QUESTION: I'm interested in hearing some tips on how to help my learners, both children and teenagers, enjoy their homework and be sure to complete it.

ANSWER:   A reasonable amount of regular homework, which mainly consists of  written reinforcement of what has been practised orally in class,  is essential to language learning.  It is good practice to remind learners of all ages that, in order to get the most out of their entire language learning experience, they need to spend twice as much of their time working on English outside of class as they do in class.  For example,  if   language learners are committed to meeting with a teacher three times per week, i.e. 3 contact hours, they should plan to spent an additional 5-6 hours per week (of their own time) on homework, extensive reading/ listening / viewing and revision.   First, the teacher needs to guide his/her learners to become responsible for reviewing, editing and re-writing, updating journals and vocabulary notebooks and, of course, doing homework -- on their own and autonomously.

Here we'd like to present activities designed to help develop Study Skills Outside of Class.  They have to do with awareness of effective time management  while working at home.  For young learners, we should consider addressing their parents to join in on the training process so that their children become good time managers and effective language learners.

 I.  FIRST STEPS IN TIME MANAGEMENT AT HOME:  Suggestions to Parents

Many of us teach young learners and teens, so part of our job is to rally parents' support for what we do in our year programs.  Please inform parents of the importance of consistent homework in their children's foreign language education and encourage them to create a place at home for their children to work at doing homework quietly and to help their children plan and keep the time slots for English work. 

Activity 1:  "Integration of Fun and Duty

A father once told me how his 11-year-old daughter would use up the entire afternoon and evening to do her homework.  He and his wife intervened and planned diversions into their daughter's time at home.  In this way, she was made more aware of the finite time within any one afternoon/evening;  their daughter knew she had specific times within her time at home to start and finish her homework assignments, so as to fit in less sedentary activities.  Parents can be advised to integrate outdoor activities, e.g.  playing in the park, walking to a shop, visiting friends,  as well as  indoor activities, e.g.  'let's stretch our bodies',  listen to music and dance, etc. with structured time for homework only to help their children learn how to manage time . . . for both work and play!

Activity 2:  "Devices Limited" 

Most parents are aware of the necessity for their children to 'detach' themselves or 'disconnect' from their favorite e-devices, in order to concentrate on completing their homework.  Granted, some English homework may require the use of devices and information from the web; however, a useful practice is for parents to ask their children which half-hour during their afternoon/evening they would like to use their devices to access their messages, friends' posts, music, videos, etc. online.  This given choice implies that the rest of their time is committed to getting their homework done.  Obviously, the half-hour can be extended or reduced and further 'access times' can be offered, depending on the ages and levels of the learners and the amount of work that has been completed.

II.  AUTONOMY IN TIME MANAGEMENT:

Activity 1:  "How long does it take to complete this task?"

By asking your learners to keep track of time spent or to set time limits while they are working on English at home, you will help them learn to organize their study time 'well' and to make the best of it. Once back in class, invite learners to share their 'times' with their peers.

Activity 2:  "Dividing My Time on my Strengths and Weaknesses" 

This activity takes time to set in place.  Your first focus has to be on learners' self-assessment and their awareness of your or the language school's assessment (Also, see "My Focus on..." in our article from September 2016 for a way to begin.).  When the learners' profile starts to form, ask the individual learners to set their own goals which aspect(s) of language learning they would most like to improve.  Once in a while, as a group work activity,  invite individual learners to share strategies on how they work toward improving certain skills ( for example, listening comprehension --especially one speaker talking on one subject for an extended period of time),  and to compare time taken (A learner might share with his peers:  "I listened to 3-minute TED talks.  First I listen to the same one twice and then I listened to and followed the tapescript while doing so.  That took me about 20 minutes, including my choosing which talk to listen to.") .  

Have a creative and promising New Year,

Suzanne and Lilika