There is an increasing amount of attention being given to homework by school districts, students, teachers and parents. The quality and quantity is being called into question. Some people question whether the work is truly reinforcing instruction or glorified “busywork.” For those teachers who have difficulty finding meaningful homework, or for teachers who just need some new ideas for classwork, here are some things to think about when creating unique and authentic instructional reinforcement.
I am a firm believer in “inquiry-based” learning. I think that students should engage with the text, ask thought-provoking questions and find the answers through research, discussion and exploration. When my students are reading a text, I often have them construct individual assignments. For example, in any text that contains racial profiling, gender discrimination, ethnic discrimination, etc . . . , my “homework” assignment is for students to observe these behaviors in action and then write a brief report. This method is individualized and eliminates the use of the standard worksheet.
In order to accommodate every learning style, I often have students create some type of worksheet that can be used while we are reading the text or sometime later during the course. Each student is graded on the format of the worksheet as well as on the questions asked. They must also provide an accurate key. I like this method because students can focus on one specific theme/conflict or address the book as a whole. It also gives me the opportunity to determine student comprehension of the material. It is important for students to feel that they have a say in what happens in the classroom. This activity gives them an opportunity to do so.
I often substitute in-class or hands-on activities for worksheets. For example, I have students create timelines/storylines, character profiles, collages, journals etc . . . As the students work, I observe their interactions, listen to discussions and act as facilitator. I believe that students can learn as much from their peers as from traditional teacher instruction.
Something else I found useful—place a “question box” somewhere in the room. As the students add their questions, you can use them on a worksheet or as part of a test.
Alternatives to Worksheets:
If you are courageous and artistic, try this lesson. Rather than using a standard worksheet, students create a board game based on the text. This is an awesome idea!!
This is a fun lesson that gives students the opportunity to not only demonstrate how well they understand the text, but show how creative they can be. In groups or individually, students construct an alternate ending. Be sure that you read each story.
This is a totally creative and interactive lesson. Students work together to formulate a survival plan given specific constraints. The lesson outlines how points can be included.
I like this lesson because it includes hands-on work. After reading, students develop their ideas and visually represent them on poster board. This leads to a group discussion. This lesson provides authentic learning in an engaging lesson.