In my first lesson of the year I like to include at least some activities which get the kids out of their seats and engaging in the essence of what I see our Science lessons being like for the year.
I managed two activities this year.
Firstly, there was the annual treasure hunt. This is where the class have 4 minutes to find all 9 objects on a displayed list. These are all items they will use in practical sessions during the year. They are allowed to look everywhere in the room except for inside my handbag. Everywhere? Yes. Everywhere. The main safety precaustion is not to move boxes or shelves higher than eye level as they may fall on their heads. This is a great activity to build trust, take away some of the innate curiosity which can detract from a later lesson and get the kids used to their surroundings.
They are also tasked with finding items which are unfamiliar during the treasure hunt. I take 10 minutes to discuss anything unknown or interesting they find. It’s great to see them puzzling over what a pooter is for or posulating why I have 5 slinkys in a cupboard with a box of broken pens!
I love this activity because if I am ever absent the kids can assist the cover teacher, it allows the children to feel more ‘at home’ in their surroundings, it builds trust between us and it takes away some of those moments during a lesson when you find a child focusing on the classroom decor rather than the subject at hand.
The second activity is our team building activity and is changed annually. This year, teams of 2-4 people had to draw a stick-person by each manipulating one of the 4 stings tied around a pen. After, we discussed the main requirements for good teamwork and had a look at the finished products. The drawings aren’t exactly pretty but they are certainly to be proud of as they are the product good teamwork. In the discussion the kids came out with some lovely ideas for good teamwork ranging from being supportive to one another to listening to everyones ideas to involving everyone in the activity. I hope they take these ideas forward and implement them in every practical session we have this year!
Moving to my latest school was a small shock when it came to homework.
At my previous school, homework hand-in rates were exceptionally low and the entire process was a constant time-consuming battle. Eventually our department adopted a ‘project based’ homework approach where only 3 pieces of homework would be handed in each year. Despite this, I still had to literally find and chase children to collect in their projects (and I mostly ended up with lame excuses rather than the actual work!).
This was all in sharp contrast to my new school where the children are frequently prompting me to set their weekly homework. I have even experienced children interrupting my coffee break to hand in homework early!
Being that I never had to handle vast quantities of homework before I quickly became swamped with the task of organising homework setting and retrieval. Matters were complicated when each year group had a set night for Science homework but I did not teach all of the year group on that day. Nor did I teach all of the year group on the designated hand-in date and therefore couldn’t collect the work ‘next lesson’. This resulted in a year of always feeling on the ‘back foot’ when it came to homework.
My latest strategy is working very well however.
Here is how I stay on top of the homework paperwork mountain:
Homework Setting & Design:
Homework is meaningful, linked to our lesson and extends their learning while reinforcing facts/skills learned in the lesson.
All my homework is set on worksheets or can be completed on paper. The paper is pre-trimmed so it can be glued flat into the pupils book once returned.
Spare sheets are available in a designated place.
Books do not go home. This prevents the inevitable lost/forgotten books impacting learning through missing work and time spent searching for books in desks or looking for paper to write on. I don’t set ‘complete classwork’ homework. That can be done during lunch or in reflection time. The worksheets contain any key ideas which may be in their books and are needed for homework.
I aim to decide upon, copy & trim the homework at least 3 days in advance.
Every sheet has a clear area where the pupil can write their name and class. This simple measure dramatically reduces the number of sheets without names at the Hanson point.
Each sheet also has a space where I can scribble feedback as required. Nothing is written on the back of the sheets so they can be glued flat in class books.
As I teach the same lessons each year/term I found it is a good idea to create a separate document which lists all the homework I set as reference for the next year.
During a lesson previous to the homework night, check each child has written homework task in their diary (on the appropriate day) with the correct due date. If you are super organised you can print the homework task on a sticker for each child to stick into their diary. I check by asking the pupils to copy the homework at the start of a lesson and leave their homework diary open on their desk. I will shut the diary when I have checked it.
Have a designated person in each class collect in the homework. They are also responsible for checking everyone has put their name and class on the paper. The monitor marks who has handed in their work on a tracking sheet and brings all the work to my classroom on a set day. This avoids 60+ kids coming to my room to hand in their work individually.
Each class has a designated homework folder which is clearly labelled and has my tracking sheet attached to the outside. The monitor collects this from me on hand-in day. There work is stored in the folder for marking and until it is returned to the students.
For pupils who have a note from home to excuse their homework I request they accompany the monitor when the homework pile is handed to me. I can review their note in person before the lesson. I then make the appropriate recordings on the tracking chart.
Any work handed in late is recorded in my chart.
Marking & Returning Homework
I only record effort grades for homework. I have found that parents have too much input when it comes to homework and the work often isn’t a true indication of a pupil’s ability.
Missing work is not chased. It is noted in my chart and this information is passed onto parents through notes in the child’s homework diary. I also give a copy of my homework tracking sheet to form tutors once a month so they can detect patterns. My lessons do not depend upon completed homework.
The same monitor who collected in the homework hands it back post marking at the start of the next lesson. Comments can be acted upon during reflection time and the sheets are glued flat into books as soon as they are received.
This plan has worked well for me. It’s not foolproof and is certainly not the best use of homework for learning but this gives me something workable with room for tinkering & improvement. What more can I ask for?
Love, cuddles & death stares,