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Rotate different kinds of homework activities in class
Rotate different kinds of homework activities in class
Photograph: Graham Turner

Set homework that is:

  • Worth doing. Don't make learners go through the motions. If there is really no appropriate task for them to do on some occasions, then don't set homework. Explain why.
  • Challenging. If homework is so easy that learners can do it automatically then at best they will reinforce good habits. Often they will reinforce bad habits. Make the work difficult, but encourage them to find ways to overcome the difficulties, by working with each other, using adults as experts or books and websites.
  • Realistic and finite. Some young people take work so seriously that it expands to fill all the time available. And they may be overwhelmed by a mass of information. Help them by setting a task that lets them see a clear structure, where each stage is manageable and where there is a definite conclusion. Do this by narrowing the subject (from the Second World War to the defence of Stalingrad) or the length of the work (write no more than 500 words).
  • Structured. Give younger or less able learners a framework and they will surprise you.

Use different kinds of intelligence

Rotate different kinds of activities. If work must be written, then allow note-making, or short polished pieces as well as longer reports or narratives. Encourage pictorial and 3D work. Allow speaking and listening tasks. In a sustained scheme of work use a range of activities to build to a particular presentation. For example, in science

  • start with research (note-taking, verbal reporting)
  • move to writing a script for a presentation (TV documentary broadcast for a young audience)
  • conclude with rehearsing for a performance in school - which could be recorded (on video camera or audio tape)
  • leading in turn to a review of how well the "presenters" have learned the science behind their broadcast

Relate the homework to your year plan

This seems obvious. But you need not do it always or mechanically. Sometimes you might set homework that supports what children have learned previously. At other times, you can use homework to introduce a new subject.

Keeping in touch with parents

Let parents know what you are doing and why. Use consultation meetings to discuss your year plan, desired learning outcomes and assessment standards. Explain homework requirements and expectations.

Share ideas with your colleagues and use training days

Homework can often benefit from teachers' working together. But the school should manage the time for this to happen.

Create homework banks

If homework tasks need detailed instructions, then it makes sense to store these somewhere. Paper copies gather dust, but a file of master copies might be useful. Put them on a school website for learners to use when they want.