Bad homework is as much of a drag for teachers as pupils. Oftentimes, a big pile of marking is produced, but not a lot of learning has taken place. But it needn’t be this way. Instead of automatically producing homework sheets or setting textbook questions and similar, have a think about some slightly different approaches which might encourage your pupils to engage with the topic in hand. They might actually learn something and you can guarantee that the marking side of things will be a lot more pleasurable as a result.
1. Set collaborative projects over a week or two
Pupils often work very well when you enable them to work together, so instead of setting a new homework for each pupil after each lesson, why not put pupils in groups and ask them to work together on collaborative projects over a period of a week or two? You need to make sure that every member of the group contributes evenly and that the work isn’t all left down to one keen (or bullied) individual though.
2. Have pupils mark each others previous homework as their next homework
Especially when you’re approaching exams, a really thorough understanding of the mark scheme is absolutely crucial. An interesting way of instilling this is to work with pupils on understanding the mark scheme and then set homework of marking each other’s last assignment. They will need to justify the marks they gave with an explanation as well as giving clear indicators of what their partner would need to do in order to move up a grade band. Pupils can then return the assignment to its owner who can spend a third homework making amendments as suggested before submitting it to you for final marking. This can be remarkably effective, especially as students can often be very harsh when marking each other’s work!
3. Set ‘be the teacher’ homework
This can work particularly well if you need to ask your students to do a lot of reading. Instead of asking the whole class to read all 30 pages, split them into groups of three of four and assign each group a few pages and ask them to prepare to teach the rest of the class about the text they have read. If they are very keen they can prepare a presentation or handouts, but at very least they need to be able to speak cogently on the topic, summarise it well and answer questions from their peers.
4. Think about making it relevant
Many teachers use similar lesson plans year after year. Stop for a moment and think about how you can make today’s homework really relevant to the here and now. What’s happening in your students’ lives or the world around you at present that could be incorporated into their homework? Adding a degree of relevance in this way can often make the task far more motivating for pupils and you’re a lot more likely to capture their imaginations.
5. Consider your sources
Instead of expecting students to research their homework using the same old textbook or internet sites, think about what other sources you could suggest that they use for research. You could ask them to find information out from the newspaper or by interviewing their family or sourcing their friends’ opinions via Facebook or Twitter. There are a whole host of possibilities.
Do you have any further suggestions? How else can you make home work more meaningful for pupils? Please share your ideas and examples by commenting.