In her previous post, Joanna Szoke emphasized the importance of planning the homework we set students, of making sure they understand what they have to do, as well as making homework more personally relevant and interesting.
In this second post, Joanna shares some ways to incorporate 21st century skills into homework.
The 4 Cs
There are many such skills, all crucial, but the 4 most well-known are: creative thinking, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration – the 4 C’s.
Let’s see how this can work in practice with some simple examples! I’ll show you 3 quite traditional tasks and what we can do with them to incorporate some of the 4C’s:
Connect the new terms with their definitions – A staple in almost every course book but not so exciting. What we can do to make it collaborative is to build in a crossword game! Just keep the terms, ask your students to prepare definitions for them, and type them into a free template offered by crosswordlabs.com. They take part in the defining process and they can then fill in the crossword in pairs, which improves their communication skills as well.
Write a 150-word letter of complaint to the restaurant manager – This is a typical exam task. To make it a little different, you could include some research or some real experiences. Ask your students to look up a unique restaurant online (they might even go and try the food there), try to imagine what they could complain about, and then put it on padlet.com with the image of the restaurant. You can also appoint restaurant managers whose responsibility is to respond to these complaints under the original Padlet post. A similar but more life-like twist could be to make your students write Google Maps reviews – they might even post it in the end!
3. Do research, advance preparation
You just finished a unit, will start a new topic next, and have nothing really to give as homework – Imagine that you finished everything and have no idea what to do with your students. They can either have some time off or… You could ask them to do some research on the topic that’s coming up next and record their findings via videoask.com, flipgrid.com or vocaroo.com (this one’s audio only). You could also ask them to look for something specific – a surprising fact, a controversial idea, a scandal, or something inspiring. They can watch each other’s short videos before the lesson with some guided task, and come to class prepared.
So to sum up the main takeaways: To make homework tasks more engaging, try making them more personalised, authentic, and challenging by integrating several 21st century skills and involving the real world around your students. Don’t hesitate to share your ideas here or on social media!
Joanna is a very active educator, trainer and blogger.
Check out her blog (highly recommended):