I struggled with whether or not to assign homework to my students. On the one hand, research shows that the more you hear and are exposed to comprehensible input, the more of a language you will acquire. On the other hand I think kids today are overworked and have less free time, creative play, and time with family than is good for them. Many recent studies show that homework does no good until students are in upper grades. Science has definitely come down on the side of sleep being crucial for learning, memory and the brain.
I was not sure how to win, until it occurred to me. If I was going to get students to practice outside of school it had to be with compelling input that would make them want to do it! It was out of a need to provide this to my students that the resource center of my website was born. If you are a Spanish teacher I recommend you check it out. Here you can find games, stories, cartoons, and music organized by topic or story. My student's homework? Simply to play on this site twice a week, in the buttons I have "open" for them at the top of my page (three or four specific links that re-inforce what we do in class). Students in 2nd or 3rd grade can also play on Sr. Wooly or Duo-lingo. Once a month I use a Google Form to have parents check-in to say if there students are playing (though I don't need that for Sr. Wooly or Duo-lingo as I can see student progress). I do a prize drawing for kids that participate. It is 100% voluntary. Does it work? On weeks when I finish a lesson early enough to preview the website in class (it's a motivator if they clean up quickly enough), I usually get 500-2000 hits (for 500 students). On weeks I don't preview it usually ranges from 200-500 hits. I rarely use it in class, other than if I have saved a movie talk on a homework page (I add Spanish subtitles when I can and students love to watch them at home). Students also love bragging about seeing something on the website before the other students. It comes in very handy for last minute sub plans if I am sick, since the students have so many appropriate options.
Parents often tell me that students LOVE practicing their Spanish this way at home. :)
The only other "homework" I ever give out is a story re-tell. I only do this with a story students know well. Before bringing it home students have either drawn the pictures for the story in a concept with words I put in for them (in younger grades), or written the words and drawn the pictures for the story with my help or on their own. In younger grades I let them change story details (name, what they want, where they go) later in the year when they are ready for it.
Before taking a store re-tell home students also listen to me read it (wrong on purpose, I pretend I didn't sleep well and need their help). They correct me when I make mistakes. Then they read it to their self in a 'whisper phone' which magnifies their own voice. Then they read it with a friend. Only then do I let them take it home. I give my students a plenty of time to do this, and they can do their re-tell with any older family member. They are allowed to do the re0tell in any manner they want. Some just re-tell with the pictures in their comic strip, others use family members, dolls, or stuffed animals. Parents are instructed not to correct their mistakes, and to celebrate their successes. I do this as young as first grade, and then response from parents is always phenomenal. If you'd like a free download of my basic blank comic strip, and/or parent letter please click here. I don't know where I got these originally, but I have modified them a bit over the years. :)
Entering my 13th year in the classroom; I am a TPRS/CI Elementary Spanish Teacher. Passionate about TPRS/CI, Brain based learning, and using technology to bring the world to our students, and our students to the world.