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Parental opinions needed please about a new approach to homework at Key Stage 3

(34 Posts)
Moomin Wed 06-Aug-08 14:46:00

At my school we've been looking at ways to try to encourage pupils to be less reliant on teacher and parnetal support and try to make homework more creative, relevant to skills needed for independence and hopefully also more enjoyable.

So I've been asked to create an English Homework booklet and I'm starting with Year 7. Each project will be usually, but not always, tied to the scheme of work the pupils are doing in English in its theme and pupils will be given 4-6 weeks to complete their project.

Throughout Year 7 for example, pupils might be asked to produce:
- a pamphlet about Shakespeare's life;
- learn lists of key spellings;
- do grammar exercises appropriate for their ability;
- create a 'diorama' (a mini-model of a scene from their favourite fiction book);
- keeping a reading journal for a few weeks;
- making a scrapbook about a character;
- create a holiday brochure for a fictional resort.

Parents would be asked to sign the homework booklet every few weeks to make sure pupils are keeping up to date with their project and they can also make comments, but would also be encouraged to not do the work themselves, to support their child to be more independent. Homework booklets will also be produced for 3 ability tiers to suit each pupil. Projects would then be handed in to school and given rewards for effort and attainment, although not given Nat Curr levels, as the onus is on creativity and enjoyment.

So, would you be hmm about a scheme like this as you think it would be a lot of hard work for the parents, or do you think it would succeed in encouraging creativity and independence in your child? Be honest- I really want parent feedback!

Moomin Wed 06-Aug-08 15:54:30


Uriel Wed 06-Aug-08 16:22:21

How would you judge whether parents had helped or not?

I would be hmm because my heart sinks when I hear the word project!

You say the onus is on creativity and enjoyment - but it's homework, it's not fun - sorry.

One of mine can draw really well, the others can't. How do you make allowances for having 'crafty' skills or not?

Moomin Wed 06-Aug-08 16:32:14

I think most teachers know the abilities of the kids they teach and would be quite savvy on who has had shedloads of help from a parent.

The idea is that it;s not judged on its aesthetic beauty but the methods and skills used to arrive at the end product.

A lot of the time HW is just 'tacked on' and isn't really very meaningful. A lot of staff complain that many kids these days need 'spoonfeeding' too much as we give them so much support and there is little expectation of them doing stuff for themselves. We certainly wouldn't expect perfection: it's more about effort and resourcefulness.

Crafty skills not needed either - each project would have a variety of ways to come to end product, so researching and printing images from the internet would necessarily get less credit as stuff drawn by pupils themselves.

Moomin Wed 06-Aug-08 16:33:07

sorry should say 'not necessarily'

Loshad Wed 06-Aug-08 16:33:47

I'd have a fit tbh, think it sounds like loads more work for the kids than normal, and would need much more, not less parental input. In general I don't need to (never mind want to) help my secondary school aged kids with their homeopwrk at all, other than nagging gently reminding them to do it. (do help with revision etc if they want me to)

frogs Wed 06-Aug-08 16:34:36

Tbh, at KS3 I don't really get involved in homework unless specifically asked to.

Obviously if reports etc indicated there was a problem I would keep a closer eye, but she seems to be doing fine on her own.

I really have no desire to do my kids' homework for them.

fembear Wed 06-Aug-08 16:39:29

This is a difficult one. I would have loved our school to do something like this but then I know that there are other parents are ideologically opposed to homework.
I suppose that the key is communication: explain to pupils and parents what you are trying to achieve and why.

I hope that you will give them lots of support in project management, it's a difficult concept for the kids.

Is this going to happen for all subjects - will you do an English project booklet, a Geog booklet, an Art etc etc as well as the standard planner needing signing too?

cornsilk Wed 06-Aug-08 16:40:29

I think it's an excellent idea.

Twiglett Wed 06-Aug-08 16:43:09

I'd be extremely pissed off at a scheme like this to be honest

well for me the work always came in a pressured heap at the very last moment throughout my educational life (including through uni finals tbh)

the ongoing 6 week project is too long IMO for 11 year olds

the amount of stuff they need to do with regards to diorama's and making pamphlets would drive me, as a parent, doolally

secondary school homework should be about the child doing it and not reliant on parental support (over and above the encouragement) .. anything that needs much resource material and further creativity is a PC idea for no reason IMO

honest enough?

Twiglett Wed 06-Aug-08 16:44:57

11 year olds should IMO have a short set homework of stuff they can do under their own steam .. write a story, learn about shakespeare for a test, learn spellings, write a poem

tigermoth Wed 06-Aug-08 16:58:31

In my experience, projects always mean extra parental input.

Like Twiglett, my heart sinks at the idea of six week projects done solely at home. For a start my printer doesn't work so no chance of printing off reference text or pictures. Then there's the last minute demands for the right stationary to present the project - grid paper, tracing paper, the right sort of folder - inevitably there will be something I don't have to hand.

If you like the project idea from a creative POV, I think it must be done partly at school, with teachers monitoring progress and input.

Also, lots of access needed to school computers to print off stuff and get info, otherwise children who do not have good computer/printer access at home will be at a disadvantage.

Uriel Wed 06-Aug-08 17:08:51

Year 7 pupils often aren't very good at breaking projects down into bite-sized pieces that they can manage every week. If the parent doesn't supervise that, there is a massive panic when the project is due in. I have recent experience of this [groan] and it involved two very late evenings, desperately trying to finish stuff on the computer.

If you're definitely going ahead with this Moomin, what about giving out a guide project breakdown for each project, or at least the first few? Otherwise I think it's a bit much for Yr 7 kids to master on top of settling at their new school. They'll probably do it, but at the expense of much gnashing of parental teeth and parental grey hair. wink

geogteach Wed 06-Aug-08 17:11:11

We worked like this in my first teaching job, nearly 15 years ago. In geography classwork was very like this too, there were study guides produced at 3 different levels, we included info like lists of books avaliable in school and page numbers, things we would like to see included and the mark scheme so kids could see what we were looking for. It was great for mixed ability teaching as kids could work t there own pace and help from teacher and TA could be targeted. As we worked like this in class we were able to develop study skills.
for a year we taught english, geog, history and RE like this to year 7, there was joint planning across the departments but one person taught all subjects to each class. I loved it, I had one class 8 periods a week, really got to know them, developed cross curricular type skills as I saw them so often I knew what they needed to work on and it was a much gentler introduction to secondary school for the kids.

Bridie3 Wed 06-Aug-08 17:13:30

I'm with Twiglett.

I would hate this.

unknownrebelbang Thu 07-Aug-08 01:15:23

No, I don't think I like this idea.

DS1 (just finished yr9) has generally speaking completed his homework over the last three years, projects though tend to be left til the last moment and rushed/not completed properly.

DS2, about to start at secondary and ordinary homework has the potential to be a battleground, projects - for him - would be a nightmare.

And I can think of at least two parents of new yr7 pupils I know who would assist massively (not exactly doing the work, but monitoring and improving iykiwm).

So no individual progress at either end of the spectrum.

fortyplus Thu 07-Aug-08 01:30:58

I've got 2 fairly bright boys who've just completed years 8 & 9.

TBH mine would have been fine with this approach and would have relished it (except for the 'reading journal', which they've always detested).

However, I think that the less able children with unmotivated parents would be severely disadvantaged. Imagine someone on benefits with no home computer and lacking the will or wherewithall to go to a library and/or internet cafe... the child's work would inevitably fall far short of expectations.

No... I'm afraid that I think that your new approach favours the motivated middle classes! smile

tigermoth Thu 07-Aug-08 07:45:49

Yes, that's my feeling too, fortyplus!

gomez Thu 07-Aug-08 07:58:41

DD1 (8) who is entering P4 (in Scotland so we don't really do the KS things) this year had 2 homework projects like this in her last term of p3. They were fabby and she really enjoyed them, as did DH and her granpa who helped.

DD is able however and we as a family are in a position to provide all the gumph needed - i.e. computer/internet access/scrapbook/glue/crafty stuff/printer etc. I know that DD has a friend who was in tears over the whole thing as (a) she still struggle with some the basics(b) her home situation is very different - very little if any parental support and no money to provide little bits and pieces. Certainly no computer at home either. DD's wee friend found the whole things horrific and was not at all engaged.

Should also add this was in addition to more 'normal' homework such as maths/spellings etc.

purits Thu 07-Aug-08 10:30:08

"I think that your new approach favours the motivated middle classes!"

Quelle horreur. We can't have that: the system favouring people who actively and practically support it. What a ridiculous concept!shock

What are you naysayers advocating- that schools should dumb down to the lowest denominator?hmm It's attitudes like this that make the MC go for private and leave a school to become a 'sink'.

As long as coursework is an element of GCSE, don't you think that it would be doing the kids a favour to teach them how to approach projects/cw.

Moomin Thu 07-Aug-08 11:05:25

hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm lots of food for thought. I want to get this right and I value your comments.

The whole point of this approach is that the onus is on the pupil to complete the work, in trying to train them to use their own initiative and get homework done under their own steam. It's sposed to get them to organise their time effectively and get used to doing things for themselves. This will help them become more independent learners as they progress through the school.

At the moment, many pupils find the transition from KS3 to KS4 quite difficult as KS4 is all about GCSE coursework and many pupils are simply not used to doing things independently: many of them therefore miss deadlines, do the bare minimum and leave things to the last minute. It then has a knock-on effect when they go to further education: they can't cope with the freedom of college (we have no 6th form), the lack of bells and the lack of 'spoonfeeding', and they drop out.

Yes, I take on board the points about materials and computer access not being available for all pupils. tbh, in my 13 years' teaching experience, in the vast majority of cases (like it or not), the least supportive households have pupils who are often in the lower ability classes and therefore the lower ability booklet would require less in the way of computer and crafty input.

If a pupil with greater ability has a reputation for disorganisation and a poor homework record, they could maybe be given the project booklet requiring less input? So the booklet is not divided into 3 tiers of ability as such, but more for complexity and level of input needed? There are plenty of pupils in the lower ability classes who need support for specific learning difficulties relating to literacy but who might excel in practical work and computer-related tasks. They could have the middle or even upper ability booklet.

Our 'library' is actually a learning resource centre which is open to pupils before and after school and provides computer access and practical help from staff, so this resource would be plugged a lot.

More comments please - this is very interesting for me!

PrimulaVeris Thu 07-Aug-08 11:41:00

Hello Moomin, I'm the mother of a Y7 DD (Y8 from Sept) who is bright and conscientious ... but the prospect of a 4-6 week project would fill me with horror!

I agree with you that they need to learn organisational skills, but I think that to go from Y6 worksheet-type homework (done in 20 mins) to 4-6 week project is a jump too far. DD and many of her peers really found it difficult to deal with planning and forward thinking for several subjects within week/fortnight. Required lots of nagging from me and continuous checking of homework diary.

When I first read the thread I thought "oh god no, not a dumbed-down project masquerading as cross curricular homework" but reading the OP again, I think you have a lot of core stuff in there haven't you? I'm not sure why it has to be put in a project - why not week 1 spellings, week 2 researach on Shakespeare, week 3 holiday brochure etc ... which is actually similar to how DD gets homework. Just in weekly bite-sized pieces. Much easier for parents grin

hanaflower Thu 07-Aug-08 11:44:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

pofaced Thu 07-Aug-08 12:01:04

My DD (11) did a number of projects this year where the teacher did the prep work in school with them so it was broken down into chunks each night eg WW1 project first day's homework was on technology (DD did flight, others did ammunition etc). Day 2 was major events (DD did Somme) Day 3 was inidivdual stories (she did war poets) and so on: they ended up with 5 pieces of work created over a 2 week period and then mounted them.

It was a good way to get them to do their own work while providing enough guidance from school not to drive parents mad. I think they had 2 days to do each element and were given guidance all the way through. So projects can work if they are of short duration and lots of guidance from school, not if open ended and 6 weeks long

Moomin Thu 07-Aug-08 19:03:52

The idea was also to give each pupil a booklet outlining the tasks step by step, with guidance on how they might want to organise their time and clear instructions: one of the essential skills we need to help them develop is to read and follow instructions. You wouldn't believe the amount of supposedly bright pupils that sit there seemingly listening to your instructions at the beginning of a task, even when you 'model 'it (give them an example of what to do), and put written steps on the board and then as soon as you ask them to start they say "What do I have to do?"

Not all of the tasks would last 6 weeks, even if the scheme of work they were following did.

I'm now starting to think that only certain schemes of work would have a project attached, say 3 out of the year (a year would have about 6-8 schemes of work in it).

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