Setting up and communicating a clear homework policy is important. It helps students and parents know what to expect and can protect you when expectations inevitably are not met. Some school districts set and communicate a blanket homework policy that is adhered to by all teachers. In my school, it is up to the individual teacher, so I will share my policy and give you an idea of why I do things the way I do.
10-15 minute assignments may not sound like much, but I am only one of 7 teachers that my students see everyday (and surely not the only one assigning homework). Call me soft, but I believe that there are other things that students do outside of school that are important as well (de-stressing, playing a game, being with their families, watching a favorite show, practicing a sport). If I want well-rounded, happy students who are ready to learn when they come in the door, I need to have respect for the other things that they find fulfilling in life and choose to do in their free time.
So what type of homework practice should you assign? Here are a few ideas...
-Do your students review vocabulary with notecards, Quizlet, or virtual flashcards? Have them chart their speed and/or accuracy as they review at home to show their improvement throughout the week.
-Target something specific. If you are using data from recent assessments to see where your students have trouble, choose one of those areas of weakness or misconceptions and create an assignment based on just that. If your students are struggling to remember that adjectives come after nouns in Spanish, or if they keep forgetting to make adjectives agree, focus on that.
-Have students step back and look at the big picture. While some work with discrete skills is necessary, the larger concepts are as well. After students learn family vocabulary and look at authentic material from the target culture, ask them to assimilate this information by having them describe (maybe in English) what the role of the family is in Latin American culture based on what they have seen. After students learn that descriptive adjectives come after nouns instead of before as in English, have them comment on what advantages and disadvantages this has from a communicative standpoint.
Keep in mind, in order for homework to be effective, there are a lot of factors to consider.
Here are some of the highlights of what the research says is most effective...
-The effectiveness of homework increases with age. Homework assigned to 10-12th graders is twice as effective as homework assigned to 7-9th graders.
-Homework that is graded is more than twice as effective as homework that is not graded, BUT homework with teacher's comments as feedback is the most effective of all (graded or not).