubt about that. Even teachers sometimes react to having to prepare a lot before a class! :-)

    The point is, as you say, to understand the importance of learning on your own, without expecting to be constantly spoon-fed, the latter sadly being part of the mentality of a lot of students. Acquire the right habits, set the proper goals (I am quoting your final words) and you are on the path of knowledge!

    Thank you once again for saying the right thing in the right words!

    Christina

  4. Christina, thank you for your clear-cut input on the importance of homework.
    I think we should find the balance between mandatory home tasks (such as tasks on consolidating grammar and/or vocabulary) and individual creative tasks. But, no doubt, all these tasks should be manageable and require reasonable time to prepare.
    Another aspect which can motivate sts to do their homework is the feedback from the teacher. Sts really need to know that what they’re doing they aren’t doing in vain.

    1. Hello Alexandra and thank you for the lovely comment! I couldn’t phrase it better myself! :-)

      Yes, feedback coming from the teachers is very important and should be given some thought since research has shown that a large percentage of students do not understand the teacher’s comments (mostly in written form). Students should be trained to recognize the ‘code’ the teacher uses when correcting and what the latter’s criteria are exactly when doing so.

      Not doing things ‘in vain’ is what makes all the difference. Well said, Alexandra!

      Christina

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