During the autumn term we held a review of homework , seeking the views of pupils, parents and staff on current homework provision. Results of the parents’ survey were published here on Principal’s Blog (November 2017). We have followed up with some gradual changes to homework provision, with more changes planned.
In the survey, an overwhelming 81% of respondents said that they would support a varied approach to homework. Creative tasks and active homework were among the most popular activities suggested. Overall, while there is a generally positive view of homework among parents, there does appear to be a strong view in favour of finding new and innovative ways of approaching homework in order to keep the love of learning alive. This result concurs with the views of staff and pupils, although many pupils would love to see homework banned altogether!
Our teaching approach in RETNS includes much active learning and we agree that active learning helps develop and nurture a love for learning. Teachers have been making changes to homework tasks with more use of an active homework once a week, learning logs to encourage reflection on learning, project work and, in senior classes, setting homework tasks over a week to encourage responsibility and good planning. While trying to maintain a balance between traditional homework tasks and more innovative approaches, teachers are committed to continuing to reflect on their approach to homework and to giving tasks that are varied and that encourage pupils to be reflective, creative and active.
Homework activities provide a good opportunity for children to develop good mental health practices and to this end we have introduced, throughout the school, a ‘gratitude log’ which we will develop with the children over the coming weeks, and teachers plan to introduce one yoga pose or stretching exercise each week. This has already been introduced in one class, with positive feedback from parents, who feel that their children benefit very much from the activity. As the weather improves, along with outdoor learning activities in-school, we will increase our emphasis on outdoor homework, as we value the learning opportunities offered by the ‘outdoor classroom’ all around us.
A recent edition of Healthy Ireland, Health Promoting Schools Update, stated that ‘finding opportunities to engage in gratitude daily can be one of the most beneficial practices for students’. The publication goes on to state:
A number of studies have shown that even a small dose of daily gratitude can increase optimism, decrease negative feelings, enhance school connectedness, and improve overall attitudes towards school and learning.
Through our weekly Gratitude Log, daily ‘three good things’ exercise, in-class prompts and reflections at assembly, we are aiming to encourage an ‘attitude of gratitude’ among the pupils, which has already brought benefits to many children. This simple homework activity can become part of a ‘mental health toolkit’ providing an ideal opportunity for parents to help children reflect on what they are grateful for and to help promote positive emotions.