UCT ELC | English Homework

Let’s be honest, homework can be a tedious and boring activity and not something we look forward to everyday. And, as an English language student there may be additional challenges. Imagine as a student of law, you attend your classes and only when you are actually sitting in class or speaking to your teachers/professors/lecturers or peers are you actually having to apply your knowledge of the subject.

But, as an English student (EFL student), you attend class in a different language – are using a different language to learn new things about the language, are speaking to your teacher/peers/admin staff at school in English, all the time and then when you leave school and get on the bus, you may have to speak English to the person next you, the bus driver, etc. You want to buy some food on the way home and have to speak English to the person behind the counter or the cashier and your school friends are whatsapping on the social group about going out later, in English. So, you never get a break from the subject you are learning. And now … you have to use your free time at home – to do English homework.

Learning a different language in such an intensive setting obviously has its advantages. Firstly, your learning will be much faster than anyone back home sitting in an English classroom once a week. Second of all, it will become second nature to just speak English because you are doing it all the time. It just becomes a natural part of your day. Thirdly, you will learn to work with what you have (i.e. how much language you have available to you) and will naturally develop a better grasp of speaking for fluency in the right contexts, rather than for accuracy. This is also the best way to build up your confidence, because not everyone is confident when it comes to speaking a language they are not completely proficient in. Then, you will be at a distinct advantage of being able to practice what you learn in the classroom immediately. Finally, you will get to learn things in the language that only those who are living in an English speaking environment will learn – like how natural, spoken English is used every day by its speakers, the small conversational nuances, the slang, and the swearing! You can watch Teacher Catherine’s video on how to improve your speaking here.

But, back to homework. How can you motivate yourself to do your homework every day?

Here are a few tips;

  1. Set aside some time in the afternoon/evening and allocate this time for homework. Try to stick to that time – don’t put it off and delay it until its time for bed, and then you have to do it and are either not really thinking properly, are tired or you end up not doing it at all.
  2. Remember that the whole point of homework is to supplement your learning. So, if you are not in learning mode, it’s probably not going to help you much. Create the best conditions for your learning. This may mean making sure you are not hungry before homework (eat supper first), not thirsty (have a glass of water with you), not tired (have a nap first), sit at a desk (don’t lie slouched on your bed) and make sure the light is good (bad lighting = tired eyes faster).
  3. Set yourself goals and rewards. Tell yourself that after your hour of homework you can go out and join friends for a drink, watch your favourite series on the laptop, go for a long shower, etc.
  4. Do the hardest thing first. When you start you will probably be at your peak in terms of concentration, but also possibly at your lowest in terms of motivation. Get it out of the way, so that as your concentration slowly wanes, your motivation to get to your rewards increases and you feel the type of activity you are doing is easier.
  5. If you are struggling to motivate yourself, concentrate on the benefits of doing the homework. After all, you have a goal. You want to learn English, and every single bit helps towards that goal. Give yourself a pep talk and remind yourself of your goal. Be determined and stick to your guns!
  6. Try to be aware of the type of learner you are. What works best for you, and how do you learn best? Do you need to draw pictures for yourself so that things become clearer, or so that you remember them? Do you need to read, highlight things, rewrite them and then read again? Do you like to listen to music while you study because it soothes and helps you remember things? Find out what helps you best and then create those conditions for yourself.
  7. Turn off all those distracting devices that we surround ourselves with constantly these days. Phone on silent. TV off. You get the idea…

Homework does not need to be a dirty word, and we understand that sometimes you are exhausted and sometimes it just does not make sense to work yourself into a frenzy. Remember that there is no point in doing homework unless you are actually benefitting from your homework. So, while it can feel like homework is the last thing you feel like doing, try some of the simple tips above and get on with it. But, if it just doesn’t work, or you just cannot seem to get your teeth into things, or are having trouble understanding the homework, rather speak to your teacher the next day and explain. And if the homework is not due the next day, try tackling it tomorrow again when you are feeling fresher and ready for the challenge.

Our expert teachers will guide you in your English learning process, and provide more tips for helping you beat the homework blues. They are here to help motivate you as much as they are here to teach you, and guide you in your English learning experience in Cape Town. 


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