Help on the home front

"The dog ate it" is the classic excuse for no homework

"The dog ate it" is the classic excuse for no homework. But how do you get more of your class to complete higher quality homework?

The two biggest issues are setting it too late in the lesson and not telling the pupils exactly what is expected of them. In lessons, setting homework is often left to the end. The pupils are losing interest and already thinking about leaving the class. If the lesson overruns, then they scribble it down and later can't decipher it. Setting it early means there is no excuse. If they don't understand what to do, then you can give them an opportunity to ask you during the lesson.

Relating the homework to the lesson is important, otherwise they won't see the significance of what they are doing and it becomes less important. Make sure your instructions are clear. Simply saying: "find out about ..." will result in printed pages off the internet, or a lot of cutting and pasting, useless to you, and the pupils have probably not even read it.

Planning for good homework is like planning for good lessons. The pupils need to know what they are doing, why they are doing it and what you expect them to learn from it.

James Williams is a lecturer in education at the University of Sussex


- Set homework at the start of the lesson, not the end.

- Make the homework relate to something they have done in class.

- Make the instructions for homework clear.

- If the homework includes internet research, make sure the pupils do something with the information they find.

- Mark the homework as soon as possible and give formative feedback, or get the pupils to mark each other's homework.

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