Do ELT writers write homework tasks?
Yes! Sometimes we do, especially for Young Learners and teenagers. Some publishers or Ministries of Education produce a Homework booklet. Sometimes they are accessed online. In some cases homework is part of a conscious effort to include a school-home link. So at the bottom of a page for a Class Book, we might write an instruction such as: Tell someone at home five new words you learnt this week. And of course, we might write homework activities for our own students.
Considerations when writing homework materials
Homework materials are almost always self-study materials so the main thing to keep in mind is that the student won’t have access to a teacher and will mostly be working alone. Instructions need to be very clear and there should be plenty of support. Another thing to keep in mind is that homework activities are almost always individual, not for pair work or groups.
There are plenty of ways we can add support to homework materials.
- Include an example for each separate activity.
- Use icons or images for support for younger children. For example if you want them to write something, add a pencil icon. If you want them to colour, add a splash of paint icon.
- Provide a model text or some useful phrases for writing tasks.
- Include information such as how many words need to be written or whether full answers are expected.
- If you provide an answer key for an activity, and depending on the activity type, you might like to add a few comments about why a particular answer is correct and another one isn’t.
- Include information about how much time the student should spend on the homework.
- If appropriate, add a section for the parent or care-giver, explaining what the child is expected to do.
- Include a list of what is needed to do the homework. E.g. a dictionary or coloured pencils. In some contexts this might be in the students’ first language.
It can be useful to include opportunities for choice in homework because if a child or teenager is able to make their own decisions about a part of a task, they are more likely to feel engaged. This can be done in a number of ways. For example, instruct students to answer four or five questions, from a choice of eight or provide a selection of writing tasks which students can choose from.
In terms of choice, homework materials also offer opportunities for more differentiated materials with two or three versions for children who need more or less support.
Homework is a great opportunity for building more personalisation into activities. The fact that a child will be doing their homework in a different environment to their class work, means that they will have access to different stimuli around them. As writers we can tap into this. Here are a few examples.
1 Draw a plan of one room in your home. Then draw and label ten objects in it.
2 Write a description of what you can see from a window at home.
3 Look in your fridge. Then record yourself saying eight sentences with There is, There isn’t, There are and There aren’t.
A final thought
When writing more traditional homework materials, a brief from a publisher will probably highlight these three main points:
Cover the same language used in the unit and don’t introduce any new vocabulary or grammar which hasn’t yet been taught in the class.
Write the same kind of activities that children see in their Class Book. This is so that they recognise the activity type and can get stuck into the task without having doubts about what they need to do.
Make sure a homework activity isn’t too similar to an existing activity the children might have done in class. For example, if they have written a fact file about crocodiles in class, they could write a fact file about a different animal for homework.
What do you think makes a good homework activity? Tell us in the comments below.
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