This morning, I was mulling over what to write about today, and I had already reached a conclusion: homework. I was feeling a little grumpy as our regular offenders had once again failed to hand in/complete their homework, as they had done for most of the year. Most weeks, they have had to lose some of their free time to complete it. Then I read Mark Barnes’s blog about how he has to endure hours of torture at home completing homework, and I was convinced of what my topic would be today.
Homework is, without doubt, the bane of my life. I have no issue with sending homework home each week; I think it is ideal for the children to have some extra practise out of school and gives the parents some idea of what we are doing in class. I try my best to find fun maths activities for the children to take home. Admittedly, there are occasional weeks when I forget and have to find something at the least minute, but usually, it takes me almost as long to find or make something for the children to take home as it does to plan the rest of the week’s maths. And then there are the spellings. We have changed our approach this year: rather than sending lists of words home to learn, the children are given a spelling pattern to learn and apply, by finding words themselves which use the pattern. They then share the words they have found when they come in to school, and we choose a few to test them on. For some (in fact, lots) of the children, this works really well. They clearly spend time looking for the words and some use them in sentences to show they understand them. Some even choose to do optional, additional activities from their SPaG books to practise them further. These children generally do well in their tests. Perhaps this is because of the effort they make with their homework. Or perhaps it is because they are the ones who generally don’t need to practise. Those children whom the homework would really benefit often come to school without their homework books, or even hand it in with nothing in. I’ve spoken to the children, spoken to the parents, written letters, praised them on the odd occasion when the children do complete it, made them complete it in their own time when they don’t. I’ve offered opportunities for the children to bring it in early and receive help. All to no avail. If it were just a case of plucking a sheet out of a folder and sending it home, I wouldn’t mind quite so much. But I spend hours planning the lessons on which the spelling and SPaG homework is based.
This term, we are having a bigger push on spelling than we ever have done before. We have a short spelling lesson at the start of the week to introduce the pattern, then the children practise at home. Before their test at the end of the week, we have another short lesson to recap on the spelling rule. The problem is that I don’t want to just send home boring cloze activities or writing sentences for the children to do. Mark Barnes made an appeal this morning for teachers to send home fun activities, maybe tablet based or online games. Trust me, I have tried. I’ve spent hours today looking for apps and games to use to practise using the suffixes –sion, -tion, -cian and –ssion. No luck (well, except one website where the games were pretty ropey. I could introduce my own word lists, which was a bonus, but the games were still pretty awful). There are loads of spelling games out there for younger children, using cvc words, but not much for older children. Clearly a gap in the market. If only I were an app designer, I’d be busy whipping one up now to use the Key Stage 2 spelling objectives! Last week, I sent home a word search for the children to complete. Lots did. My little core of regular offenders didn’t. This week, a game. Will they complete it? I doubt it. I had intended to complete my SPaG medium term plan for the rest of this term and all of next. Mission not accomplished – one week done! I don’t have a problem with trawling the net or app stores or making stuff myself if it is going to serve the purpose I want it to: to help these children to spell. If my efforts can get just one of my non-homeworkers to spend a few minutes practising their spelling patterns at home as well as in school, then it is time well spent. And for any app designers with a spare few hours on their hands, I’ve got an idea… let’s talk!!!