Wednesday, 18 June 2014

takeaway homework - the initial phase

Over the May half term I created a takeaway homework menu 'twenty seven' for my classes based on @TeacherToolkit's idea in his '100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers' book. To see this blog post, and my menu, see my previous post here.

Having tweeted out the link to the above post I was overwhelmed by the responses and reactions to the menu and it has already made it into my top 5 blog posts of all time. The corresponding tweets have been favourited and retweeted more than the majority of my tweets and there is clearly a 'good feeling' about this approach to homework.

So, how has the menu/approach gone down with my students?

Initially, I have trialled the approach to homework with 3 of my classes: my year 10 set 1, year 8 set 3 (of 4) and year 9 set 3 (of 4). I gave each of my students their own copy of the menu and ensured there was a copy on the school's VLE for them to access should they lose their hard copy. I showed my students a brief presentation of the menu and used this to explain/give examples of each task as requested from any questions the students had. If you would like to see this presentation (and adapt it/tweak the menu design/layout) then click here. Then, all I had to do was...wait; wait for the homeworks to come in and wait to see the quality of the work produced...

I've kept it simple for my classes, each Wednesday I take in homework and hand back to them the previous Wednesday's homework (this is possible due to teaching all my remaining classes [now that Y11 have left] on a Wednesday each week).
Below I have inserted some photos of just some of the fantastic pieces of work I have had in so far...

 Ok, this has to be my favourite piece that has been handed in so far. Not only does it involve some classic computer game characters (Sonic, Link, Mario etc), but the simultaneous equations used clearly shows application of the students previous learning. Complete this with fantastic art work and presentation it was more than I was hoping for from any of my students!
'Songs to do Maths to'...BRILLIANT! As a superstar DJ myself and creator of 'Maths DJing' this task was right up my street. This student not only listed 14 songs that he found lyrical relevance to what we have been learning this year, but he also then explained the addition of each song in his 'album' and...even put the songs on a CD. His class are now wanting to listen to the songs in one of our lessons later this year!

Here's the 'explanations' as to why each song is included and the CD.

 A really nice 'fortune teller' here including factorising quadratics, simultaneous equations and expanding double brackets
 This student expressed each of the topics we had studied over the course of a term in a tweet, summing up their learning in each in 140 characters. I've put these up on my 'Twitter Board' in class as examples of good 'tweets' to sum up a lesson's learning.

One of the most popular tasks has been to create a '4 pics 1 word' for a key word from one of our recent lessons. This one's from one of my Y8's lesson on angles.

Here's another from one of my Y10's...

Having covered trial and improvement with my Y9 class, one of my students decided to create a revision poster showing an example of what he had learnt. He also included some questions from our subsequent lesson on expanding brackets and simplifying expressions.

Today, when collecting in the 2nd batch of takeaway homework from my Y8s I had one student create a tessellating shape just like we did in class. She even laminated it...nice!

Another of my Y8s decided to create a set of flashcards for key words she'd learnt this year. These must have taken a while to produce and so I awarded her an extra 'chilli' for her efforts.

A favourite among my Y9 class has been the 2 facts and a lie task. This is one example of a nicely presented one. The answer was included on the back to be the 2nd statement, when marking (see more on this below) I highlighted to the student the need to check her 3rd statement.

Another of my Y10s created this set of playing cards. There were questions on one side (linear simultaneous equations) and their answers on the reverse. She made one suit of these.

Here are a selection of the 'tweets' that a combination of students have produced. If having 'tweeted' I gave them a tweet template so that I could put them up in class on my 'Twitter Board'. This also ensures they've stuck to the 140 character limit!

Finally, here is an example of a '100 word challenge' that sums up one of my Y9's learning. I like the reflective nature of this homework and highlighted that I need to check on him next lesson!

So, I've been overwhelmed by the quality of homework I have received from my students. The quality of work and, in some cases, the quantity have been far greater than if they were given 'normal' homework via a worksheet of questions, mymaths task or other task I had set in the past. Has it solved all homework Those students that have always lacked in the amount of homework they'd handed in are still needing chasing and detentions set. Some students are doing the bare minimum and I've had to use my feedback to their tasks to try and get more out of them in future homeworks. I've found that those students who have done their homework to the required standard and on time all year have excelled with this approach and some of those that have had issues in handing in homework on time and to the required standard have been engaged in the approach and are now producing excellent pieces of homework and ultimately doing some independent learning.

In addition to the examples shown above I've had about 4 or 5 videos shown to me in class. 1 student is doing a 'Maths Vlog' and is uploading his videos to his YouTube Channel. He asks each week if I can show his weekly vlog to the class, which I've been doing. His videos are quite whimsical and seem to be enjoyed by the class. Another student, bless her, put up a piece of paper on her kitchen wall and got one of her friends to film her explaining how to solve simultaneous equations. She had her iPad to hand as she was delivering her instruction and this was as good as anything else I have received. My Y8s have been enthused by creating their own videos and 2 different students created their own video on how to create a tessellating shape. Both these videos were in excess of 10 mins and they've clearly put in a lot of time and effort here.

So, how do I assess these homeworks and give my students feedback on their tasks?

I've been experimenting with the best way to do this over the last week or so and here's what I've been doing so far...

1) I have set up a 'takeaway homework' display in my class to showcase excellent examples of tasks completed. In addition to this I have put a list of 'honorable mentions' for the week for those students who have created tasks that I am unable to physically stick to the wall (those that have made videos etc). Here's the display...

The menu is on the wall for easy reference, this has come in handy when remembering how many chillies each task is worth!
A slightly wider view!

2) For those students who have gone above and beyond what I had expected I have sent home a postcard. We, as a department, send home postcards to students that have impressed each fortnight. I've used these to highlight the great homework that I've received. Each time I write a postcard I make sure I state the reason, so have clearly said they've received them due to their takeaway homework.

3) I have 'marked' each homework using my WWW/EBI stamp giving the students constructive feedback as to what I like about their takeaway homework and what they could do next time to improve. Here are some examples...

 With this person's tweet I suggested using #s to pick out key words. I later suggested to them that they could define these key words to show their understanding of their meaning.
 Having covered construction of 2D shapes I suggested that this 'logo' could have been improved by using their knowledge of constructions to make a more accurately drawn logo. I suggested that this 'logo' didn't really show much mathematical knowledge/use of anything we had done in class.
 Although this set of questions, to which the answers are 27, are all correct and quite general. I suggested that they could have used the current topic we were studying on areas/volumes to link this task to their learning, rather than having a general mathematical link. This way they'd have practised their newly learnt skills better. I gave an example here of what I meant.

I really liked this homework as the person drew some sketches of triangles, all with missing angles that were 27 degrees! My suggestion was to have accurately drawn the triangles as we had covered SSS, SAS and ASA triangle constructions.

They received one of my 'awards for awesomeness' for this as well as a postcard home. This student had previously struggled to get homeworks in on time and was something I had discussed with his parents recently so I was really impressed by the quality of his work.

A lot of the 2 facts and 1 lie type homeworks have been a bit 'dodgy' and some have had errors in them. This was one I liked as the 2nd statement got me thinking as to it's 'factualness'!? My suggestion was to provide examples for each statement to show it's validity.

4) I have been keeping track of each students' chillies and track that they have handed in something each week. Here's my mark book set up for the rest of the school year...

I have a column for each chilli and a column for each week to check that something has been handed in. This way it's easy for me to tell each student how many chillies they've handed in so far, what they owe and I can chase those that have not handed in their homework. In the past I've kept records like this, but haven't had a separate marksheet for homework. This is something I will continue next year.

If you've got to this point...thanks for reading! This is something I've been really passionate about since the May half term. It's involved a lot of reminding my students of the due dates and what is expected. I have referred to pieces that have been handed in in each of my lessons, trying to give students as much idea as what other classes are producing and what can be done with each task.
Word has got round my department about the approach and I gave a department briefing about how I've been using it this week.
My HoD has adapted the task to use for group work with her classes and this has gone down well with her classes. My school's English HoD has also got word of the menu and requested a copy in the hope of creating something similar in English.

The takeaway homework journey continues and I'll update you on the progress in due course!

If you have any comments I'd love to hear from you about what you think about my approach to the takeaway homework phenomenon. Either comment below or tweet me @mrprcollins


  1. what happens if they get their 12 chillies before the end of the half of term.

  2. Same question as anonymous: what happens if they get the required chillies by the end of the half term?

  3. I tell them that they have to hand in at least 1 chilli each week and so they can't just do them all in one go and then do nothing for the rest of the half term.