Why written homework?
As already stated, written homework is only one of four vital activities involved in homework or home study. It is a way of revising what was covered in class today while also providing you with vital practice in developing your answering technique in examinations. It is one thing to know the information. It is another thing to know how to use what you know. Success in exams is achieved when you have both the information and the ability to use that information as directed in the questions. The correct approach to written homework will help you to develop both of those important aspects.
Often students complain that they have no time for study because they get too much written homework.
Three points need to be made here:
First, you should learn to view written homework as a vital part of study and not separate from it. Completing homework in the way advised below should help you in this regard.
Second, if teachers were convinced that all students would thoroughly revise each day’s classwork in the manner previously advised they would feel less of a need to give as much written homework. However, experience has taught them that many students do no home study at all unless they get written work. They, therefore set written homework as a way of getting you to revise what was done in class today.
As already shown in Section 6a, the PCLR method is a better way of revising today’s class work than doing written homework, but, from a teacher’s point of view, completing written homework is better than doing nothing at all. It is also easier for a teacher to check that you have completed your written homework than to check if you have done your learning or revision work. (Again, it must be emphasized, that written homework is not enough on its own. Many students succeed in completing written work to a very satisfactory standard throughout the term but neglect study and learning work. Both they and their teachers may get the mistaken impression that great progress is being made.
Unfortunately, when it comes to class tests or end of term examinations their performance is poor. This is because they have been neglecting to do their learning work all along, and/or copying homework directly from the textbook!).
Third, the reason why written work takes up so much time for many students is because it is attempted before they have completed the revision work for today’s classes. Since they have not mastered the necessary material they end up almost totally depending on the textbook.
Many students, in fact, as already stated, copy directly from the textbook word for word – verbatim. This can be very time consuming. In addition, they may not even understand what they are writing! Further still, older students are failing to take advantage of completing written examination questions under examination conditions – a vital skill in preparation for the Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations
So, how should you approach your written work?
Think first about your presentation. Good presentation of written homework will result in good presentation in exams which will help to gain marks. Take pride in your written work and do it to the best of your ability.
Use the following approach:
1. Draw two narrow straight margins of one centimetre each in red – one on each side of the page.
2. When starting questions on a new chapter put the chapter number and title in the margin along the top of the page. If answering questions from past papers show the year and question number clearly. You might also include the date.
3. Use the left-hand margin to number the questions and parts of questions in red. The page number in the textbook from which the questions are taken should also appear here. This will allow you to quickly refer to the question later when you are using your ‘old’ home works for revision.
4. Do your best to write neatly.
5. Display the information in a clear way, making correction, by you or your teacher, easy. (Never leave, a wrong answer uncorrected).
6. Draw accurate diagrams to the correct size and in proportion. They should be fully labelled or annotated in neat print.
7. Leave sufficient space between each question. Missing information could be included here at a later stage.
8. Carefully follow any additional instructions from your individual subject teachers.
Now think about the actual content of your answers.
First year students should start by revising the content of today’s class in that subject. Then, with the aid of the textbook but without copying directly, they should answer each question using their own words. Try to strike a balance between overly neat presentation on the one hand and careless, sloppy, rushed work on the other. That is, spending too much time or spending too little. If you spend too much time on written work you will have little time left for study. Also, you will not be developing the skill of answering questions in a set time under examination conditions which will be important especially in later years. However, if you spend too little time, your answers will probably be unsatisfactory. Perhaps you are simply making basic points but failing to develop them enough. In exams, especially on higher level papers, more marks are awarded for developing or expanding on points than are given for making the basic point. Your individual subject teachers will be able to give you more advice on this matter. The advice given here applies to older students as well as first years.
Older students, especially those in state examination years, should approach written homework differently. Revise today’s class work or the relevant chapters thoroughly, using your textbook or notes. Then attempt your written work under examination conditions without the use of aids. If it is an examination type question, try to complete it within the same time limits for a similar question in the exam. This sounds like a very difficult task but have confidence in your ability – you will be pleasantly surprised at the results. With self-discipline and plenty of practice this skill will improve and your exam performance will be enhanced. Learn from your mistakes and try not to repeat them. If you follow this approach you will have mastered both the information and the answering skills or examination techniques necessary for success. This is a far better approach than being totally dependent on the textbook during term work and, as a result, either not having enough information, or sufficient time to answer questions in an exam, or both. Again, always take the advice of your subject teachers on completing quality homework. They all have access to previous years examination marking schemes, and many are or have been correctors/markers of the Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations in their own subjects. They know exactly what is required to gain high marks.