Can we have some more homework?

Throughout my teaching career within primary school, I very rarely heard the children asking for more homework. I did however, on several occasions, here parents ask for more homework for their children. However, homework has the many advantages which engage learning outside the classroom, many of which are lost within photocopied textbook pages and endless lists of calculations.

Whenever you are considering giving out homework, think about several points before you type in your code to the photocopier.

  • Is it continuing the learning? – there is no point just presenting the children with homework if it is just for the sake of it. How does it extend or promote the child’s learning from the lesson? In my opinion, no homework should be sent home unless you are 100% sure that the child can complete it unaided. We all mistakes with this, and I have many times, although I make it completely clear to the parents – if they cannot show you how to do it, then send it back
  • Is it engaging? – I’m don’t consider it to be good practice to send home pages of consolidation. If you were not prepared to devote class time to it, then why time at home? Make sure that the child is going to be engaged with the homework – make it exciting and new, something that they child will leave the school building and say – “I have homework!”
  • Are you going to mark it? – this might seem to be a silly question, but remember what ever you set you need to spend the same amount of time providing quality feedback in some form. Imagine if you have spent hours producing a piece of work and when you handed it in it was either ignored or handed back with one big tick at the bottom. Think about what you will do with it and how this will support the children’s learning
  • How long should it take? – At the top of your homework, give the parents a time limit, the maximum time that the child should spend on it. This is important so that no-one spends the whole of Sunday evening on it. It also provides the parents with some indication of how long it should take the child, so if they finish a twenty minute task in two, they might be concerned with the quality.
  • Have you differentiated the task? – Many times I have seen the same homework going home the same for all abilities. Now, there are exceptions to the rule here, but generally you need to make sure that the task is suitable for the child. It relates back to my first point, but consider this carefully. If it is differentiated then the children are more likely to achieve.
  • Is it homework night? – Ensure that you have set days when homework will be given. This allows the parents to organise their time to support their child. On a similar note, ensure that the hand back is the same and also, and this is important for the child, if it is homework night and you have decided not to give any then ensure that everyone, particularly the parents are aware of this. This helps everyone involved.

So, after you have considered all these points and decided whether you will actually give the homework, there is another point to consider. If you do want to give homework but you want to avoid the endless list of calculations, what can you do? Well, in the next homework post I’ll consider one alternative to the traditional homework.