Diary of an NQT: Some quick homework tasks

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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With so much marking and other work on her plate, our NQT diarist sought out some quick homework tasks to ease her workload...

January has been extremely busy and I didn’t realise just how much I’d have to juggle at the beginning of this term.

I had just managed to get myself into a routine with marking, planning and homework, but since the arrival and climax of mock season, things have gone awry.

I’ve had moments when I’ve felt so disorganised it’s been difficult to rationalise and prioritise. However, the mock marking has recently finished and I am finally beginning getting on top of things again.

Most of my energy and time has been occupied with a quick turnaround of inputting data and written feedback. Because of this, certain things in my everyday teaching have fallen onto the back-burner. One of these things was homework. It wasn’t intentional, but three weeks into the term I suddenly realised that I had set no homework since being back!

Homework is a contentious subject. I know there are many teachers who, unless we can measure the value of the tasks being set, can be frustrated by the extra time wasted chasing students and providing feedback that may not necessarily be put to good use.

I know that schools have differing policies on how they approach setting homework. My school does require us to set meaningful homework on a fortnightly basis. Because of this, I’ve had to come up with some strategies to nurture the independent work being completed at home, while keeping my workload to a minimum at such a busy time. Here are some of the strategies I’ve tested.

Spelling tests

It may seem really silly, but I do think I can sometimes overlook the value in a good old-fashioned spelling test. It is clearly invaluable to my subject, but I’m guilty of not being as proactive as I could be. I’ve found that it helps hugely with bridging the gap between knowledge and skills. Due to time constraints, especially at GCSE, there is a huge focus on exam skills and sometimes it can be difficult to fit in opportunities to test the foundations of students’ knowledge. For key stage 4 I have been asking students to create a “dictionary” of key terms linked to our studies. This way they are forced to brush-up on both the spellings and definitions of key words. And best of all, it can be peer-assessed relatively easily.

Multiple-choice quizzes

Another option that sounds fairly mediocre – but I’ve found it to be a brilliant way of formatively assessing my students’ knowledge after a week of teaching. If you use an online platform to set homework, check if you have the ability to set automatic quizzes. Questions and answers can be inputted and it takes 10 minutes to set up. This will often self-mark and you can use the data to identify misconceptions to tackle during starter activities. Even if you don’t have an online platform, it is another easy option for peer-assessing.

Takeaway homework

I’ve found countless templates on resource websites and they’re brilliant for students who enjoy the independence of choosing their own tasks. Because it’s option-based, it can be difficult to peer-assess in a traditional way. However, I often find that at least two students choose the same option, so, on hand-in day, I’ll pair/group students who have completed the same task and get them to give a verbal What Went Well and Even Better If. This is a personal favourite of mine, as students get to showcase their efforts and it can be a lovely way of creating positive relationships between students.

These are just three ways I’ve managed to keep my homework workload in check. Indeed, these activities have turned out to be some of the most useful and valuable I’ve set. A method in the madness after all!

  • Our NQT diarist this year is an English teacher at a comprehensive school in the Midlands.


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