A New Twist On Homework

There has been a lot of discussion about homework on social media platforms recently, so for this month’s blog, I thought I would share how homework is organised in our department.

 Our key stage three geography scheme of work is split into 6 units, one for each half term – see below:

Curriculum Wheel

For a number of years now, short weekly geography homework tasks have been replaced by an extended homework assignment issued at the beginning of each unit.

These extended assignments cover four to five weeks of homework time, and contain a bank of different options for students to select from – although they are also encouraged to come up with their own ideas. Students can choose to complete one task in great detail, or divide up their homework time across a number of different choices. The extended homework assignments are designed to develop independent learning skills, time management skills, and the choice students have to plan, research and complete different activities permits them to pick tasks suited to their own preferred learning styles. They also allow students to display their creative skills, and importantly provide an opportunity for more-able students to extend themselves and showcase their talents.

Examples of the first homework assignments for each key stage three year group are included below:

Year Seven:  Extended Homework Geography And Me

Year Eight:  Extended Homework Volcanoes

Year Nine:  Extended Homework What Is Development

Copies of homework assignments for other work units are available on request.

At the beginning of the year, the students are issued with an advice sheet, and they are encouraged to share this with their parents and carers. A copy of this  is downloadable from the link below:

Extended Homework Instructions

Students are also asked to watch a short video on the school VLE along with their parents. This helps to explain how the extended homework tasks should be approached, and indicates some of the ways that support can be given at home.

Earthquake Survival Shelter & Kit 1

Earthquake survival shelter

The advice sheet lists a number of possible methods that might be adopted by students when planning how to complete their selected tasks. These include – Powerpoints, films, photographs, story writing, board games, artwork, leaflets, posters, podcasts or radio broadcasts, mock newspaper pages, letter writing, poetry, mini drama productions, model making, web site building, cartoon strips, word clouds, animations and song writing (and performing!)

The advice sheet also includes a long list of more creative tasks that demand a deeper thinking process from students while allowing them a chance to apply their knowledge to . This list was inspired by ideas used by John Davitt in his ‘Learning Generator’ – and I am indebted to this original and creative idea.

http://www.newtools.org/showtxt.php?docid=737

Included on the advice sheet are the following possibilities for students to incorporate into their planning:

Can you complete a piece of work about your chosen topic as: # a recipe; # a prayer; # a rap; # a prescription with dosages; # a radio weather forecast; # an Olympic event; # a courtroom trial; # a dream or a nightmare; # a TV commercial for a toy; # a love song; # a puppet show; # an obituary; # a scene from a silent movie; # a letter of complaint; # a shape poem; # a used car salesman’s patter; # a dance; # a furniture self-assembly; # a Star Wars inspired episode (or one inspired by another film or TV programme); # a soap opera; # a gravestone inscription; # a Blues song; # an army marching chant; # a school report; # a treasure hunt with hidden messages; # a witness statement; # a haiku; # a billboard design; # a mime; # a 1930s radio broadcast; # an opera

H Estate Design 2More able students are directed towards some of these creative tasks, to really test their understanding of the subject matter of the work unit they are studying.

Some students, particularly early in year seven, need extra support with this system of homework. They can be overwhelmed by the range of possibilities available to them, and will need the task ‘chunked down’ to shorter, manageable and achievable tasks according to their particular ability.

Resources for homework are provided during Geography lessons, and are also made available on the school VLE. Here, a ‘speed dial’ section highlights relevant web sites for each of the study units, and a ‘homework help speed dial’ provides links to generic web sites  that could help complete the task in different ways. The screenshots to the left are not ‘live’, but if you want to try out these speed dials for yourself, they can also be accessed by logging on to the ‘Devon Geography’ web site at:  www.devongeography.com where they can be found in the ‘Department’ section under ‘Homework’.

Homework Help Speed Dial

Work is always submitted in a range of different formats. Some is completed on paper, while some is submitted electronically – either on a memory stick or via e-mail, or through the school VLE. Paper copies of work stored in large folders and these are added to each year and returned to the students at the end of year nine. There are often models, large displays or posters, games and the like – and I have even had a live performance of a short play written and acted by the students!

I try to keep a photographic record of different pieces of work so the students have saved evidence of what they have achieved, and this also helps to provide a bank of examples to model to students when the task is being set.

I am always keen to receive feedback from students on their lessons and the subject matter we cover in geography. Comments regarding the extended homework tasks have been particularly positive, with students expressing clear approval of the opportunity to choose their own work tasks and then choose how they completed the work.

All geography students are familiar with the structure of SOLO taxonomy, and this forms an integral part of their lessons. There are articles elsewhere in this blog which outline how SOLO has been used in geography lessons. I would like to rewrite the task sheets to link the various jobs to the different stages of SOLO, as I feel this would help the students in their choice, as well as make it easier for me to direct them to particular jobs where appropriate. I also have an embryonic idea about attaching some sort of points score to the different tasks reflecting their complexity. I could then set individual targets to students to choose a combination of tasks in order to attain a particular points total depending on their ability.

A full gallery of completed homework can be viewed on the Devon Geography web site:

www.devongeography.com

I would be interested to hear of any other approaches to homework operated by geography teachers, or any comments you might have about the ideas outlined in this blog.

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About devongeography

Head of Geography and Assistant Vice Principal at South Molton Community College, North Devon. Exeter Chiefs supporter!
This entry was posted in General Geo, School, Teachers and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A New Twist On Homework

  1. Judith Roberts says:

    Thanks for sharing your work. It’s really impressive and detailed.
    This is very timely to help with our KS3 planning.
    How do you assess? We do longer homework tasks each half term which are the key assessments for tracking etc but also have smaller tasks.

    • Thanks for the nice comments. I should have included a paragraph explaining how we assess! We try to find time for the students to give a 30 second presentation about their work to the rest of the class for some peer assessment, and the teachers complete a detailed feedback sheet based on 2 stars and a wish – pointing out two of the best parts of the work and making a suggestion for improvement next time.

  2. Colum Mc Cauley says:

    Hello, I have really enjoyed looking through your blog and all of the ideas. I had seen the ‘landscape in a box’ before, but had not used it as an activity. Using your experience and instructions, I am inspired to use it in the next academin year. W have a ‘take away option’ for our learners similar to your extended learning opportunities. This is an area I am looking to develop within school and was wondering if you would be interested in sharing resources and ideas.
    Thanks

    • Hi Colum, thanks for the positive feedback. I am planning to adapt our homework system to match the changes with new curriculum from September, and am looking at ‘take-away’ tasks. Therefore, I would be happy to keep in touch and share ideas.

      • Colum Mc Cauley says:

        Sorry for the delayed response. I have a take away menu we used on food miles with our year 11 students which worked quite well. In the next two weeks I will have created a KS3 physical take away and a KS3 human take away, so if you give me your email address, I can send them to you.

  3. Nice one! Would love to see these!

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