Vladimira

How important is homework? – Vladimira Michalkova

I recently asked my students what they think about homework and how effective it can be. The result was a lovely informal discussion and lots of great ideas. After all, homework  (as part of learning and life) should be about students and not about me as a teacher. One of my students said:

“Every homework that is not done is a bad one.”

No matter how harsh it may seem, I do agree with him. Just think about it. If a student doesn’t do homework, it is probably boring, irrelevant or too difficult and frustrating.

As a teacher I have inspiration and encouragement as my main goal and so it means I can’t make my lessons fun and exciting and then give my students boring routine homework to fill  in and hand me back next time. Learning is a natural, life-long process and most of it happens outside the classroom and that’s why I think homework is important if it is interesting, meets students’ expectations and needs and is even better when students don’t even think about it as homework they have to do.

Thinking of homework I keep in mind:

  • there is a life outside the classroom walls – do not separate it from learning
  • build on students’ background and prior knowledge
  • include their personality
  • make them curious
  • homework can’t be a burden for anyone (students, teachers or parents!)

And maybe a little more advice from me:  Do not give homework and then ignore the efforts your students have made. That’s the first thing. Then there’s this: the next time you are about to announce the homework, be creative and avoid using the word itself. Don’t say the word homework. Instead how about saying “I am curious to know what your story is…?” or “Do you think you could find that and share it with us next time?”  If you do this, then it’s not homework. It’s just learning.

Vladimira

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Vladimira

Vladimira Chalyova teaches English as a foreign language at State Language School in Slovakia. She teaches general and business English to adults and teenagers. She is interested in student-centered approaches, developing learners' autonomy and believes that a teacher shouldn't be a slave of course books and that inspiration, motivation, purpose and meaning are essential in learning. She brings colours, crayons and surpr@ise (surprise + praise) to her classroom and just recently also on the canvas.

8 thoughts on “How important is homework? – Vladimira Michalkova”

  1. Thanks Adam for inspiring link and ideas!
    Writing and dealing with homework is interesting, isn’t it? It is something we know is important yet do not have all the control and power to make it always happen. :-)

  2. Vladimira,

    I love your idea of being creative with how you introduce homework. Of course, the word homework has all kinds of bad feelings attached to it. But, if as you suggest, we tell students that we want to hear what they think about _______ during the next class, it puts their assignment (to prepare what they think) into a completely different light.

    I learned long ago, that if I were genuinely interested in what my students thought, they gave me a lot more output both in writing and speaking. It is obvious, but having so many students we sometimes don’t make it clear that we value what they think.

    Thanks for your blog post. It is a pleasure working with you.

    1. Thank you Steven for your comment and kind words!
      You are absolutely right about genuine interest. Most of the time (as often as it is possible ;-)) I do try to give them something I am happy to hear about from them next time, usually it is something that we discussed during the lesson and they were interested in as well or something they consider useful or I know they could enjoy.
      The more I think and write about this topic, the more complex it is and difficult to explain in a few sentences ;-) Basically, yes, be true to yourself and your students and pay attention to what they want and need.

      Thank you again and the pleasure is mine to work with you and this fantastic team! :-)

  3. Hi Vladamira, Steven Herder already said it, but I LOVE your idea of not calling it homework! Brilliant, once again! Your ‘things to keep in mind’ list is broad; how do you end up with the right mix? The most successful homework- OOPS, I mean between-class work I have had is in my writing classes. Firstly, it’s an elective, so they all want to be there, and secondly, I try to do lots of interactive things during class, and set them up with the basics of a great essay before they leave class. Then, all their work is emailed to me, I correct it using the comment feature of Word and/or coloring the ink of certain words, and email it back before next class. But again, thanks for the linguistic tip; I will never assign ‘homework’ again!

      1. Hi again! I posted on Steven Herder’s homework thread about the ‘self study’ activity sheets we use at my university, but some of the extra things I have done are group PowerPoints. I usually do a basic intro in our computer lab, and tell them that they can email them back and forth to each other (so they don’t have to be physically together to work on them). They seem to love these projects, and I teach them some techniques from Garr Reynold’s “Presentation Zen” where they use very few words on each slide and focus more on images. I usually give one period to start working on them, and the next class is for presenting. I have seen some really great student PPTs, and we all evaluate them together, of course. Alternatively, they can email the PPTs to me, too, for questions or advice, or even with voice-over recorded, but I think they like presenting them better.
        I liked your “6 Things” blog post, too!

  4. Vladka, thank you very much for your post!
    I think it doesn’t matter who said first that the word “homework” sounds daunting and tedious to students. We are all caring and thoughtful teachers here who treat their job not just like the way to earn the living but more or less like a mission. That’s why it’s not surprising that many of us come to realize some aspects of teaching in a similar way. What really matters here is the idea itself and the way we solve the problem of sts being reluctant to do their homework. And I truly believe that your suggestion to use a different language for giving home tasks is really fruitful and should be widely exploited.
    Thank you very much indeed, Vladka!

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