“And here’s next week’s homework…” – I don’t think there’s a phrase that students dislike more. No matter how appealing/interesting/motivating we try to make it, homework is still associated with responsibilities and duties. And although I strongly feel that homework serves a purpose, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the different associations the word has for our students. And whether they actually understand what is asked of them to do. I realize today’s teens are bombarded with homework from every single person in their learning life – still, do they know the purpose homework serves and do they actually do their homework? What I’ve been mostly concerned about then is not homework that is never done/returned etc. but homework that is simply “written”.
As with everything else in life the way we perceive homework differs. Sure, we all realize it’s a set of tasks/activities given to students as extra practice, but is it merely that? To me, homework should include different sets of activities that provide our students with the opportunity to do 3 things – review, practise and explore. It should provide them with the chance to review previously taught material so that they can ask questions on it. It should include activities that help them build their critical thinking skills and practise their problem solving abilities. But above all it should offer them points of connection to the real world – the chance to explore the language individually and expand on the knowledge they already have.
What happens then and students see homework as scribbiling words on paper? Students often assume -wrongly- that homework simply means writing, filling a page with words that will satisfy their part of the learning deal – that of the homework doer. What they fail to see is that there’s another aspect of their identity they need to recognise – that of the learner who assumes responsibility for their individual effort. No matter how hard any teacher might try to spread knowledge, it is almost impossible for any of us to really learn anything without accepting the challenge of testing our limits and taking our own individual paths to knowledge.
Teachers can ignite a passion for learning, but we should make our students aware of the fact that they are responsible for the learner identity they want to build for themselves. We open windows to new opportunities, but it’s up to them to take the leap of faith and not be afraid to follow their dreams and learning ambitions.