In many schools homework is a divisive issue – but does it need to be?
Lyncrest Primary School in Northampton recently agreed to trial some thinking Child resources; in particular the Starters for Thinking cards and Let’s Think Homework, in conjunction with all the children having their own Thinking Journal.
Year 3 class teacher, Sally Munby (I don’t think they are all called Sally at the school) decided to start with the starter questions, using them in a P4C style way in the classroom. These questions are deliberately written to stimulate thought and debate, moving children and parents away from the notion of ‘one right answer’:
‘Is it ever right to tell a lie?’
As news of these thinking sessions ‘filtered’ home, parents and carers were encouraged to discuss these with their children, but with no expectation of a written outcome or of it being ‘marked’.
A core group of parents reacted very positively and asked for more of this type of homework.
Some of the short thinking activities from ‘Let’s Think Homework’ were then used with children alongside the thinking journals ; parents, children and Sally all writing in them, creating a ‘flow of thinking and learning’ between them.
One activity asked them to think about the advantages & disadvantages of an umbrella and a bike and what possible similarities between the two objects there might be. Some excellent suggestions came back but more importantly it was evident that a great deal of discussion and creative thinking had been going on at home.
Each of the activities in Let’s Think Homework is underpinned with one or more thinking skills which, over time, will give children vital practice at thinking in different ways and exercising their critical responses. The children did tell me they found this homework enjoyable.
When I went to talk to the children one girl did tell me ‘I thought I ended up doing too much writing’ which was interesting, given there are no set amounts expected. There is still a discussion to be had about how much writing is expected.
I think this should be negotiated - because part of doing this type of homework is to encourage children to be more independent and make those kinds of choices for themselves; about what the appropriate written response or documentation of their thinking might be.
That should come in time, as they get used to doing this more and more.
Parents’ comments have really pleased the school - and me.
‘I believe that it has helped us to discuss different subjects in greater depth….giving my child a better understanding and knowledge.’
‘It’s not been the usual struggle to get my child to do their homework’
‘My child can express their own ideas and opinions and that’s important’
‘Excellent idea and should be used more’
And it will be. Sally and her team have made a really good start developing Thinking Homework in the school and I shall keep in touch with them to see how things progress.
My grateful thanks to head teacher Sally O’Neill, her staff and all the children and parents who took part.
Visit the website for more information about Starters for Thinking cards and Let's Think Homework or get in touch for any more information:
Tel: 01604 491511