The controversy about the value of Homework

There is controversy about the value of homework, with critics saying it is either ineffective or potentially harmful if the extra work is so dull that children switch off.

Few years ago, a group of French parents and teachers called for a two-week boycott of homework in schools, saying it is useless, tiring and reinforces inequalities between children. They say homework pushes the responsibility for learning on parents and causes rows between themselves and their children. And they conclude children would be better off reading a book.

This is a representative sample of what the detractors argue against having homework, but we can add others arguments opposed to homework: The school day should be long enough to allow the child to learn and write everything they need to” homework, whether good or bad, takes time and often cuts into each student’s sleep, family dinner, or freedom to follow passions outside of school”. “Not all families have the time or the necessary knowledge to help their offspring”. “Teachers don’t realise the unbelievable pressure they are putting children under”.  (should children have to do homework? comments)

And what the students have to add to this scenario against homework. For too many students, homework is too often about compliance and “not losing points” rather than about learning: “…it’s worksheets and problems at the end of the chapter. Just busywork”, “It doesn’t matter how I get the homework done, just as long as it is done before the teacher checks it. Right?” . “If I haven’t succeeded in doing the exercise at school, I don’t see how I’m going to succeed at home”.

From another standpoint, there’s pressure from external sources to set homework and a lot of teachers see that as if they must be setting homework all the time, even if it’s not necessary. There is also a parents’ common misconception that teachers and schools giving more homework are more challenging and therefore better teachers and schools. This is a false assumption. The amount of homework your son or daughter does each night should not be a source of pride for the quality of a school.

These are not good news for “homework”, but if so why it is so popular and widely applied. Maybe what we need is a new word instead of “homework”, how about “continued learning” or “ongoing growth activities”?

We want children to understand that they are always learners even outside school. So it makes no sense to even advertise a “no homework” policy in a school. It sends the wrong message. The policy should be, “No time-wasting, rote, repetitive tasks will be assigned that lack clear instructional or learning purposes.”

As a teacher, we know that by assigning homework, the teacher significantly extends the classroom learning time, that a teacher should never assign homework on a topic that has not been practiced first in the classroom. It should be difficult enough to challenge a student, but not so difficult that the student feels overwhelmed. Assignments should be graded and feedback should be provided.

Homework will be extended learning time if the students are inspired enough to want to practice the skills obtained class. Then make homework worth doing so they will want to do it.

What about Blended Learning? In Blended Learning teachers set up learning management accounts (LMS) on places like Moodle. They assigned students work and research projects through the LMS and students did the work at home. When they came to class, the teacher would either review what they had done individually, or step up the learning by providing further opportunities to apply their knowledge in group projects.

Children should be encouraged to read, write, perform arithmetic, better understand the world around them in terms of civics, science, and the arts, and, of course, develop their people skills: their emotional intelligence. This encouragement should be part of everyday family interactions outside of school, and the school should provide developmental guidance to all parents, in the appropriate languages, to help them do this. Experts agree on the value of parents taking an interest in their children’s intellectual and academic life.

Above all, schools should remind parents to never lose sight of modeling for their children the value of close relationships, support, caring, and fun. That is the most important “home work” of all.

Reference

Two hours’ homework a night linked to better school results

Homework guidelines scrapped to give headteachers greater freedom

EDUTOPIA BOOKMARKS

Young Learners English (YLE)

Cambridge English: Young Learners, also known as Young  Learners English (YLE), is a series of fun, activity-based English  language tests specially designed for children. Schools all over  the world use these tests to motivate children to learn English and show the progress they are making.

Specially designed for 7–12 year-olds to increase their motivation to learn English. Tests children’s reading, writing, listening and speaking  based on realistic everyday situations.

There are three levels – Starters, Movers and Flyers. All Cambridge English tests are aligned to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).

YLE scale

The Flyers Test is roughly equivalent to the Cambridge English Test: Key (KET), in terms of difficulty but the lexis and contexts covered are suitable for young children.

There are different parts of YLE Starters:

  • Listening 4 parts: 20 questions, approx. 20 minutes
  • Reading and Writing 5 parts: 25 questions,  20 minutes
  • Speaking 5 parts: 3–5 minutes

The overall lenght for Starters Test is about 45 minutes.

If you want to find more informatian about this exam, try this link:

http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/images/24619-starters-information-for-candidates-en-.pdf

Exam Materials

All materials which relate to this exam:

Exam Handbook

Sample papers for Starters

Sample papers for Flyers and Movers:

Games

Encourage your learners with fun vocabulary practice using these interactive games.

Activities

Extend and consolidate your lessons with this selection of interactive activities.

 

Do you blog?

Why use blogs?

Engage your students with an authentic medium that takes them out of the classroom (and away from the coursebook) into the real world using English as a medium to communicate.

Motivate your students to produce the best work they can.  Blogs are public and there is a wider audience than just the teacher who will see work.  This motivates everyone to do the best they can.

Collaborate outside the classroom by “connecting” your classroom and use your blog to prepare for and continue work done in the classroom.

Popular Edublog Platforms

There are lots of blogging platforms but here are a few that are popular with teachers:

http://www.blogger.com/ – free, simple and intuitive to use.  Users need a Google account.  See www.teachertrainingvideos.com for video tutorials on how to set up a blog in Blogger.

www.wordpress.com – the best blogging platform used by serious bloggers but some functions are pay for and it’s not as easy and intuitive to use as Blogger.

www.edublogs.org – based on WordPress, but adapted specifically for teachers.  There are free and pay for accounts and this is especially good if you want students to have individual student blogs.

www.kidblog.org – free, simple and basic created by teachers for teachers and suitable for kids, as its name suggests.

If you’re interested in starting a blog for yourself or your students but you’re not sure where to start, here are some ideas and tips to help you get started:

Getting Started Checklist

Here’s a checklist to help you get started:

  • What type of blog do you want?  Teacher, student or class?  Investigate and choose an appropriate platform
  • Do you need/have you got parental permission?  There are specialist educational platforms where students don’t need and email address and will give comfort to parents.
  • Is your blog going to be private or public?  This depends on content.  Public is more authentic and encourages students to be more careful about their work.  Private is safer and may be more acceptable to parents of younger learners.
  • Is the name easy to remember?  If your students can’t find the blog, they won’t use it.
  • How are you going to organise it?  By topic?  By date?  By student?  Spending time planning “labels” or “tags” (the words you use to categorise each post) can save a lot of time later.
  • How are you going to assess student work?  Give clear instructions and use rubrics so students can self-assess before submitting any work.

Quick Start Blogging

Convert coursebook activities into digital activities by getting your students to comment, discuss and collaborate online instead of in the classroom using pen and paper.  And, you don’t need to limit your blogging activities to reading and writing tasks.  You can also free web tools you can get your students do interactive activities.

  • Post useful links to websites.
  • Post important course information (such as exam dates, homework instructions, etc.) on the blog for you and your students.
  • Introduce blogging rules.
  • Drill grammar and vocabulary on the blog – using course book exercises, students write multiple sentences using the target language on the blog instead of in their notebook.  Encourage collaboration.
  • Find and embed online games and quizzes for homework then students comment on them using language for expressing opinion, agreeing and disagreeing, etc.
  • Use other free web tools to create quizzes, flashcards, short animations, etc. that can be used over and again year after year.
  • Use authentic online materials as prompts for speaking and writing tasks.  A nice beginning activity is to get students to embed their favourite Youtube vídeo.
  • Students keep an online diary.  You can organise a class blog by student name to see individual student posts instead of having individual students create their own blogs.
  • Encourage learner autonomy and save your time by getting students to create or find materials they want to use in class and post it on the blog!

Whatever you do in class with pen and paper, can be converted to digital.

Things to Consider

  • Do not allow students to post personal information (such as address and photos, etc.) on the blog.
  • Instructions need to be clear, either on a handout or on the blog.  If students are not sure of what they are doing, they’ll quickly lose interest.
  • Set up “Blogging Rules”.
  • To help students know what is expected of them, and encourage learner autonomy, use rubrics so students can self-assess before “publishing”.  Include “participation” in your assessment rubrics to encourage everyone to complete tasks.
  • Copyright law.  It’s important you and your students have permission to use video, images and texts on the Internet.  See www.creativecommons.org for more information.
  • In class, be prepared for fast finishers.  Get them to help their peers, do an Internet quiz, etc.
  • Have a back up plan.  Technology sometimes fails!

15 Great Web Tools to liven up your blog

There are hundreds of free tools to use with your blog.  Here are some easy tools to get started.  Remember, you don’t have to all of this, get your students to do the work.

www.authorstream.org (convert Powerpoint to flash to embed in your blog)

www.slideshare.net (convert Powerpoint, Word and other documents to embed in your blog)

www.docs.google.com  (collaborative working and embed documents, powerpoints, etc. in blog)

www.livetyping.com (create moving reading texts)

www.wallwisher.com (create an online noticeboard)

www.goanimate.com (create animated cartoons)

www.voki.com (create a speaking avatar)

www.profprofs.com (create online quizzes and embed in your blog)

www.audioboo.com (students complete speaking tasks and post them on the blog)

www.storybird.com (create an online story book)

www.quizlet.com (create online flashcards and embed)

www.superteachertools.com (create online flash games and embed in your blog)

www.photopeach.com (create online movies using images)

www.pimpampum.net/bookr (create online book using Flickr images)

www.classtools.net (create educational games and embed)

 

Extract from Helen Collins

For more ideas and examples of some of the ideas and tools above see:

 http://www.helencollinselt.com/ – examples of other teachers blogs and class blogs

Class blogs – http://www.class.helensclassroomelt.com/

Many thanks to Helen for these excellent ideas and suggestions on blogging!

FrankTudela

The Common European Framework

As teachers, we need to know a way to specify what our learners are able to do at certain levels, how these levels can guide our teaching and the way we select course books and resources. In short, we need a common language by which we can describe language learning, teaching, and assessment.

In most countries there is general agreement that language learning can be organized into three levels: basic/beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

But, what you mean by intermediate. What is an intermediate level? What does intermediate mean to you as a teacher and to your learners? What does intermediate refer to? To the amount of vocabulary, to the grammar items, to how a learner communicates or at what level understands. Consider how you would describe to a learner what you mean by intermediate. How can we assess a learner’s achievement at an intermediate level if we don’t define exactly what we mean by intermediate? …

Furthermore, levels can mean different things among different institutions and in different countries. Can we directly compare the proficiency level of an advanced English student to that of an advanced Spanish student? …

How do we establish international standards for learning, teaching, and assessment for all modern European languages?

The answers to all this questions is the CEF. The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages(CEF): Learning, Teaching, Assessment published by the Council of Europe (Language Policy Division ) in 2001.

The Common European Framework describes what a learner can do at six specific levels: from A1 to C2:

  • Basic User (A1 and A2)
  • Independent User (B1and B2)
  • Proficient User (C1 and C2)

For each level, the full CEF document complements this by describing in depth:

  • Competencies necessary for effective communication.
  • Skills and knowledge related to language learning and competencies.
  • Situations (people, place, time, organization, etc.) and contexts (study, work, social, tourism, etc.) in which communication takes place.

Common reference levels are based on statements of what a learner can do at each level. The Global Scale is based on a set of statements that describe what a learner can do. The “can do” statements are always positive: they describe what a learner is able to do, not what a learner cannot do or does wrong.

The following table describes each of the six levels of the Global Scale.

levels-chart

However, the CEF is more than the Global Scale. The CEF goes further by breaking down the

Global Scale into more descriptive scales covering three areas of communication:

  • Understanding (Listening and Reading)
  • Speaking (Spoken Interaction and Spoken Production)
  • Writing

The CEF deliberately does not refer to grammar or structures. It is designed to describe how language users communicate and how they understand written and spoken texts. As it is used to describe and compare European languages, we cannot hope to provide a detailed list of grammar structures.

In its own words, the CEF “provides a common basis for the elaboration of language syllabuses, curriculum guidelines, examinations, textbooks, etc.” (CEF: 2001: 1)

Links:

Niveles de competencia lingüística

CEFR (pdf)

External links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_European_Framework_of_Reference_for_Languages

http://www.cambridgeesol.org/about/standards/can-do.html

http://www.examenglish.com/CEFR/cefr.php

Jimenez, Carlos César (2011). El Marco Europeo Común de Referencia para las Lenguas y la comprensión teórica del conocimiento del lenguaje: exploración de una normatividad flexible para emprender acciones educativas