Homework, Homework, Homework
I have had a love-hate relationship with homework throughout the years. I’ve done weekly homework, nightly homework (which I often forgot to send), just reading, the list goes on and on. Last year I was forced to reformulate my homework yet again because our county revised their regulation. The new rule stated that third graders should have approx. 30-50 minutes of homework on Monday-Thursday and no homework on the weekends. The weekend-free homework was a relief because I never assigned weekend homework anyway. With the exceptions, of course, of telling my students that they need to read every day. In third grade, our expectation is that the kids read 20 minutes a night, so that takes up a good chunk of our mandatory time. We also do word study, which requires the students to study nightly, but if I’m trying to fit homework in order of importance, I definitely can’t forget math! This has been my train of thought this summer as I have spent WAY too much time thinking about homework .
I knew I needed to create something that works for me and these are the things I had to keep in mind:
1. It had to be weekly. I don’t do well with nightly homework, I forget to pass it out and I never want to go over it the next day. I know, I know, I’m as bad as the kids, but we have more important things to do when we are together.
2. Reading for at least 20 minutes was non-negotiable. Reading is my favorite subject to teach and definitely one of the things I feel most passionate about. I dedicate a lot of time helping students find series, genres, and books they love so that they will want to read.
3. They needed to be practicing nightly. One of the most important reasons I give homework is not only so the students can practice, but so the parents can see what we are learning. I’m not naive, I know there are some parents who never look at homework, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop giving them the opportunity to take part. I want my parents to know what their students are struggling with, especially in reading and math, so that we can have more informed discussions…and so that they are not “shocked” if their struggling student fails a test. I believe it empowers parents and forces them to take responsibility for the child’s learning. This past year, I had so many parents reference homework when talking about their child’s needs and initiate discussions about their child’s progress.
So, I decided to give options. I will return to giving weekly homework packets that are due on either Friday or Monday. Each packet will have a calendar with suggested times/activities on the front.
Here’s what is included in my homework:
-Reading: Students just jot down the title and author on a log. (Over the years this has changed. I know there is a lot of debate about not using reading logs anymore, but I choose not to take part in that. I just want them to read. They could lie and write down something when they haven’t read anything, but not many 8-year-old’s do.)
-Math: 2 days of Daily Math Practice (Evan-Moor book, 5 questions a day), 2 days of Daily Word Problems (Evan-Moor book, 1 word problem a day) – I use these books for morning work as well. Students will do Mon/Tue of Daily Math for morning work and Wed/Thur of Daily Math for homework. They will do the opposite for the Daily Word Problems. I like these because they are spiral, take less than 5 minutes, and because we will be consistently doing and reviewing them in school so students will always know how to complete them.
-Writing: I recently saw Mary’s (Teaching With a Mountain View) blog post on Corkboard Connections about the weekly letters she writes her class. Every week, they have to respond by writing a letter back. I thought this was perfect! This year I want to focus more on building community and I just know this will help. My kids are in third, so we will start with responding in a couple sentences and then move along to paragraphs throughout the year. Click here to see Mary’s free resource on TPT.
-Word Study: BOOOOO!!! I am not a word study fan. In fact, I hate it. We don’t have time to teach it properly because of how we are mandated to chunk our time, so it is pretty much a waste. However, this year we adopted a brand new word study program, so I am hopeful. I just went through a class on language development and I learned that many people use vocabulary activities to practice spelling words and spelling activities to practice vocabulary words. I have never really paid attention to the difference between the two, but it is definitely a reason that students don’t retain words or word patterns. I will be refreshing my activities to make sure my students are practicing their words with spelling-based activities.
-Studying: I have students fail unit tests all the time and when I asked them if they studied, their response is “What?….” 8-year-olds don’t know how to study and many parents don’t or can’t help. I figure if I give them an option to study one of their guides for 5 minutes nightly, they will at least think about it.
So all this is a total of 40+ minutes a night, depending on if they need to spend more time on something. I figure that, aside from the reading, as long as they spend at least some time on each area a night, they can build skills and get used to practicing.
How will I be reinforcing homework? Homeworkopoly. Actually, I created behavioropoly because that has been more of a focus for our group of kids. If they get a behavior sticker every day, they get to play at the end of the week. I plan on giving them an extra chance to play if they complete their homework.
Here is the homework calendar/cover sheet I created:
At the beginning of the year, the calendar doesn’t look quite like this. I start the first night of school with reading homework and add every week. The second week they will start math, then writing, and so on. I like to have all of the categories listed, so parents and students know what’s coming.
I also created this quick sheet for word study because I hate getting 4 papers on Friday with all of their studying from the week.
Talk to you soon,