Does Homework Really Help Students Learn?

A conversation with a Wheelock researcher, a BU student, and a fourth-grade teacher

child doing homework

“Quality homework is engaging and relevant to kids’ lives,” says Wheelock’s Janine Bempechat. “It gives them autonomy and engages them in the community and with their families. In some subjects, like math, worksheets can be very helpful. It has to do with the value of practicing over and over.” Photo by iStock/Glenn Cook Photography

Do your homework.

If only it were that simple.

Educators have debated the merits of homework since the late 19th century. In recent years, amid concerns of some parents and teachers that children are being stressed out by too much homework, things have only gotten more fraught.

“Homework is complicated,” says developmental psychologist Janine Bempechat, a Wheelock College of Education & Human Development clinical professor. The author of the essay “ The Case for (Quality) Homework—Why It Improves Learning and How Parents Can Help ” in the winter 2019 issue of Education Next , Bempechat has studied how the debate about homework is influencing teacher preparation, parent and student beliefs about learning, and school policies.

She worries especially about socioeconomically disadvantaged students from low-performing schools who, according to research by Bempechat and others, get little or no homework.

BU Today  sat down with Bempechat and Erin Bruce (Wheelock’17,’18), a new fourth-grade teacher at a suburban Boston school, and future teacher freshman Emma Ardizzone (Wheelock) to talk about what quality homework looks like, how it can help children learn, and how schools can equip teachers to design it, evaluate it, and facilitate parents’ role in it.

BU Today: Parents and educators who are against homework in elementary school say there is no research definitively linking it to academic performance for kids in the early grades. You’ve said that they’re missing the point.

Bempechat : I think teachers assign homework in elementary school as a way to help kids develop skills they’ll need when they’re older—to begin to instill a sense of responsibility and to learn planning and organizational skills. That’s what I think is the greatest value of homework—in cultivating beliefs about learning and skills associated with academic success. If we greatly reduce or eliminate homework in elementary school, we deprive kids and parents of opportunities to instill these important learning habits and skills.

We do know that beginning in late middle school, and continuing through high school, there is a strong and positive correlation between homework completion and academic success.

That’s what I think is the greatest value of homework—in cultivating beliefs about learning and skills associated with academic success.

You talk about the importance of quality homework. What is that?

Quality homework is engaging and relevant to kids’ lives. It gives them autonomy and engages them in the community and with their families. In some subjects, like math, worksheets can be very helpful. It has to do with the value of practicing over and over.

Janine Bempechat

What are your concerns about homework and low-income children?

The argument that some people make—that homework “punishes the poor” because lower-income parents may not be as well-equipped as affluent parents to help their children with homework—is very troubling to me. There are no parents who don’t care about their children’s learning. Parents don’t actually have to help with homework completion in order for kids to do well. They can help in other ways—by helping children organize a study space, providing snacks, being there as a support, helping children work in groups with siblings or friends.

Isn’t the discussion about getting rid of homework happening mostly in affluent communities?

Yes, and the stories we hear of kids being stressed out from too much homework—four or five hours of homework a night—are real. That’s problematic for physical and mental health and overall well-being. But the research shows that higher-income students get a lot more homework than lower-income kids.

Teachers may not have as high expectations for lower-income children. Schools should bear responsibility for providing supports for kids to be able to get their homework done—after-school clubs, community support, peer group support. It does kids a disservice when our expectations are lower for them.

The conversation around homework is to some extent a social class and social justice issue. If we eliminate homework for all children because affluent children have too much, we’re really doing a disservice to low-income children. They need the challenge, and every student can rise to the challenge with enough supports in place.

What did you learn by studying how education schools are preparing future teachers to handle homework?

My colleague, Margarita Jimenez-Silva, at the University of California, Davis, School of Education, and I interviewed faculty members at education schools, as well as supervising teachers, to find out how students are being prepared. And it seemed that they weren’t. There didn’t seem to be any readings on the research, or conversations on what high-quality homework is and how to design it.

Erin, what kind of training did you get in handling homework?

Bruce : I had phenomenal professors at Wheelock, but homework just didn’t come up. I did lots of student teaching. I’ve been in classrooms where the teachers didn’t assign any homework, and I’ve been in rooms where they assigned hours of homework a night. But I never even considered homework as something that was my decision. I just thought it was something I’d pull out of a book and it’d be done.

I started giving homework on the first night of school this year. My first assignment was to go home and draw a picture of the room where you do your homework. I want to know if it’s at a table and if there are chairs around it and if mom’s cooking dinner while you’re doing homework.

The second night I asked them to talk to a grown-up about how are you going to be able to get your homework done during the week. The kids really enjoyed it. There’s a running joke that I’m teaching life skills.

Friday nights, I read all my kids’ responses to me on their homework from the week and it’s wonderful. They pour their hearts out. It’s like we’re having a conversation on my couch Friday night.

It matters to know that the teacher cares about you and that what you think matters to the teacher. Homework is a vehicle to connect home and school…for parents to know teachers are welcoming to them and their families.

Bempechat : I can’t imagine that most new teachers would have the intuition Erin had in designing homework the way she did.

Ardizzone : Conversations with kids about homework, feeling you’re being listened to—that’s such a big part of wanting to do homework….I grew up in Westchester County. It was a pretty demanding school district. My junior year English teacher—I loved her—she would give us feedback, have meetings with all of us. She’d say, “If you have any questions, if you have anything you want to talk about, you can talk to me, here are my office hours.” It felt like she actually cared.

Bempechat : It matters to know that the teacher cares about you and that what you think matters to the teacher. Homework is a vehicle to connect home and school…for parents to know teachers are welcoming to them and their families.

Ardizzone : But can’t it lead to parents being overbearing and too involved in their children’s lives as students?

Bempechat : There’s good help and there’s bad help. The bad help is what you’re describing—when parents hover inappropriately, when they micromanage, when they see their children confused and struggling and tell them what to do.

Good help is when parents recognize there’s a struggle going on and instead ask informative questions: “Where do you think you went wrong?” They give hints, or pointers, rather than saying, “You missed this,” or “You didn’t read that.”

Bruce : I hope something comes of this. I hope BU or Wheelock can think of some way to make this a more pressing issue. As a first-year teacher, it was not something I even thought about on the first day of school—until a kid raised his hand and said, “Do we have homework?” It would have been wonderful if I’d had a plan from day one.

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Sara Rimer

Sara Rimer A journalist for more than three decades, Sara Rimer worked at the Miami Herald , Washington Post and, for 26 years, the New York Times , where she was the New England bureau chief, and a national reporter covering education, aging, immigration, and other social justice issues. Her stories on the death penalty’s inequities were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and cited in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision outlawing the execution of people with intellectual disabilities. Her journalism honors include Columbia University’s Meyer Berger award for in-depth human interest reporting. She holds a BA degree in American Studies from the University of Michigan. Profile

She can be reached at [email protected] .

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There are 81 comments on Does Homework Really Help Students Learn?

Insightful! The values about homework in elementary schools are well aligned with my intuition as a parent.

when i finish my work i do my homework and i sometimes forget what to do because i did not get enough sleep

same omg it does not help me it is stressful and if I have it in more than one class I hate it.

Same I think my parent wants to help me but, she doesn’t care if I get bad grades so I just try my best and my grades are great.

I think that last question about Good help from parents is not know to all parents, we do as our parents did or how we best think it can be done, so maybe coaching parents or giving them resources on how to help with homework would be very beneficial for the parent on how to help and for the teacher to have consistency and improve homework results, and of course for the child. I do see how homework helps reaffirm the knowledge obtained in the classroom, I also have the ability to see progress and it is a time I share with my kids

The answer to the headline question is a no-brainer – a more pressing problem is why there is a difference in how students from different cultures succeed. Perfect example is the student population at BU – why is there a majority population of Asian students and only about 3% black students at BU? In fact at some universities there are law suits by Asians to stop discrimination and quotas against admitting Asian students because the real truth is that as a group they are demonstrating better qualifications for admittance, while at the same time there are quotas and reduced requirements for black students to boost their portion of the student population because as a group they do more poorly in meeting admissions standards – and it is not about the Benjamins. The real problem is that in our PC society no one has the gazuntas to explore this issue as it may reveal that all people are not created equal after all. Or is it just environmental cultural differences??????

I get you have a concern about the issue but that is not even what the point of this article is about. If you have an issue please take this to the site we have and only post your opinion about the actual topic

This is not at all what the article is talking about.

This literally has nothing to do with the article brought up. You should really take your opinions somewhere else before you speak about something that doesn’t make sense.

we have the same name

so they have the same name what of it?

lol you tell her

totally agree

What does that have to do with homework, that is not what the article talks about AT ALL.

Yes, I think homework plays an important role in the development of student life. Through homework, students have to face challenges on a daily basis and they try to solve them quickly.I am an intense online tutor at 24x7homeworkhelp and I give homework to my students at that level in which they handle it easily.

More than two-thirds of students said they used alcohol and drugs, primarily marijuana, to cope with stress.

You know what’s funny? I got this assignment to write an argument for homework about homework and this article was really helpful and understandable, and I also agree with this article’s point of view.

I also got the same task as you! I was looking for some good resources and I found this! I really found this article useful and easy to understand, just like you! ^^

i think that homework is the best thing that a child can have on the school because it help them with their thinking and memory.

I am a child myself and i think homework is a terrific pass time because i can’t play video games during the week. It also helps me set goals.

Homework is not harmful ,but it will if there is too much

I feel like, from a minors point of view that we shouldn’t get homework. Not only is the homework stressful, but it takes us away from relaxing and being social. For example, me and my friends was supposed to hang at the mall last week but we had to postpone it since we all had some sort of work to do. Our minds shouldn’t be focused on finishing an assignment that in realty, doesn’t matter. I completely understand that we should have homework. I have to write a paper on the unimportance of homework so thanks.

homework isn’t that bad

Are you a student? if not then i don’t really think you know how much and how severe todays homework really is

i am a student and i do not enjoy homework because i practice my sport 4 out of the five days we have school for 4 hours and that’s not even counting the commute time or the fact i still have to shower and eat dinner when i get home. its draining!

i totally agree with you. these people are such boomers

why just why

they do make a really good point, i think that there should be a limit though. hours and hours of homework can be really stressful, and the extra work isn’t making a difference to our learning, but i do believe homework should be optional and extra credit. that would make it for students to not have the leaning stress of a assignment and if you have a low grade you you can catch up.

Studies show that homework improves student achievement in terms of improved grades, test results, and the likelihood to attend college. Research published in the High School Journal indicates that students who spent between 31 and 90 minutes each day on homework “scored about 40 points higher on the SAT-Mathematics subtest than their peers, who reported spending no time on homework each day, on average.” On both standardized tests and grades, students in classes that were assigned homework outperformed 69% of students who didn’t have homework. A majority of studies on homework’s impact – 64% in one meta-study and 72% in another – showed that take home assignments were effective at improving academic achievement. Research by the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) concluded that increased homework led to better GPAs and higher probability of college attendance for high school boys. In fact, boys who attended college did more than three hours of additional homework per week in high school.

So how are your measuring student achievement? That’s the real question. The argument that doing homework is simply a tool for teaching responsibility isn’t enough for me. We can teach responsibility in a number of ways. Also the poor argument that parents don’t need to help with homework, and that students can do it on their own, is wishful thinking at best. It completely ignores neurodiverse students. Students in poverty aren’t magically going to find a space to do homework, a friend’s or siblings to help them do it, and snacks to eat. I feel like the author of this piece has never set foot in a classroom of students.

THIS. This article is pathetic coming from a university. So intellectually dishonest, refusing to address the havoc of capitalism and poverty plays on academic success in life. How can they in one sentence use poor kids in an argument and never once address that poor children have access to damn near 0 of the resources affluent kids have? Draw me a picture and let’s talk about feelings lmao what a joke is that gonna put food in their belly so they can have the calories to burn in order to use their brain to study? What about quiet their 7 other siblings that they share a single bedroom with for hours? Is it gonna force the single mom to magically be at home and at work at the same time to cook food while you study and be there to throw an encouraging word?

Also the “parents don’t need to be a parent and be able to guide their kid at all academically they just need to exist in the next room” is wild. Its one thing if a parent straight up is not equipped but to say kids can just figured it out is…. wow coming from an educator What’s next the teacher doesn’t need to teach cause the kid can just follow the packet and figure it out?

Well then get a tutor right? Oh wait you are poor only affluent kids can afford a tutor for their hours of homework a day were they on average have none of the worries a poor child does. Does this address that poor children are more likely to also suffer abuse and mental illness? Like mentioned what about kids that can’t learn or comprehend the forced standardized way? Just let em fail? These children regularly are not in “special education”(some of those are a joke in their own and full of neglect and abuse) programs cause most aren’t even acknowledged as having disabilities or disorders.

But yes all and all those pesky poor kids just aren’t being worked hard enough lol pretty sure poor children’s existence just in childhood is more work, stress, and responsibility alone than an affluent child’s entire life cycle. Love they never once talked about the quality of education in the classroom being so bad between the poor and affluent it can qualify as segregation, just basically blamed poor people for being lazy, good job capitalism for failing us once again!

why the hell?

you should feel bad for saying this, this article can be helpful for people who has to write a essay about it

This is more of a political rant than it is about homework

I know a teacher who has told his students their homework is to find something they are interested in, pursue it and then come share what they learn. The student responses are quite compelling. One girl taught herself German so she could talk to her grandfather. One boy did a research project on Nelson Mandela because the teacher had mentioned him in class. Another boy, a both on the autism spectrum, fixed his family’s computer. The list goes on. This is fourth grade. I think students are highly motivated to learn, when we step aside and encourage them.

The whole point of homework is to give the students a chance to use the material that they have been presented with in class. If they never have the opportunity to use that information, and discover that it is actually useful, it will be in one ear and out the other. As a science teacher, it is critical that the students are challenged to use the material they have been presented with, which gives them the opportunity to actually think about it rather than regurgitate “facts”. Well designed homework forces the student to think conceptually, as opposed to regurgitation, which is never a pretty sight

Wonderful discussion. and yes, homework helps in learning and building skills in students.

not true it just causes kids to stress

Homework can be both beneficial and unuseful, if you will. There are students who are gifted in all subjects in school and ones with disabilities. Why should the students who are gifted get the lucky break, whereas the people who have disabilities suffer? The people who were born with this “gift” go through school with ease whereas people with disabilities struggle with the work given to them. I speak from experience because I am one of those students: the ones with disabilities. Homework doesn’t benefit “us”, it only tears us down and put us in an abyss of confusion and stress and hopelessness because we can’t learn as fast as others. Or we can’t handle the amount of work given whereas the gifted students go through it with ease. It just brings us down and makes us feel lost; because no mater what, it feels like we are destined to fail. It feels like we weren’t “cut out” for success.

homework does help

here is the thing though, if a child is shoved in the face with a whole ton of homework that isn’t really even considered homework it is assignments, it’s not helpful. the teacher should make homework more of a fun learning experience rather than something that is dreaded

This article was wonderful, I am going to ask my teachers about extra, or at all giving homework.

I agree. Especially when you have homework before an exam. Which is distasteful as you’ll need that time to study. It doesn’t make any sense, nor does us doing homework really matters as It’s just facts thrown at us.

Homework is too severe and is just too much for students, schools need to decrease the amount of homework. When teachers assign homework they forget that the students have other classes that give them the same amount of homework each day. Students need to work on social skills and life skills.

I disagree.

Beyond achievement, proponents of homework argue that it can have many other beneficial effects. They claim it can help students develop good study habits so they are ready to grow as their cognitive capacities mature. It can help students recognize that learning can occur at home as well as at school. Homework can foster independent learning and responsible character traits. And it can give parents an opportunity to see what’s going on at school and let them express positive attitudes toward achievement.

Homework is helpful because homework helps us by teaching us how to learn a specific topic.

As a student myself, I can say that I have almost never gotten the full 9 hours of recommended sleep time, because of homework. (Now I’m writing an essay on it in the middle of the night D=)

I am a 10 year old kid doing a report about “Is homework good or bad” for homework before i was going to do homework is bad but the sources from this site changed my mind!

Homeowkr is god for stusenrs

I agree with hunter because homework can be so stressful especially with this whole covid thing no one has time for homework and every one just wants to get back to there normal lives it is especially stressful when you go on a 2 week vaca 3 weeks into the new school year and and then less then a week after you come back from the vaca you are out for over a month because of covid and you have no way to get the assignment done and turned in

As great as homework is said to be in the is article, I feel like the viewpoint of the students was left out. Every where I go on the internet researching about this topic it almost always has interviews from teachers, professors, and the like. However isn’t that a little biased? Of course teachers are going to be for homework, they’re not the ones that have to stay up past midnight completing the homework from not just one class, but all of them. I just feel like this site is one-sided and you should include what the students of today think of spending four hours every night completing 6-8 classes worth of work.

Are we talking about homework or practice? Those are two very different things and can result in different outcomes.

Homework is a graded assignment. I do not know of research showing the benefits of graded assignments going home.

Practice; however, can be extremely beneficial, especially if there is some sort of feedback (not a grade but feedback). That feedback can come from the teacher, another student or even an automated grading program.

As a former band director, I assigned daily practice. I never once thought it would be appropriate for me to require the students to turn in a recording of their practice for me to grade. Instead, I had in-class assignments/assessments that were graded and directly related to the practice assigned.

I would really like to read articles on “homework” that truly distinguish between the two.

oof i feel bad good luck!

thank you guys for the artical because I have to finish an assingment. yes i did cite it but just thanks

thx for the article guys.

Homework is good

I think homework is helpful AND harmful. Sometimes u can’t get sleep bc of homework but it helps u practice for school too so idk.

I agree with this Article. And does anyone know when this was published. I would like to know.

It was published FEb 19, 2019.

Studies have shown that homework improved student achievement in terms of improved grades, test results, and the likelihood to attend college.

i think homework can help kids but at the same time not help kids

This article is so out of touch with majority of homes it would be laughable if it wasn’t so incredibly sad.

There is no value to homework all it does is add stress to already stressed homes. Parents or adults magically having the time or energy to shepherd kids through homework is dome sort of 1950’s fantasy.

What lala land do these teachers live in?

Homework gives noting to the kid

Homework is Bad

homework is bad.

why do kids even have homework?

Comments are closed.

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Do your homework

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Help your students succeed in exams with these targeted and teacher-tested homework strategies

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Source: © Natalia Smu/Shutterstock

Targeted homework tasks can be a student’s (and their teacher’s) best friend when it comes to exam performance

Homework plays a vital role in consolidating in-class learning. Effective science homework provides the extension to learning that students need to succeed, and gives us vital data to inform our planning. An EEF study on the impact of homework in secondary schools  says that regular homework can have the same positive effect as five additional months in the classroom, as well as ‘enabling pupils to undertake independent learning to practise and consolidate skills and revise for exams’. That said, getting students to complete homework is no mean feat.

There are multiple strategies we can implement to ensure homework has meaning and students appreciate the benefits of homework in their learning. This is especially useful when they’re preparing for exams.

Strategies to engage your students

A few strategies have worked well for me with exam classes.

I deliver the homework in chunks (eg half termly), clearly explaining the rationale. As an example, my year 11 chemistry students performed poorly on electrolysis and titration calculation in their mock exams so, after reteaching, I wanted to ensure they rehearsed the concepts. As part of the homework they had to repeat tasks on these concepts. We then reviewed and adjusted the plan as a class to focus on their weaker areas.

I give praise often. Students love rewards in whatever form. I always discuss what rewards the class prefers. You can use stickers, certificates, etc.

It’s important to be flexible. An exam year can be a stressful time for students and so flexibility is key. I ask my students about the minimum they could manage. They feel valued and part of the decision-making process, making them more likely to complete it.

Identify students/parents/carers who need support. With some of my students, I had the most success in this area by meeting with or emailing their parents/carers and providing strategies for completion, such as doing the homework every Saturday at a specific time. An email every so often to check how they are doing goes a long way.

Using online platforms

When I was a faculty lead, homework was a key focus for our department and so we did some research into online retrieval platforms which were easy to manage, self-marking and provided both students and teachers with information on learning gaps. We found several platforms to fit our criteria, such as quizzing platforms,  Kay Science  – great for missed learning catch up, revision and intervention for small groups – and  Carousel – that helps students embed long-term knowledge. We then took a few key steps to increase buy-in.

Often students struggled with passwords, regardless of ease, so we booked laptops for all classes and the teacher modelled logging in, and checked every student could log in and complete a task. At times students would say they didn’t know the answers, but often this was because they’d not watched the videos. So we reminded them to do that first. There was also a short video of how to log in on the school’s homework platform for extra support.

We mapped homework to the curriculum. Students had to be familiar with the content, so homework tasks supplemented in-class learning.

We did everything we could to minimise barriers. All students who had a record of incomplete homework were encouraged to attend homework club and we allowed extensions in case they just forgot. The barriers to completing homework varied between households and sometimes a conversation to identify them and offer support was all that was needed.

The senior leadership team knew what platform we were using, so they could discuss it with all students, parents and governors. We also presented the chosen retrieval platform to parents and carers to increase buy-in.

Over time we noticed a spike in submissions as students got more familiar with the platform. Teachers praised students who showed the most progress, which meant previously disengaged students felt successful and motivated to complete more tasks.

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The role of homework

Homework seems to be an accepted part of teachers’ and students’ routines, but there is little mention of it in ELT literature.

homework consolidate learning

The role of homework is hardly mentioned in the majority of general ELT texts or training courses, suggesting that there is little question as to its value even if the resulting workload is time-consuming. However, there is clearly room for discussion of homework policies and practices particularly now that technology has made so many more resources available to learners outside the classroom.

Reasons for homework

  • Attitudes to homework
  • Effective homework
  • Types of homework
  • Homework is expected by students, teachers, parents and institutions.
  • Homework reinforces and helps learners to retain information taught in the classroom as well as increasing their general understanding of the language.
  • Homework develops study habits and independent learning. It also encourages learners to acquire resources such as dictionaries and grammar reference books. Research shows that homework also benefits factual knowledge, self-discipline, attitudes to learning and problem-solving skills.
  • Homework offers opportunities for extensive activities in the receptive skills which there may not be time for in the classroom. It may also be an integral part of ongoing learning such as project work and the use of a graded reader.
  • Homework provides continuity between lessons. It may be used to consolidate classwork, but also for preparation for the next lesson.
  • Homework may be used to shift repetitive, mechanical, time-consuming tasks out of the classroom.
  • Homework bridges the gap between school and home. Students, teachers and parents can monitor progress. The institution can involve parents in the learning process.
  • Homework can be a useful assessment tool, as part of continual or portfolio assessment.

Attitudes to homework Teachers tend to have mixed feelings about homework. While recognising the advantages, they observe negative attitudes and poor performance from students. Marking and giving useful feedback on homework can take up a large proportion of a teacher’s time, often after school hours.

  • Students themselves complain that the homework they are given is boring or pointless, referring to homework tasks that consist of studying for tests, doing workbook exercises, finishing incomplete classwork, memorising lists of vocabulary and writing compositions. Where this is actually the case, the negative effects of homework can be observed, typified by loss of interest and a view of homework as a form of punishment.
  • Other negative effects of poorly managed homework include lack of necessary leisure time and an increased differential between high and low achievers. These problems are often the cause of avoidance techniques such as completing homework tasks in class, collaborating and copying or simply not doing the required tasks. In turn, conflict may arise between learners, teachers, parents and the institution.

Effective homework In order for homework to be effective, certain principles should be observed.

  • Students should see the usefulness of homework. Teachers should explain the purpose both of homework in general and of individual tasks.
  • Tasks should be relevant, interesting and varied.
  • Good classroom practice also applies to homework. Tasks should be manageable but achievable.
  • Different tasks may be assigned to different ability groups. Individual learning styles should be taken into account.
  • Homework should be manageable in terms of time as well as level of difficulty. Teachers should remember that students are often given homework in other subjects and that there is a need for coordination to avoid overload. A homework diary, kept by the learner but checked by teachers and parents is a useful tool in this respect.
  • Homework is rarely co-ordinated within the curriculum as a whole, but should at least be incorporated into an overall scheme of work and be considered in lesson planning.
  • Homework tends to focus on a written product. There is no reason why this should be the case, other than that there is visible evidence that the task has been done.
  • Learner involvement and motivation may be increased by encouraging students to contribute ideas for homework and possibly design their own tasks. The teacher also needs to know how much time the students have, what facilities they have at home, and what their preferences are. A simple questionnaire will provide this data.
  • While homework should consolidate classwork, it should not replicate it. Home is the outside world and tasks which are nearer to real-life use of language are appropriate.
  • If homework is set, it must be assessed in some way, and feedback given. While marking by the teacher is sometimes necessary, peer and self-assessment can encourage learner independence as well as reducing the teacher’s workload. Motivating students to do homework is an ongoing process, and encouragement may be given by commenting and asking questions either verbally or in written form in order to demonstrate interest on the teacher’s part, particularly in the case of self-study and project work.

Types of homework There are a number of categories of useful and practicable homework tasks.

  • Workbook-based tasks Most published course materials include a workbook or practice book, mainly including consolidation exercises, short reading texts and an answer key. Most workbooks claim to be suitable for both class and self-study use, but are better used at home in order to achieve a separation of what is done in class and at home. Mechanical practice is thus shifted out of class hours, while this kind of exercise is particularly suited to peer- or self-checking and correction.
  • Preparation tasks Rarely do teachers ask learners to read through the next unit of a coursebook, though there are advantages in involving students in the lesson plan and having them know what is coming. More motivating, however, is asking students to find and bring materials such as photographs and pictures, magazine articles and realia which are relevant to the next topic, particularly where personalisation or relevance to the local context requires adaptation of course materials.
  • Extensive tasks Much can be gained from the use of graded readers, which now often have accompanying audio material, radio and TV broadcasts, podcasts and songs. Sometimes tasks need to be set as guidance, but learners also need to be encouraged to read, listen and watch for pleasure. What is important is that learners share their experiences in class. Extensive reading and listening may be accompanied by dictionary work and a thematic or personalised vocabulary notebook, whereby learners can collect language which they feel is useful.
  • Guided discovery tasks Whereas classroom teaching often involves eliciting language patterns and rules from learners, there is also the option of asking learners to notice language and make deductions for themselves at home. This leads to the sharing of knowledge and even peer teaching in the classroom.
  • Real-world tasks These involve seeing, hearing and putting language to use in realistic contexts. Reading magazines, watching TV, going to the cinema and listening to songs are obvious examples, offering the option of writing summaries and reviews as follow-up activities. Technology facilitates chat and friendship networks, while even in monolingual environments, walking down a shopping street noticing shop and brand names will reveal a lot of language. As with extensive tasks, it is important for learners to share their experiences, and perhaps to collect them in a formal or informal portfolio.
  • Project work It is a good idea to have a class or individual projects running over a period of time. Projects may be based on topics from a coursebook, the locality, interests and hobbies or selected individually. Project work needs to be guided in terms of where to find resources and monitored regularly, the outcome being a substantial piece of work at the end of a course or term of which the learner can claim ownership.

Conclusion Finally, a word about the Internet. The Web appears to offer a wealth of opportunity for self-study. Certainly reference resources make project work easier and more enjoyable, but cutting and pasting can also be seen as an easy option, requiring little originality or understanding. Conferring over homework tasks by email can be positive or negative, though chatting with an English-speaking friend is to be encouraged, as is searching for visual materials. Both teachers and learners are guilty of trawling the Net for practice exercises, some of which are untried, untested and dubious in terms of quality. Learners need guidance, and a starting point is to provide a short list of reliable sites such as the British Council's  LearnEnglish  and the BBC's Learning English  which provide a huge variety of exercises and activities as well as links to other reliable sources. Further reading Cooper, H. Synthesis of Research on Homework . Educational Leadership 47/3, 1989 North, S. and Pillay, H. Homework: re-examining the routin e. ELT Journal 56/2, April 2002 Painter, L. Homework . English Teaching Professional, Issue 10, 1999 Painter, L. Homework . OUP Resource Books for Teachers, 2003

First published in October 2007

Mr. Steve Darn I liked your…

Mr. Steve Darn I liked your method of the role of the homework . Well, I am one of those laggard people. Unfortunately, when it comes to homework, I definitely do it. Because, a student or pupil who understands new topics, of course, does his homework to know how much he understands the new topic. I also completely agree with all of Steve Darn's points above. However, sometimes teachers give a lot of riff-raff homework, just like homework is a human obligation. This is a plus. But in my opinion, first of all, it is necessary to divide the time properly, and then to do many tasks at home. Only then will you become an "excellent student" in the eyes of the teacher. Although we live in the age of technology, there are still some people who do not know how to send homework via email. Some foreign teachers ask to send tasks by email. Constant email updates require time and, in rare cases, a fee. My above points have been the cause of constant discussions.

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Setting homework, setting homework.

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homework consolidate learning

Engage, Build, Consolidate: An Effective Framework for Lesson Planning

Lesson planning is key when we aim at attaining positive student learning outcomes. However, teachers’ task of anticipating different situations while considering every student’s individual needs, the resources available in the classroom or online, as well as how to help students stay on task is an enormous challenge. In this scenario, the Science of Learning and the Engage, Build, Consolidate (EBC) Framework may offer a lot of insightful reflections into effective lesson planning. This blog explores this framework and its principles and gives you access to a lesson plan based on EBC.

Before we go any further, I would like to mention my professor Paul Howard-Jones at the University of Bristol and his collaborators who developed this framework. He would certainly want me to stress that the EBC Framework is not a fixed recipe for lesson planning. As a matter of fact, it is stated on the website:

“The Science of Learning EBC framework does not provide any prescription for effective teaching. Instead, the framework is a set of concepts that can provide a fascinating insight into the processes that underlie classroom learning. The framework is designed as a tool to support teachers to talk about, reflect upon and develop their practice in relation to learning.”

I firmly believe there is no such prescriptive framework since teaching and learning form a complex system with many variables. It would be like trying to cook using a recipe book when your pans and ingredients have a life of their own. That being said, let us take a look at the framework and its principles.

The first step of the framework is to ENGAGE our students. Without engagement, there is no attention. Without attention, there is no memory. If there is no memory, learning did not take place.  Here are some principles of ENGAGE that you can bear in mind when you plan and deliver your lessons:

  • Every brain is unique

Remember to differentiate and personalize activities. What works for some, might not work for others. You can always add room for different activities with the same pedagogical purpose and encourage students to connect with things that are relevant to them.

2. Approach response

The brain reward’s system is activated in our students when we acknowledge their efforts with praise, when we offer them novel information, which taps into their curiosity, when they have choice and can share attention with us and their peers. Making the book topics more interesting by sharing curiosities about them as well as working in pairs or groups can make lessons more engaging

3. Reduce fearfulness and anxiety

When students feel intimidated or scared of exposure, they cannot use their conscious cognitive skills efficiently. This means that we must establish rapport with them and create a safe environment where mistakes and errors are welcome and part of the learning process. Humor and fun also play a central role in reducing fearfulness and anxiety. Keep that in mind.

4. The brain is plastic

That basically means that the brain can change its structure throughout our lifetime by making new connections. Learning is what the brain does and our students need to realize that we are not the only ones responsible for their learning. They should have agency and be proactive. We can help them understand these things by discussing how our brains learn and some basic principles of the Science of Learning in our lessons. We can talk about memory, attention, metacognition, self-efficacy , growth mindset , and motivation.

 Now that your students are engaged, we must help them BUILD new knowledge and skills into their brain. This requires us to respect their limited working memory and try to avoid cognitive overload. The three principles of BUILD are:

  • Prior knowledge

Imagine trying to build a wall without its foundation. It will not work. This is the same for our students. They will not be able to learn the Third Conditional effectively without first having learned Past Simple and Past Perfect.  Teachers can help students activate prior knowledge so that the can start building new knowledge more effectively. This can be achieved by simply asking students to retrieve (try to remember) or by playing a game (a quiz for example).

2. Working memory

Our working memory system is quite limited and that means that too much information might quickly overload it. One way to avoid cognitive overload is to communicate clearly, without too much jargon and complex words, using analogies and scaffolding. We can also take a few brain breaks during the lesson to let our students’ brains “get some fresh air”

3. Mirror neuron system

Humans have the incredible ability to learn by observing others. We can also predict what others are feeling and thinking based on their body language. All of that is possible thanks to the mirror neuron system. That means we should use gestures to convey meaning and we should act enthusiastically to positively impact our students. Demonstrations with realia and gesticulation are great tools to help teachers reduce the risk of cognitive overload.


New memories can quickly decay if we do not rehearse them and apply. In other words, recently “learned” information will leave our brain unless we CONSOLIDATE it. Consolidation, however, takes time and benefits from multiple representations so that our cortex can form larger neuronal networks and facilitate retrieval. Below are the three principles of CONSOLIDATE.

When we are exposed to new information or skills for the very first time, that requires us to make a conscious effort to “hold” that in our memory. If we want to make them more automatic so that we can make less and less conscious effort, we need to practice. And practice means rehearsing, just like becoming a better driver the more we drive or getting better at speaking an additional language each time we use it. Teachers need to help their students rehearse freshly learned vocabulary, grammar, and skills throughout the lesson and beyond. Drilling and Concept Checking Questions are great ways to do that.

2. Applying knowledge

It is important for students to have the opportunity to enrich their mental models of new knowledge and skills they have learned. Students often use their new knowledge to fill in the gaps or discuss in pairs or groups in the classroom. Teachers need to provide them with the opportunity to create graphic organizers, mind maps, engage in debates and work on projects as well as teach their families so that they can expand those mental models and then have multiple access points to retrieve.

Memory consolidation occurs during our sleep. I understand that teachers have no control over their students’ sleeping patterns but teachers have control of when to assign homework and how often to ask students to revisit the content they are exposed to in their lessons. One of the easiest strategies that might work effectively to help memory consolidation is simply asking students to do their homework the next day after their lesson. This way they will have slept, consolidated some memories, and when they do the homework they will be forced to retrieve information, which goes hand in hand with the concept of spaced repetition .

Now that you understand the overall principles within the EBC Framework, you can click on this lesson plan I created for you to reflect on how each principle can be applied. I used Impact British English Unit 3 pages 48 and 49 which you can download here .

Bear in mind that this framework is meant to give you some insights during the planning, delivery, and reflection stages of your lesson. It does not need nor it should be looked at as a fixed step-by-step method for the perfect lesson just because it was based on the Science of Learning. Instead, think of it as a useful list of guidelines that will help you become a more metacognitive teacher and hopefully help your students achieve more effective learning outcomes.

You can watch André Hedlund’s full webinar on using the Engage, Build and Consolidate Framework HERE .

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Author: Andre Hedlund

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Consolidation of learning

Consolidation of learning

Learning how to learn / Sleep and learning

Executive summary

  • Practice and rehearsal of freshly learnt knowledge cause it to become automatically accessible. This frees up the brain’s limited capacity to pay conscious attention and so be ready for further learning.
  • Testing, applying knowledge in new situations, discussing it with others, or expressing it in new forms all consolidate our learning by storing it in different ways—making it easier to recall and apply it.
  • Sleep plays an important role in the processes that consolidate our learning. A good night’s sleep helps attend to today’s learning but also makes yesterday’s learning more permanent.
  • Learning is an extended process.

Effective teaching and learning can be considered to involve:

  • engagement of the learner’s attention
  • teacher-guided building of knowledge and understanding
  • consolidation of learning through application, practice, and reflection

When a student first builds new knowledge and understanding, when new thought processes and information first appear in their brain, this new learning is fragile. New processes must be rehearsed and practiced to become easily accessible and automatically retrievable. New memories must be “laid down” in long-term memory for them to become more permanent.

Practice prepares the brain for new learning

When we first learn a process, we often have to think through the different stages and attend consciously to a lot of new information to apply what we have just learnt. The effect of this on the brain was seen in a study of adults learning complex mathematics 1 . Activity was shown to be reduced in frontal regions after practicing. These are regions linked to working memory. Working memory is our ability to make the information in our brain conscious—and it is very limited. There were, however, regions where activity increased after practicing. Practice shifts activity from working memory regions (in the front of the brain) to regions more involved with automatic, unconscious processing (away from the front of the brain—see Figure 1). In other words, practice helps consolidate freshly learnt mental processes until we can do them almost without thinking, reducing the burden of fresh learning on working memory. This is important because, when our limited working memory is liberated, it is ready to be occupied by new information and we are ready to move on and learn more.

Figure 1. The effects of practice on brain activity can be represented schematically by a shift away from working memory regions in the front of the brain to more distributed regions including those related to automatic processing 1 .

Our brains evolved to process information

Our neural circuitry evolved to process information rather than just to store and retrieve it. If we want such storage and retrieval to happen effectively, we need to thoroughly process the information. For example, testing is most often used by teachers to evaluate how much their students know, but it has another very important role in learning. Strong evidence from science and education supports testing as a means to improve the learning itself. Being tested on material makes it more likely to be remembered on the final test than simply rereading the material 2 , and testing slows the rate of forgetting in the longer term 3 . Testing appears to improve learning for a diverse range of topics, over a wide range of education levels, and for many different age groups 4-8 . Recent neuroimaging research (see Figure 2) suggests that repeatedly retrieving information causes it to be represented in the brain in different ways—essentially connecting it with different meanings, so making it easier to retrieve in the future 9 .

Figure 2. A study of Swedish adults learning Swahili showed brain activation related to their new knowledge took on a greater range of forms after testing. This increased variation was seen in a region of the parietal lobe (shown opposite) thought to act as a “convergence zone” where the different pieces of information that comprise a concept become bound together, supporting representation and storage of that concept in the brain. Variability here suggests testing is causing the new knowledge to be stored in many different ways. Just as having many different hats can make using a hat easier and more useful, so having many different versions of the new knowledge, linked to different ideas and different associations, makes it easier to find and to use later (Wirebring et al. , 2015).

All these types of activity bring about new associations and meanings, producing new versions of the knowledge that make the knowledge more accessible and useful. (See also Embodiment and movement in “ Building knowledge and understanding .”)

Consolidation of memory and the importance of sleep

Research has revealed that sleep plays an important role in making memories more permanent. Sleep is so fundamental to learning that it has been described as “the price we pay for brain plasticity” 10 .  While we are awake, memories of what happens during the day are first encoded into representations in the hippocampus. During sleep, these fresh representations are then reactivated and reorganised as longer-lasting memories stored in our cerebral cortex. This is illustrated strikingly by human neuroimaging studies. One of these revealed how the sleeping brain reproduced neural activities that were very similar to those characterising whatever was experienced in the preceding hours of wakefulness 11.

Figure 3. The graph on the left shows the percentage of slow-wave sleep (important for memory consolidation) for three conditions of technology use (basal conditions—no technology, and use of computer or television between 6 and 7 pm), with only the computer game showing a detectable effect. Similarly, in the graph on the right, only the computer game impacted on memory for material studied afterward. (a = statistically significant (p<0.0), N.S. = non-significant) (Dworak et al. , 2007).

This reactivation of the fresh memories is thought to be achieved during deep sleep, when the brain produces slow waves (less than one per second) of synchronised electrical brain activity. Sleep can improve memory of the context, but the reorganisation also involves extracting and emphasising more the basic “gist” of what happened. This means the memory that is stored is more abstracted from its original context, allowing it to be recalled and used more easily in new situations. So, although we may not be consciously aware of passing from one stage to the next, there are three brain processes to forming a memory.

For humans, the importance of sleep for the consolidation stage has also been demonstrated by researchers interested in children’s learning. For example, adolescent sleep often suffers from technology use. In one study, a group of young teenagers was asked to vary their use of technology before immediately doing a “pseudo” homework task that involved memorising facts 12 . On one evening they experienced no technology, on another they watched television between 6 and 7 pm, and on another they played computer games during this period. Only playing computer games, which are more physiologically arousing than TV, significantly reduced slow-wave sleep when the children when to bed a few hours later (see Figure 3). This is the type of sleep that is known to be important for consolidating declarative memory. The next day, only playing computer games significantly reduced what the children could remember of their “homework.”

  • Delazer, M. et al. Learning complex arithmetic – an fMRI study. Cognitive Brain Research 18, 76-88 (2003).
  • McDaniel, M. A., Roediger, H. L. & McDermott, K. B. Generalizing test-enhanced learning from the laboratory to the classroom. Psychon. Bull. Rev. 14, 200-206, doi:10.3758/bf03194052 (2007).
  • Roediger, H. L. & Karpicke, J. D. Test-enhanced learning – Taking memory tests improves long-term retention. Psychological Science 17, 249-255, doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01693.x (2006).
  • Rohrer, D. & Pashler, H. Recent research on human learning challenges conventional instructional strategies. Educational Researcher 39, 406-412, doi:10.3102/0013189×10374770 (2010).
  • Johnson, C. I. & Mayer, R. E. A testing effect with multimedia learning. Journal of Educational Psychology 101, 621-629, doi:10.1037/a0015183 (2009).
  • Campbell, J. & Mayer, R. E. Questioning as an instructional method: Does it affect learning from lectures? Appl. Cogn. Psychol. 23, 747-759, doi:10.1002/acp.1513 (2009).
  • McDaniel, M. A., Agarwal, P. K., Huelser, B. J., McDermott, K. B. & Roediger, H. L. Test-enhanced learning in a middle school science classroom: The effects of quiz frequency and placement. Journal of Educational Psychology 103, 399-414, doi:10.1037/a0021782 (2011).
  • Karpicke, J. D. & Blunt, J. R. Retrieval practice produces more learning than elaborative studying with concept mapping. Science 331, 772-775, doi:10.1126/science.1199327 (2011).
  • Wirebring, L. K. et al. Lesser neural pattern similarity across repeated tests is associated with better long-term memory retention. Journal of Neuroscience 35, 9595-9602, doi:10.1523/jneurosci.3550-14.2015 (2015).
  • Tononi, G. & Cirelli, C. Sleep and the price of plasticity: From synaptic and cellular homeostasis to memory consolidation and integration. Neuron 81, 12-34, doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2013.12.025 (2014).
  • Maquet, P. et al. Experience dependent changes in cerebral activation during human REM sleep. Nature Neuroscience 3, 831-836 (2000).
  • Dworak, M., Schierl, T., Bruns, T. & Struder, H. K. Impact of singular excessive computer game and television exposure on sleep patterns and memory performance of school-aged children. Pediatrics 120, 978-985, doi:10.1542/peds.2007-0476 (2007).
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Help with homework

Teachers ensure that homework is set as part of a balanced lifestyle. This gives students the opportunity to further their classroom learning while leaving enough time for family, recreation and other activities.

Homework helps students:

  • consolidate classroom learning
  • prepare for and expand on classroom learning
  • involve family members in their learning
  • become independent learners.

When and where should my child do homework?

It is helpful for students to establish routines for homework like:

  • setting a time to complete homework
  • finding a space that is free of distractions.

How can I help?

You can help your child by:

  • encouraging them to take responsibility for their learning and time management
  • supporting them to complete tasks by discussing key questions and directing them to helpful and appropriate resources
  • participating with them in online learning forums
  • reading and playing games with them
  • involving them in tasks; including shopping and cooking
  • encouraging them to read and to take an interest in and discuss local, national and international events
  • discussing homework concerns with your child's teacher.

Will extra tuition help?

Before employing a tutor, you should think about options available through the school.

Find more about extra tuition .

Learning resources

The Learning Place —(need student login)—a space for students to share, create and learn.

Literacy and numeracy resources —fact sheets and activities to help your child's development.

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homework consolidate learning

Homework - Consolidating Curriculum Knowledge

On this page we explain our approach to homework and how students use it to consolidate their curriculum knowledge. You can also download our Knowledge Organisers for the term.

Satchel one stacked white e4a52789b1f24cc762fba803b1a1adb0

  • Continue learning  outside of the classroom
  • Consolidate newly-acquired knowledge , revise prior learning and practise skills
  • Develop the  self-discipline , perseverance and confidence to study independently
  • Involve parents/carers  in their learning.

Click HERE to visit the  Satchel:One (Show My Homework) website.

Click HERE to view or download a parent's guide to Satchel:One (Show My Homework).

Homework - secondary phase

In the secondary phase, students should spend the following amount of time completing their homework each evening:

  • Year 7, 8 and 9 - between 30 minutes and one hour
  • Years 10 and 11 - between one and two hours
  • Years 12 and 13 - minimum of two hours

The above timings are guidelines. In the lead-up to tests and exams, student must recognise that the more time they spend working independently, the greater their chance of success will be.

Parents and carers should provide a well-lit desk in a quiet area for students to complete their homework. Students can also complete work in the academy library up until 16:30 each day.

Please ask to see your child’s homework before it is handed in. We encourage parents to discuss the work with their child, ensure neat presentation and support the student in checking their work for spelling, punctuation and grammar. 

Examples of homework , and classwork, can be seen on our Great Learning  page.

Homework - primary phase

In the primary phase, home learning is prioritised in the support of reading, spelling and arithmatic fluency . Children receive both a spelling and poetry book with selected tasks that help support their in school learning.

All children in the primary phase are encouraged to read every day. Children in EYFS and KS1 are given a phonics book to match the grapheme and sounds they are learning for the entire week; they are also encouraged to take home another book to share at home for pleasure. Children in KS2 independently select an age appropriate book they wish to read from the library based on their reading ages and this is then assessed in their weekly AR sessions.

Parents and carers should provide a well-lit desk in a quiet area for students to complete their homework. Parents and carers should ask to see their child’s homework before it is handed in . Parents should discuss the work with their child, ensure neat presentation and support the student in checking their work for spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Knowledge organisers

All students will receive their knowledge organisers from their subject teachers at the start of each term. Students will store these in the front of their subject exercise books where they will be regularly referred to.  These outline the key powerful knowledge students need to be successful in the subject that term. All students are given a copy of their Knowledge Organisers but they can also be downloaded below.

View and download our Knowledge Organisers .

Every week in every subject, students will be directed to learn specific parts of their knowledge organisers by heart. This learning is then tested as a ‘Do Now’ activity at the start of the next lesson. Students are also expected to continually revise previously-learned knowledge. This is tested in end-of-term cumulative knowledge tests.

What are knowledge organisers?

A knowledge organiser is a set of key facts or information that pupils need to know and be able to recall in order to master a unit or topic. Typically, an organiser fits onto one page of A4 or A3 – this helps pupils to visualise the layout of the page which in turn helps them to memorise the information better.

Intent: Why do we use knowledge organisers?

GCSEs and BTECs are becoming increasingly challenging. Most subjects have lost their controlled assessments (previously known as coursework) and these have been replaced with additional exam papers. The focus of these exams is the retrieval and application of knowledge. This puts increasing pressure on students to know and retain even more information for longer.

Our short-term memory is designed to be just that and has limited capacity. Pupils find themselves unable to retain the information, they become stressed and often give up, convincing themselves they are no good at revising or that they “can’t do subject ‘x’ ”.

The secret to success is to regularly revisit the knowledge to be learned (known as ‘spaced retrieval’). This helps transfer the knowledge from the short-term memory to the long-term memory. This not only helps to make it ‘stick’ but it also frees up our short-term memory for day-to-day learning and experiences.

Implementation and impact: How will a knowledge organiser help my child?

Knowledge organisers will be made available at the start of each half term to help students remember what they’re learning and to help them to understand the bigger learning journey in their subjects. Instead of forgetting previous learning, pupils continually revisit and retrieve prior learning from their long-term memories making it easily accessible when needed.

How will a knowledge organiser help me to help my child?

Many of you ask us how you can help to support your children at home. Some of you are worried that you don’t have all of the subject-specific knowledge to be able to help your children. Some of you worry how to check that your children have done their homework and revision. The knowledge organisers will help you to do this easily.

Here are some strategies that might help you to support your son/daughter.

  • Read through the organiser with your son/daughter – if you don’t understand the content then ask them to explain it to you – ‘teaching’ you helps them to reinforce their learning.
  • Try converting the information into a mind map or make your own version using clip art imagery if the organiser contains a lot of text. Display on the wall or the fridge door until the memory ‘sticks’.
  • Test them regularly on the spellings of key words until they are perfect. Make a note of the ones they get wrong – is there a pattern to the spelling of those words?
  • Get them to make a glossary (list) of key words with definitions or a list of formulae.
  • Try recording the knowledge from the organiser as an mp3 sound file that your child can listen to. Some pupils retain more information this way.
  • Read sections out to them, missing out key words or phrases that they have to fill in. Miss out more and more until they are word perfect.
  • Once they are word perfect and can remember all of the knowledge on the organiser, use the internet or a book to find out more or ask the teacher for some (more) exam questions.
  • Curriculum Overview
  • Key Stage 4 Options
  • Knowledge Organisers
  • Co-Curricular Activities
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  • Bexley Agreed RE Syllabus
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How to... set successful homework


Homework is so often feared and loathed that we are constantly rebranding it. “Home learning”, “extended learning”, “independent study”…take your pick.

But our issue with homework stems from an unspoken truth: a lot of the time we just aren’t very good at setting it.

With teachers straining under the weight of a five-period day, homework is too often an afterthought; an irritating byproduct of an awkward school policy that we struggle to wrangle into something useful.

Still, let’s not write off the untapped potential of homework just yet. Instead, let’s draw from the well of best evidence and start setting homework with something like success.

  • Consolidate and review, don’t tackle anything new We often expect our students to learn with varying degrees of independence, but perhaps ironically, homework isn’t the time to start learning something new. We should save new learning for our classroom and instead use homework to provide the time for consolidation and practice of material we have already taught.  
  • The best-planned homework often goes awry Children (come to think of it, all of us) have lazy brains. As a consequence, they hate to plan, and when they do, they do it badly. They think they’ll do homework quicker and with more ease than they ever will in reality - and homework quality falls as a result. With these flaws in mind, walk through each step of students’ likely planning when you are setting homework. Give them timings and explicit steps to get it done successfully.  
  • Don’t ‘give homework over to Google’ You’ve heard the claim “why do you need a teacher when you have Google?” Our students might be the spawn of Snapchat, but if you leave them researching unattended, they will get lost down the bottom of the Google garden. Procrastination and poor search skills will reign, with dubious sources and illiterate online essays besmirching their homework like coffee stains. If the homework requires tech research, this needs to be tightly structured. Give students specific sources; otherwise learning gains will be slashed by criminal cut-and-paste attempts.  
  • Help students to strategise when stuck There is a Goldilocks principle for homework: not too easy, but not too hard. It needs to be tough enough to sometimes trip them up, but we need to plan with that in mind. With every piece of homework you set, supply your students with three potential strategies to use if they get stuck.  
  • Avoid the homework afterthought Setting homework at the end of the lesson often means we’re squeezed for time, so that all the aforementioned principles go up in smoke. Instead, set homework at the start of the lesson so that students understand its importance, or at a planned-for moment that gives you the time to handle it with care.

Alex Quigley is an English teacher and director of the research school at Huntington School in York. He is the author of The Confident Teacher .

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