postersThere has been a bit of a discussion on Twitter over the last few days about the importance – or otherwise – of pupils making posters. It all started with this blog post written by David Didau who you can (and should) follow on Twitter as @LearningSpy

Reading his post, it it becomes apparent that he does not look too favourably upon pupils spending valuable curriculum time making posters. I agree, and was reminded of my experience below.

A number of years ago, I taught the Year 7 daughter of a colleague, a fellow maths teacher in the same school.  She was a bright girl holding her own in an able top (ish) maths set. It was February, the days were short, the nights long and the next holiday seemed a long way away. Pupils and teachers alike were tired, snuffling and sneezing. It was the time of year that has little to commend it. And, to complete the mix, the Year 7’s were preparing for a dramatic production and many of them were involved in numerous lunchtime and after school rehearsals.  They were knackered.

Being the kind, sympathetic and empathetic teacher that I am, I recognised this and resolved to set them an easy homework (not setting a homework was, alas, not an option.  The flak that I would receive from parents and bosses was just not worth it.) And so, as the end of the lesson approached, I handed each pupil a piece of blank A4 paper and told them that the night’s homework was to make a poster on whatever it was we had been learning that day. I even gave them a quick demo on the whiteboard of what I expected (not a lot.) And so I bade them farewell, wished them good luck for their rehearsal and awaited my next class to bound through the door, warmed by the self-satisfied glow that I had done the right thing and given them a piece of homework that would take them about 5 minutes.

The following day my colleague, the parent of the girl I taught in Year 7, cornered me in the staff room.  She was very polite and very pleasant, but pointed out that a “poster” homework was the worse possible homework I could have set. Her daughter spent hours on it, forever refining and improving it (well the presentation of “it”) and she couldn’t tell when she had finished.  There were tired tears in the household that night as parents implored her to stop, but daughter was a perfectionist and was not satisfied with her work so just kept on going.

I aplologised to mum and explained my rational for setting the work (and, when I collected the homework, the evidence suggested that there were a number of students who hadn’t even spent 5 minutes on the task). She understood, we all moved on and, some days later, the production was a theatrical masterpiece.

I don’t think the pupils gained much from that homework, but I learned a lot and since that day I have never asked my students to make a poster, either in class or for homework.

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