<b>Forum for teachers teaching adult education </b>

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Location: italy


Post by iain » Fri Feb 08, 2008 5:16 pm

I am curious to know how learners' attitudes towards doing homework as part of a part-time general language course may vary from region to region. In my experience in Italy only a small minority of adult learners seem keen (or able) to dedicate significant time to study outside the classroom. I know teachers who nonetheless insist on giving homework because they see it as being 'good for them'.
Can anyone share their experiences on the matter?

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Post by Macavity » Sat Feb 09, 2008 9:17 am

Hi Iain,
here in Augsburg, Germany, most of my adult learners on open general courses will do their homework. Actually, I only have one group where this is a no-go situation, and one other where it's a bit hit-and-miss. The problem that this willingness to do homework leaves me is the considerable increase in MY workload. So I only give homework where it is really needed, or where the students have a workbook that we can turn into a homework book. My feeling is that students often expect to be given homework, but whether this actually makes much of a contribution to their learning the language I'm not so sure. Perhaps, given the fact that it means more work for everyone, we should ask whether homework is really effective and necessary.


Sheila Collins
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Post by Sheila Collins » Sun Feb 10, 2008 1:42 pm

If you have a group which is inclined to do homework, why not try giving them something a little less traditional? For example, if they learned 3 new words that day, their homework could be to use those three words every day, and then report back at the next class. Or, their homework could be to find the English-speaking waitress, and order lunch in English each day. This type of "homework" is certainly effective and necessary, but makes it a little easier on everyone.

This approach doesn't work so well if you don't have a bunch of little keeners, though. :)

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Post by Macavity » Sun Feb 10, 2008 2:38 pm

Hi Sheila,
time was that I tried giving some of my groups this type of "hands on" approach to homework. However, I began to become frustrated and to question its efficacy when the "stick-in-the-mudders" kept on questioning the reasons for this "rubbish". It only takes one or two "traditionalists" in a group to spoil the party; but I wholly agree that if you have a group of "keeners" then it can be very rewarding to break the homework mould.
One thing I enjoy doing is to get the students to do a little "googling" of the themes and topics that have either been discussed in class, or which are coming up next class. Some people love this and really take it on as the interesting challenge and enjoyable learning experience it's aimed at being, but, oh Lord, those "stick-in-the-mudders".....some of them even deny having access to the Internet :!: :?

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A little is OK

Post by hh » Wed Oct 22, 2008 2:14 am

Hi, I'm a graduate student and I'm teaching adult English at my department as my teaching practice. In my opinion, I think some of those adult students do want to obtain certain knowledge since they often come to me for help by asking a lot of questions. In such cases, I'd like to give them only a little homework. If they want to do it, I'll appriaciate. If they don't have time to do it, I don't care. To my delight, half of the students write my homework carefully.
Therefore, I believe a teacher had better give adult studetns some option homework to help them.

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Let students choose newspaper articles for homework

Post by Eric18 » Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:51 am

Homework provides many advantages - even for adult education and intensive English students.

My standard homework assignment for English students remains having students find, summarize, and present newspaper articles on a topic (elections, housing, job interviews). The worksheet asks them to list core citation information, summarize the main idea, identify the best supporting evidence, etc. The worksheet also includes finding five new vocabulary words or phrases and writing new sentences. After students become familiar with the worksheets, I allow them to choose any article they want once a week. Students love that freedom!

How does the homework link to classroom instruction? Students get together in groups of four and "present" their articles each class. Meanwhile, I circulate around the room, check homework and have small one-to-one chats. Students, meanwhile, build their own vocabulary logs from their own readings and discussions – and deepen their own interests. Beginning the class with this oral exercise, based on the homework, provides a comfortable foundation.

I've used this article homework exercise in several programs where few other instructors even assigned homework. Yet I had no problem "selling" my students on the concept because they enjoyed selecting and sharing materials with classmates. The trick, as so often, remains cajoling students to take responsibility for their own education – and become more self-directed.

Finally, many students praise the homework assignments and following class discussions in their course/instructor evaluations.

Heads Up English
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Post by Heads Up English » Fri Feb 13, 2009 5:58 am

Homework is so vitally important for students, especially in an EFL classroom. If the only contact students have with English comes once or twice a week for a few hours, it simply isn't enough to make any real progress. Homework gets students to use, speak, and think in English for at least a few more hours each week.

Unfortunately, there will always be some students who don't see the importance of homework, are too lazy, or are just content with their current ability. As Macavity said, these students can and do spoil the motivation of others. I've done the following, with some success (there is no magic bullet which applies to all situations):

1. Incorporate homework that ties back into the class. Group presentations, discussions, and debate work well. If students want to succeed from class to class, then they need to do at least a little work on their own.

2. Make homework part of the grade. For the motivated students, then this is an easy way to boost their grades. For the middle-of-the-road students, then they'll do most of the homework, which then means they won't fall behind.

3. Set goals for students. This means having a one-on-one session for twenty minutes to talk about what each student wants to accomplish over the next several months. Appropriate and realistic goals/steps can then be put together with each person, with the expectation that they will assume some responsibility for learning. After three months, you should conduct a follow-up assessment. This has worked because students can see progress when they have the right set of goals, which is a great motivator. They also don't want to disappoint the teacher, which helps too.

The first two are extrinsic motivators, and the last one intrinsic.

I hope these few ideas help.

Chris Cotter
Free flashcards at www.flashcardhub.com.
Just print and teach materials at www.headsupenglish.com.

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Location: Dresden, Germany

A Journal

Post by STCrowley » Fri Feb 20, 2009 9:21 am

I teach a lot of 'company courses' in and around Dresden, Germany. That means that a lot of my students are learning English because their company requires it. (I have a lot of groups now from the same company: a 'Swedish' company that bought a lot of smaller companies in Germany, Poland, and Denmark. Now, they're imposing English as the company language as they unify all the companies.)

This means that my students are a little ambivalent about learning English. . . After all, they see it as just one way their work is becoming more complicated.

So, these students aren't crazy about the idea of homework. They have full-time jobs and for most of them, English isn't a 'hobby' the way it is for many adult learners. The trick becomes making English "real" to them.

I do that by making my classroom a place where they can *beep* about their day-to-day. . . as long as they do it in English. They often hold minor speeches about the horrors of globalization. . . in English. And then they identify on their own that they aren't picking up the differences in grammar. (Simple past and present perfect are common problems for Germans) I 'brainstorm' with them the things that they can do.

The brainstorming always leads to one conclusion (though I don't have to consciously 'push' them): they need to practice the forms more than once a week. And I volunteer to do the 'extra' work of correcting homework, if they're interested in writing two or three sentences from their lives in the verb tenses.

Other students love writing a 'mini-journal.' That is: the assignment is to set a timer for five minutes once a day, and in those five minutes they should summarize the most important parts of their day in English on paper. I collect and correct these 'journals' and give them back. When they make the same mistake consistently (using "normally" where they should use "normal" is a recent one) we have a mini-lesson on it, and they're grateful because they're learning things that they can concretely apply to their lives.

Conclusion: for me, the idea assignments are ones that the students can directly connect to their own improvement--even if they're ambivalent about English, everyone likes to progress--and that require very little time, but more often. That way they're reinforcing what we've learned together, and it's no so much that they put it off.


Sally Olsen
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Post by Sally Olsen » Fri Feb 20, 2009 2:28 pm

When learning a language, I have always operated on the principle that I need to do two hours homework for every hour in class. I always spend spare time (riding the bus, waiting for someone) with little vocabulary cards that I put in my right pocket until I know them and then in my left pocket for review or lately with a small tape recorder to listen to vocabulary and sentences. Of course there is the IPod now too and they have downloadable courses in languages.

I really like writing a journal because that brings up every day vocabulary that I need. However, at the first I fill in what I don't know with my native language and try to include more of the target language as I go. That way I can put down my ideas but also learn some new words. I mark passages with little yellow stickers that I want my teacher's to read (those I think I have done well on or when I don't know how to say something). I leave a one inch margin on the right hand side of the paper so the teacher can write in what they want or need to do or I use that space to question what I have done. I also write on every other line so others can add their questions or comments and I try to get other students to read my journal.

I try to watch movies and TV programs in the target language with the subtitles on so I see the words as well and listen to a lot of music in the target language.

Luckily I have usually lived in the country that speaks the language and have loads of opportunity for getting feedback for my stilted conversations. In Japan, the locals reported my progress to my teachers so they could correct me. Teachers are great friends because they correct you so automatically and without embarrassment.

I also put up five or so words on my mirror so when brushing my teeth I can practice putting them into sentences.

In Mongolia I had students brainstorm in small groups their methods of learning vocabulary and also how to get time to do homework, what kind of homework they should do and presented them with some readings on the subject. In one case I just copied a discussion directly from this forum with different teacher's ideas and they read that. They had to write an essay for 30 minutes each day and so I used these topics for the essays. I then typed out all the answers with corrections and gave all students a copy of what all the students had said (no names of course). There really wasn't much overlap and I added some ideas once in awhile to essays that were short on them. (I also used the Thesaurus to vary vocabulary.) With 24 students we had some great ideas.

Of course, the greatest help of all is being an English teacher in another country because you just listen to the students and they often say a word or sentence in their own language before trying it in English.

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Pretty Much the dream student....

Post by eslweb » Sat Feb 21, 2009 2:44 pm

Of course if we had Sally in our class, there'd be no trouble getting our students to a bit of homework... I used to take the following line in a full time English course and it seemed to work reasonably well:

1. If you come everyday to class and participate fully then that is probably enough to pass.
2. If you come everyday to class, participate fully and do the suggested homework then that is enough to get a merit...
3. If you come in everyday to class, participate fully, do the suggested homework and attempt to conduct your life in English then you will do very well...
(Explained in simple English)

It also had the helpful side-effect of stopping students complaining about their marks, because they knew I'd take them straight back to the steps I'd outlined above.

In Business classes it was almost impossible to get participants to get any homework and so I went for the line that these were extra opportunities to improve your English....


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Post by Karenne » Sat Feb 21, 2009 6:58 pm

My solution to the homework is not to call it homework.

We all have a bit of a giggle with this, but we call it their:
Post Task Activity (PTA).

Simply by removing the negative connotations associated with the words home and work and making it an activity they have to do at some point after our lesson seems to work and most of them do do it.


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Post by Sevans » Sun Mar 08, 2009 5:47 am

I give all of my students homework. With the nonprofit I work for, the students usually only get 1 or 1 1/2 hours of contact each week. It is essential that the students get homework.

Even though we are in the states, my students do not make much contact with English speakers outside of the classroom. The homework I give is usually in the form of spelling words for quizzes, worksheets, writing exercises, or interview questions for their children that do speak English.

You can really tell the difference in the students that work on their homework and those that do not. I make sure to point this out to my students.

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