Mrs Humanities

Because I'm married to the job.


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Mrs Humanities shares… 5 simple homework strategies

mrs humanities shares

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.

finishing classwork

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.

esq

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.

learning journal

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.
Learning Journals

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.

summary picture

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:
SAM Learning
Google forms
Show My Homework
Moodle
EdModo

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.

Self marking quizzes

 

What homework strategies do you use regularly?

Feel free to share them in the comments.

Mrs Humanities


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Developing Independent Learners – Attempts at Flipped Learning

During Term 3 and 4 of this year I attempted flipped learning with one of my year groups. I came to the decision to attempt it based on their feedback, however it didn’t work out as effectively as I’d hoped.

This post will outline my approach and top tips, success and failures could be a whole other post.

Approach

Pre-Learning/ Homework

For a unit of work on rivers I wanted a particular year group to take some independence in their learning. I set up week by week pre-learning activities on SAM learning*.

Each activity would introduce key concepts, processes and vocabulary – the activities were always supported by a video or web link that students could use for extra support. The weekly activities were based around reading some information or watching a video clip and then either answering some multiple choice questions or fill the blanks. .

The activity for the term was  to create a project on rivers – this could be in any chosen form such as booklets, posters, models with info sheets, videos, PowerPoints etc. Their creativity was their only limit. I really didn’t mind how they presented their understanding.

Classwork

In the first lesson students were given a prior knowledge entry ticket, they were introduced to the project and given task sheets. Everything was explained to them and an introduction to rivers was given.

task

Each week then had a different focus.

  • Week 1 – Planning and research
  • Week 2 – Features of a River Drainage Basin
  • Week 3 – River Processes (erosion and weathering)
  • Week 4 – River Processes (transportation and deposition)
  • Week 5 – River Landforms (waterfalls and gorges)
  • Week 6 – River Landforms (meanders and ox-bow lakes)

The pre-learning covered the topic for the following week

  • Week 1 – Features of a River Drainage Basin
  • Week 2 – River Processes (erosion and weathering)
  • Week 3 – River Processes (transportation and deposition)
  • Week 4 – River Landforms (waterfalls and gorges)
  • Week 5 – River Landforms (meanders and ox-bow lakes)
  • Week 6 – Revision

Students were given the learning matrix for the topic which outlined the success criteria and how they could work their way up each band.

matrix

It outlined the ‘Need to Know’ questions and the links to the assessment objectives as well as outlining what they needed to demonstrate in order achieve each bronze, silver or gold in the topic.

Each lesson students had access to a variety of resources including information sheets in the ‘Help Yourself’ station, textbooks, revision guides and their SAM learning work. On occasions students also had access to iPads.

Assessment of Learning

— Prior Knowledge Entry Ticket

At the start of the topic students were given a prior knowledge entry ticket that looked like this.

prior knowledge

Students simply ticked off what they thought they knew. This was rather interesting to identify their starting points and perceptions on what they thought they knew. For the first few lessons I would question students based on what they thought they already knew, later I would question them on what they identified as not understanding. Students came back to this in the final week and in a different colour ticked off what they knew again.

– – Entry Tickets

At the start of each lesson students were given a entry ticket on arrival, before getting on with their projects they had to complete and peer assess the entry ticket. If students struggled with any aspects or did not achieve 80% they would be invited (or instructed) to attend an in lesson (or sometimes out of lesson) tutorial to support their learning.

— RAG Rated SAM Learning Activities

Each week I could see a RAG rating of student understanding. If a student achieved less than 60% they would have a tutorial in the lesson whilst the rest of the class carried on with the activity.

— Learning Matrix

Once in lesson tutorials were undertaken and students felt confident to move on, I would spend time discussing the work and providing feedback to students on their progress to far. To do this we would first look at the need to know questions and students would identify which ones they felt they had addressed so far. Next we looked at the banded success criteria and again students would identify the criteria they felt they achieved so far, I would then look at their work and discuss it with them. Whilst i did this I would highlight the criteria they had achieved in yellow and if there was something I thought they could do to improve I would highlight the criteria in pink.

Students then had the opportunity to go away and try to achieve the highlighted criteria, later on they would get it checked and signed off by me.

Top Tips

  • Introduce pre-learning over time – don’t introduce it all at once, embed  pre-learning over time and slowly introduce the use of pre-learning into several lessons over the term. Once achieved then introduce it across the whole term.
  • Use entry or exit tickets – these were a fantastic way of assessing student understanding. They were simple in terms of what they assessed – recall of subject knowledge – but allowed for instant feedback on what students were understanding from the SAM learning activities,  tutorials and classwork.
  • Use an electronic system for pre-learning – having access to a system such as SAM Learning meant I could track who was actively accessing the resources at home, how many attempts they made at the activity and if they were making progress over time in the scores achieved.
  • Give it a go – although I will put my hands up and say it wasn’t a complete success this time, I discovered more about my students and their ability to work independently; there were those that really struggled and just couldn’t cope and those that thrived with the opportunity  whilst there were also a whole load in between.
  • Finally have a back up plan – if you find individuals or groups of learners are not able to access the learning in this manner (which you will) ensure you have a back up. I ended up with one class split into those that worked with me in the usual style whilst the rest of the class worked independently, checking in with me for support and feedback when necessary.

I will save my success and failures for another time.

If you were thinking of trying flipped learning, I hope this post has given you ideas.

Feel free to ask any questions.

Mrs Humanities

*Note: I am not affiliated with SAM Learning in anyway, I’ve not been paid or asked to promote them either. I’m just referring to them in reference to my experience. There are many other fantastic sites that provide a similar service or opportunities for flipped learning including Edmodo, Show my Homework and Google Classroom to name just a few.

 

 

Takeaway Homework Side 1


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#TakeAwayHmk – Mrs Humanities Trial and Errors

After much deliberation within my own mind about trying Take Away Homework, I decided to give it a go last term.

I’d read up about Ross Morrison McGill’s aka @TeacherToolkit idea of Take Away Homework over the summer and investigated a variety of examples but decided I would get to know my year 7 pupils first before introducing it.

Last term I decided it was the time to try out take away homework with KS3. The concept is great, it just requires a bit of work for the teacher before hand but it makes setting homework easy for the rest of the term. A winner in my book.

I decided to go with the 3 choices each week option; each choice had a different chilli rating to determine the amount of challenge/work involved. The year 7 menu looked something like this…

Takeaway Homework Side 1Takeaway Homework Side 2

Below I’ve included some of the successes and failures of my efforts with Takeaway Homework to help you.

Successes

1 // The pupils produced a wide variety of pieces of homework, some clearly spent more than the 30-40 minutes recommended for KS3.

2 // A number of pupils enjoyed the choice of homework tasks and options for creativity.

3 // Others enjoyed knowing what the next piece of homework would be and making a start on it early.

4 // For me homework was set for the term, I just had to collect, mark and praise. Win!

5 // I was able to create this great display with the fantastic homework produced by year 8 (note: the spinners and cotton wool clouds are classwork, the rest however is homework)

Failures  Areas To Improve

1 // The date set confused them. I thought this would work since the planners only give the date for Monday of each wee. However this was a difficult concept for many to grasp particularly year 7 since their lessons are on a Thursday and Friday, so their homework wasn’t set until the end of each week. This method totally failed. If I use this style of menu again I will identify the week set (i.e. Week 1, Week 2), perhaps I might even go as far as to work out the actual date the work will be set.

2 // Some pupils hated the choice. A number of pupils struggled with the choice of tasks, when I gave the pupils an opportunity to give feedback at the end of the term a small number said they just wanted the teacher to tell them what to do or to give them a specific task to complete. Whilst I prefer to give pupils choice, for some I think I would tell/discuss with them which task to complete by highlighting it with them, taking the anxiety out of choosing.

3 // Lack of effort. Despite a good number of pupils going to great lengths to produce high quality homework many were clearly rushed just to have something to hand in. This had even occurred when the pupil had chosen to complete the Flaming Hot task. This was disappointing and a nuisance to follow up. Setting out clear expectations is essential, eventually the quality of the work improved but it took a few weeks.

4 // Time consuming. Some tasks I realised were quite time consuming for the pupils such as the video making choices, research projects or key word and definition match up games. Clearly some pupils spent several hours completing their tasks. I think in future I would either set challenging but less time consuming activities or make it that all Flaming Hot tasks are over two weeks. If I did the latter choice I would ensure I set out my expectations of the level of effort required, else they’ll be doing it again *insert maniacal laugh*.

Lets Reflect

On reflection Takeaway Homework was successful with year 7 and 8, when I started at the school after Easter homework was an issue. I would spend as much time chasing it up as some students spent doing it (obviously this refers to the ones that made an effort). Now I’ve the majority of pupils handing in their homework each week, with a few exceptions of course. Choice works for many but not for some. Creativity is key to engagement.

Well if you are considering this approach, I hope this has given you some additional insight and helped your decision.
I’d definitely recommend it and although I won’t be using it this term as I’m trialling project based learning, it will most certainly see a return in term 4.

Mrs Humanities