Tips of the trade: 10. Homework

"Finish your classwork at home" is probably the least useful of all teaching instructions. Homework should be a tool to develop independent learning and the use of ICT, and should allow pupils to have an input into lesson planning and put their work into the wider context of a series of lessons.

One approach is to get the pupils to produce factsheets - about the current lesson content or, even more usefully, about the contents of the next lesson. A picture and four or five bullet points of information is usually sufficient. Try to encourage pupils to use ICT. These bullet points can then be used to reinforce learning, or for display, or put together as revision guides.

Another approach is to get groups of pupils to act as research teams. For example, ask them to find and bring information that will be used as the content for the next couple of lessons. Each group can then compile and edit what they find in the next lesson and present this to the class in the subsequent lesson. This will benefit you by cutting down your preparation time and your marking workload. You can simply give out a few support materials for those who bring in little or no homework. This will encourage pupils to work together and to feel they have a part to play in their own learning.

Remember that it always helps if one or two homeworks are set by the pupils. And ask them what they want to do for homework. Including pupils in the learning process will make a difference to their self-esteem and the quality of their work.

Roy Watson-Davies is an advanced skills teacher at Blackfen school for girls, Orpington, Kent.

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