As Headmaster, I know the battlefield that setting homework can create. Recently I was invited to a Year 6 English lesson in which the boys wrote formal letters to persuade me to end the torment of homework which they believed was ‘tantamount to child cruelty!’
However, despite the swathe of growing opinion that homework is increasingly devoid of value, I believe it provides the chance to consolidate learning – practice after all does make perfect – and offers the opportunity to develop independent learning skills away from the watchful eye of the teacher. As a parent, homework is a key indicator of how my son and daughters are doing at school; reports, parents’ evenings and grade cards provide me with the teacher’s perception of how my child is progressing, but homework promotes a dialogue, not always positive, about what they have learnt in school. It also lets me to assess how well they have understood concepts being taught and their level of confidence in particular areas.
How can we improve the rap homework gets and make it a worthwhile learning tool?
Evaluate content and purpose – A photocopied A4 sheet isn’t going to inspire or engage which is why at Thorpe we strive to set ‘homework with a purpose.’ Our termly homework project weeks are designed to encourage independent thinking and research skills and time after time the boys surprise with their creativity; we’ve seen everything from rap videos and Lego models, to themed bakes and paintings.
Parents, get involved – Parents are often hesitant to become too heavily involved in case they receive criticism from form teachers or worse, other parents. However, parent participation is essential; it demonstrate that we, as adults value what they are learning. Many children also need to feel that what they are doing is valued and worthwhile, if they are to be persuaded to expend any effort into completing a homework task!
I strongly believe homework shouldn’t just promote the revision of current skills or preparation for a forthcoming lesson, it should cultivate the key personal our young people need to develop into effective and independent learners.
How can parents promote independent thinking at home?
Bake together – a great opportunity to explore weights and measures and irreversible changes.
Shop together – from working out percentages and addition to estimation of cost and weight.
Read a newspaper together – great for learning about current affairs, First News is a great starting point.
Write letters together -Excellent for practising grammar, punctuation and spelling, plus letters to famous people, politicians and television shows such as Blue Peter, may illicit a response they will treasure for a lifetime.
Watch television together – yes really! You will be surprised where watching the likes of Bear Grylls, Champions League Football and The Great British Bake Off will take you.