This week I've experimented with giving my students a new choice in their homework.
Each week I set spelling words, and most weeks each child has a unique list. This week, that is partly true, in that anyone who had errors on last week's test had to learn those words again this week, but there was also a core list of 13 words that everyone had. The core list is actually a vocabulary list from our Inventions unit, so part of the challenge is that the children need to learn what the words mean as well as how to spell them. We've been working on that in class, playing some games matching words to meaning, but I've subscribed to a great website (www.spellingcity.com) that includes vocabulary activities as well as spelling. The site has a free area, but that doesn't include the vocabulary part, and that is something my students really need support with, so I decided it was worth the cost to subscribe, especially as I can easily produce "flash card" word lists now. I can also monitor individual student activity on-line.
To help the children learn their words, they have to complete a number of tasks, and sometimes there's a worksheet that focuses on the spelling "rule" of the week as well. This week there was no worksheet. The choice I offered was to either complete three handwritten tasks, or complete 5 on-line activities. So far about half of the children have done some or all of the on-line activities. That's enough that I'd consider making this type of activity a regular option. The great thing is that I can see what they've done, what they scored, and what words they are struggling with.
There's no way I would ever make this a compulsory task. There are too many variables, including students who don't even have internet access at home, but it is another way of incorporating ICTs into the student's learning, and to differentiate. I get the feeling it needs to be tweaked a bit more, but I'm pretty happy with my first attempt at ICT based homework. I know that in many schools across the world this would be a minimal expectation, but it's not here, so I'm enjoying being able to ease ICTs into my teaching in different ways at my own pace.