Language Sensei

Thoughts on The Journey of Teaching Languages

October 21, 2016
by leesensei

Why My Year1’s Don’t Know The Word For “Homework” (They DO Know The Word “Preparation”)

img_0798The issue of ‘homework’ is big with teachers. What is homework? Should it be assigned? What about ‘choice’ homework? What about ‘no homework’ policies? I’ve had an ongoing ‘wrestle’ with this issue as well. I have hated the negativity around the word. I’ve watched kids struggle in their first year of high school with the mounds of math homework assigned. I don’t want to ‘assign’  a lot of work and, as far as I am concerned if you can show understanding/mastery on question 4, why do you have to do 20 more? Long ago I made the decision to not have them do homework for homework’s sake. But….

I do see a role in work that is not done in class but will be used in class – for class activities etc. Work that students do so that we can use our class time really using the language effectively for communication. So this year I made a change. I banished the word ‘homework’ from my room. Because, really it isn’t homework for me. What it is is ‘next day preparation’ (in my TL I choose to use the word “junbi”/じゅんび). I’m asking you the student to get something ready to be used the next day in class. It may be a self-generated piece showing understanding of the concept (like a ‘Sketch & Share‘), it may be watching a video a la a ‘flipped lesson’. It may be any number of things that will be used in class. But what it is not – is homework.

So I’ve erased that portion of my board that used to be titled ‘homework’ and put up the word ‘preparation’. In my class outlines I removed the word and replaced with ‘next day preparation’. In student monitor speeches (it’s a Japanese way to start a class) they no longer mention if there was homework but now say “we had things to prepare for today’s class”. It is all designed to instill in the students that what they do outside of class is important for what we do inside the classroom. That they have a role in how the class functions. That they also have a job to do in preparing to learn. They may not have something to prepare for every day, but when they do it needs to be done for their role in class to proceed as effectively as possible.

My students know that if they have not completed their preparation (and it happens to everyone once in a while), they are to see me prior to class to explain this and offer a solution as to when I will see the work done. I know that this ‘shift’ to preparing and away from ‘homework’ is starting when a young Gr 9 looked at me and said “Sensei, I don’t have my junbi for today…may I show it to you at lunch?”

It is my vow that my students will never know the word for homework….but they will know that they have things to do to help prepare for the class….



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