I know, I shouldn’t use that sort of foul language here!
As always there are the usual arguments:
- How much?
- How often?
- How old?
- How long?
- Spellings, or not?
- Worksheets, or not?
- What about those that won’t?
- What about parents who won’t help?
- Should it be independent work?
I could go on, but you get the idea.
I was fed up of giving homework that didn’t get done, was done badly, was done in the car on the way too school the day after it was supposed to be, was lost or forgotten.
“Then Mike, the homework you were giving them was rubbish, that’s why they didn’t feel it was necessary to put the effort in.”
I hear you cry.
You’re probably right, it probably wasn’t very interesting or it was a bit repetitive (some schools use a scheme based homework), or perhaps I didn’t feedback to them very well, so perhaps I wasn’t taking it very seriously either. Put all these things together and what have you got?
Simply, those children that do their homework do it, those that don’t don’t and the rest do it if they can remember or are reminded enough times. I needed a change.
I had 6 main intentions:
I wanted homework to be:
- Something for the family to do together (up parental engagement)
- Something that was linked closely to what the children were doing in school.
The first thing I did, although not overly imaginative, was to give a project to the children, build a Viking Longhouse:
They had 4 weeks to do it – as you can see from the images, yes there was a range, but there was a 100% return rate.
It had appealed to children and their families. It was different and it gave them something they had to plan and consider (Oh, and I suspect there was just a tiny bit of competition!). We produced some great descriptive writing and instructional texts, they became a village, which we mapped and used as a story setting – it linked and they loved it!
For the next term’s project I wanted to push them a bit harder, to try and get a little more range of work produced.
I wasn’t sure where to start so I googled it! (Because lets be honest, that’s what we do!) Simple really.
What I found was this: http://www.primaryworks.co.uk/Category/Thinking-Skills
I liked them and so I bought them, not overly expensive and even though they weren’t exactly what I was after they were the model for and inspiration for what came next. The termly ‘Home Learning Project’.
I won’t show full examples here (copyright and all that) but I will show small parts.
Each sheet gave a variety of tasks split into different areas:
I am no lover of the ‘Learning Styles’ debate, but in this case it does provide a nice range of differing types of task, the rationale behind the homework project is that children have to do something from all the areas. (They can’t just build stuff or paint a picture!!)
I had a tinker, edited and changed a few things around in order to create a wide variety of activity, came up with a set of rules and expectations and produced the following: (Selected examples from projects on ‘Coasts’ and ‘World War II’)
The expectations I created were as follows:
The children found this approach to their homework really interesting. They liked the element of choice, they could do what interested them, rather than what was prescribed. Parents engaged in the idea because their children did.
There was an end product, that they knew would be displayed and compared with others. It was a project book, that built over time, linking their own individual work, with class work, the class work fed into the homework and it was all simply ‘joined up thinking’!
I liked the fact that there was an end date, there was time, children had to manage time over a longer period.
This was time clearly communicated with parents and regular reminders could be sent.
It was successful. Very successful. Again 100% return rates. During my time at that particular school, 4 ‘big terms’ I had 100% return on homework projects in my class, this included an improvement on returns in spellings and greater levels of home reading too. Since I left the school, it has continued the model and it is still successful.
I have used similar models in 2 other schools since then, and have had similar success rates.
There is always likely to be 1 or 2 resistant ones at first, but once they see others buying into the idea, they soon get involved.
This alongside the more traditional homework activities has changed this:
Below are a few more of the ‘creations’ made as part of the projects. These tasks are always appealing, although not essential. I will add more images of some of the project files and scrapbooks later.
There is always plenty of opportunity for children to talk about their projects during the process, where they are upto, what they’ve done, what they have left and if they have had any extra ideas that aren’t on the original sheet (that’s allowed too!).
Children often share what they’ve done, why they did it and what they have learned as a result. Parent’s do the same. How much they have enjoyed working with their children. I have had boys who have visited granny and learned how to knit, sew and patchwork, girls working in the shed with dads and granddads building models out of wood, polystyrene and plastics and they have LOVED it!
Not a perfect system by any means, but one which has proved to have some great results for me.
Any comments and thoughts welcome through comments.