When homework is not the problem

When homework isn't the problem

One thing that I have thought about since DitchSummit is about the role of homework after Alice Keeler‘s talk.  I still have some reservations about ditching homework entirely.  I believe that it does provide a repeated exposure to the words in the target language that can help students.  In addition, all of our students can use the internet for their homework, so I can have a practice with feedback via Quizizz or EdPuzzle.  I also try to write out thoughtful study guides that prepare students for the test or quiz.

However, one thing that really stuck out to me was that Alice said essentially that many times we blame homework on why students aren’t doing well, but that is not the reason that they are not doing well.  Well, that was me.  I would frequently say that if a student wasn’t doing well it was because they weren’t doing the homework.  While there was somewhat of a correlation especially for study guides, this wasn’t the exact reason.  I decided to take homework off the table while reflecting on why students weren’t doing well.

This year, I have realized that some students who struggle have been relying upon Google Translate (or SpanishDict) too much.  While I frequently discourage it and I will tell students not to use it, I can tell when students rely upon it.  They are not really decoding any parts of the reading or sentence if they are using Google Translate instead of figuring out the one word that they needed and use WordReference or Quizlet.  Whereas, it is obvious when students translate from English to Spanish, it isn’t as obvious when students translate from Spanish to English.  They can typically make any linguistic or meaning jumps that are needed.

I have thought about how to combat this.  Although I hate using the extra paper, I am going to print off the Quizlet lists.  Then, I can tell students just to use the lists.  I am also going to implement a SraSpanglish (Laura) rule of capitalizing any word that you look up in writing.  I am going to continue to play around with having students highlight any phrase from the reading that they look up.  Hopefully this will help them to become cognizant of the amount they look up or need to look up.

How do you combat the reliance on Google Translate?  Any other tools to add to my kit?

9 thoughts on “When homework is not the problem

  1. I stopped giving homework about four years ago because I came to the realization that the kids that needed to do it, were copying it from the kids that actually didn’t need to do it. On top of that, the homework they were doing, which I actually had time to “grade” (for completion) was not real. Filling the blank was not helping them prepare for real life.

    I have also drastically reduced the amount of projects my students do, for the same problem using Google Translate. I pretty much do only work in class now, with me leading activities and speaking only Spanish. I feel like If I can make the most out of the 51 minutes each day I have them, eliminating chances to speak English and getting reps in of high quality Spanish, then homework isn’t necessary. I also know from experience teaching in low-income schools that homework especially hurts poor and minority children whose parents aren’t home to watch them and make sure it gets done.

    I don’t feel as though the elimination of homework has had any effect on my students level of proficiency at all, in fact I think the sole usage of Spanish and tons of reading has done more than any other activity could. However, I will say that it is a struggle being the only teacher with this philosophy. Because homework is so important and worth so much in other classes, my class has fallen as far as a priority. I constantly find students finishing other meaningless homework in my classes instead of fully attending to the task at hand. I do not know how to combat this. The same thing is true for the negative complaining about having to think so hard since I know longer do passive learning, it is all active. It is definitely exhausting being the only one with this expectation. They don’t get homework, because in class they have to think critically all the time.

    1. Thank you so much for your comments! I agree that I am not sure how much of a role homework plays. However, I do feel like that as technology gets better, students are able to have more meaningful homework. It is interesting that your class isn’t a priority. It can definitely be difficult because Spanish can seem as an elective instead of a “core” course.

  2. I’m really glad to have stumbled upon these posts. I have the same feelings expressed as Eve, we must teach alike- I no longer give homework, I no longer foster passive learning in the classroom, and I feel the push back as well. I have drastically reduced the projects, because my students heavily relied on Google Translate, and our learning goals were often times over focused on the technology vs language acquisition. So I just really appreciate reading about this because I share many of the frustrations and I too am searching for solutions. It’s funny that you mentioned Alice Keeler, because I had a twitter exchange with her about Google Translate. She said (I am paraphrasing) that “we must embrace it”. Many students report that GT helps them to learn, and I believe there was an ACTFL article about that a few years back in The Language Educator. So I am open to exploring how it can be used in our classrooms, even though I am against the idea in principle.

    1. That is interesting. I would disagree in lower levels. With older students who are used to the language, they could probably use it objectively. In my experience, students continue to translate and never actually THINK about any parts of the language. This prohibits them from learning. I would equate this to young students who always use a calculator and never learn how to add/subtract on their own. There are basic facts that are necessary for any subject. I would be interested in hearing other justification though!

      1. Hello! I do a variety of activities with my students. I read novels as well, but I typically assess in an IPA format. Most of what my students can do is based on performance, so it is tricky to “study.” They are acquiring what they need to by going to class and paying attention. I do highlight some grammar as other teachers in my department expect my students to know it after they have me.

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