I completely understand the debate...
YES TO HOMEWORK
It supports education at home.
It allows families to see what their child is learning.
It helps to consolidate skills taught; practise makes perfect.
Homework encourages organisational skills.
NO TO HOMEWORK
School should be where the educating happens.
Homework interferes with family life.
We risk the children rehearsing incorrectly.
It's a waste of childhood.
Today's blog is a quick timeline of my exampled approaches so far, with some pros and cons for balance.
During your NQT year, you're getting to grips with so much more than just homework. I'd love to write a blog about my earliest experiences as a full time teacher, but there's no way I could write it vividly enough.
However, I can say it was the most positive and worthwhile NQT year I could have had, and I learnt the best lessons that have lead me to my current practice (which I'm very proud of). And, after ticking off other items on the list, homework became the next thing I wanted to handle.
Across ALL examples today, you'll notice that I've never handed out a 'sheet'. Personally, I think they're the worst option, and likely the biggest cause of such negative connotations of homework. As always, it's the way it's done that causes the debate, not the actual concept.
You'll also notice that most examples have always featured a description of the learning we've been doing at the time, some kind of catch up for the families to stay informed.
I used to pour hours into making these; a constant stream of tables and borders, in a naive bid to make home learning attractive. It wasn't a good use of time considering the impact, but it felt right at the time.
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After a couple of years, and now with a new year partner, we tried something else. With a school move to 'creative' home learning (but not wanting to bombard families with a weekly model to make), my Year Partner suggested we organise the homework into 3 categories - it was really effective. Each week, the task would rotate between:
It was a good system that I would recommend. It found a nice balance between the different approaches and allowed for many skills to be shown.
I also enjoyed, in particular, the Discussion tasks, because I felt they promoted conversation, and family time.
As a school, we were keen for feedback, so after a Parent Questionnaire, we tried a different system.
Each term, we would send home a list of activities that could be completed within the term. Each activity linked to various areas of the curriculum, and we expected 3 to be completed by a certain date.
The work could be submitted at any time (before the due date) and a simple tick-list was used to keep track of how many pieces each child had completed. We set aside time in class for the children to present what they had done and we often found children wanting to complete more than necessary.
We had a really good response from families because I think it alleviated some of the weekly homework stress, as there was such freedom with regards to time. Again, this is a system I would recommend.
Completing home work used to irritate me as a child, and setting it was very similar. It was always an afterthought on a Friday. It took strength not to pull up the first worksheet on Google because, when done properly, it really does have a place and, as a teacher, you can do a lot of good with a well-written piece of homework. My constant thinking recently, is that our children are our investment for the future, and they need to be equipped with a myriad of talents. Now, I find myself putting the time in because I want to; I want them to go home and show off what they can do - I want them to keep their brain buzzing with skills, ready to apply at any given moment.
It doesn't need to detract from playing outside and going to the park, it can be done as well as. So, my top 3 pieces of advice:
- Find a system that works for you; if you don't believe in it, they won't either.
- Make time for it; you'll be surprised how much quicker you'll be when you tailor it to what you want. If that sheet you found is what you taught them, go for it - but don't pull out something for the sake of it that isn't quite what you've taught in a way they wouldn't recognise. You'll be wasting everyone's time.
- Speak positively about the impact this could have when done right; praise ambition and effort.