As detailed in previous blog articles, current research suggests that the impact of homework is greater if the task is concise, meaningful and tightly linked to current classroom learning. Key Stage 3 students in particular need to be supported with developing an effective approach to home learning. Teachers should aim to support students by developing predictable and expected home work routines, and most importantly, by planning/designing high quality home learning tasks alongside their lessons and schemes of learning.
The best ideas for home learning activities are often the simplest. Use the chance to engage learners with their learning! The more emphasis that we as teachers place upon home learning, the more pride our students will take with their work. Here are some fantastic ideas for homework activities that you can use today!
- Create a survey and ask your family/friends. The results could be used in the starter of the next lesson.
- Why is it difficult? Give students 2 questions about the same topic. Ask them not to answer the questions, but to write a paragraph explaining why 1 question is more difficult than the other.
- Real life scenarios. For example; ‘You are preparing for a moon landing- what would you need to take with you?’
- A photo says 1000 words. Give students 2/3 photos. Ask students to write a page about why you have given them these photos, what relevance they have to the topic and what they can teach you. Great for students that may struggle to complete reading tasks independently!
- Write the alphabet down the side of the page and ask students to fill in the alphabet with words about the subject. More or less words could be given to students with different abilities!
- Completing the missing half to the torn page.
- Designing. Allow students to get creative and design a cell/ food package/ campaign poster/ animal/ space ship/ planet/ habitat/ advert/anything relevant!
- Watching a video/using an animation on the internet. There are thousands of excellent resources for students to explore online. Teachers can direct students to appropriate resources and ask them to write a comment on what they have learnt.
Please also see the attached templates for more ideas for great home learning activities.
Research assignment templates Tic Tac Toe scaffold Timeline template Video comparison template Comic strip template Letter template Levelled poster template Photo analysis template Question, reflection & answer
As covered elsewhere on our blog , Hattie’s approach in his groundbreaking book, “Visible learning for teachers: maximising impact on teaching”, is to compare the impact of different teaching interventions using a single ‘barometer of effect sizes’. Effect sizes above d=0.40 are considered to be within the ‘zone of desired effects’. In other words, anything above d=0.40 is really worth our time – it can significantly improve student achievement.
Skimming over the 5 meta-analyses of homework that Hattie includes, one might be forgiven for thinking that the impact of homework is not strong. The mean standard effect size of homework is only d=0.29, not really anything to write home about. But dig a bit deeper, (as summarised in a great post from the fantastic blog by headguruteacher Tom Sherrington, called Homework -what does the Hattie research actually say? ) and you discover this important distinction:
Effect size for primary schools: d = 0.15
Effect size for secondary schools: d= 0.64.
Hoorah! An effect size of d= 0.64 is the equivalent of approximately a years learning, but why is there such a difference between age-groups?
Hattie’s analyses of this difference are thorough. He considers both the variations in measurements amongst the studies and the ability (or otherwise) of younger students to complete homework tasks unaided. But what does this all add up to for the classroom teacher? Further interpretations of these analyses (see the Headteacherguru link above) summarise the findings:
- Younger students may not yet have developed the correct study skills needed to organise their homework efforts.
- As a rule, the impact of homework is greater if the task is concise, meaningful and tightly linked to current classroom learning.
- Only as students get older, are they more able to complete open-ended activities.
Perhaps then, news stories headlined French parents to boycott homework are not as alarming to advocates of homework in the as we once thought. After all, this article simply restates what Hattie’s research so eloquently demonstrate s- the effect sizes of homework are smaller in primary schools. But we should realise that we need to correctly set up and manage the transition from primary school, in terms of our homelearning expectations. Year 7 students are often our most enthusiastic students, but we need to support their efforts and design tasks carefully.
Next week for some practical homework ideas for Key Stage 3 students!
Does homework actually help students to succeed?
Teaching professionals have debated the pros and cons of homework since the early 1900s. Here at Paddington Academy, we strongly believe that excellent homelearning routines are key to student success.
Here’s what some of our teachers think about homelearning:
James Harding (Science):
‘ Homework is absolutely crucial to our students success, without the independent practice, extension and consolidation that homework provides they will struggle to get the top grades that we want for them. With my GCSE classes I give pupils weekly homework tasks that are mainly focussed on practice questions and consolidation work. Once a half term I give pupils an extension homework where they have to go and research a topic that they have been studying.’
Danny Riley (History),
‘Since beginning my career as a teacher, I have had the opportunity to witness how much pride our students take in completing homework. Ok, so not every student does it but I want to give every student the chance to extend themselves outside of the classroom and in doing so, become better historians.’
There are members of teaching and educational community that disagree with the setting of homework . In the table below we summarise the most common arguments made in objection. We counter each of these arguments with the current thinking and research, along with evidence from our teaching community.
We hope to continue this debate, so please do let us know your opinion. Do you agree? Does homework help students to succeed? Which tasks have the greatest impact on progress? Share your best practice on our blog!
Homework doesn’t help our students to succeed because….
Wrong! (Evidence to counter this argument)
|…the students never hand it in.
||Over 80% KS3 Paddington students consistently hand in their homework projects.Providing opportunities for homework gives the students that consistently complete it the opportunity to make extra progress.Why do some students never hand in homework? What barriers do students face when it comes to homework? Are EAL, SEN, and literacy the only barriers students can be overcome? How can we design tasks that are interesting enough to overcome the ‘motivation’ barrier?
|…we just set it for the sake of it.
|| We aim to plan homework whilst we are planning our lesson. This helps to ensure that the tasks we set are relevant and meaningful.
|…students have plenty of other things to do. We are taking away the time that they need to do other things.
|| Our students still have plenty of time in the evenings to do other things. KS3 students should aim to do around 1 hours homework per evening. Other activities can easily be arranged around this.We can help students to organise their time more effectively and this will help them to succeed in the future.
|…the work that the students hand back in is poor quality, so there’s no point in setting it.
|| There are many excellent examples of outstanding homelearning by our students. Many of our students take a lot of pride in their homework.Generally we need to ask ourselves why the quality is not great. The greater the emphasis that teachers place on homelearning, the more emphasis that students will place on it.Differentiation of activities will help students to complete the work independently, and they will be more likely to hand in better quality work.
|..the research shows that it doesn’t make any difference- why bother?
|| Hattie’s research suggests that homework has an effect size of d=0.64 at secondary level (equivalent to at least one years learning). More of this in later posts…
|…most parents are unable to help students with the homework that we set them.
||We can design meaningful tasks that students can complete independently. Students can also attend a multitude of homework clubs if they need help with their work. Teachers are always willing to help students that are stuck. It is essential that we train our students to ask for help.Are our tutor groups aware of when and where the homework clubs take place?
|…parents disagree with the setting of homework as it causes stress for families.
||Parents of students at Paddington Academy are keen for their children to complete homework, Parents regularly ask that more homework is set.
|…setting homework will generate more marking.
|| Not all homework tasks need to be marked by a teacher. At Paddington, peer and self-assessment are firmly embedded within our practice. Students are able to effectively mark and evaluate their own work. Often homeworks can be marked as part of the connect, and this practice can be seen regularly at Paddington.