Some Ideas on differentiating homework

It’s hard enough to get homework right at the best of times. It’s the end of the lesson, school policies (and parents!) call out for it, kids loathe it and you end up wasting half your next lesson working out who has done it or not (I’ve done the first part, that means I’ve done it, doesn’t it??)

Best practices suggest it should be used for practice, preparation, study (for tests etc.) and extension, which covers just about everything, after all if it’s in English then it’s practice, isn’t it?

The challenge is getting it right for all the different students in the class, bearing in mind their abilities, strengths and styles. Something that everyone can succeed at, but at the same time stretches them – not too much, but just enough.

And while we’re at it, why not make it interesting?

Collaborative homework:

A good idea that Chrissi Florides talks about in her article in the upcoming ETAS journal. Now they’re all chatting all night on social media, get them to do their homework together – they are anyway! This can include vocabulary or solution brainstorming.

BUT – remember not all your students like working in groups or have access to social media on a school night. AND bear in mind, that asking for “as many words as you can think of” might mean staying up to 2am to do just that for some students  (those on the autistic scale for example) so something along the lines of “as many…. in twenty minutes” will be fair for all.

Photos to prepare for Oral:

Not all students with learning difficulties see oral activities as the soft option, short-term memory difficulties can make speaking difficult, so ask students to take photos to spark discussion in class the next day. For example ask your students to take a photo of the fridge and tell you what is (or isn’t) in there next lesson.

Don’t Talk – DO

Often we spend a lot of time in class talking about everyday actions, so ask students to do them, and think about the English phrase as they do it, or again – take photos. One of my favourites is when my class learn about chores and I ask them to do a couple at home and take a photo – parents love this one too!

Thinking Journal

Ask your students to stop a couple of times a day and think through what they’ve done in English.

Many of these activities may seem a cop out for some teachers, but in my opinion they’re no worse than the homework activities the students copy from the class swot 5 minutes before class starts, or those gap fills they complete with the first word that comes to mind – because then when the teacher passes round the class it looks like they’ve done something. At some point we have to trust them to take responsibility for their own learning.

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About fabenglishteacher

I've been teaching English for a few years now and this blog is part of my never-ending quest to make learning English more fun, and easier for my students.
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