I have to lay my cards on the table – or perhaps science teachers are more likely to lay their mats on their benches - I’m not a big fan of homework. As a teacher/parent I have often seen children spend time on tasks that required little thought, involved little learning, but required a lot of their time after a long day at school. Whilst I wouldn’t want to advocate a regime of no homework, I do think as teachers we need to think carefully about the tasks we give and their purpose – and perhaps also think about effective tasks that do not take too long to mark!
The following are ideas that can assess understanding, practice a skill, consolidate something learned in class or maybe just to engender some enthusiasm for our subject. With some thought they can be adapted to any topic.
- “Explain what you’ve learned to your parents”. Students to stick a small sheet with an explanation of the homework in their books that parents have to sign to prove they’ve done it and leave a small comment on how well they did. A great way to engage parents in their child’s learning. Also very quick and easy to mark!
- “In 50 words, explain to your imaginary 8 year old brother what you have learnt today” (thanks to my teaching guru the great Mike Hughes for this). The word limit and intended audience means students really have to think how to do this in simple language and it is a great way to assess their understanding of the lesson. The 50 words also again makes this quick and easy to mark.
- “What if” - A fake newspaper front page contains a headline such as – “No more convection” or “The world stops spinning”. Students have to consider the implications of the headline and fill in the gaps in the reports. This can be adapted to just about any subject. Again, a good assessment of their understanding.
- “Write the picture” – Students are given a relevant picture (a boiling pan of water for “convection”, a free-fall parachutist for “terminal velocity” etc.) and have to describe the Science involved in 48 words (why 48? I don’t know!).
- “Choose 2 questions from (a relevant page) your text book; one easy and one difficult. Do not answer them but EXPLAIN why the difficult one is difficult and the easy one is easy”. This will tell you much more about what they have learnt than them simply answering the questions.
- You can ask them to do a simple practical at home for their parents. Obviously you have to be careful here – I use the “Amazing Mug trick” to demonstrate refraction for year 8s. Put a coin in the bottom far side of a mug and move your head so the coin is just out of view. Pouring water in causes the coin to appear as if by magic. Students have to demonstrate this to parents/siblings who sign a slip in their books to prove that it was done! This type of homework can also be done using internet simulations.
- “Moon Crash” Students have to research conditions on the moon to help them decide which 7 objects to take to enable them to rescue themselves from a crashed spaceship. This could be adapted for any planet too. A fun way to get them to research information on space.
If you have some good ideas of your own, perhaps you could friend and message me on TES and I can include them in my next blog (fully credited of course!).
Simon Porter teaches physics for premium international schools operator Nord Anglia Education.