Using homework more effectively-making learning stick!

A few problems this weekend with our blog bit of the school web-site-must be the Irish sea wind or I’ve broken it! We always have issues with the font leaping around and weekend gremlins but apologies if you have favourited or re-tweeted yesterday’s post to find nothing there! Here is the post on my own secret site!

As a teacher who has discussed more key historical ‘turning points’ with classes over the years than I can bear to remember, I have been excited by the ‘turning point’ in my own school and I’m sure many other schools this school year, with the growth in interest in using academic research/sharing ideas from other schools to inform our own practice. When we have been able to create time and opportunities for our staff to read teacher friendly research and trial their adapted versions, I believe that our learning and teaching has had the chance to develop further. If you throw in the leadership and collaborative sharing that this time allows in to the grand mix of personal development for all colleagues-we are on to a winner!

Of course we have to be very careful of jumping on any initiative bandwagon and I’m wary of the increasingly loud voice of some educationalists who perhaps see their way as the only way-that isn’t supposed to be what this is all about! Nor am I pretending that 2014-15 has been in any way a halcyon year for teaching. As a school leader, it has been one of the most bitterly disappointing and divisive years in my memory, and whilst I only have a huge sense of optimism for the learning and teaching future developments here based on the growing confidence and skills of our staff and students-some other national issues, I find bullying and morally bankrupt. This isn’t the forum for that, although I know that it will take a large part of my time and strength next year to fight our cause and beliefs, my focus will always be on helping all in our community to improve their learning. Recent blogs have explained how external visits have really helped us to focus and reflect on our own practice and I liked Steve Munby’s piece in Schools Weekly, where he talked about ‘invitational leadership’ and the chances to work together to create an ‘ambitious self-improving system’ I hope that by sharing our ideas and opening our classrooms to visitors, we are playing our small part in building a brighter future. Let’s hope the ‘point’ can ‘turn’ in the direction that the majority in our profession know that it should do.

Rant over and back to what matters most! We discussed the Sutton/Durham Univ report ion November with subject leaders, with some lively debate on some of the chosen great learning and teaching factors. Previous blogs have explained our early attempts at interleaving and the science faculty lesson study, focused on initial testing, offering a variety of revision methods, and then re-testing.

  • spacing-out study or practice on a given topic, with gaps in between for forgetting
  • making students take tests or generate answers, even before they have been taught the material

This was small scale classroom research with no control groups-the emphasis was on collaborative planning and trialling some different approaches to see the impact on individual learning and whole class.

The slides from the initial meeting are below to show the content of part of the discussion. I borrowed slide ideas from Rachael Edgar and the Swindon Academy and when we came to our Whit inset day, some colleagues suggested that ‘stickability’ –remembering knowledge/demonstrating previously learned skills at different intervals was certainly a desirable facet of great learning. A bigger argument came with the report’s views on independent learning-the scientists in particular were stung by the negative comments re independent learning but once we had reasoned that independent learning without early scaffolding/teaching the skills how to study on your own, was a waste of learning time, colleagues asked for one of our learning hubs to look at independent learning in terms of improving student revision and memory retention and home-learning.

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I shared some interesting blogs with the group e.g. Velcro Learners from Ruth Powley; http://www.lovelearningideas.com/blog-archive/2015/2/27/velcro-learners

and have used Tom Sherrington’s blogs on the value of homework with my NPQSL group and now with the hub.

http://www.lovelearningideas.com/blog-archive/2015/3/25/meaningful-manageable-revision

http://headguruteacher.com/2014/09/05/do-your-homework-acting-on-evidence-from-educational-research-red14/

http://headguruteacher.com/2012/10/21/homework-what-does-the-hattie-research-actually-say/

http://headguruteacher.com/2012/09/02/homework-matters-great-teachers-set-great-homework/

Tom is perhaps keener on home-learning than I am but the hub isn’t about my views and colleagues were keen to try some different approaches to home-learning in the summer term which focused on developing student memory skills by quizzing, testing and a little more besides. It’s very early days and I will feedback later to see what has happened at the end of the trial. The hub members produced a booklet which they issued to upper sets in year 7. There are mixed reviews but all are keen to keep going and all realise that if it is to work in September on a grander scale, we will have to have a launch with students and parents so that everyone is clear on what is needed. From my perspective, I’m absolutely delighted that the hub has launched a small scale trial based on their own professional instinct, research ideas they have found time to read and the learning needs of their students. Home-learning done well can be a tremendous learning tool with plenty of positive effect size scores. You can see my questions and the responses from different subjects below, followed by a copy of the home-learning tasks.

Sarah-English

What was the purpose for you of trying this out? What aspects of learning were you trying to improve and why did you think of this method?

We wanted students to be more independent in their approach to learning and hopefully this would be embedded up the school and help students to organise their time for revision and develop skills that they could apply to revision. We chose YouTube clips as many students see this as fun and not as homework as we are not expecting them to write. We have asked them to watch clips and listen to each one three times so they are hopefully absorbing the information. Some groups have tagged on a quiz to the end of clips.

What was the biggest risk you anticipated?

Students will just pretend to have watched the clips and in effect will not have completed homework.

Impact so far for staff and students-has it worked, have they done more HWK, lost booklets, misunderstood-any basic positives/negatives after a short time?

I can’t comment on other subjects but the year 7 have enjoyed watching the clips and don’t see it as homework as we are not asking them to write. I’ve heard some of them singing the homophone songs in class so the rules seem to be sinking in.

Is it worth launching on a bigger scale, is it worth having comparison groups, what would you do differently?

I haven’t yet had chance to discuss with colleagues the impact in their subject areas. However as a department, English homework next year will consist of a weekly independent learning clip / PP to watch and listen to and one other task. We are currently adding them to the VLE. We are also introducing a half termly SPaG assessment at the end of each half term that will test the skills covered over the homework’s that half term.

Marion-MFL

MFL have been trying to push grammar this year and I have been asking the Year 7 students to learn the personal pronouns and two important verbs (to be and to have) in French. I have given them sheets to learn from and tested them regularly, however as it is not a formal homework many of the class haven’t taken it earnestly and haven’t scored well. I thought by making a mini booklet with learning and follow up activities, a formal homework, the students may take it more seriously. Also I felt, having a short “task” to complete every week and then a consolidation activity would provide some consistency.

The risk I anticipated was that having a French homework every week is not something the students are used to therefore some of the students would still not take it seriously and either lose the booklet or not complete it regularly.

Impact has been difficult to monitor so far because last week when I should have been checking their first homework and stressing the importance of completing each weekly activity I had an observation so was unable to do it. When I tried to check this week a significant number of students hadn’t brought the booklet with them so there was no point going through the activity with them. Instead, I reiterated the importance of completing and bringing in the booklet and emphasised the importance of taking responsibility of their own learning. Hopefully next lesson will be more fruitful.

I do think it is worth launching because if done properly it will help students get into the habit of completing regular, short but meaningful tasks which can only improve their understanding of the subject and lead to greater achievement. Learning to be self-reliant and work independently are such important skills in life and acquiring them at a young age, I believe, can only be a positive thing.

To do this properly I think the ethos of taking responsibility for yourself via home learning should be embedded across the school by informing Year 7 parents and students of our expectations right from the start, then fostering and promoting this idea as they work their way through to year 11, so it becomes the norm. If it is too premature to initiate this on a whole school basis perhaps certain subjects/teaching groups could trail it properly for 6 months/a year then evaluate the impact.

Carmel-science

What was the purpose for you of trying this out?

I wanted to give short home works that were achievable and would make a big difference to the progress of the pupils in the assessments now in y7 as well as in the GCSE they will do in y11. I want them to get into the habit of working this way.

What aspects of learning were you trying to improve and why did you think of this method?

We are trying to develop recall of scientific facts. The techniques we are asking pupils to try are ones investigated or developed from our y10 lesson study 2014/2015.

What was the biggest risk you anticipated?

That pupils would not bother doing it.

Impact so far for staff and students-has it worked, have they done more HWK, lost booklets, misunderstood-any basic positives/negatives after a short time?

We won’t know until we test them in the final week. I suspect quite a few won’t have done much as we are using it as part of a bigger independent learning trial and we only gave the concept a ‘soft launch’ to test the pitfalls before perhaps a bigger commitment in September.

Is it worth launching on a bigger scale, is it worth having comparison groups, what would you do differently?

I believe we have to help our pupils take over responsibility for their own learning and this will only develop over a period of time through expectations and good habits. I am sure that we will not have got the format right straight away! If it was that simple it would have been achieved years ago. It will need months or even a few years of relentless high expectations coupled with tracking, support and frequent follow ups. Culture change is never easy!

Sheila-maths

With my 7 set 4 in maths I identified four areas that they had struggled with this year.  I then created a short homework which focussed on each of these areas separately for four weeks; (perimeter and area of compound shapes, Addition and Subtraction of fractions and Transformations).

All upper year 7 were blind tested on these four areas before they started.

Then after four weeks we will test them again to see if they have improved.

I photocopied these homework’s for 7 set 4 which I had not done before and I did get a better response because of this.

The risk would be that we focus on these topics and they don’t improve with them after the four weeks or later on cannot recall them.

YEAR 7 SETS 1, 2, 3 and 4 INDEPENDENT LEARNING HOMEWORK BOOKLET

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Maths French Maths English
Science Geography Science

Please read the instructions carefully and spend 20 minutes on each task per week.

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Over the next 4 weeks you will be given homework to complete in the subjects above. On the fifth week you will be given a short assessment in class based on your homework.

 

 

 

Maths Homework – All worksheets are on the VLE

You will be tested on these topics in week 1 of summer term 2 and then again in week 5.

Week 1 – complete worksheet – Perimeter of compound shapes

Week 2 – complete worksheet – Area of compound shapes

Week 3 – complete worksheet – Addition & Subtraction of fractions

Week 4 – complete worksheet – Transformations

You will hand your homework in to your class teacher on your last maths lesson of each week, (Thursday or Friday]

Science Homework –

Instructions: Use your preferred revision style to master the 12 statements (there are two sets of 12 statements). You should alternate these over the four week trial. Some suggested techniques are below – have a go at all three if you like.

  • Copying out the statement repeatedly (up to 5 times)
  • Chanting the statements into your phone/voice recorder then playing it back and chant along (up to 5 times)
  • Watching the YouTube support video called ‘Y7 science homework support week 1’ and ‘Y7 science homework support week 2’ and verbally completing the quiz at the end.
  • Create some flash cards to play with.

The YouTube channel is found if you search ‘Carmel Manwaring’ on www.youtube.com, then search the channel for the appropriate homework. You could get someone to test you on the statements to make sure you are making the correct progress.

Year 7 Science Homework Revision 1

Use your preferred revision style to master the following statements

  1. Chlorophyll is a green chemical found in chloroplasts.
  2. Photosynthesis produces food in the form of glucose.
  3. Leaves are adapted for photosynthesis because they have a large surface are and contain chlorophyll.
  4. The tiny holes on the underside of the leaves are called stomata.
  5. Stomata let gases flow in and out of leaves.
  6. Guard cells open and close stomata.
  7. Plants get minerals from the soil.
  8. Plants absorb minerals through their roots.
  9. Plants absorb water through their roots.
  10. Factors that affect the rate of photosynthesis are temperature, amount of CO2 and the intensity of sunlight.
  11. The photosynthesis word equation is : Water + Carbon dioxide → Glucose + Oxygen
  12. The photosynthesis symbol equation is : 6H20 + 6CO2 → C6H12O6 + 6O2

Year 7 Science Homework Revision 2

Use your preferred revision style to master the following statements.

  1. Stamens are the male part of the flower.
  2. Stamens are made up of the anther and the filament.
  3. The anther contains pollen grains.
  4. Pollen grains are plant male sex cells.
  5. Carpels are the female part of the flower.
  6. Carpels are made up of stigma, style and ovary.
  7. The Ovary contain ovules.
  8. The ovules are plant female sex cells.
  9. Pollination is where the pollen grains get from stamen (on the male part) to stigma (on the female part).
  10. There are two types of pollination: wind pollination and insect pollination.
  11. After pollination, fertilisation happens and seeds are formed.
  12. There are four methods of seed dispersal: ‘Wind dispersal’, ‘Animal dispersal’, ‘Explosions’ and ‘Drop & Roll’

English Homework

Watch the following YouTube clips 3 times. All clips are also on the VLE under English, Year 7 homework week 1 – 4.

Instructions: Use your preferred revision style to master the skills. Try to:

  • Chanting the rules into your phone/voice recorder then playing it back and chant along (up to 5 times)
  • Create some flash cards containing the rules.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOtMa2JyfXk – apostrophes

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3qzXNf4noE– semicolons

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfhfoNbDgeI -There, there, their

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1R7EWH2a7YI -To too two

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD1OaD4FBqM – plural spelling s or es?

Geography Homework

Your homework for the next 4 weeks is revise a little bit of geography every week. Revision is a very important skill and it will come in very useful as you move up the school. Use the instructions below to complete your homework:

Week 1

  • Go on to BBC Bitesize – KS3 – geography – coastal landscapes
  • Go to the revise section and read through the information
  • Go to the test section and test yourself.
  • Record your score here ______________
  • Test yourself again.
  • Record your new score here _____________

Week 2

  • Go on to BBC Bitesize – KS3 – geography – coastal landscapes
  • Go onto the activity section and work through the activity video
  • Go to the test section and test yourself.
  • Record your score here ______________
  • Test yourself again.
  • Record your new score here _____________

Week 3

  • Go on to BBC Bitesize – KS3 – geography – coastal landscapes
  • Go to the revise section and read through the information
  • Go to the test section and test yourself.
  • Record your score here ______________
  • Test yourself again.
  • Record your new score here _____________

Week 4

  • Go on to BBC Bitesize – KS3 – geography – coastal landscapes

Go onto the activity section and work through the activity video

  • Go to the test section and test yourself.
  • Record your score here ______________
  • Test yourself again.
  • Record your new score here _____________

What do others think? Is this a better use of home-learning? Would this approach work in your subject? Is this a learning priority in your area? The feedback of the impact and results may convince you! Be patient and I’ll have them for you.

It might seem silly to share the trial at this stage, rather than waiting until the conclusion of the first attempt at teaching [FATE] of it, but, as with lesson study, I’m keen for colleagues to reflect at every stage of the learning process so that others can see how others have adapted and why they have changed tactics. Then you can get your SKATES on for the second attempt at teaching! A huge thank you to our volunteers for sharing their ideas. Ideas from the other hubs will be shared in the autumn term.

 

 

 

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