Is There Anybody Out There?

The short answer is, of course, yes… and no. There will soon be 7 billion people on the planet, but the viewing figures for the blog have dropped to their lowest yet… You’d think there was a holiday or something! 😉

I suppose I was being a little too optimistic to expect you to spend too much time doing what many of you see as ‘extra’ work, and the attractions of late nights and long lies do mean I’m struggling to keep you engaged… So rather than get you to think more about Little Brother, I thought I’d post some thoughts that may prompt you to chip in and give me some feedback I can use in future… and who knows, you may even want to expand on this for a folio piece.

Too Much Homework!?!

One of the things I have to balance is making sure you get homework, but that your homework should not overload you. You may be interested to know that most of the pressure to give you homework actually comes from your parents!

We are studying English, and the one thing you could all do and which would have a profound impact on your grades and ability to complete the course and compete at the highest level is to read. That’s right. Read.

I always use an analogy when trying to make this point, namely, if you want to get better at football/knitting/driving/maths/anything… you do so by practicing. Reading is exactly the same. As you read more, and you read smarter and better texts, you improve your cognitive skills as well as your vocabulary. This, in turn, improves your ability to reason and to think and to argue a point-of-view. In short, reading lots turns you from someone capable of passing into someone capable of passing at the highest levels. What makes this all the more appealing is that reading is one of the best inventions in the history of mankind… bar none! 😉

That said, there is plenty of room for improvement… I’ve been reading quite a lot about homework recently. Everything from The Homework Myth to Visible Learning… And one thing that is pretty clear is that homework is not always the best way of helping you learn… in fact, depending on the homework, it is sometimes counter-productive! (eg: doing the same equation wrong ten times just means you have learned to do it wrongly!)

One of the most accessible articles I’ve read about homework is in this blog post: So Much Homework. You should go and read it now. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. In fact, I’ll go and make a coffee while you read it.

Now, did you see the reference to Kathleen Cushman’s “Fires in the Mind: What Kids Can Tell us About Motivation and Mastery”? I hope you had the good sense to click through to get the sample chapter on homework. If not, here’s a link for you. You really should read this! It might give you the means of asking for homework that is better suited to your own needs.

So… What Next?

I’m nothing if not ambitious. I think if I learn from the sources mentioned, and if you lovely people are willing to give me feedback, we can really improve the homework you get. I’ve already got some ideas that I’m going to try, but I’d like you to look at the following chart that comes from the book:

I’d like you to come up with some exercises/homework that you think we should be doing. Ideally, I would like you to come up with homework you’d actually want to do… And that doesn’t steal your life! I’ll take your ideas and adapt them to suit what we are doing in class and what you need help with… And hopefully, we can get you wanting to do your homework because it is interesting and engaging and because it is suited to your needs!

Let’s try it!

As ever, I welcome your thoughts in the comments… In fact, it would be great if you could leave a comment just to prove that there is somebody out there! 😉


9 thoughts on “Is There Anybody Out There?

  1. There IS somebody out there! But I’m not a student ;-( I’m like you, using a blog to (hopefully) help my students with English…um…stuff. Thanks for the links, will pass them on to my lot. Evelyn

    • Hi Evelyn,
      Good to have you here! Feel free to chip in on any posts, and to help, yourself to any resources that may be of interest or use.

      Mr W

  2. This is a seriously cool idea! How about getting more people onto WordPress, as we have been learning the past couple of days, posting work onto a blog is the best way to get feedback on it – even when it is a ‘homework exercise’!

    I’m sure you’ll get the reference 😉

  3. Hi Connor,
    Good idea, but I’ve had mixed results with ‘making’ people blog in the past. There’s still plenty of time for the class to realise they can gain so much from blogging themselves. Part of the fear comes from a lack of confidence, or thought that they have nothing to say… But that isn’t true… Everyone has an opinion and there is value in sharing these and refining them in public.

    Anyway… I did appreciate the Springsteen… In fact, I’ll see your Springsteen and raise you a Southside Johnny! (You have to investigate him if you haven’t already encountered him!)

    Enjoy! 😉

  4. You’re so right. It’s a shame that despite the fact that we’re all ‘blessed’ with opinions and beliefs, so many people disregard theirs in exchange for following those of another, foolishly believing that theirs either doesn’t matter or won’t be taken seriously.

    Thanks for the video, loved the song! I’m only familiar with ‘Hearts of Stone’, as Steven Van Zandt produced it! (I mistakenly came across it when researching Springsteen’s song of the same name… Which contains some beautiful Sax played by the late, great Clarence Clemons.)

    Watching that video you posted, coupled with the endless gigs I’ve watched from both the Stone Pony and the Wonder Bar, I feel more and more drawn to the idea of quitting life here in Scotland to live on Asbury Park’s Boardwalk! After all, “we learned more from a three minute record, than we ever learned in school” 😉 (With the exception of Mr. W’s Higher English class of course!)


  5. Mi MrW
    I just thought I would chip in to support your staement
    “As you read more, and you read smarter and better texts, you improve your cognitive skills as well as your vocabulary. This, in turn, improves your ability to reason and to think and to argue a point-of-view. In short, reading lots turns you from someone capable of passing into someone capable of passing at the highest levels.”
    As you know, though I doubt any of your students will, I teach maths at a school in Livingston. However I consider myself to be a lifelong learner and I am now doing some post grad studies at Stirling Uni. As such I have a reading list as long as a bell ringer’s arm. So all I would really like to say is “Mr W you are so correct” the more you read the better the learner you become.
    So guys get reading and that comes from a “sumsie” maths teacher who appreciates not only numbers but the written word!

  6. Mr Winton,

    Just on the off chance that you haven’t already seen this, I just watched a very touching video direct from the Apple HQ:

    Unfortunately I am yet to receive word about my position at Perth Academy, however a meeting took place this evening to discuss the events which have contributed to this situation (a meeting which I very funnily enough was NOT invited to, despite it being about MY life!!!), so I will probably be informed of the outcome of that meeting tomorrow.

  7. I’m aware that the blog has been somewhat dormant over the past week or so and this is just a subtle reminder to Mr W. that there is indeed, someone out there…

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