Thinking homework

What is thinking homework?

Thinking homework is a task you set your students that only requires them to think – nothing else. No writing, no reading, just thinking. Sitting in the bath, driving the car, walking in the rain or laying in bed. All students have to do is think.

There is some work in preparing learners for this, firstly, explaining that this is something useful to do and secondly, how they should go about thinking.

How do students do it?

Students are only allowed to think in English. They can talk to themselves if they like or say words in their head, but it won’t be any good unless the think in the target language. Secondly, they have to remember to do it, I use text messages with my students to remind them.  Thirdly, there has to be some evidence that students have actually done the task and some sort of assessment of how they well they did it, this is done by getting students to report back to you or the class about their ideas and what they’ve been thinking.

Where does it come from?

The idea for setting students homework where all they have to do is ‘think about it’ probably isn’t anything new, I started setting this kind of task after thinking about Brian Tomlinson’s ideas on students developing their internal voiceby talking to themselves, among his many books (click here for a list) you can find reference on how to develop this in second language learners. Brian also explains this theory very clearly in the The Journal of Imagination in Language Learning and Teaching which you can read online. I also had two students in my class who were taxi drivers, so, I used to send them their ‘think homework’ via text message to their mobile phone so they would not only remember to do it, but would be able to get on with thinking about whatever it was while they were driving. Here are some ‘thinking homework’ that I’ve set in the past:

Story thinking homework

1. Which famous person’s life would you like to live? What kind of things would you do?

2. If you could live your life again, what would you do differently? ***we were talking about regrets ***

Some problem thinking homework

1. Your home is on fire. You can only save three things from the flames. What things would you save and why?

2. If could invite anyone to a dinner party, alive or dead, famous or not famous, who would you invite?

3.  What invention do you think the world needs? A teleport machine, a free power generator, a language learning chip that fits in your brain? or something else? Please tell the class your idea next week.


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