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The Fabulous Fortnightly Fifteen Minute Forum Numbers 5 & 6

June 7, 2014

Number 5. #Takeawayhmk

Either side of Whitsun half term we have had our 5th and 6th instalments of the 15 minute forum. For a short blog on the first 2 click here and for a short blog on our 3rd and 4th click here.
On May 16th Miss V Jones our English 2nd in Department (@toria2685) took a session on setting “takeaway homework” an idea she had picked up from @TeacherToolkit (idea 56 in the book 100 ideas for outstanding lessons).
I was looking forward to this session because not only do I own the book and think its a great idea but homework completion from the whole class is something I’ve often struggled with.

Like all schools, homework completion can be a bit of a bugbear for teachers. Inevitably there are some students that miss deadlines or even lack the motivation to complete the homework. In my previous school I considered making homework optional. I thought this would mean the pupils that wanted the feedback to improve would complete the homework. The ones that didn’t, wouldn’t, and I wouldn’t have to spend time chasing up the missing homework. Reflecting on this I realised it communicated low expectations to pupils. The bottom line is that homework must be completed by all pupils. We have to have high expectations of all of our pupils (that they will complete the homework) and we must be tenacious in chasing up missing work and applying appropriate sanctions. But it would be so much easier if everyone did it on time to the best of their ability.
Whenever I have spoken to students about why they are reluctant to complete homework it would always boil down to the fact that they couldn’t see the point in the work. It often seemed homework for the sake of homework. The homework was being done to them as opposed to them having homework to truly consolidate/extend their learning.
So I was looking forward to this session.

VJ started by putting her implementation of takeaway homework into context. She said that she had a particular year 9 group that she always struggled to get anywhere near the whole class to complete homework. In many classes there will often be one or two but this class had LOADS of pupils that would regularly not complete their homework. VJ decided to trial a takeaway homework:

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So what is a takeaway homework?

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it can make homework:

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Can those words really be associated with homework? Really?

Well yes actually. They can. VJ shared some examples of takeaway homeworks that she had created:

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So what is a takeaway homework and how does it work?

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So it is takeaway in the sense that pupils can take it away without needing any additional information and also because it is designed as a takeaway menu.

It is differentiated, personalised and self selecting because:

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In the example above, every time a homework is set pupils choose 1 starter, 1 main and a dessert (the meal deal is for half term).
So pupils have the choice of which homework to complete (and what combination to do it in). Giving pupils the choice clearly gives them “ownership” of their homework (I don’t like the word but it does seem to fit here- the homework wasn’t being “done” to them ).

The outcome of the introduction for VJ’s class was that they all completed the homeworks on time. The choice aspect clearly had a positive effect on their motivation to complete the tasks. Give pupils a bit of choice and create homework that has genuine value for them as learners and the results can be amazing!! VJ’s classes have found the homework inspiring and rewarding. Job done!!

VJ then showed another example (from @ItsNads88) where the peri-ometer reflects the level of challenge:

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VJ then encouraged any interested staff to visit the following blog to see more examples of takeaway homeworks and become even more inspired:

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Or search twitter using #TakeAwayHmk.

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For more information here is the link to @TeacherToolkit’s unhomework blog. If you liked this idea then you’ll love the book (and no I am not on commission!!).

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And remember it is true that great teachers set great homework.

Number 6- the Propeller effect.
On June 6th our Head of English Miss K Jones presented the intriguingly titled “The Propeller effect.”

KJ gave us the content for trying the propeller effect. During revision for her classes’ English Lit exam KJ felt that the pupils were not taking all of the information in during the discussions about the characters in Of Mice and Men. When she asked them to jot down information about the characters they would remember the key themes but without any real detail of the nuances of the characters. So…..KJ turned her room into a giant propeller (or spidergram).

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The middle table (the centre of the propeller) had the name of the character written on it. Each “blade” of the propeller represented a different aspect of the the character. For example the pupils may be studying Curley’s wife and one propeller blade would be a description of the character when we first meet her, another arm could be their relationship with….so – each arm would be a different aspect to the character perhaps linked to a quote from the book.

Then in groups of 3 or 4, pupils would sit on each propeller blade (all facing the same way) and they would write ON THE TABLES with board/OHP pens on that component of the character. After around 7 minutes pupils would then move onto the next propeller blade. Obviously this would have been written on by a different group. Now the task was to build on what the previous group had written. Pupils instinctively peer assessed by agreeing, disagreeing, editing or adding to what was already written.

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At the end of the lesson the desks looked like this:

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KJ has noted how allowing pupils to do something as simple as writing on desks had had a disproportionate effect on the work ethic of many of the pupils (especially the reluctant boys). It had been a joy to witness groups of learners discussing ideas, rubbing bits of their own work out and redrafting it before moving on. Work of other pupils was commented on and added to.
If pupils had completed this exercise in their books and had then passed it to another pupil to be peer assessed then pupils would have seen just one other pupil’s work. Using the propeller effect meant that all pupils got to see the work of many of their peers. This proves very important in the mixed ability groups. The pupils could see the thoughts and ideas of practically the whole class.
The key to the efficacy of this technique is what happened at the end of the lesson. Pupils took their mobile phones out and took photos of the blades of the propellers (well the desks) and KJ took photos with her iPad for pupils that may not have their phones with them. For homework they then had to write an essay on Curley’s wife. The essay was split into 6 sections representing the 6 different propeller blades. Pupils used the photos of the collaborative work as prompts to complete each section of the essay. This follow up work was so important (otherwise some pupils would only have remembered the fact that they had written on desks). Pupils could use the thoughts and ideas of the whole class to write their essay. When the homework was handed in the quality was simply outstanding. KJ felt that every pupil did a better job than if they had worked on their own.

As a group (and a very enthused group at that) we then discussed how it could be used in other subject areas (very easily as it happens). KJ has done this many times since and now gives each group a different colour pen so that the end product is colourful and pupils can see the impact that different groups have had on the whole class resource.

I’m already thinking about how I could use the propeller effect in my Science lessons……

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From → #15MF

6 Comments
  1. Looking forward to reading how VJ collects and assesses the homework. How will students know what the success criteria is?

    • Thanks for commenting Ross. I will let you know.
      Damian

    • That’s a really interesting question Ross. I think the real beauty of takeaway homework (at least the way VJ has set them) is that all the information that pupils need is provided in the short bit of info given on the menu. As you say – they can literally take it away there and then. The fact there are no success criteria is a double edged sword. On the one hand pupils may not know what a successful piece of work may look like. The other side of the coin/sword/hand is that pupils have the license to be as creative as they want. It’s their homework and there may not be only 1 way of completing it successfully. VJ says she has a rough idea of the success criteria for each task but marks each homework on its merits (and feeds back accordingly). VJ states that one of the things she likes best about the homework is she will have 25 different home works handed in. It makes marking more fun. “Best examples” can be further shared in class . I personally like the freedom that takeaway homework gives pupils. I would advocate a range of types of homework given to pupils through the year (and I think that echoes your thoughts) but takeaway homework should be a prominent part of the diet through the year as there are so many benefits to pupils (and their teachers). Thanks again for the idea.
      Damian

  2. Reblogged this on Cymraeg@MartinSant and commented:
    Great ideas here from #15MF

  3. I loved the ‘propeller effect’. I’ve seen writing on desks at a Teachmeet, but the room arrangement definitely adds something.

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  1. Education Panorama (July ’14) by @TeacherToolkit | @TeacherToolkit

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