Innovating Homework

Moving Beyond the Workbook

Kirsten Dickerson, Mentor High School @CardinalFrench

I am smack dab in the middle of my eleventh year teaching French, and I must admit that – besides my first year when I cried every day – this is both the scariest and most exciting one yet. My daily mantra since August 16 has been, “All great changes are preceded by chaos,” a quote by Deepak Chopra I heard this summer in a yin yoga class during the uncomfortable third minute of my snail pose.  Recently, although the change in my classroom has been uncomfortable and chaotic at first, I’m finally starting to see the greatness.

Early this year, in the search for “innovating,” I revamped my entire homework routine, adding student choice, differentiation, and technology in one fell swoop.  I took a cue from my elementary school friends and created Homework Choice Boards for each unit of instruction.  The concept is simple: create a list of assignments that offer students the chance to practice outside of class in different and innovating ways.  Include traditional paper assignments (even textbook or workbook activities) along with technology-based choices.  It’s easy to customize these to match any topic, skill, or grammar point and even easier to differentiate.

Here’s a translated list of vocabulary homework choices for my French IV unit on travel.  Each assignment is worth either two or four points, and the students are required to earn ten points total.  Students who typically struggle with learning new vocabulary are required to study online and write each word three times, while more advanced students are encouraged to choose from the more creative choices.  Students with minimal access to technology can take advantage of the traditional pen and paper assignments or complete activities at school or the library.  Even if you aren’t confident with your technology skills or are unfamiliar with one of the sites or tools on the list, I guarantee you that your students will jump at the chance to use the technology they know and love for a legitimate purpose.  My homework completion percentages have skyrocketed since I moved to this format, and assignments are done thoughtfully and creatively, not scribbled on the bus on the way to school or copied in the five minutes between classes.

Two point assignments

    • Write the vocabulary list three times.
    • Write ten sentences that use fifteen vocabulary words.
    • Categorize twenty vocabulary words.  Use at least three topics.
    • Send five Tweets to @CardinalFrench using at least ten vocabulary words.
    • Create enough Vines to incorporate at least ten vocabulary words.  Tweet them to @CardinalFrench.
    • Study the vocabulary on for at least fifteen minutes. Parental confirmation is required.
    • Create a postcard with a colored image.  On the back, write a message to a friend describing your trip to a Francophone location.  Use at least ten vocabulary words.
    • Make a collage using images to represent at least twenty vocabulary words.  Label them.

Four point assignments

    • Create an animation, cartoon, or video using at least fifteen vocabulary words.  Check out, or
    • Write a poem or song that uses at least ten vocabulary words.
    • Write a travel survey with a minimum of eight questions and fifteen vocabulary words.  You may write it on paper or create it on a site like
    • Create a travel brochure for a Francophone location.  Use at least ten vocabulary words and add images and color.
    • Create a presentation of a fictional trip to a Francophone location.  Use or
This entry was posted in OFLA News: Association, Vol. 52, No. 2 - Winter 2014. Bookmark the permalink.

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