8 paperless homework ideas to save the environment

8 paperless homework ideas

2019 finally seems to be the year when people are standing up and taking notice of the devastating effect we are having on the environment.  The entire ELT industry seems to be finally taking a little more responsibility for its environmental impact and, as we step away from the photocopier and embrace more environmentally friendly teaching methods, more and more initiatives to raise awareness are cropping up.

A great example is ELT Footprint which is a blog and Facebook group focused on raising awareness within the ELT industry and acting as a space for debate, materials sharing and idea exchanges of what and how we can make the biggest impact.  It’s a movement that is thankfully gathering great momentum and hopefully, we can all start to make a real difference before it is too late.  The increase in digital downloads by publishers, biodegradable bags and abolition of plastic cups at conferences as well as numerous initiatives for everything from clean-up operations to recycling and upcycling events, will hopefully contribute at least in some way to the change in mentality that is so desperately needed.

So, what can we do inside the classroom? The use of technology in the classroom has helped in reducing the amount of paper that we use, but we can go even further.  So here are 8 paperless homework ideas to save the environment and cut down on the neglected worksheets which get shoved in the bottom of bags and forgotten.  Perhaps these can have both an impact on our learners and the environment.

  1. Listen

Listening doesn’t have to be restricted just to lessons, set students listening homework by sending audio files as dictations, which they can type and send back to you. Send comprehension questions about a podcast and as a follow up perhaps ask students to record their own response to the podcast.  There are some amazing apps and websites which deal with audio so utilise these to give students listening homework and up their exposure to English!

2. Storytime

Get students to turn their hand at creative writing using a site like Storybird.  Whether it’s poetry, writing a comic strip, responding to a visual stimulus or creating a piece of collaborative writing, it sure beats simply responding to a dry essay title.

3. Blog it!

Set up a class blog using Edublog or Livejournal and inspire students to become budding writers. Nothing motivates better than having a real, tangible objective and creating a live blog does just that. Let your students choose the topics that interest them, assign different roles playing to your students’ different talents and let their imaginations run wild while getting real, authentic English practice. As the hit counter rises, so will their enthusiasm for English.

4. Become the next YouTuber

Nowadays, YouTube is a ubiquitous part of modern life, and whether you love it or hate it, you can’t deny it’s communicative potential.  Create a class Youtube channel and use it for debates between students, get them to script how-to videos or guides or simply get them to make presentations of the grammar or language that you are studying.  For the more camera-shy, they can work as scriptwriters for their more extrovert classmates.

5.  Dear Student

A simple but effective way of setting homework is by emailing all your students and have them respond to it.  Divulge some information about your life and watch how they respond as they appreciate this insight into your life, even if it’s something as trivial as sharing your favourite television series with them.  Include lots of questions for them to answer and encourage your students to pose lots of questions in their replies.  This could potentially be an individual narrative that lasts all term long.

6.  Fingers on buzzers

Set students with the task of creating an online quiz for their partner on what you’ve been studying. There are tons of interesting websites where students can create visually interesting and interactive quizzes, such as Socrative, Quizlet or Kahoot.  The process of making the quiz will help students revise as they will review their notes, and their competitive rivalry will kick in as they strive to make it as hard as possible for their classmates!

7.  Send them on a webquest

Relatively easy to set up and a nice change from traditional homework, set your students a course of tasks to complete online, get them to take screenshots or find answers in large bodies of text on obscure websites.  The possibilities are endless and are only limited by your imagination.

8.  Lights, camera, action!

Whether it’s reviewing an episode of their favourite series on Netflix, summarising a Ted Talk,  or writing the dialogue to a short silent movie, film and video provide literally thousands of opportunities for paperless homework.  The sheer number of videos available online means it is easy to find something tailored to your teaching needs or students’ tastes.  Video also has the great quality of not feeling like homework which is a great motivator for the more apathetic of students. More ambitious students can also engage in video projects, scripting, filming and editing their very own short films, a great showcase of their abilities in English and great fun too!

I’ve mentioned just a few ideas of how we can assign homework which doesn’t require paper, meaning we can set engaging and challenging projects which also help in their own way to save the environment. What else can we do to make an impact?


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