I'm surprised I'm writing this, but I want to discuss homework. What once was the bane of my teaching life, has become a staple part of my week, and I'm almost starting to enjoy it.
I completely understand the debate...
However, with my recent thoughts regarding the children's future (whether that be based on their behaviour, career choice, support from home, or general attitude), once again I'm beginning to consider the wider lessons of homework. It's more than an awkward hour on a Sunday, and I think my change of heart has been triggered by how I've conducted myself composing the tasks in the first place.
Today's blog is a quick timeline of my exampled approaches so far, with some pros and cons for balance.
With a change of school, where things are organised differently, my approach to homework is different again (which I'll share another time). But it's not only the system that has changed, it's also my own thoughts.
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:
If you had a penny for every time you said, "Where are your capital letters and full stops?", how much money would you have? Probably enough for a comfy retirement.
While learning is learning, and teaching is teaching, the ways to teach and learn differ depending on the subject matter. These are my most recent thoughts:
In my opinion, this is the biggest challenge when teaching writing; it counts on a good grasp on all the previous teaching, in years gone by, for them to stably move forwards, otherwise the gaps get greater. (It was this thought that prompted my most successful blog to date.)
So, I needed to find a way for my children to retain all of the things they have learnt. This need became greater when I found simple mistakes in their writing that needed to be addressed, and scanned their English books from last year. I noticed (almost to the exact date) they had done a similar 'gap filling' lesson the year before; a clear sign that their previous teacher found they were missing the same simple skills that needed to feature. If I'm honest, my heart sank a little; seeing that some of these children STILL hadn't grasped the very basics, despite their teachers' best efforts year upon year, was irritating. However, this is where our supportive families and a growth mindset come in.
I had 2 options:
Option 1 - accept these children 'just can't do it'.
Option 2 - ask around, research, experiment, engage, involve...find a different solution, and hope that it sticks with them. If not all of them, some of them.
Option 2 is essentially a teacher's job description; filter out those who don't understand something and find a way to help them engage with it, storing it to memory! Option 2 is it! Here was my solution:
I decided to refer to almost every skill as a tool, and that we were adding it to our Toolbox. In order to keep a record of all the tools we were learning, I gave the children a 'Tool Box' to keep their tools in!
Teaching is a stream of constant modelling, examples and sharing ideas. Therefore, when completing shared writing, I also wanted my own tool boxes that I could refer to! I add to them, just like the children do, in front of them so they can see (we don't want random posters to appear, without reference, and become wallpaper). My Tool Boxes went on the display boards...
Thus far, I have found these as extremely useful tools for teaching. The displays, twinned with their own versions, encourage independent learning; seeking answers, tweaking ideas and sharing strategies that others might want to use.
As with everything, this won't be effective for every child (I will need to work hard to find other solutions too) but it's important that we try new things to filter out those who don't understand, in order to help them move forwards.
I need to improve my own use of them, how they are organised and what order I teach the skills in, allowing for sensible opportunities for application in well-planned chances to write for a range of audiences. It can be tricky to ensure they remain relevant, but so far they're proving to be really effective. I need to find a more efficient way to integrate them into my lessons, and I would LOVE any ideas you might have? You can download your own copies of these below...