Sunday, February 21, 2010

What is too much homework?

I never remember ever complaining that I was given too much homework, well except maybe in high school. In high school, boy, I was really busy extra-curricular activities and homework galore. In college, I studied a lot and did most of my homework in the wee hours of the morning. I was not a night owl but an early bird.

As a teacher in China, I wonder, what is too much homework? At my Chinese college, the electricity is turned off at around 11 pm and there aren't any 24 hour libraries. Students live in dorms with 7 other roommates, not the best place to study. So I wonder, because of the study and living environment, how much homework is too much homework? I don't really give my students a lot of homework; however, this semester with my freshmen listening class I want to give a weekly listening homework assignment. Because the access to computers and Internet is limited, the homework will be pair-work, 3 parts, focused on learning new vocabulary, dictation, and listening to texts about news.

Part 1
Using the 10 new vocabulary words in the textbook, write a question and an answer with the vocabulary words. (Last semester, I had the students just write sentences with the words; however, they just copied sentences out of their dictionaries.)

For part 2 and 3 I will give every student a different, short text about current news events. Every week they will use the text for their homework and then switch texts with a fellow student the following week.

Part 2
Write three questions about your text. Next read the text to a fellow student and ask your questions. The student who is listening should take notes, answer the questions and write a short summary about what they heard.

Part 3
Using your given text, do a 1-5 sentence dictation with a fellow student.

Is this too much homework?

The disadvantage of this homework assignment is that students will not be listening to native speakers but to each other.

The advantage of this homework assignment is that the students will practice listening at a speed that they can understand which hopefully will lead to being able to understand native speakers. Also, students will be able to listen to new vocabulary and cultural references that occur in news broadcasts and hopefully will use the information in discussions in English with their fellow classmates.

The listening portion of the national English exam, the TEM4 has about 5 news broadcasts and a very long dictation. I believe that two problems students have with listening are new vocabulary and cultural references. Will this homework assignment help with that?

1 comment:

universalibrarian said...

sounds pretty good to me. It depends on what kind of load they have from other classes but it is worth a try. I wonder if you could train them to put a note at the top and bottom of homework for your own reference that asks for the time started and time ended. When I give homework I am not always sure how long it takes.