A survey (1) of high-performing high schools by the Stanford Graduate School of Education in 2014 found that 56% of students considered homework a primary source of stress. Further research (2) by the Better Sleep Council found that homework stress is the biggest source of frustration for teens, with 74 percent of those surveyed ranking it the highest. Unfortunately, for students, although stressful, meta-analysis of studies between 1987 and 2003 found that: “With only rare exceptions, the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant.” (3)
Summary: Research suggests that homework is absolutely necessary, but teenagers hate doing it. Hardly “breaking news”
ESL Adult Learners:
Unlike teenagers, who are required by law to attend school, adult learners have a choice in what they study, and surely they understand the value of doing homework. Yes?
How many ESL teachers would agree with the following statement? “all my students do their homework every week.” It’s safe to assume that most will reply, “hardly any”. If doing homework plays such an important role in outcomes why is so neglected by adults? A quick search of the web provides some revealing answers –“it’s boring, it’s too difficult, it’s too easy, I don’t understand the instructions, not enough time, they forgot, they don’t see the point/don’t think it will improve their English, etc”.
Why would someone choose to learn a language and then say “it’s too easy” or “it’s boring”. In Europe, it’s because adults have already “learned” English at school. English is a compulsory subject throughout the EU with teenagers compelled to study it anywhere from 4-8 years.(4) Unfortunately, the standard learning material offered in adult education is practically identical to that of secondary school
Anyone who has mastered a second language understands that the process demands user participation. How can teachers help adult learners, who’ve already had years of input, achieve their goal of fluency? For me, an obvious solution is to use movies– one the richest language resource ever produced.
The starting point for all movies is a script. In great movies the dialogue is not only about what characters say, but how they say it. Writers use style elements such as idioms, slang, contractions, and declinations to help distinguish characters and add colour to the script. The goal is to make the dialogue feel real. With a little imagination we can present adults with movie dialogue in a way that doesn’t feel like homework.
The attached PDF, Whisky Galore! contains over 5,000 words of dialogue, two pages of gap-fill exercises (26 words), 17 idioms/phrasal verb exercise, two pages of background information, and almost two hours of listening. Adults are willing to complete the homework because, having done so, they experience immediate and discernible benefits while watching the movie.
Since setting up the English language film club I’ve learned that adults respond positively and with enthusiasm when you present them with material that’s meaningful, engaging and much more challenging than content found in typical course books
Click the yellow button above and discover what’s possible with this week’s homework for the movie, Whisky Galore!