Tag Archives: homework

Left, Right, Left, Write

We’ve reached that time of year when everyone is tired. It’s been really hot outside the last few days, which just seems to make the students even more lethargic. Summer is close enough to believe in but too distant to get excited about. I see heads starting to droop. Earlier this week I set a homework task from the workbook: TWP, i.e. they had to do The Whole Page.

There was one particularly pained face, and I heard a stifled groan.

“What’s the matter?”

“The first one. I hate exercises like this.” The first exercise practised writing numbers and dates as words, admittedly not much of a crowd-pleaser.

What to do?

“OK, are you left-handed or right-handed?”


“Then do it with your left hand.” A wry smile of agreement.

Today we checked the homework. I wrote some of the answers on the board as we went through it. Yes, it’s “nineteen ninety-five” if you’re talking about the year, but “one thousand nine hundred and ninety-five” if it’s a quantity. Not so fast, teacher – a hand went up.

“Sir – why aren’t you using your left hand?”

Busted. I switched hands and continued to write, the words on the board immediately suffering an embarrassing downgrade to sprawling semi-legibility. I soldiered on, switching hands after every answer in a determined attempt at ambidexterity.

Then I checked the workbook of the student who had gamely accepted my challenge.

What a trooper. It looks like it was written by the frostbitten fingers of Captain Scott in the middle of an Antarctic blizzard! I certainly admire his tenacity – which of course itself was worthy of a ‘plus point’ 🙂

An interesting conversation followed. Do right-handers have it easier? Are scissors, door handles and the computer mouse all examples of subtle discrimination against left-handed people? There are three lefties in the group, none of whom thought it was a serious problem. They said they all have to use scissors with their right hand, though.

I’m not sure I’ll be asking students to write with ‘the other hand’ on a regular basis – mainly because it’s so difficult 🙂  – but it was an interesting way to relieve the tedium by doing things slightly differently. I also managed to squeeze the word ambidextrous into the lesson, which can only be a good thing.

Homework: a corridor of opportunity

Last week I was teaching one of my classes, an 11th grade group of intermediate-level students. It’s an enjoyable group to teach: they’re good at English, quick on the uptake, with a well-developed sense of humour, too.

It was just getting to the part of the lesson when I tell them about the homework for the next lesson. What happened next tickled me so much that I posted about it on Facebook:

Quite a few people liked the post. Most of them were students or former students, which is hardly surprising. It’s a funny quip, after all. A number of few fellow teachers also liked the post. They picked up on something else: my use of the phrase ‘corridor-work’. It seemed to strike a chord.

As long as my students finish their homework, I’m normally satisfied. I don’t mind when they do it or where. I have noticed, however, as I walk along the corridors at school on my way to a lesson, that there is a lot of last-minute scrawling and  fevered copying of homework going on. The students don’t seem to mind how good their work is or what it looks like, it’s just a question of getting it done. That can’t be right. But what can we do? How can you enforce homework as opposed to corridor-work?

One comment from fellow teacher Barbara Bujtás was particularly interesting:



What great ideas! I decided to try one of them out. We have an Edmodo group, so I sent the students a message, with a genuine challenge of my own: to post “photographic evidence” of them doing their homework at home over the weekend.



A few of the students replied to say that they would give it a go. One them stuck to his guns, though.




Fair enough, indeed! Our following lesson was on Tuesday. I was curious to see what would happen.The homework I had assigned was admittedly not particularly taxing or inspired – there was just more of it than usual. (There was a reading exercise from the student’s book, a couple of vocabulary-building tasks and a whole page in the workbook.)

And so to checking the homework. It turned out that all sixteen of the students had completed the work. I knew that at least one of them had done it as corridor-work. What about the others? My photo challenge was clearly not for everyone. Some teens actually enjoy the bell-beating adrenaline-rush of corridor-work – it’s part of the challenge accepted philosophy, according to which going through with your rash decisions in the cold light of day is practically a badge of honour. Others – the majority, in fact – just want a quiet life. They’ll do the homework, sure, but take a picture of it as well and send it to teacher? Nah.  On the other hand, three of the students had been inspired to send me pictures of their HOMEwork, which was great.

The three students were rewarded with plus points and – more importantly – kudos. “That’s Greek for awesomeness,” I explained.

The three photos have real potential as teaching materials, too. There  are all kinds of possibilities here for communication activities based on speculation, comparison and picture description. On seeing the pictures, what I really wanted to know was: why do you need two monitors?  The answer I got was, “Actually, it’s better to have three.”

It turns out my students are gamers.

And game for a challenge, too.