Talk to any teacher, parent, or student in primary or secondary school and the mention of homework generates a largely negative reaction. Most consider it is drudgery that clouds the free time after school for children. It can also mar the harmony of home life whilst parents battle to get offspring to complete the task. And it creates a mass of work for teachers who have to set and mark homework. Yet as Plato said 2000 years ago “Do not, my friend, keep children to their studies by compulsion, but by play”: Plato. There are a mass of educational games which can be used as home teaching resources to transform homework into a fun exercise for students to boost performance. Importantly they can also engage parents and reduce the workload for teachers.
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Homework is a critical means of getting children to practice the lesson content. This essential exercise helps improve the retention of the lesson for students, reinforces their understanding and develops lateral thinking. It also has a hidden objective; homework gets children to practice working on their own, a crucial ability to improve their performance in tests and exams.
The amount of core teaching time available in any lesson is surprisingly low. Schools are contracted to provide a minimum of 196 days of schooling a year, which doesn’t sound much when related to the 365 days available in a year. Homework is a way of boosting the level of teaching through the resources available at home. There is some debate over the efficacy of setting homework for children at primary school but an hour a day can make a heck of a difference in learning the alphabet or improve numbers skill through playing fun games for maths played at home. The ideal amount of homework increases to two hours a day for secondary school students and could be considered as a means increasing the teaching time to compensate for the limited amount of teaching that can be completed in class. An average lesson of 40 minutes in school is denuded through the essentials of class registration, settling the class down, giving out necessary teaching resources and ironically back marked homework setting and handling the next assignment.
The resultant core teaching time can be reduced to just 20 minutes of the 40 minute lesson. The total actual teaching time over a full year therefore amounts to just 98 days. This ignores any further losses due to teacher absence (allowing that supply teachers can only really perform at 50 per cent performance due to the temporary nature of the post), school closures through inclement weather, or a child’s illness. Homework therefore becomes an essential element of learning.
Homework Can Be Fun:
As parents we have generally suffered an inevitable reluctance by children to complete their homework. There are many ways we try to enforce its completion such as threatening a child with the withdrawal of privileges but we also can inadvertently interrupt their concentration by playing music or having the TV on. Sibling disruptions and even pets will also create a negative atmosphere during homework and limit the concentration. We have all pushed, cajoled and threatened at some point but hovering over a child’s work can be equally unsettling. But these are negative points, there are huge benefits that can be captured though homework and by turning the exercise into a fun activity turns the table on its head.
Children like reassurance. Repetition plays an important role in both the familiarity of knowing what to do and the retention of learning from practice. Young children delight in completing a game they know and like playing it over and over again. This also explains why the often want the same bedtime story, or watch their favourite DVD endlessly is part of learning. It is seen by children to be an enjoyable fun activity. They are reassured by reinforcing elements they already know. The reactionary teenager also, secretly, enjoys the process and loathes activities where they fail to understand. If homework is to be effective students need to repeat the lesson content and practice. “Practice makes perfect” didn’t come from nowhere.
Boring homework exercises can crucify the enjoyment factor and any subsequent enthusiasm. Using educational games based on the subject being taught are a fun way to enlist the students’ enthusiasm to learn and thereby improve their performance back in class. Many of the games track with key stages 1 – 4 of the National Curriculum. Nearly all are used in school, and importantly, allow parents to join in without hovering, or feeling they lack the ability. The games can also give instant feedback on performance – long before any end of year report from the school.
Technology Can Be The Future Champion.
We have seen how incredibly adept children are operating a mobile phone. Technology, which befuddles many adults, is second nature to the young. Yet very few of us have ever seen a child reading a handbook on how to operate or utilise the features of a mobile phone. The matrix of computers, phones, tablets and computer play station games seem second nature to children stems for peer support. Their intuitive operation that garners greater user involvement and dexterity is now being supported by a growing number of educational software developers and websites that teach children how to code. This is resulting in the phenomenal growth of the range of educational applications becoming available. To keep pace we either have to understand the logic which drives their production, which may not be a totally altruistic move by the developers, or stand back and accept the outcome as an outsider.
A New Name:
The big boys are watching the opportunity for mobile technology applications like hawks. There is a vast commercial market to be captured where suppliers could take the lead in the schooling process of the future. To capture these benefits parents can support their children by indulging in that vital ingredient of learning after school that can be found in educational games. Maybe we need a new name for the process that rids the association with text and exercise book homework slog. Learning reheat or after-burner could give it homework a bit more pizazz. Ideally it should allow parental involvement which holds huge rewards for all concerned.
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