what home work is the most effective?

What kinds of homework seem to be most effective?

This is where things get really interesting. Because homework should be about learning, right? To understand what kinds of homework best help kids learn, we really need to talk about memory and the brain.

Let’s start with something called the spacing effect. Say a child has to do a vocabulary worksheet. The next week, it’s a new worksheet with different words and so on. Well, research shows that the brain is better at remembering when we repeat with consistency, not when we study in long, isolated chunks of time. Do a little bit of vocabulary each night, repeating the same words night after night.

Similarly, a professor of psychology at Washington University in St. Louis, Henry “Roddy” Roediger III, recommends that teachers give students plenty of little quizzes, which he says strengthen the brain’s ability to remember. Don’t fret. They can be low-stakes or no-stakes, says Roediger: It’s the steady recall and repetition that matter. He also recommends, as homework, that students try testing themselves instead of simply re-reading the text or class notes.

There’s also something known as interleaving. This is big in the debate over math homework. Many of us — myself included — learned math by focusing on one concept at a time, doing a worksheet to practice that concept, then moving on.

Well, there’s evidence that students learn more when homework requires them to choose among multiple strategies — new and old — when solving problems. In other words, kids learn when they have to draw not just from what they learned in class that day but that week, that month, that year.

One last note: Experts agree that homework should generally be about reinforcing what students learned in class (this is especially true in math). Sometimes it can — and should — be used to introduce new material, but here’s where so many horror stories begin.

Tom Loveless, a former teacher, offers this advice: “I don’t think teachers should ever send brand-new material that puts the parent in the position of a teacher. That’s a disaster. My own personal philosophy was: Homework is best if it’s material that requires more practice but they’ve already received initial instruction.”

Or, in the words of the National PTA: “Homework that cannot be done without help is not good homework.”

For the full article see;


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Place value in a way which helps understanding ‘big numbers’

Stop teaching ‘thousands’

If you haven’t already read my rant Stop teaching simile! then I’d suggest starting with that first. However, having started something, now things keep cropping up that I think the same sort of thing about, so here’s an addition to what seems to be turning into a series of “Stop teaching….” posts.

Stop teaching thousands

This will seem silly at first. Of course we need to teach thousands. But I’m coming to the conclusion that we tackle it in the wrong way in some ways. We expect children to work with increasingly large numbers as they go through primary education, and so once they seem to have grasped hundreds, it seems to make sense to move them onto thousands. Except, there’s a difference in the way the numbers work here, and it’s not always obvious when we teach it in that way.

The problem is not so much the thousands, and the next ‘column’ in our place value system. We often call it the ‘ten-thousands’ column, but like with the ‘tens’ column, we don’t often use that language for numbers that include a digit in that place.

Consider the number 54,321.

We don’t treat the 5 as a digit in its own right here; rather it becomes the tens digit of the section of the number that we describe as 54 thousand. It works just like the tens digit.

The same is true as we move over one more column. Consider 654,321

Here the 6 is merely part of the 654 thousands that are needed. It’s why we use commas after every third digit starting from the right. It’s not just a handy number, it actually helps us to read them.

So when we teach thousands, we should teach them as a block. It makes dealing with larger numbers much simpler. Recognising that each section of up to 3 digits is read as a single ‘chunk’ of a number makes it easier to read large numbers, and to avoid the common errors with placeholder zeroes. When a child needs to write four hundred and six thousand, and seventy four, it’s much easier to think of the blocks of 406 in the thousands block, and then 74 in the units section. It even invites the ‘punctuation’ of the number:

406, 074

(I grant you that the last section is lacking a name. I’m tending to prefer to call the very right-hand column “ones” and then refer to the last three digits as units, but there may be a better term. Suggestions welcome!)

The wondrous thing about so much of maths is that patterns are often scalable. The same system now allows us to consider millions, billions (so long as you’ve come to terms with the US billion) and to extend the system in groups of three, rather than one place at a time. Children are then very quickly able to read


as 123 million, 456 thousand, 789.

It also allows them to see the structure of the system so that they can identify any point in the place value structure. So, in the case above the digit 5 is clearly in the tens position within the thousands block: it shows us how many tens of thousands there are.

So, in truth, the argument is not for teachers to stop teaching thousands, but rather to consider thousands as a block of three digits in the numbering system following the HTO pattern.


Find Michael’s full article on;


Dylan Wiliam talks, communicating with parents, effort and differentiation

In conversation: Dylan Wiliam

On the topic of communicating student achievement, the academic said ‘we’ve actually basically lied to parents that the information we’re giving them is useful and meaningful … these grades that we give to students, really don’t tell parents anything at all’.

He recalled a conversation with one parent during his time as a mathematics teacher in London. ‘He was pushing me to tell him what “position” his child was in the class – his “rank” in the class. I resisted and resisted, and eventually I gave in and I said “okay, he’s in the top three, but it’s the worst class I’ve ever taught. So, now what do you think you know?”

‘The point is, that parents think As and Bs and Cs and Ds are meaningful, but what we should be asking the parents is: “Now, what do you think you know about your child now that I’ve told you he’s got an A?” And the answer is “nothing”, so I think there’s been a bit of dishonesty here, because we’ve pretended to parents that these grades are meaningful, and they’re really not.’

Wiliam argued parents not only need quality information about how their child is doing, but also quality information about how they can get better involved in their learning.

‘Certainly in secondary school parents do need to be involved in understanding whether their child is likely to get into medical school or not. I think it’s a disaster if an 18-year-old finds out that they can’t go to medical school because their grades aren’t there, because nobody has told them that they’re failing. So, there’s a difficult balancing act to be struck I think, but I would say that the balance at the moment is far too far towards telling students where they are, rather than helping them get better.

‘And, when we’ve helped schools change communication systems, when you advise schools to tell parents not where their child is, but what that child needs to do to get better, then the parents are usually very positive – provided you explain the changes to them.

‘… we have to help parents understand that really they should be concerned about things like “is the teacher giving feedback that helps the learner move forward?” rather than just telling them how well they’re doing right now.

Click the link to watch the full video or read the article in the teacher magazine


Paper free recording for pupils

Case study: Using website templates in Science lessons

By Matthew Broderick on Wednesday, 02 September 2015 

What’s a good way to teach independence and sustainability in the Science classroom? Matthew Broderick, a British teacher based at an international school in the Middle East, discusses how he did just this with website-creation activities.

As I approached the fourth year in which I had delivered a sustainability-based project for my secondary school students, there was one issue that troubled me; how could I make the project itself more sustainable? Why do I use so much paper in making my students more aware of the issue of sustainability? This year, the project was to research, design, and build, a sustainable home suitable for the Finnish Tundra. The students were all in Y8 (or Grade 7) and have the benefit of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy at our school.

“I initially encouraged students to use any of the recommended sites for their website templates and all seemed to be equally user-friendly.”

My attention was caught by Wix, and subsequently, Weebly and Google Sites. What better way to engage and promote sustainability than to produce a permanent, paper-free record of the students’ projects while allowing them access to a new skill? These sites allow students to show off their ideas and it is as simple as writing text directly into a template, or uploading a photograph into a box. I initially encouraged students to use any of the recommended sites for their website templates and all seemed to be equally user-friendly. Some students struggled with the brief initially, but guidance towards help tutorials helped embed further independent learning skills, rather than simply asking me to show them. I am sure that there are metacognitive gains in this process that could be further explored. Students were allowed five ninety-minute lessons to plan, research, and build a home, as well as completing a website and preparing a presentation.

My primary aim was for students to document their work for assessment purposes but without using any paper (I am immensely proud of my paper-free curriculum, but that is another article entirely!). Previous projects produced very little research or documentation as students, quite predictably, focused on building models and painting. However, they were suddenly allocating duties for blogging and website development to describe in much greater depth about sustainability, biomes, and the environment. It seemed to me that students wanted their websites to have ‘depth’, and this led to informative, well-organised pages about the very thing I wanted to teach.

I expected students to produce pages within their websites that simply explained the facts behind their biomes, homes and the project. To my delight and wonderment, I saw the following:

  • Online ‘shops’ where customers could buy helipads, water desalination plants and energy-saving lightbulbs to name but a few.
  • Regular blogs that explained what had been learned and how they felt along the way.
  • Links to the IB learner profile and a lovely piece about how I was a risk-taker for rolling out the project (you have to love a child who is so keen to please).
  • Video interviews, news reports, commercials and mini-dramas.
  • Competitions to encourage higher visitor numbers for their sites.
  • Multiple pages to layout their work clearly.

see the full article at