This year, as a school, we have been focused on trying to support students be more successful with their Home Learning/homework. Home Learning is a constant battle for many schools but in my opinion it is worth fighting as long as we get the type of Home Learning right. As Jon Tait says in this blog and as Tom Bennett has argued if we are going to take up some precious family time with Home Learning then it has to be worth it and have real impact.
For Home Learning to be successful then there needs to be the same degree of thought into it as would go into the planning of the lesson. Too often, Home Learning is a rushed add on not thought about strategically. Home Learning that involves finishing off or doing aimless research on google or making that dreary power point that nobody will read are never particularly useful or indeed engaging for students. No homework is better than pointless homework.
Many students simply do not see the purpose of Home Learning at all. However, most students do see the point in revision, even if they are not always that adept at doing it well. On reflection, it seems that we put a lot of energy into revision timetables and resources for students but often only towards the end of Year 11 when it is often too late for students. How about if we renamed Home Learning or homework and rebranded it as ‘revision’? Students might see the purpose more and it might give us all a nudge to set Home Learning that helps students to practise their learning and reinforce work they have already done. A focus on retrieval practice might enable our students to revise throughout the year rather than cram it all in at the end and really help them to remember and understand their work. Visit the learning scientists website for some great ideas on what makes effective revision.
This from Joe Kirby is absolutely spot on. With regular quizzes, we can enable students to focus on spacing and retrieval practice to help them to reinforce their knowledge and enable all year round revision. This is essential when you think about how the new GCSEs have no coursework and more content to learn. This is especially so in History.
Therefore, I’ve been setting my students weekly topic areas to revise on a specific aspect of the GCSE History course and providing them with digital resources to help them to revise sent via our class e-mail groups. In lessons, I have spent time showing and teaching students how to revise and modelling this with students so they are confident in how to revise successfully. Coupled with this, I have begun to produce video blogs so that I can explain and reinforce key topics to students which they are able to watch in their own time and pause and go back through key points through YouTube. This is a format they are comfortable with and they can watch on their tablet or phones at home. Click here to see an example.
Students complete the revision and then have to take a weekly quiz done in silent, test conditions at the start of a lesson. I set a pass mark and if they don’t achieve this I assume they have not done their Home Learning unless they can provide evidence for it such as examples of revision mind maps etc. Those that do pass get counted as having done their Home Learning with no additional evidence needed. I reward those who have done well with small prizes like lollipops to create competition and an incentive to do well. Students enjoy this and it motivates them and creates a desire and aspiration to do well. From the data, I have created a league table of the class and publicly show the ‘Top Ten’. It’s amazing how many of the students are desperate to get into the ‘Top Ten’. The quizzes can easily be peer marked too.
All this means I am able to set useful, engaging Home Learning that supports revision and does not create burdensome marking. At the moment, it has had a great impact on Home Learning for my GCSE History students.
So try it for yourself in the new year and make homework become revision.