Following a visit from an Ofsted inspector to carry out our curriculum evaluation in 2011-2012, the need to encourage younger students to work more independently was highlighted as an area for development within the department. With lots of help from a small group of colleagues, I set about redesigning the way we set homework tasks for our year 7 students.
The task bank we created is based on the idea of ‘homeplays’. It sounds a little corny but it works on the principle that most students like to learn in different ways and that homework should be both relevant and fun. Hopefully, we can encourage our Year 7 students to be independent learners by giving them an element of choice in the homework they complete and by allowing them to organise the time they spend on each piece.
Each half term, students in Year 7 will be provided with a bank of homework tasks which are organised into the 6 PLTS areas: creative thinking, team workers, independent enquirers, self-managers, effective participators and reflective learners. Over the course of the half term, students must complete one task (of their own choice) from the options available in each of the PLTS areas. They will complete 6 tasks in total.
Due to the nature of the tasks, some will take students longer to complete than others and they may wish to work on more than one task at any given time. It is up to individual teachers to set deadlines within each half term at which they can check progress. Teachers may wish to ask students to complete all extended task homework in the back of their books, or in a separate folder: whatever works for them.
These tasks have been designed with mixed ability students in mind. As the tasks are fairly open-ended, they should provide sufficient
challenge for more able students. We are also using our whole school Wilmslow Way points system to reward good work. This will help inform the students’ form tutors, Head of House and parents on their progress in their English homeplays.
Having used these new task sheets for the first half term back, the English team are finding that the results are pleasing. Our Year 7 students, keen to impress, have really gone the extra mile to produce pieces of homework of which they can be proud:
We’re continuing to review these tasks as we make use of them over the course of the year. Ashton Davies, a fellow English teacher, found that “there is the issue that the keener Year 7s complete the required number of tasks in the first week or two which means they have a number of weeks with no homework but I guess that’s the point, i.e. rewarding efficient workers.”
A key point will be ensuring that the tasks provide enough challenge for our most able, at the same time as being accessible for others.
Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
WHS English teacher
Wilmslow High School’s history team is also experimenting with the element of choice in their homework design in key stage 3 classes. You can find their previous post here