6 Reasons Your Teacher Gives You Homework and Why You Should Complete It
he word “homework” can cause many people to feel fear, especially students learning in primary school, secondary school, and universities. If you’re like me, the first image of “homework” that comes into your mind is either a child going home from school with a heavy backpack full of textbooks, workbooks, and notebooks or a university student staying up late at night to complete a lengthy assignment. So why do teachers give students so much homework? The simple answer is two-fold: 1) each teacher cares about the progress of their students and 2) homework is an important part of “practice makes perfect”.
We should keep in mind that most of these types of students study seven subjects per day and five days a week. If you’re an adult, however, you are most likely only interested in studying one language course, perhaps four lessons of basic Mandarin per week to prepare for a trip to China, two lessons of business English per week to improve your chance for promotion, or even one lesson of general Japanese conversation to maintain your fluency. You’re also probably paying for your own course, so you want to get the best value for the price you paid. So, considering the light schedule of lessons and investment of education, it would be wise for you to do any homework as needed.
Regardless of whether you’re a full-time high school student or casual second-language learner, homework is just as important in your improvement as the lessons at school. But the concept of “practice makes perfect” isn’t even limited to students of math or language, but also for anything new you learn in your daily life, such as making pickles, designing websites, or riding a bike. Once you learn something once, it’s important to try it again in your free time to help your brain remember the new skill.
In regards to language learning, however, there are primarily six reasons why it’s important for teachers to give you homework and for you to take time to complete it.
Think about yourself as a student. What are some words that come to mind? Uniform, teacher, books, study, learn, school, class, exam, grade, and… homework! Considering that these words are associated with the word “student”, when you become a student at a language school, you should have similar expectations: teacher, books, exams, and homework… don’t worry about the uniform! At any language school, you’ll of course find exactly that.
Not only should students expect homework, but they should also expect themselves to do homework. In our adult lives, we have obligations to work and family, but when we once again become a student learning a second language, we should set high expectations for ourselves. Of course, we want to see ourselves succeed. To see success, we need to set those expectations, aim for those expectations, and accomplish those expectations. Only then can we feel proud of ourselves. Homework is one way to achieve this.
Once your language teacher assigns homework, make a commitment to yourself to complete the homework. Writing a few sentences will certainly help you, but writing a full paragraph will help you even more. Make a promise to yourself to set aside a few hours every week to “practice makes perfect” through homework. This may be more hours than you actually study per week, but remember that the more effort you put in, the more results you’ll see.
Lastly, consider your classroom environment. You probably study with a professional teacher who understands your strengths, weaknesses, level, and lingual habits. This environment is quite controlled as you learn something new. The book has theory and you only have a bit of time to practice in class. As a result, you’ll need to take the theoretical language outside of the controlled classroom and into the real world where real English is all around you in newspapers, restaurants, blogs, and elsewhere. This is where you can expect to see your language challenged, so take the opportunity to practice what you’ve learned.
For each New Year, we tend to make promises to ourselves in order to improve ourselves. Many of us also make similar promises for our birthdays. For each new beginning, we note its importance by promising to improve. Many people choose to start exercising or dieting. If you’ve set similar annual goals in the past, you certainly understand that routines are essential to accomplishing your goals. Therefore, if you skip a few days of dieting, you’ll mostly likely lose the routine and the goal, ending in failure. Other people decide to study a foreign language for their yearly personal growth. This, too, is yet another new beginning where students can establish a new promise and a new routine. The same should be true when we make the decision to do homework. When you begin a new course in order to improve yourself, promise to make time and effort to do homework.
Another habit that you should encourage yourself to do during your language lessons is taking notes. Teachers often prepare lessons, books, and/or worksheets for students to review and study from. However, taking notes is an important part of teaching your brain to select only things that are important. When you later review these notes, you are again telling your brain that these things are important. This is a very simple yet powerful tool in helping up remember things, especially when we learn new skills.
Old skills, too, need review. Look at most of your duties in your workplace. How many emails have you written in your career? How many reports have you written? After typing each email and report, do you just send it away as quickly as possible? No. You understand the importance and impact of each document, do you invest more time to ensure it’s perfect before sending it to your client or your boss. This self-proofreading builds awareness of your mistakes and teaches your brain not to make similar mistakes in the future. After completing your homework, invest more time to ensure that there are no silly errors. Also ensure that the homework is as good as you’re able to do. Take pride in the product.
While proofreading builds awareness of your own mistakes, you should also take the opportunity to build awareness of your target language in the real world. You should look for new vocabulary, grammar, idioms, expressions, etc. Each time you read an article like this one or hear a song with an unusual lyric, make a note of it. Later, you can look up its meaning and even incorporate it in your homework. Not only will you expand your knowledge in your free time in the real world, but your teacher will also be thoroughly impressed by your efforts.
If you currently study a foreign language, you probably only study for a few hours per week. Anything new from these lessons probably comes from a book. These books are only theory and don’t reflect much of the real world. However, when you build awareness of the same language outside the classroom, you can begin to better understand that language in the real world. This mindfulness will allow you to build a bridge between the theory of the book with the application in the real world. So, remember your lessons, do your homework, and proofread it. This will open your eyes!
Aside from the link between the classroom and the real world, doing homework will also help the continuity between lessons. Most books will scale the topic, vocabulary, and grammar to slowly increase the difficulty. When you build awareness and do homework outside of the classroom, you are helping yourself transition between lessons, slowly building more complexity and improving your skills. If you encourage yourself to do homework and eventually build a strong routine of doing homework, you’ll soon find yourself improving faster than the book.
Language textbooks won’t entirely reflect reality. There are rules and suggested vocabulary, but not everything is relevant to your life and your location. After studying, try to find how the same language is used in the real world: watch videos you like, read articles you like, discuss things you like. You’ll most likely discover that that is language in the real work NOT included in your textbook.
4. Independence and Relevance
The real world is full of your target language, most likely. Not only are there YouTube videos, but also blogs, reviews, Wikipedia articles, and news stories in the same language. You don’t need to watch or read all of these, but you should find what you love in your second language, too. If you know everything about butterflies in your native language, take time to learn butterfly-related vocabulary in your second language. Here’s the most important thing to know: If it’s important to you, it will help you learn. You will also be surprised how any grammar can be used with any topic. Again, the important thing for you to do is to make that connection from the book, to the real world, to your homework… write about what you love.
Doing your homework doesn’t only highlight the key language used in the classroom last time, but it should use much of your knowledge. Write what you think is right. With a professional teacher, however you’ll find that you made a few mistakes… mistakes that you’ve been making for as long as you can remember! It’s quite difficult to rid yourself of these so-called “fossilized mistakes”, but the more mindful you become, the more prone you will be in correcting your own mistakes in writing.
Your professional language teacher won’t judge you when they make corrections. They wholly understand that everyone makes mistakes and that you’re in the classroom to learn. Writing is a great way to express yourself in your free time, but be aware that most languages have slightly different forms. For example, written English can sound too formal when spoken aloud with a friend. Also, English speakers rarely write as they speak because they use many contractions such as “ain’t”, “wanna”, “don’t cha” among many others. If you’re studying an English course, you should expect to learn and be corrected on both spoken English and written English as the real world has much of both.
Regardless of whether your conversations or homework is about butterflies, trains, Japanese pickles, or the fall of the Roman empire, take pride in using your second language. It may not be perfect, but even native speakers make mistakes. After you’ve written an entire page of homework about your favorite topic, you can stand back and take pride in the accomplishment. Not only is it a work of love, but it is also a work of art because no one else could write exactly what you just wrote. You should be impressed with yourself because your teacher will be impressed with you!
This feeling of pride is a sense of accomplishment. It’s not 100% complete victory over the language, but it’s a small victory in your long progress in your second language. Some accomplishments are small: remembering a new vocabulary word, remembering the correct form of verb to-be, or remembering that a comma goes between dependent and independent clauses. Big victories, however, come in the form of production: using present perfect correctly in a long story, comparing cities in America correctly, or using semicolons ten times accurately in an essay. This is mastery and it feels great.
Speaking and writing are two active skills that can be measured fairly easily. Speak and you are given a grade for speaking. You write and you are given a grade for writing. But passive skills--reading and listening--are a little harder to measure. Most students don’t request to improve either reading or listening, but if one of them is your goal, you can more easily take pride in reading a newspaper article and feeling accomplishment with understanding 80% of what is written. Or if you want an American series, you can take pride in understanding 50% of what was spoken. Again, victories can be small.
Small victories don’t necessarily add up to a big victory, however. It’s difficult for use to see incremental progress regardless of all of our small victories in mastering a second language. Don’t lose hope though. Sometimes you need to take a step backward, review your progress, and ask yourself, “Does this help me learn more about what I love?” If the answer is yes, then you’re making progress. If your answer is no, perhaps you haven’t been investing your time in using the language for what you love.
6. Reinforcement and Feedback
If you love butterflies and write with passion for your homework, your teacher will be able to see that passion. The teacher will offer positive feedback and make a number of improvements, which you should remember and practice later in addition to the lesson’s key language. So for the next homework assignment, you can practice what was learned in the lesson and from your last homework assignment. You should always practice what was learned, but never limit yourself to just that.
It’s OK to Google new vocabulary to try using it in your homework. It’s OK to use a more advanced tense if you think it works. It’s OK to change the context of your assignment if you feel it’s useful. You have a teacher as a guide. They will be able to help you better understand the nuances of the language and its usefulness. But it’s important to take that classroom language lesson into the real world and in the homework to test the boundaries of the language. Regardless of whether it works, you are investing your time in practicing what you’ve learned, and the only way to master something is “practice makes perfect”. Find the time, take the time, spend the time doing homework. Your progress depends on it!
Homework” is not a child carrying a backpack or a university student staying up late at night. Homework is not a burden, but a bridge. It’s a bridge to the real world, to your hobbies, to progress, and, ultimately, to success. Teachers assign homework because they want to help you attain this success. And in order to succeed, you’ll need to do the following:
- set realistic expectations for yourself for doing homework
- start and maintain the habit of homework
- use but go beyond the homework assignment
- focus your homework on something you’re passionate about
- be proud of each homework accomplishment
- and remember: practice makes perfect