Sometimes I walk past a class during its first few minutes of and hear something like “Number 3?” This is an immediately giveaway of what is being done. After all, I used to do that, too. Then one day someone asked me “why?” It was then that I realised there were things I could do differently to turn homework into a classroom activity rather than the boring start it had become.
Here are a few ideas I’d like to share:
• Students expect homework to be the first thing they do in class. Surprise them. Do it as a “calming down” activity after a game or as a transition activity. You could also leave it till the end of class. I don’t usually use it as a warmer. In my opinion these two shouldn’t mix, having different aims.
• Even if you are in a hurry and want to get it out of the way, you can still make sure students are alert by varying the order in which you correct exercises.
• Photocopy answers and give each pair or group a copy. Students correct and explain wrong answers to each other.
• Always give students a chance to compare their answers, insecure students will feel more confident if they have to speak.
• Make it fun. Take names out of a hat at random, but give students the option to PASS if their name is called.
• Finally, you can set homework on Moodle with the Quiz module. Students get corrections right away, which is quite effective and dynamic.
Competition is a part of human nature. So, I decided to implement a “reward system” based on that assumption to help students engage in class activities that, so far, has been working for me. This is the way I usually do it, but it can be adapted according to the levels you’re teaching. During the first lessons, explain to students that they’ll be given points and that those points give them the right to earn a reward. Establish a minimum of points to earn a reward. Points can be given to teams/pairs that finish an activity first and get all answers correct, to a student who knows the meaning of new words and explains them to others in class or even to teams or students that get better results in class games. As a reward, several things can be used and you don’t have to spend a lot of money. The easiest things to use are stickers. There are different types of stickers, so choose the ones that best fit you students. Candies also work really well. If you have a special project and want to spend a little bit more, choose something that you know your students will appreciate. Hope this helps you in your classes!
Looking for tools to help you make material such as exam tips more engaging for your students? Well, here are some ideas which aren’t too much work and will make a great deal of fun and learning for all.
Here you can select a character and his/her voice to say whatever you want them to say – all you have to do is type the text and select from a wide range of accents! I have used Vokis as a way of providing students with tips for writing tasks, and they have found them fun and more engaging than any handout. I opted for a static background, in order to ensure they focus on the actual content without their getting too distracted by the scenario. I then selected one of the characters and made sure that similar tasks would have the same spokesperson in order to ensure coherence and thus make it easier for students to identify the topics. The fact that it is computer-based – my students watched them in class and I then shared them by email – ensures the experience is more interactive and memorable. All you need is a free account to sign up, log in and start creating those Vokis! And they are actually quite simple and enjoyable to make!
This is a truly fun website where you can create short videos – you can choose pretty much everything from background, symbols and characters to include, text, etc; alternatively, you have ready-made templates which you can easily adapt. It is very useful for promotional videos, as you may have seen on our website, but it can also be used for presenting students’ work or even as a tool for their projects. It can also be an alternative to a more traditional slideshow when introducing a topic.
Yet another fun website for creating animation videos, as you may have guessed from the name. Lots of different characters, including celebrities, as well as familiar backgrounds can be used. It is similar to the previous one, so explore the ready-made videos and then start making your own to suit any educational purpose – be it students’ project work or exam-related ideas and tips. All of the above may be used by students themselves as well, provided they have been given a specific task.
Finally, two suggestions to make sure you are always up-to-date with the latest technological tools for education:
– http://www.educatorstechnology.com/ – which you can follow on Google+ and Pinterest
– the teachers’ group on Facebook called Ferramentas Educativas 2.0 where different teachers from different areas exchange tools, resources and viewpoints.
International House Porto is an organization that takes pride in all its endeavors to promote teacher training. We have online courses, workshops and a number of activities dedicated to helping teachers develop their skills.
This blog is meant to help teachers from around the world with tips, themes for debate and any material we may think teachers can benefit from. We hope we can help you and that you will share your questions and ideas with us as well!
See you soon and we hope you enjoy the blog!