A tutor asked me how to assign homework to an adult learner. In her new student interview she had said she could do two hours of homework a week. We try to find out how learners feel about doing homework when we assess them to get a tutor, but the question always needs more probing.
A tutor should ask more questions, such as, ‘When, in a normal day, can you find a few minutes to spend by yourself? In that time, how much energy do you have? Where do you go?’ Ask most students whether they want homework and they’ll say yes, which is what they think you want to hear. The more productive questions aim at finding out when and where she has the means to do something related to English. An adult learner needs a reasonably quiet space to read and write or listen to some English. She needs the physical stuff, whether it’s a computer, a notebook, worksheets, a CD player or the TV, to make that happen.
The tutor mentioned that her learner wants to work on verbs. I recommended that she try sending her home with a game to play between lessons. Here is a link to a document you can download at the Literacy Network website. Clicking that should get you a Word document that you can print out. It has irregular past tense verbs, e.g. make – made, take – took, come – came. You can print that on card stock and cut the verbs out to make a ‘concentration’ game in which she has to pair the irregular past tense with the present
Literacy network tries to be realistic about the amount of homework an adult learner with a brutal work schedule and a family to care for can do. For that reason I encourage tutors to give homework that can be done in the little bits of time that they can snatch away from their busy work and family lives. And to increase your chances of the assignment getting done, try to make it fun.