Do or don’t: Assign homework to ESL students
May 19, 2015 | By: Caitlin Hirsch
Categories: Teacher Tuesday

If you haven’t had luck with assigning homework in the past, maybe it’s time to give it another try!

To Assign or Not to Assign?

blog-tt-homeworkOkay, so we know there’s a longstanding debate about homework: does it really benefit students? Seems the verdict isn’t in. In addition to the extra work teachers put in to preparing and grading homework, here are some of the other drawbacks:

  • You run the risk of students practicing a skill or internalizing a vocabulary word incorrectly
  • It’s difficult to design homework assignments that tap into higher-order thinking skills
  • Students often have many outside responsibilities, and homework can cause a burden
  • Drill sheets are a common homework assignment, which is not very engaging; bored students don’t really connect with or actually learn with the material
  • Students often resent homework

Yet there are many teachers who support the practice of assigning homework. Some teachers are pressed for time in class, and find it’s crucial that students continue their study independently at home. Research has shown that simply going over the same material in multiple locations better commits it to memory.

Homework Revisited

If you haven’t had luck with assigning homework in the past, maybe it’s time to give it another try. (And if you already believe that homework is helpful, ask yourself: is it time to refresh some of your old handouts?)

Here are a few tips from CaMLA for making the most out of your homework assignments:

  1. If you give homework, it needs to be every single night—consistency is important for student success
  2. Give every homework assignment a time limit, and instruct students to stop working on the homework when the time is up
  3. Explain why the homework is worthwhile—tell students directly what the homework will help them with
  4. Always set aside time at the beginning of class to go over the homework
  5. Always assign the homework in both writing and orally, and then give your students a chance to process and ask questions
  6. Whenever possible, use organic, age-appropriate texts (e.g., People magazine, newspapers, excerpts from popular kids’ books, etc.)
  7. Think outside the worksheet—consider having students go on a “scavenger hunt” for new vocabulary, snapping pictures with their cell phones, or assign students an entertaining podcast or TED talk to listen to
  8. Use homework as a way to get to know your students better—they’ll be much more engaged if they are interested in the topic of the assignment, so use every opportunity to collect their opinion on something

What are your favorite homework assignments to give students?