Science - A homework hater's tips

25th November 2011 at 00:00
How to make pupils' tasks engaging and worthwhile

I have to lay my cards on the table: I am not a big fan of homework. As a teacher and parent, I have often seen children spend time on tasks that took little thought and involved little learning. While I don't advocate a regime of no homework, teachers should give careful consideration to the tasks we give and their purpose.

There are a number of ways to assess understanding, practise a skill, consolidate something learned in class and maybe even engender some enthusiasm for our subject:

- Explain what you have learnt to your parents

Ask students to write a short explanation of their task for parents to sign and comment on - a great way to engage them in their child's learning.

- In 50 words, explain to an imaginary eight-year-old brother what you have learnt today

The word limit and age of the intended audience mean students have to think hard. And it is a great way to assess their understanding of the lesson.

- What if .

Get students to create a fake newspaper front-page story with a headline such as "The world stops spinning". This can be adapted to just about any subject.

- Draw the picture

Give the students a relevant picture, such as a parachutist in free fall for "terminal velocity", and ask them to describe the science involved in 48 words.

- Choose two questions from your textbook, one easy, one hard

Ask the students not to answer them, but to explain why one is easy and one isn't.

- The amazing mug trick

Ask them to do a simple practical at home for their parents. For Year 8s, use the amazing mug trick to demonstrate refraction. Put a coin in the bottom far side of a mug and move your head so it is just out of view. Pouring water in causes the coin to appear as if by magic.

- Moon crash

Get students to research conditions on the moon and then choose seven objects that would enable them to escape from a crashed spaceship. This could be adapted for any satellite or planet.

Simon Porter is a science teacher at the British School in Warsaw


Simon Porter's tips and resources are available on TES Resources. Don't forget to give us (and him) your feedback on:

- What if .

- Draw the picture

- The amazing mug trick

- Moon crash

Find all resources and links at

What else?

In the forums

Read the advice offered to a teacher looking for ways to grade science homework appropriately.

Take a look at ideas for extended homework tasks on the subject of space.

Check out creative ideas for homework tasks on the topic of magnets.

All resources and forum links are at


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