This term, I’m trying a new approach to homework with my classes. I only teach AS/A level and so this term is fully focussed on preparing for the exams. I think it is nigh on impossible to prescribe a homework that fits all the students in any one class: in my A2 Maths class, many of the students also do Further Maths and they have little difficulty with Core 3 and 4, whereas others do struggle with those modules; in my AS class most are confident on the core but are still getting to grips with statistics but, equally, there are a couple of students in the opposite situation.
The other risk at this time of year is setting (and thus marking) a vast number of past papers which, for me and my disorganised ways, is generally unmanageable. Also, how long should I allow the students to work on a paper? Overnight? Over several days? Some will fly through a C1. Others will need 2 or 3 days to complete a paper. Others still will leave it til the last minute and then see if they have enough time or not.
So, the experiment is to go old school and use exercise books. I bought a pack of A4 squared books from Amazon (our college doesn’t usually use books) and, in true KS3 fashion, printed an A5 sheet of expectations for them each to glue in.
The most important aspects from my point of view are that:
- the students do some maths outside of lessons every day (we teach them every day, so can monitor this on a daily basis)
- the students choose the work they are completing (most are very good at this, and occasionally my feedback will include specific follow-up questions)
- the students check their work against numerical solutions or mark schemes etc, highlighting problems that they were not able to resolve themselves
During a typical hour-long lesson, I will collect all the books at the beginning then, when during time when they are all working in class, I will scan through each one adding in comments and chatting to the students on a one-to-one basis. The books are always returned to students by the end of the lesson so they can work in them that evening. So far, I’ve not had problems checking every book during class time. I have, however, had to arrange some follow-up one-to-one support to spend enough time picking up on some students’ difficulties.
I have to say, the students are responding very positively to the process. They know they are spending more time on maths than they perhaps otherwise would, but they see the value in choosing appropriate work and getting very specific feedback from me. We do have a grading system that can penalise students on a weekly basis if they are not meeting our expectations but, so far, I have not had to use this as a punitive measure.
And the best bit? All my ‘marking’ (which isn’t marking it all, but giving feedback and advice) is done during class time.