If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you
Children at St Michael’s Prep are undertaking a new type of challenge this year: through a fresh and innovative approach to homework. The idea for this came from the pupils themselves when, during the homework review, a child commented “imagine if we could choose our own homework”.
Deputy Head, Mary Bridges, realised that this would indeed be an exciting prospect and, with a team of staff, designed and introduced a new style of homework. The aim of the challenge homework is to develop independent learning and thinking, to inspire curiosity and to enable creativity. Many subjects were taken out of the homework timetable with English and maths remaining as weekly tasks. This has enabled the children to have time and freedom to explore a cross-curricular topic in great depth and to produce an outcome that they choose. The initial challenges included an investigation into Olympic history and the Year 5s created some wonderful responses. We saw skype interviews with British Olympians, a huge model of the Sochi track where Old Michaelian Lizzy Yarnold won her first Olympic Gold. The model was complete with a mini Lizzy and her winning score on the board above the track.
Choice is key and enables the children to be pursue something that interests or inspires them. They have the option of choosing the challenge that appeals to them most or, they can write their own challenge. Harriet in Year 6 produced a presentation ‘A House with History’ where she researched the past occupants of her house after builders found unexploded World War 2 bombs in the garden! Trips to the library and a trawl through newspapers from the war revealed that the occupants were part of the home guard which Harriet shared through an engaging presentation including a video of the emergency services carrying out a controlled explosion of the bombs.
This term’s challenges are all inspired by the theme of Global Awareness and we look forward to seeing the various creations which include song, film, sculpture and design. One of the most exciting aspects of this new way of learning has been the independence that the children have shown, with many writing to and interviewing people who can give them real insights into their subject of choice. The experiences and skills that they develop will undoubtedly set them in good stead for progression into the curiosity curriculum in Year 7 & 8 as well as helping them with their senior school interviews by giving them something completely individual to talk about. Managing an independent project is a big challenge but through this experience the children are changed: into project managers, presenters and performers. We are incredibly proud of this unique aspect to our curriculum and feel inspired by the responses of our creative young learners.
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