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Why I never use the word 'homework'

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

…but all my students do!

As I always tell them, the joy of learning a language as an adult, is that we have left school behind and are choosing to learn languages for ourselves. Unless they're preparing for an exam, such as the DELF or the Cambridge exams, there are no grades to think about nor levels to obsess over, which is a relief.

We learn languages to communicate. One would think it's obvious enough, but somehow this fact gets forgotten at school, so busy are we doing exercises, rote learning, and... homework. Part of my job as a teacher, is to not only adapt to my students' needs, but also to remind them of that very fact on a regular basis.

If I don't, it's easy enough for my students to bury their nose in their grammar books, something we all did at school, without ever using the language to communicate nor making the most of what they're studying.

Every week, I suggest different tasks/exercises to prepare, but also activities to be done in between lessons. I never use the word 'homework'. Instead, I suggest focusing on practising the four main skills - reading, writing, listening, and speaking - equally.

The one thing I always ask my students, after explaining a grammar point is, 'How are you going to use it?' and 'Can you give me an example which is both useful to you and memorable?' Language learning is practical not theoretical. And it's by practising what we learn that we can consolidate or correct it.

And, sometimes, believe it or not, it is I - their teacher - who recommends closing the grammar book to actually use the language and speak instead! Grammar exercises and homework are our comfort zone because that's what we know best and we are provided with corrections and answers. But when we speak in a foreign language, we don't know what the response is going to be, we don't have all the answers, and that can feel scary.

I teach my students to take charge of the process and not always rely on me, or a book, to speak and, more importantly, to welcome mistakes as a natural part of the language learning process. My aim is to turn them into independent speakers, who are still learning the language, but are keen to communicate their thoughts and opinions as articulately and clearly as possible.

They might still use the word 'homework' (old habits die hard!), but they own their learning process and, in the end, that's what matters the most.

Don't hesitate to send me your questions.

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