Homework doesn’t always have to be something that a teacher has to mark or that students hate doing.
Used correctly, it’s the springboard to a great class with students doing most of the work before they even sit down. It’s also the first ten minutes of your lesson already planned.
10 Easy Homework Tasks to Set
Go onto YouTube and Watch Something
This is a classic. Find something on YouTube that is relevant to your topic, vocabulary set or grammar point. For some great videos, check out Jamie Keddie’s lesson stream http://lessonstream.org/language-level/pre-int-to-intermediate-a2-b1/.
Mr. Bean is great for lower levels; Monty Python are funny for higher ones.
Make sure you talk to students about what they watched. Did they enjoy it? Did they hate it? Generate discussion on and from the video you all watched.
Think about Something to Talk About
Thinking homework is a difficult concept for lots of students and teachers because ‘thinking’ isn’t seen as a productive skill. However, the greatest academic and business minds regularly set aside time to think and plan what they are going to say or do. Here are a couple of thinking questions you could give as homework.
‘Think about the best things about your country. Explain them to yourself in English. You’ll tell the class about it tomorrow.’
‘Think about the most important person in your life and why they are/were important. Describe them to yourself in English. You’ll tell your partner about it tomorrow.’
‘Think about your ambitions. Explain what you hope to do in the future to yourself in English. You’ll tell the class about them tomorrow.’
Bring Something into the Classroom
It’s the old show and tell lesson. In the digital age this could be a picture or a a film as well as something real. Students bring in an item and then tell the rest of the class about it. Make sure you get other students to ask questions and, if you have a very big class, split the learners into groups so you can get through the presentations quicker.
Talk to Someone in English
This is easier to do if you live in an English speaking country. If students can’t talk to each other then they might be able to find someone online using www.skype.com or on a virtual world like secondlife.com.
Lots of students only want to practice with native speakers or those who speak English fluently. Don’t let them think speaking to each other won’t help them improve. There are hundreds of great discussion questions from ITESLJ http://iteslj.org/questions/
As always, make sure you ask them questions about what they talked about in the next session.
Listen to a Song
Songs are great chunks of language. Set one as a piece of homework asking students to notice something about the lyrics. This could be a language point or the story.
She is leaving Home – The Beatles It’s Raining Men – The Weather Girls Singing in the Rain Past Simple
Summer Loving – Grease Soundtrack / Candle in the Wind – Elton John / Dido – Best Day
I’ve had the time of my life – B.Medley and J. Warne
I Will Always Love you – Whitney Houston/ My Heart Will go on – Celine Dion
If I was a Rich Girl – Gwen Stefani / If I had a Million Dollars – Bare-naked Ladies
Superlatives – Simply the Best – Tina Turner
A boy named Sue – Jonny Cash (Brilliant story and song that everyone will love…)
One Piece at a Time – Jonny Cash (a man steals a whole car by taking one piece of it at a time from the factory where he works)
She’s Leaving Home – The Beatles
Bare-naked Ladies – Bank Job (lovely story about a heist gone wrong)
Waltzing Matilda – The Pogues
A bit like going back to school…and a little strange for adult learners. I got students to draw, among other things, their dream house, their dream car, an invention they would like to create, the perfect school, the perfect jail or the perfect hotel.
A word of warning though, confident students who are creative will love these tasks but other students might bitterly hate them.
Take a Photograph of Something
Ask students to take a photo of something that they will show to the rest of the class in the next lesson. You could get them to email this to you or print it out, or just show it on their phone. It could be something they love, hate, need, an important possession, a person…anything… as long as they can talk about it with the rest of the class.
Again, the assessment for this activity lies in the students taking time to think about what they are going to say. Make sure students ask questions about the pictures.
Little stories, be them amusing, scary or instructional are proven to help language learners. For homework, ask students to find a good anecdote in their language which they can then recount to the rest of the class in English. There are some great anecdotes at One Stop English, but if you have your own they will be much better.
There are lots of great little stories on the internet, the news, fables or short stories.
Comics are great homework reading - click here for a big list
There are also some good ‘choose your own adventure’ kind of stories at ‘Choice of the Dragon’.
Play a Video Game
Really? Really… Ask your students to play them and then tell you what they enjoyed or didn’t enjoy about them. These could be games they already have at home or something online.
Vocab and grammar games like Word Frog are great for improving spelling and the mechanics of language, but there isn’t anything to talk about.
Adventure games (Google ‘flash adventure games’)– are a great way of getting students to engage with something and they will have something to discuss in class about what they saw. A classic is Detective Grimoire.
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