Making Prep Meaningful

Pupils and staff spend a lot of time over prep whether it be planning it, doing it or marking it. Following my previous post I am convinced that many of us could do more to ensure that this time is well spent, beneficial to learning and that it gives teachers the feedback they need about student progress.

This week I have been dipping into some of the academic research-based literature and debate on the topic of homework. Some common themes arise concerning the effectiveness, value and design of homework, including parental involvement, the relationship between time spent on homework and pupil achievement, gender differences in attitudes to homework, and the effectiveness of homework on learning within different age groups. As one might expect there does not seem to be an overwhelming consensus over the value of homework but it is certainly not rejected either. Moreover, the school context, pupil motivation and teacher’s role in setting meaningful homework seem to be instrumental in making it both valuable and valued.

– This interesting article is about research into the teacher’s role in setting prep:

– This article explains what ‘good’ homework tasks look like and why:

Click to access Five-Hallmarks-of-Good-Homework.pdf

– This meta-study concluded that research indicates a positive link between homework and achievement:

– As does this more recent article:

To conclude these posts about prep, which I hope will stimulate or inspire some discussion amongst the teaching community at Oakham, I would like to share my thoughts about how we might best approach it as teachers:

– Explain why the chosen prep has been set and how it benefits learning or understanding.
– Don’t set learning or revision preps without discussing how that learning should take place (techniques, strategies, timing).
– Always remind pupils what resources they have to support them during prep and enable their independence.
– Set preps that can be differentiated so that pupils don’t feel they are doing something pointless (too easy) or too difficult.
– Don’t set prep in a rush… make sure the criteria for marking it are clear and understood.
– Make it clear what your expected outcomes are and how/when it will be marked.

As an MFL and ToK teacher I have found the following to be ‘meaningful’ preps:

– A mind map or poster to summarise a topic or explain a point (language/vocab/grammar/concepts/themes…)
– Reading and selecting key words – select 10 you don’t know to create your own vocab test
– Write a mnemonic to memorise key words/terms
– Read something and make a list of key words that will enable you to be able to talk about it for 2 minutes in class.
– Read something and send questions about it to your teacher. Your teacher can then use these as a starter to the next lesson.
– Look up 10 words you would want to know on the topic of….
– Prepare questions and answers for a quiz or test on a topic learnt or reading carried out which will be used in the next lesson.
– Structured research – indicate which websites to look at and give headings to guide them



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