Last year the school introduced a whole-school homework timetable – this meant that as a core subject we have to set homework every week. I’m not saying we didn’t set it regularly as that’s not the case – but I’m not convinced that setting homework for “homework’s sake” is the right way to go about things. I believe we are professionals and should be allowed to use our judgement as to when homework is appropriate and beneficial to the students learning. It’s an area quite close to my heart as it’s a topic that I have done quite a bit of research on as part of my Masters, but I’m not going to get all academic here and at the end of the day, I know that its not an argument I’ll win so am going to continue to set homework according to the timetable.
However, as a school, homework submission is an issue – when this timetable was first introduced I monitored the time I spent administering homework (and I’m not talking about marking it, I mean collecting it, checking who hadn’t submitted it and chasing that in subsequent lessons, issuing detentions and then setting the next weeks homework) and over 2 weeks I spent roughly 19% (I know!!) of my teaching time – obviously that didn’t continue, it just couldn’t – not only is it unsustainable but I would argue that it is wasn’t beneficial. I like to think that I am quite open minded and I’ve tried all sorts of modes of delivery: worksheets, booklets, online, posters .. you name it, I’ve tried it.
This year I am determined that homework will not become “a monster” and want to start the year all prepared so I put a shout-out to twitter world for ideas that weren’t just another worksheet – the response was mind blowing – I’ve collated them below and I’m definitely going to be using some of these ideas this year. If you have any ideas you’d like to share drop me a mail [email protected]
1) Completing a tarsia puzzle from @karenshancock. I like this idea – were I to do this I would probably print it out full size but then reduce on the photocopier to reduce the number of pages used (my gaffer is tight!) and I’d ask them to sellotape it together.
2) Ask students to visit a supermarket and take photos of 5 special offers and work out the cost (@jojobee21). This could be either the cost before the special offer, after the offer or both.
3) Looking at maths in real-life is a great suggestion: @VictoriaARiley suggested students looking at those “rubbish stats” on TV ads – we all know the ones!! 90% of 12 people agree nonsense! – I like this idea and I’d probably ask them to collect as many examples as they could and then start the lesson with a discussion why they are misleading (or not as the case may be). She also suggested getting students to take photos of 2d (and I would add 3d shapes) and says they’d make a great display. @andylutwyche came up with the idea, which will be ideal when I do some averages of them having to calculate the average goals from the football games on a specific Saturday in the premier league (there are also other sports apparently!).
4) Produce a poster based on what they have been recently learning, works for @Team_Maths. Getting creative with maths could be something that the students don’t often get the chance to do and I can see some of my students loving the idea of this, but I would want to make sure that the topic was suited to it.
5) Posting on a blog is a suggestion that I am really keen on exploring, so thank you @TheMathsMagpie and I’m going to be talking to ICT about setting this up and what permissions etc I need to get. Initially I think with certain groups I will ask them to draft their blog post and then submit to me via email before unleashing on the big wide world. @Team_Maths also suggested posting a question and using padlet for the students to post their answers on.
6) @Maths4ukplc suggested posting an answer on a discussion board and the students have to post what the possible question could be – each one must be different – so the later ones have to work harder. I particularly like this as it might help drive engagement with homework and I think that once we get our class blogs up and running I can post the answer as a blog post and they can pose their answers in the comments section.
7) We use MyMaths (well … when I say we use it, I mean we subscribe to it) and I have set HW on there before but suspect that its very much an exercise that the students do and aren’t that bothered on the actual result (I remain open minded!). Several tweachers suggested other sites and software including Manga High and Study Ladder (@Gruffthree) or Mathletics and MethodMaths (@MrRHughes)
8) It is important that there is a reason for setting homework and I like the idea from @jojobee21 of the final HW of a topic being the production of a textbook (as a group) or powerpoint slides. I’ve taken this further and had students plan their “ideal lesson/s” on the topic – complete with lesson plan and resources. I have even been brave enough to let a few of them deliver the lessons. I have to say, you need to really trust the students to do this, and thankfully the students did this really well. Lesson planning as homework is something that works really well at KS5.
9) Planning a lesson could be extended – if they had the technology – so that they end up making an educational video (@Ticascott). Staying with the theme of them filming themselves doing maths – my year 10s were asked to write a “Chris Moyles quiz maths question” and that involved them doing some of the preparation for HW – we then filmed it in class (I’ve blogged about it before).
10) Researching a topic seems quite a common suggestion (I’ve never tried, I’ll be honest!) but @reflectivemaths suggested getting the students to put together a time line of maths and @jojobee21 suggested a dictionary of maths words with pictures – I like that idea and maybe worth doing as a longer term project as there are lot of words, and I would probably produce a list of words and get them to take them to pull their word out each week. Coincidentally @RJS2212 has put together a massive list of maths words that I’m going to use – this list of maths words is seriously massive and would also make a superb classroom display.
11) Students HW task is to create a worksheet for someone else to complete as HW the following week – I would ask the student completing the homework to do some kind of assessment of the quality of the work set – I’d extend this a further week so that the “maker” then had to mark the work. 3 weeks worth of homeworks 🙂 … idea courtesy of @sarahestocker I really like this idea and think that is going to be the first idea I use with my year 11s when we get back.
There are so many great ideas, so why not give some (or all) of them a go … I am!!
But ESL students, on the other hand, may disagree. Adult learners will argue that they have busy schedules and a life outside the classroom, which translates into “no time for homework”. Young learners and teens may come to terms with the fact that they have to do homework, but do we want them to do it because they are compelled to do it... or do we want them to do it because they are excited to do it? Which would you prefer?
The only way to get young students excited about doing homework, and get adults to set aside some time for it, is through highly creative and thoroughly engaging homework assignments. And here are 5 examples:
Homework Assignments That Work
A Word Book
A Word Book or Vocabulary Journal is a classic among teachers of very young learners who are not adept at using dictionaries; here they have a chance to make their own. Help them design their very own Word Book from scratch, out of construction paper, cardboard, or any materials you have on hand. At the end of a reading task or activity, make a list of the words they have learned for the day. Their homework assignment is to enter each of the new words in their Word Book. The littlest ones simply copy the word and draw a picture of it; older students can use the word in a sentence that illustrates its meaning. There is no need to copy “dictionary” definitions. They may also cut out pictures from magazines or newspapers and get as creative as they like. But one thing is certain… these will be words they won’t easily forget!
Do My Research!
This is an extremely engaging way to provide extended practice of any grammar point. Say you want your students to practice comparatives and superlatives. Tell them you need information on this year's Oscar nominations. Tell them to go to Oscar.go.com and give them a list of questions they must answer:
- Which of the nominees for Best Picture is the longest film? Which is the shortest? The most popular? Earned the most money at the box office?
- Which film has the most nominations?
- Which in your opinion is the best film?
- Compare two of the actresses nominated for Best Actress. Who is older? Younger? Taller? Prettier?
You may assign any number of research tasks: ideal places for a family vacation (LonelyPlanet.com), best restaurants in the city (Zagat.com), or anything based on local information. Just make sure you give them a website to go to, a set of questions to answer or a task to complete, and above all don't forget to plan the assignment with a grammar point or learning objective in mind.
In the News
This is an ideal assignment for adult students. Most read the newspaper anyway, right? Or watch the evening news. Ask them to choose a news story that has piqued their interest, and have them:
- Write a report on the news story
- Write a dialogue in which a journalist interviews someone involved in the story.
- Answer a question like, “What could have gone differently?”, thus prompting them to use conditionals, for example (If the truck driver had not answered his cell phone, he would not have caused the accident.)
This is clearly one of the homework assignments that works best with adult learners or those who specifically study Business English. Give them an email to read and ask them to write an appropriate reply. Or give them a situation that would require them to compose a message, like a complaint over a bad service experience or an inquiry into vacation rentals.
Choose a TV series that is shown in English, either with or without subtitles (you may ask students to cover the subtitles). Choose a show that is suitable to your students’ ages. Tell your students that their homework for that night will be to watch an episode of Modern Family, whether they usually watch the show or not. Give them a task to complete after viewing the episode: a synopsis of the episode, a character description, or a questionnaire (Do you usually watch this show? If not, would you start watching it? Why/why not?)
Another great way to get students actively engaged in their homework assignments is to ask them to come up with some ideas for creative assignments on their own and share them with the class. They may surprise you!
And if you’re still stumped as to which worksheets to assign to practice grammar, vocabulary, or reading, BusyTeacher.org is always available to help, 24/7, with wonderful ideas for activities and great ready-to-print worksheets.
If you have any ideas for other wonderfully creative homework assignments, share them below!
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