Tips to Assign Oral Homework in the Foreign Language Class

In a previous post on adding speaking opportunities outside the classroom we explained the reasons why assigning oral homework in the foreign language classroom simply makes sense. As self-evident a need as it may seem, however, completing oral assignments regularly outside of the classroom is not something that students may be used to for a number of reasons. Homework for other classes is typically written, which creates the expectation that work outside the classroom involves reading or typing, regardless of the nature of the course. Also, they may not have had experience with oral homework in their previous language courses, as many instructors are hesitant about the technology that oral homework requires and prefer to complete most (or all) of their speaking tasks in the classroom.

Learners’ lack of familiarity with the concept of oral homework creates the need for instructors who adopt this practice to do some prep work to minimize confusion and frustration. Here are some tips:

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Know well the technology that you choose. Most voice recording tools designed for instructional purposes have user guides that can help you with this. Extempore also offers a free trial for three student users that you can use to get familiar with the app. As an instructor, your account is free. You can use one of the three free student user accounts to assign yourself as a student to your course and experience what they do from their end of things. The other student accounts can be passed on to colleagues who can give you feedback on the tasks you create.

Create a sample assignment that you walk through with your students during class time at the beginning of the term. If you teach online, create a presentation that they can watch.

Take file management into account. If you choose not to use Extempore (we don’t know why you wouldn’t!) or other cloud-based tools serving different instructional needs, then talk to your students about file management and file compatibility. In order for you to manage the large amount of audio files you will be getting in your email, you need students to help you by naming the files in unique ways (so that you don’t overwrite someone else’s file when saving) and by sending you files that are compatible with your software, that is, in a format that you will be able to open.

Set clear expectations, as with any other homework assignment. One major concern raised against assigning oral homework is that it easily becomes a “reading exercise”. Students tend to be hard on themselves and won’t submit their recordings until they have written down and rehearsed a few times a script of their answer. Extempore’s “time to review” feature helps in this regard, but learners may be surprised by it. Always explain to your students what they can expect when completing the task and let them know what learning goals you are helping them achieve by limiting the time they have to review a prompt.

Hopefully, these tips will make assigning oral homework in your classes a very simple process that students get quickly used to.

We’ve created an eBook with activities that you can apply these tips directly to! It’s FREE, just click the download link below.

Speaking Activities PDF


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