I hate to say it but on many occasions I have set homework just for the sake of it. All of my schools have had a homework policy of sorts i.e. students must receive so many minutes of homework a week. But if students are going to spend 7 hours in school and then complete homework as well it must be worthwhile.
This year I’ve been trying to improve the homework I set to limit the stress experienced by my students. These are some of the techniques I’m using.
1 // Finishing Classwork
It really is that simple. I want my students to have a full set of notes or the ability to be able to complete a task to the best of their ability. To ensure this I regularly set them homework to complete the task or tasks they’ve been undertaking in class. For those that finish in the lesson, there are stretch and challenge tasks to push them further or they spend time reviewing their work and applying it to an offered exam question.
The benefit of this is that my students work hard in lesson, but they know that if they’ve not had time to fully complete something or have needed help and guidance in the lesson and have been delayed in completing their work, they have the time to get it finished.
2 // Exam Style Questions
Mainly used with exam classes, but occasionally with Key Stage 3. The use of exam style questions for homework is that they encourage students to review their notes and apply their understanding.
We regularly go through exam answer structure for 6 and 9 mark questions, plan the answer and discuss the content. Setting questions for homework then leaves students to apply their learning independently, the use of mark schemes in the hand in lesson then allows for students to self or peer assess before submitting. In order to assess students understanding I also set shorter exam style questions for homework to ensure they regularly apply their learning and develop their exam technique.
3 // Learning Journals
This is a technique I recently introduced with Key Stage 3 so currently still in the trial stage. The concept is that students will reflect, summarise and explore the topic. I’ve set out the end of topic assessed piece of work with the students already so they are aware of the purpose of the learning journal and have allowed them to take whichever route they wish with it. Here’s an example of the instructions I’ve given.
At parent’s evening I share the idea with parent’s and they loved the concept. I explained that students weren’t prescribed in the format in which they wish to present their learning journal it can be anything from recording their learning, questions and feelings on the topic in the back of their books to something a bit more creative such as a scrapbook or mood board. They only need to spend 20 minutes on it a week, but should use it to direct their interest into the final assessed piece of work.
4 // Summary Picture
I don’t set this homework too often but I do find it effective as an insight into my learners understanding and thoughts on a topic. It is quite simple, after a lesson or series of lessons students have to find, take or draw a picture that summarises what they’ve learnt, the answer to a question or how they’ve felt about the topic of study. For example when studying global issues I ask students to find a picture that represents how they feel at the end of the topic about the issues facing our planet and society, they have to write a justification to support the image and we share these with the class. Some bring in images that represent doom and gloom whilst others have brought in images that represent hope and solutions. It’s always insightful to hear their thoughts, opinions and probably more so the justifications for their pictures.
Alternatively you can ask students to reflect on their learning journey and bring a picture in that represents that.
5 // Self-Marking Quiz
Now these can take a little time to set up, but once done you can use them time and time again. There are numerous platforms that you can use such as:
Show My Homework
These are great as they assess students understanding of the knowledge and provides them with immediate feedback. As their teacher you can then look at their scores, their errors and plan appropriately before the lesson to cover misconceptions.
What homework strategies do you use regularly?
Feel free to share them in the comments.