Over the past two years, I have been aiming to improve delivery of homework in my own classroom.
In this post, I have provided a much-needed context for my readers, regarding #TakeAwayHmk. Here, I have collected a range of evidence from teachers up and down the UK; and from a sample of subjects. At the foot of this article, you will also find a review for a new book by Mark Creasy, called UnHomework. It is a delight to read and is due for publication on 20th February 2014. It utterly echoes the values I write about here and I am delighted to say, the Mark will be adding his own comments to this blog, after his publication date.
On another note, I am running a training session (21st May) on this particular topic/blog. So, if you are interested in finding out strategies for improving homework in your classroom; faculty; school – this read is for you!
For the past 2 years, I have set homework as a professional goal to improve in my own classroom practice. The reason for this focus, is that I’ve been teaching in over 4-6 classrooms, in each academic year and have been teaching in 2-3 subject-areas to help support students in under-allocated faculties. Challenging enough; even without the demands of setting/collecting meaningful homework that contributes to learning and progress!
Prior to this challenging and fulfilling role, the desire to set tailored and challenging homework was crucial. I was delighted to read Tom Sherrington‘s post in September 2012: ‘Why homework matters: Great teachers, set great homework’, which resonated with my own personal belief as I embarked on this quest: “that homework makes a massive difference to the learning process.”
Tom provides a great overview on Bridging between teacher-led and student-led learning; Extending learning time; Creating Opportunities for Creativity and Choice; Developing the skills required for independent learning; Reducing the diverging effect of home support and equal opportunities; Communicating the values of the school and the teacher and finally; the context of Hattie’s effect-sizes and their variations in a primary vs. secondary context.
As ever, data is only one side of the coin. We need a context for each point of reference. For example; despite me in the classroom, setting meaningful homework; providing astonishing feedback; and providing students with quality reflection time in class; this could all be lost if students do not have a suitable home environment in which to work. Many of my students do (not have a suitable home environment for completing homework)!
Just take a look at the influences of Home Effects on student achievement. These are the conditions that could tip the balance for meaningful (set) homework being completed!
It could be assumed within milliseconds, that homework is a futile task for teachers to aspire towards achieving professional (in my school). Our school is rated on -0.55 on the social deprivation scale. Read more here from the Office for National Statistics.
Regarding Hattie’s 138 influences scale. Here is an overview of the Hattie effect size list that contains 138 influences and effect sizes across all areas related to student achievement. Can homework be a contributing factor to student achievement? I think so! I have circled aspects that I believe are some of the instrumental strands.
#TakeAwayHmk is born!
In many ways, the challenge of setting homework was ultimately about raising standards; coping with teaching multiple in subjects/classrooms led me to creating #TakeAwayHmk as a featured chapter in my book. Creating an alternative version for setting homework in the classroom; I would invest a huge amount of time in the framework and overview of homework; linked to schemes of work; then leading into the actual process of setting homework. This process (in the classroom) would be incredibly quick; stooped in classroom rigour; teacher-clarity and inspiration.
The outcome: a portable homework solution for teachers, teaching multiple subjects; age-groups and in a large number of classrooms. #TakeAwayHmk was born! Differentiated; personalised; self-selecting; inspiring; rewarding and medium-term learning.
I have calculated carefully, that differentiated; targeted and independent homework, followed with targeted feedback, leads to student ownership and improved levels of progress. Of course, do not forget to give students time to improve; reflect and act on feedback given – following a piece of homework handed in.
So, how can you provide on-the-spot homework for all your students? And how is it done and what has worked best for me? Consider a Take-Away Homework menu or a lottery with pre-planned tasks for students to select on a lucky-dip basis.
Below, you will see a range of images shared by colleagues on Twitter. The delight in writing about #TakeAwayHmk has been affirming and the feedback in blogs and in photographs speaks for itself.
Great teachers set great homework!
“Sir, I’d like a ‘Take-Away Homework‘ please.”
There will always be a time when you either need to pull a last-minute homework idea of out nowhere, or for those delightful moments when students ask you for more work to complete at home. Make sure you have your Take-Away Homework list accessible at all time.
My suggestions for getting started:
- Write a list of 30-50 homework ideas for a key stage, project or year group.
- Now divide these homeworks into sections. For example; Research; Development; Evaluation.
- Add in a few seasonal homeworks to complete at Easter, Christmas and over the summer holidays.
- Decide if you want to place the homeworks in a sequential order using a subject-specific, assessment criteria. Adding success-criteria make remove the exciting aspect of a Takeaway, or add incentives to improve…
- Add a simple statement describing each homework and what is needed. No more than a sentence.
- Make sure each-homework can literally be read there and then, and is a ‘Takeaway’. This means, it requires no further guidance.
- Decide on what method you will use to display this resource. A huge banner? A tombola? Using the interactive whiteboard and a lottery-number selector? Simply laminated and stuck to the wall? As the back of all students’ exercise books?
- Consider setting one random Takeaway homework once a half-term (as well as regular homework).
- Consider adding all your Takeaway homework tasks to this online random selector: www.bit.ly/TakeAwayHomework
… and another version by @ItsNads88. Download here for this Nando’s #TakeAwayHmk or click the link to visit the tweet. This idea features in my 100 Ideas: Outstanding Lessons book. You can preview the entire chapter below by clicking the image.
You can search for all these images and more, by clicking #TakeAwayHmk hashtag search on Twitter.
Unhomework: The book
Before Christmas 2013, I was asked by Crown House Publishing to review a new book by Mark Creasy @EP3577, called ‘UnHomework’. The title was fascinating and further echoed my personal classroom desire to set meaningful homework.
Book review by Ross Morrison McGill:
“Unhomework furnishes a philosophy for all primary and secondary teachers with a reliable array of homework tactics, resilience and thought. This book re-kindles the value of home-learning and fosters the process from a creative-curricular experience. This completes the perfect homework utopia. Using project-based learning, Creasy shuns the traditional homework-setting and chasing methods and shares his epiphany millisecond (which you may also have experienced) that transformed his thinking about homework altogether! Unhomework promotes inspiring, well-thought-out and differentiated homework that has stirred my own practice. This will add value for all individual teachers and students alike in any school and in reading this book, you will secure a classroom experience that lowers teacher-workload, yet heightens student grit and independence.
Creasy showcases ‘enquiry within a context’; learning beyond the classroom and equipping students to think, in order to take responsibility for themselves to increase rewards both emotionally and intellectually. He quite rightly berates the worksheet and advocates self-selecting time-frames and missions. Unhomework, full of intrinsic values to shift school policy, has thoughtful analogies: ‘When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad!’ In a nutshell, Unhomework is the passport to ‘free children from the straitjacket of standardised homework’. I cannot wait to get back into the classroom to mutate my plans from homework to Unhomework.
A brilliant read that I want to devour all over again!“
Mark Creasy’s comments on this blog are here with his own write-up on homework.
Email: Daniel Hortop: “Thanks for the fantastic Takeaway Homework idea! I used it in part of a presentation, on making homework irresistible at a senior leadership job interview! They were very impressed and I got the job! Genius! Twitter ID: @danielhortop