The value of homework in French classes

the value of homework in French class

When it comes to teaching foreign languages, many educators have strong opinions about homework. On one hand, students need practice with the language in order to develop fluency and accuracy. On the other hand, too much homework can lead to stress and burnout without anything to show for it. Also, the students who most need to do the extra practice aren’t capable of correctly doing the work on their own. Spending time doing things incorrectly isn’t helpful at all. So, what’s a teacher to do?

The Pros of Assigning Homework

Assigning homework can be a great way for teachers to assess student progress. By giving students regular assignments, teachers can track how well their students are understanding the material and make adjustments as needed. This is especially important when teaching a new language because it will help teachers identify where their students might be struggling with pronunciation or grammar rules. Additionally, assigning homework gives students an opportunity to practice what they’ve learned in class without the pressure of being in front of their peers.

Homework also provides an extra layer of accountability for both students and teachers. For example, if a student is struggling with a concept that was taught in class (such as verb conjugation), they’re more likely to seek out help if they know that there is an upcoming assignment due on that topic. Similarly, if a teacher notices that their students aren’t retaining certain concepts, they can provide additional resources or adjust their lesson plans accordingly.

The Cons of Assigning Homework

On the flip side, too much homework can cause students to become overwhelmed or even burnt out from studying too much outside of class. This could lead them to become discouraged or disengaged from learning altogether—not exactly the outcome any teacher wants for their students! Furthermore, if a student has no interest in completing their assignments outside of class (or doesn’t understand why they should bother doing them), then allocating time for these activities may seem like a waste of everyone’s time.

We should also recognize that the students who most need the extra time and practice that homework provides are usually the least likely to do the homework, or to do it correctly. Our “good” students who already know how to do the work are usually the ones who will actually do the work. We really want our struggling students to get the practice they need to help them learn the material, but they are the least likely to do the work. If they do the work, are they capable of doing it independently, or will they just be practicing how to do something incorrectly?

Is there a middle ground on homework?

I’ve come to the realization over the years that homework doesn’t necessarily correlate with results. What DOES correlate with results is effort. My students who put in the most effort to learn end up learning the most, whether or not homework is involved. My students who are on their phones during class, or playing games on their computers, using the bathroom passes to wander the campus, or have excessive absences or tardies aren’t all that successful.

They tend to also be the students who aren’t likely to do whatever homework I might assign. The homework is just giving more work to the kids who already know what they’re doing and not truly helping any of the students who need extra help.

My solution has been to assign small assignments every day in Canvas – but we do them together in class. Each assignment takes 5-10 minutes. I go over them during class time, we do them together, and students who are present and attentive will have no homework at all.

Students who do not turn in the work – whether they were absent or just not mentally present in class – will need to come in during advisory period to get help from me. I don’t want these students to do the work on their own, at home! They don’t know how to do it and I would rather work with them so they can do it correctly with me rather than incorrectly at home.

Last semester, homework did not count towards their grade. It was a practice assignment, and only assessments counted. I found that students didn’t do the work, and then didn’t know how to do the tests. I told them that without the practice assignments, their test grades would be low. This semester, I’m changing my policy. I am putting homework in the gradebook (although only at 10%)

. Since I do have in my syllabus that it doesn’t count towards their final grades, I will have to change that before the end of the semester. But I am also making a policy that if a student is missing more than 25% of the practice assignments, they will not be able to take the assessment.

We will have to see how this new policy works. In any case, homework isn’t on the menu for me. That doesn’t mean that I don’t see the value of students spending time outside of class using the language. I think that this might be the most valuable type of “homework” you could assign. If you give your students the choice of watching a YouTube video, reading an article, or chatting online with French social media content, your students will have the chance to pursue their interests while getting some imput. And there really isn’t a chance of them doing this the ‘wrong’ way!

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