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Young Learners

Teaching English to Elementary School Children

December 18, 2009

Homework Checking (1)

Checking homework in children’s classes can be time-consuming, especially if the students are self-correcting their mistakes, and if some students have made several mistakes. Many teachers prefer to check homework at the beginning of the lesson rather than a later point in the lesson, when the students may be busy with something, so that any mistakes made in the homework are not repeated in the lesson. The students can’t really play a game at this time as they would be interrupted by having to do the self-correction of their homework. Students who have made more mistakes may feel embarrassed or lose confidence if they are having to make a lot of corrections while their classmates are waiting. The students who have few corrections to do will be bored and likely to get distracted and chat excessively in Japanese, possibly setting the mood for the remainder of the class. Self-correction is much preferable to teacher correction though, as most students rarely look at teacher corrections and so learn little from them.

One way of dealing with this potential problem is to prepare worksheets for the students to do while the teacher is checking homework and some students are self-correcting their homework. Such worksheets should be relatively easy so that the students don’t need the teacher’s help, leaving the teacher to get on with checking homework and helping students with self-correction of their homework if necessary. They also need to be attractive (as all worksheets should be) so that the students want to do them, and don’t need any persuasion from the teacher. They can be of three main types - look and write, read and draw, or read, look and match. The students can settle down to these and then, when necessary, pause and do any corrections from their homework, going back to the worksheet when their homework is complete.

As well as dealing with the above-mentioned problems this type of worksheet at the beginning of class can have several other benefits. Having a relatively easy worksheet lets the students increase their fluency in reading and/or writing. For weaker students it is hopefully something they can do reasonably well, increasing their confidence for the rest of the lesson. It is an opportunity to review recent language or language from several weeks or months previously, and also a good way of getting plenty of practice with problem letters, words or patterns. It is a good way of marking the start of the class and getting the students settled into English mode. As the students know the teacher is busy checking homework they are more likely to get help from each other if they don’t know something or need to check something, therefore helping to decrease their dependency on the teacher. As the worksheet is supplementary and not related to the main target of the lesson it doesn’t need to be completed, so as soon as all students have finished correcting their homework, they can stop doing the worksheet and the first activity can start.

I have had particular success with these kinds of worksheets in my class of six students that started in April and are currently learning to read and write. The typical worksheets I give them currently consist of either pictures and the students write the words, or words and they draw the pictures, or words and pictures that the students connect with lines. I use a combination of recent language and language, from several weeks ago, that is now quite easy for them. As I am low-tech, my worksheets are drawn by hand and take about five minutes to make. It is a well-spent five minutes.

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Excellent advice!
What I can't figure out is how one hand-draws (or otherwise creates), in five minutes, a worksheet that will keep even the quickest student occupied long enough for homework to be checked and corrected?
"my worksheets are drawn by hand and take about five minutes to make."

My pictures are very simple and often messy. If I want one that keeps the students busy for longer, I do a writing one where they write in the words or sentences. I can draw a lot of simple, messy pictures in five minutes. If a short one will suffice, I do a "read and draw" one where I simply write words or sentences and they draw an appropriate picture. This will often take a long time too, for students to complete, as they usually draw quite nice pictures. Since I have started doing this, I haven't had one of those super-quick students who race through everything as if their life depended on it so, so far, it is working fine.

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