Today I’m chatting all about my personal homework evolution and how I changed a negative into a big positive in my classroom. I have been posting a lot of photos on my Instagram and Facebook account about these changes and my (and my students) excitement over this revolution. With that, I’ve have had a lot of feedback and questions from all of you. I’m hopefully that I covered everything that you are all wondering about so let’s start from the beginning…
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This is just not working anymore!
Homework. Just the word used to make me shake my head! Like most of us, we have been doing homework for the majority of our lives. Starting in elementary, middle and high school, I remember textbooks, page numbers to read/do, and thick packets of work. In college, I recall articles and textbooks to read, and papers upon papers to write. Even as a teacher, I dreaded homework. The students never did it. The parents expected and demanded it (mostly because they too have been doing homework for years and that’s just what you do in school). Then there is me, caught in the middle of this love/hate relationship with homework.
- I love how you can teach a lesson that day and see the success when they use that skill or strategy at home in their homework.
- I love when students DO their homework.
- I love sending work home that is responsive and aligned to my lessons.
- I love when we can correct our homework together and see them helping each other out with the problem set.
- I love to see them applying their knowledge from the lesson.
- I love rewarding them for taking their knowledge home and challenging themselves.
- I hate the prep behind homework.
- I hate how time consuming checking homework can be, especially because it takes away from our core learning time!
- I hate sending home filler work to appease the parents that expect homework every night.
- I hate that the majority of my students come in with excuses on why they didn’t complete their homework.
- I hate that I have to keep students in from recess to do their homework because they didn’t do it the night before.
- I hate bribing them to do their homework.
- I hate(d) homework, who doesn’t?!
Let’s change this negative to a positive!
As you can see, there is way too much negativity up there so I knew I needed to change something. First, I decided to completely scrap everything I’ve ever done with my 3rd grade homework, and thought about the basics of what I wanted my students to do while they were home. I thought back to when I taught Kindergarten and used to give monthly HW packets from Kelly’s Kindergarten. The skills we covered in class that month were embedded within this monthly packet. Yes, it was a packet but there was a ton of flexibility for the families of my students. They could do their one page a night, double up and/or work on the go. At the end of the month, my kiddos would bring back their packets and earn stickers for completing their work. Simple. I decided to jump back to that thinking but with third grade goggles instead. I knew I wanted my students to practice reading, writing and math at home. I knew I wanted them to continue to read at home for 25 minutes a night.
I knew I wanted the flexibility of giving a weekly packet out on Monday and not seeing it again until the following Monday (versus turning in a paper every single day for Ms. Sanchez to colle… I mean correct). I wanted the flexibility back for my families who had multiple things going on every night. I wanted families to divvy up the work they wanted to complete at home, on their own schedules. I knew I didn’t want them to spend a lot of time at home working on these because frankly they are 8 and 9 year olds who need a break too! Ultimately this is how my Weekly Packets were (re)born.
They were created on half sheets of paper, which save paper and time (2 for the price of one, anyone?). They draw the students in because they are much smaller than their old homework ways. They have a coloring option when they complete their nightly reading (who doesn’t like to color?)
The best part is they are completely Common Core aligned, focusing both Math and ELA. Each sheet is labeled with the Common Core State Standard for quick assessment of the standard. The format stays the same within ALL the monthly packets I’ve created so far, so you can easily change out targets that fit for YOUR classroom.
What skills are covered?
Yes, these are packets. Yes, they are not individualized based on every lesson in my classroom. But they can be!
Each pack comes with a table of contents with a brief title of the homework sheet and the standard, making it very easy for you to quickly grab what you need! By the end of creating these packets, I will end up with a year full of homework that can easily interchanged between the months regardless of what you’re teaching or where your students’ needs are. ALL Common Core State Standards for both Math and ELA will be reviewed in these packets multiple times, giving you plenty of opportunities for spiral review throughout the year.
How do I get my students to consistently do their homework?
Each morning, we gather at the carpet for homework check. It’s quick, taking only a couple minutes, and simple. My homework checker says “Stand up if you did your reading last night”. My kiddos stand, we count, they sit back down. Next, the homework checker says “Stand up if you completed one page from your packet.” Repeat the above.
We add the two totals together and the homework checker adds the amount to our Weekly Homework Graphs. I was originally inspired by Stephanie from 3rd Grade Thoughts on her post about how she uses homework checks and graphs. By the end of the week, if we have met our goal, we get to have an allotted amount of free choice on Friday. This can be anything in your classroom. I’ve done snippets of videos, games, art time, silent ball, extra recess, etc. But what if the students are not being honest you ask? To quote Frozen, you have to “let it go”. You continue to remind them to be honest, you move on that morning but you hold them accountable on Mondays (see below) when the packets are due. You, as a teacher, don’t want to waste quality learning time on checking everyone’s homework, every morning.
On Mondays, students come in and we meet for morning meeting. We quickly do our homework check for Friday’s homework (see above!). While they are unpacking for the morning, they turn in their previous weeks homework packets to my mailbox.
With my area prepped with homework punch cards, hole punch and brag tags, I quickly go through the homework in my mailbox, paying attention to their answers. If someone left a page blank, I call their name up and go over it with them. I make a plan with them to complete the page. I call the rest of the students who have turned it in. A complete packet earns 5 punches on their HW Club Punch Cards for the five days of week and a brag tag. These few incentives are free and easy to manage within your classroom.
Prep for the teacher!
You decide what works for you. Once I’ve created these packets, you should be able to interchange them for any month you teach a certain subject. For example, we are working on Fractions in my classroom right now (found in my March Weekly Packets), but maybe you are working on Place Value. No problem! Pull the math pages from my December Weekly Packets (where we focused on Place Value) and supplement them in for the month you need. I’ve specificity created a math and ELA frame so they could jump around. And if you need to tweak a few things here, there or even create something completely different… I’ve created a Editable Homework Packet. The weekly covers are the only things that tie to the monthly themes. You as the teacher have the flexibility you need with these packets.
Printing is simple with these half sheets. It will cut down on paper and time. Simply copy double sided with the staple option on double staple on the left. Once you are done with your copies, all you will have to do is cut them in half and pass out!
What are parents saying?
I’ve asked my parents to be honest with me in regards to the (drastic) change in homework. The great thing is that a lot of them reached out on their own to say they love the difference. They are finding the content matches with my lessons and their child’s abilities. They are also loving the flexibility these packets have during the week. I know one of my students has soccer every Monday and Wednesday, so she doubles up on Tuesday and Thursday to complete them on time. They are still getting authentic homework but with tons more flexibility.
The ultimate payoff!
I’ve seen my classroom’s attitude about homework completely change in the last couple of months since I’ve implemented these Weekly Homework Packets. I’m not getting students running up to me every morning with excuses why they didn’t do it. Lucky for me, I have the majority of my classroom doing their homework every. single. night. and best of all, they are excited about it. I don’t have students staying in for recess every day. That gives me the break I need and the freedom they need! The benefits are endless. I’m happy to say that I finally have something in place that is easy on me (prep and classroom time in mind), fun for my students (but still has them using the skills they learn in class), and satisfies the parents and their “traditional” expectations.