3 surefire ways to motivate your language learners to do homework | Teach them English

Written by on 31/10/2014 in Curated content

Getting learners to do homework has long been a challenge for teachers. Homework has a negative connotation for learners and with good reason; they view it as an unwanted extension of the classroom that intrudes into their leisure time. I´ve argued on the blog before that assigning too much homework or giving meaningless tasks is detrimental.

Nevertheless, as teachers we can employ the following three strategies to make homework more interesting and relevant, so that our learners will be encouraged to complete it.

1. Show that homework is a good thing

If you’re assigning homework it should always be a positive thing; never create negative consequences for incomplete homework. Rather, find a way of rewarding those who fulfill all the requirements of the assignment. The form of reward will naturally vary according to your teaching context, but it could be something like giving extra credit on an upcoming test, or by giving participation credit for their overall performance.

Key concept

Because we really should be using homework to reinforce learning and not teach new concepts, those who choose not to do the work will not be adversely affected. Moreover, those who complete the task should be aware of the benefit it has given them.

Make homework relevant, flexible and chosen by learners. ('Books - Old Bradford Pioneer Village Museum' by @mrsdkrebs on #ELTPics

2. Choice is key

Quite simply, give your learners options. For example, if you were working on the parts of speech or a particular verb tense and want to assign homework, allow the learners some options. For example, get them to find the parts of speech in magazine ads and displaying them on a poster. Looking through course books to find the parts of speech in a section of the unit they are currently studying is another alternative.

Key concept

If our learners know they can have input into their selection of homework assignments, they will be more likely to take interest in it and actually do the work.

3. Emphasize quality over quantity

To motivate learners to complete homework, place emphasis on the quality of work produced, not the quantity. For instance, if you’re teaching subject – verb – object recognition, avoid such boring, traditional methods like assigning your class to copy sentences from their coursebook and identify the subjects, verbs and objects in each. Alternatively, ask them to write five sentences while they are watching their favorite television program and get them to use characters and plots from the show in their examples.

Key concept

If we make the activity more personal, it will have more meaning and therefore learners have more chance of internalizing the language. In such cases, meaningless repetition will be less effective.

Rounding up: 3 quick tips

  • Do not give homework after every class. More than anything else, you’ll find yourself falling into a routine and will quickly find yourself assigning work for the sake of it.
  • Write five assignments on the board (assuming you have five classes) for the upcoming week and let learners choose two from the list. Choice equates to ownership of the task, placing increased responsibility on the learners to do it.
  • More learners will participate if you maintain flexibility. They must always understand that it is beneficial and that it is up to them if they want to benefit or not.

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