Reflections: Takeaway Homework

I love takeaways. Especially the type that gets students excited about homework again (and also this type doesn’t make my wallet lighter).

I trialled this excellent concept with my year 7 class and what a success it has been! I have never seen so many students eager to discuss homework before. Below are some examples of the great pieces of homework submitted to me this term:

So, what went well and how can I improve on this for the next term?

The Good:

  • nearly every single student spoke to me about homework and submitted different and interesting pieces each week/every 2 weeks
  • students were happy to redo their homework if something was missing or could be immediately improved
  • some students were eager to see what their peers submitted each week, which in turn gave them ideas for their next submission
  • I was eager to see what my students submitted each week
  • it was pretty easy to keep a record of what each student submitted each week making a follow-up of late submissions, or worse no submissions, easier.
  • I got to eat lots of cakes!

The Bad (sort of…):

  • there were quite a few submissions and I found it hard to keep up with marking the homework towards the end of term!
  • quite a few students opted to make cake but didn’t focus on the actual Science it was supposedly representing. I tried to salvage this mid-way through the term by insisting on a page explaining the Science depicted by their edible creations
  • none of the students tried the collaborative items on the menu. One student did complete of these tasks but by themselves!

The Ugly:

  • I had cake. There is nothing ugly about anything that gets me cake.

My plans for Term 2 are as follows:

  • set aside time each week to look through and comment on each piece of homework
  • make it clear that if a student wishes to submit something edible, they HAVE to submit a page on the Science that it represents
  • encourage students to choose a variety of different tasks for their homework, including collaborating to produce something bigger and better than they would if they worked alone

I will be updating this post around Easter. Till then, I look forward to getting more takeaway!


Resources/credit:

My take of the takeaway homework in the form of a powerpoint explaining my rules and expectations.

Idea/context by: Ross McGill at Teacher Toolkit

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Strategies to improve my teaching

One of the key points raised after nearly every lesson observation I have had is to make pupil progress more explicit. I have always tried to be the type of teacher to not put in insane amounts of effort for an observed lesson. The last time I spent hours and hours planning a lesson was during my teacher training and it never really amounted to an outstanding lesson anyway.

The thing I have to keep reminding myself is this: I got into teaching to help kids have a good base in Science and NOT to impress someone observing me.

Having said that, explicit pupil progress is important. How else will I know if a student has actually got a concept? More importantly, how will a student know if they have really got it? And if they haven’t, what then?

After reading up on several excellent blogs, I have realised that clear feedback and pupil reflection time is the way forward. So, here are my plans for the upcoming academic year (I will return a little later than most people due to being on maternity leave!):

RAG123: a new way to mark

What a scary but exciting concept! Read what Kev Lister, the amazing creator of the RAG123 marking system, has to say and these brilliant analyses by Damian Benney and Educating Miss. Basically, it is a system whereby you mark every student’s book every single lesson. Although that sounds completely mad, it promises to reduce marking workload in the long run (it is much easier to mark one lesson’s worth of work than to mark several lessons’ worth). It also benefits students as they can see how well they are progressing before moving on to the next lesson and potentially more complex concepts.

So, how will I use it? I plan to follow the advice at Educating Miss by using the letters to denote understanding and the numbers to denote effort. So, at the end of a lesson, ask students to evaluate their own effort and understanding for that lesson using the following key:

 R (red): no understanding

A (amber): moderate understanding

G (green): excellent understanding

 1: great effort

2: moderate effort

3: poor effort

Students also write a comment on why they have given themselves a particular rating together with identification of evidence supporting it. For example, if a student gives themselves a G1, they need to show they have completed all given tasks (effort) and that they have achieved the learning objective through checking off all success criteria (understanding).

Then, you take the books, possibly during a free period or if, like me, you feel a bit anti-social sometimes and have finished having your lunch in less than 10 minutes. Give the books a quick look-through and your own rating. You could also add a comment if understanding is poor.

You could leave it at that but eventually pupils need more detailed feedback to work on. So, I plan to provide DIRT (directed improvement reflection time) tasks, perhaps once a week, for pupils to work on as a starter in the next lesson. Writing out DIRT tasks for every student, especially if they are repetitive, can be unnecessarily laborious. I will, therefore, use symbols or letters to represent targets and display these on the board during the reflection time. Students will be asked to write out the target in their books and then work on them, using any resources available to them.

Topic Review Spirals

This is a brilliant resource from Mrs Humanities to review a topic before and after it is taught.

To adapt to my Science classroom and to save on printing, I have merged the two spirals together to allow the students to colour code their confidence in the topics before and after a topic in the same place. This will hopefully make it very obvious to me, an observer and, most importantly, to the student, especially prior to an assessment.

Here is my adaptation of the topic review spiral. The main topic title goes in the central circle surrounded by key questions. Students colour code the blue circle based on prior knowledge and then at the end of the topic, they colour code the mustard circle.

SOLO Taxonomy

One of the key things to help pupils determine their own progress is clear success criteria. I quite like the idea of SOLO taxonomy as I believe it can be used well to develop progressively complex learning objectives. The most important aspect of the taxonomy is the skill to relate a current topic with other topics. This is so vital in Science and will help students truly ‘get’ a concept. 

There are a number of blogs that explain SOLO taxonomy extremely well. Here are three that I like to refer to:

 HookED

John Biggs

ClassTeaching

However, I am reluctant to use the symbols in the classroom for two reasons: 1) it could become superficial and gimmick-y; and 2) this blog post by David Didau. The comments in response to that post make for a very interesting read. Until I am sure there are actual benefits with sharing SOLO taxonomy symbols with my classes, I will plan to use the taxonomy to write better success criteria.

Takeaway Homework

This is something I am most excited about! Ross McGill at Te@cher Toolkit is the brilliant mastermind behind Takeaway Homework. Read his explanation of how it works here

Luckily for me, Educating Miss has already found two takeaway homework templates, one for KS3 and the other for KS4 (click here to read about her experience with this style of homework). 

As GCSE changes have only just come into play, I plan to use this template that I have adapted from this other one on TES. I thought it would be nice to have an Indian menu considering I originally hail from the South-East Asian country.

Phew! This is one long blogpost and I have quite a few new strategies to trial when I return to work. I will be posting separate appraisal posts detailing my own experience with each strategy. I hope they work out!

Thank you for reading.

Dr C

Namaste.

I have always wanted to teach. The story my Mum likes to share is how I would wake my then-8-year-old sister up in the middle of the night during our summer holidays to teach her all about integers and fractions. My sister says she hates fractions because of me but she is a successful accountant now so I am definitely taking credit!

Why Science? Because it really is amazing! I will always be a student of Science, even if I teach it now. There is so much to learn especially with all the advancements in technology and research.

So, what is the point of this website? Hopefully, it will be a place where you can take away workable ideas and useful resources that you can adapt in your own teaching. I am constantly looking out for great, practical ideas that I can easily trial in my classroom. Here, I will aim to explain and appraise resources that can be used to teach Science.

Please feel free to leave suggestions and thoughts and do let me know if anything has been useful to you in your classroom!