Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Back to Basics: Improving Homework

For quite a while now, one of my weaknesses as a teacher has been the regular setting-collecting-marking-feedback cycle of homework. Part of the reason has been a want to move away from busy work and get pupils to have responsibility for making sure they have met targets.
However, schools have policies, and I want to keep to them as I've found it adversely affects students' attitudes towards me when I don't. This term I've refocussed on this aspect of my teaching, looking at what I already do and looking at things to try out. I would also love to hear how others handle homework and stay on top of it, so please add your comments below.

What I Already Do:

  • Put homework in to SBG (as the link above talks about, there are many reasons not to do this. However, as I have to grade the work, I might as well keep the scores in a useful format)
  • Have set days for each class for handing out and collecting work.

Things I am trying out this term:

  • Be mega-strict about it - there are so many pupils that come to me saying they forgot the sheet or lost it or somebody stole their bag etc., and I spend half my time trying to remember who's handed in what and when they said they'd hand it in and so on. Instead, they have a set day to bring it in and they will either hand it in first thing the next day or do it in detention.
  • Write down who was in when handing it out (so I know who got the sheet)
  • Before students hand in their sheets, I will ask for a hands-up of who has not yet done it. I will write down their names and set-up the detentions for the next day.
  • Have the entire term's worth of homeworks ready-made - This took the longest time to set-up, and it means that they have to be highly differentiated as I'm not yet sure where the pupils will be up to in their understanding. I've done it because I noticed that homework is often an after-thought with me, as all the more immediate duties of being a teacher came first. This way I don't need to think about it much as I print out the sheet and decide which parts they should do.
  • I am going to read about, and possibly try out, Sam Shah's binder check method.
How do you deal with this in your classes?