Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Joy of Homework

If you feel this way, you're doing it wrong.

One of the most common questions tutors ask is, "Can I assign homework to my learner?" The answer is yes. What kind? Whatever your learner can do. Give homework that fits in with their free time, their resources, the kinds of things they like to do. Homework is anything that lets the learner get more exposure to reading, writing, speaking and hearing English.

For reading homework
The Minnesota Literacy Council (www.themlc.org) has a site called Story By Story (mcedservices.com/phonics/phonics.html).  It has some wonderfully organized phonetic stories to help a learner by focusing on specific sound concepts. Better yet, it has a basic lesson plan that tutors can use. At the end of the lesson plan they advise tutors,
·         Assign homework (10-15 minutes per day after instruction). Encourage spending time at home to study or read; however, it should not be required. Greater frequency of practice keeps the mind working on learning between lessons.
·         Read aloud and/or spell word lists to someone at home
·         Read aloud phonics stories to someone at home
ESL tutors can assign listening homework for learner that follows the above guidelines, namely: short, ungraded, enjoyable tasks. Those tasks can include watching 15 minutes of a sanely-paced, clear-speaking news program like PBS' "The News Hour" when they get home from work. For the more beginner-level learner, Wisconsin Public Television has programming before 8:00 in the morning learners may watch with their kids. The Wisconsin Channel (wpt2.org/schedule.cfm) also has programs on outdoor sports and gardening plus documentaries on a broad range of grown-up topics. A homework assignment might follow a plan something like the following:
·         Watch program “X” for 15 - 30 min. on ___ before work with the captions on. Use a notebook to write down three interesting phrases you hear, whether you understand them or not.
·         Bring those phrases, exactly as you heard them, to our next lesson.
·         Don't worry about mistakes. We will talk about what you saw and the phrases you wrote down and try to figure out they meant.
Remember: the chances of homework getting done decrease with the amount of time they take but increase proportionate to the fun factor.

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