Monday, 21 January 2008

Applying 'inquisitivity' in the classroom - 1 - Homework

Each week for a while on this blog I shall recount how I taught in what some regarded as a 'sink' school.

Hainault High was thought of as a good school to send your child if he/she had problems.

John Westbury, the Head for many years attracted a very caring staff to his school.(It was his personality that had made me want to go to his school on qualifying with a PGCE from Goldsmiths, London at the age of 53).

We worked hard at helping children with problems, to fit in and achieve. Many times we succeeded!

I think our A-C pass rate was about 25%.

My form achieved 50% after five years with me !

My attitude was to always try to encourage and not be negative.

I took the view that if children didn't do their homework, this was my problem not there's.I hadn't made them feel that the work would be challenging or special or interesting - there were lots of ways of gaining their approval. One was to put up examples of previous children's work on the display board - with the prospect that theirs could be added..

I tried not to put children on the spot. Very occasionally I would keep them behind after school for some one-to-one tuition. Some came from families were doing homework was very difficult.

Every piece of homework received a sticker - labels I bought from Able Label that cost next to nothing but looked impressive. (I see they still got some of the designs I used. When children got a given number of stickers in their school diary they got a certificate that I printed up to look special!

It was Sylvie our head of upper school who got me going with this idea. She did an assembly when she gave our small plain orange cards to random choice of pupils in the hall. Everyone wanted one. They had no idea what they were for. But just being given a small piece of card that very few others had was special. This was the point that Sylvie (Mrs Springall) was making. We like to be made to feel special - even I wanted one!

So you got a sticker for just producing something that attempted to look like Homework .
You got 1 1/2 stickers (I used to cut them in half!) for a good attempt (no matter what the standard achieved) and 2 stickers for a really good try of which there would be about 25 %.

I never dwelt on the people who hadn't done the work but made a big fuss over those that tried well and I sometimes did get something exceptional.

Once a lad who liked to study and research at home produced a six page treatise on something like house design which his mother told me he'd worked at all weekend. That was special.

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