Doing your homework

I spent a part of Sunday afternoon helping my seven-year-old son do his homework. When I say helping, I mean for the most part sitting with him while he did it so that he didn’t jump and run for the hills.

Run for the hills!

Run for the hills!

Running for the hills is the correct response to most homework. Seven-year-olds have a good instinct for this, while adults will usually do what they are told. Doing your homework is a form of respect, both to the teacher and to your classmates, and there is nothing wrong with that, but I am not convinced that most homework is anything other than make-work, designed to keep students busy rather than allow them to be productive.

Homework at OISE tends to accumulate. Many students have two group teachers and one or two tutors to contend with, a group project to hone, and in all likelihood work and emails coming in from offices that needs attending to.

This is all well-intended, but to repeat, I am not sure that it is always a good use of time. Language acquisition is not a strictly linear business, and it does not usually respond well to endless rote learning. Sometimes allowing the brain a little processing time will pay dividends.

A better use of time therefore might be to seek out odd opportunities for practice – talking to host families, or going to the pub or cinema with other students. Sometimes going for a walk, looking in shop windows and having a coffee will be strangely productive. Beyond that, reading something interesting or relevant is always good, and there may well, in the end, be occasion for a little directed remedial work – if there is a clear need for some bolstering of conditional forms, then filling a few gaps and checking the answers at the back is not the worst thing you can do.

Having said all that, if you decide to run for the hills instead of doing your homework, no one is going to collar you.


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