Sunday, November 25, 2012

Early Made it Monday: Homework Edition

I've grappled with homework for years.  Too much? Not enough? The right kind? Oy. Opinions regarding what constitutes "quality" homework vary widely, but one thing I can get behind is the concept of supporting students with their work habits, organization and study skills.  My thoughts on that could make for one long post that I just don't have in me during parent conference week, but I am going to share an early Monday Made It that I'm using with my kids starting this week. Tomorrow is a giant cluster of nonsense in which I will be unable to post, so Sunday it is!
When I returned to the classroom after three years as a Literacy Coach, 5th grade was new terrain for me. The sheer volume of work to correct (class and home) was overwhelming.  My own children had teachers who sent home packets with schedules each Monday, and I LOVED it, because we could look ahead and know what was going on.  This meant that, for instance, if homework was heavier one night, they would need to start on it earlier, and we knew that in advance. I decided to try it out, but I made some mistakes.

Where my boys still had to hand in each night's work the following day, I gave my students the freedom to plan out their weeks and the packet was due on Friday.  While well intentioned, and while most parents loved it, they weren't ready for it.  I hadn't scaffolded the time-management planning well enough, and what I ended up with was a lot of poor quality homework, done at the last minute.  While some handled it well and appreciated the ability to decide what to do when, depending upon their other after school commitments, most procrastinated. I also found myself with 23 packets of work to correct every weekend, instead of doing a little each day--exactly what I didn't want them to do! Finally, it didn't allow for quick feedback--so important for them.

I nixed the packets and went to nightly assignments again, but I think my current kiddos are ready for packets version 2.  This time, the plan is:

  • The Homework Packet goes home on Monday with a weekly schedule as a cover sheet.
  • The packet will have notes regarding any particular issues for the week (long term assignments, holidays, for example).
  • Homework is due the next day, as it would be if assigned daily.
  • Feedback is critical--I have to correct daily if I want the homework to have any meaning.

Here's this week's cover sheet:
I'm going to try this out for the remainder of the year, and I'm hoping that it will help kids see the week ahead, support their planning for long-term assignments (when we have them), and ease my paperwork mess so that I can give quick, meaningful feedback.  If you would like to download an editable version for your class, just click the pic above and it will take you to the Google Doc (which will be the same, sans the clipart). How do you handle homework? I'd love to hear from you!


  1. Hi Heather! This has always been a challenge for me too. I feel like I'm constantly evolving the method because I can't find what works best for my 5th graders. So the homework for this is due each day, but there's the option to get ahead if need be? I like that idea a lot. I'm going to be coming back again tomorrow to think more about this...thanks so much for sharing!!

    1. Kristen--I'll let you know how it's received. As a parent, I love the option to get ahead. When we have a crazy night coming up, knowing that my kids could even just get started on the homework for the following night is awesome. I can already predict the "what if" scenarios they're going to throw at me tomorrow, so I'm going to keep it simple: do your homework every night as you currently do, but if you have the random crazy night, feel free to get ahead. I'm going to have to put on my rockstar correcting pants on Tuesday to get the work back to them in a timely manner. and hold up my end of the bargain!

  2. I'm departmentalized, so we have 3 teachers sending homework. I put myself in the parents spot and I think this would be very difficult. In the past, I've done Tu/Th Homework for Reading. I got about 50% of my hmwk returned. I hated it. All I felt like all I was doing was keeping up with who did and didn't turn in hmwk.

    This year the first week of school I began a packet. I put the weekly spelling words on the left, the weekly calendar on the right and at the bottom are any "notes". Inside the packet: reading log, 1 reading passage, my monthly spelling tic-tac-toe choice board (free in my TPT store) and vocab worksheet from our practice book. I do a check list for homework on Friday, when students walk through my door, they take it out and begin bell work. I take up homework and check off/X off their name. This way I can easily email/call parents while students are testing. I check off their spelling tic-tac-toe boards and I do a quick drawing if parents signed their tic-tac-toe boards (or if they bring in their work) and that person gets a "FREE 100" and goes to the computer or library while we test. I don't grade the spelling homework b/c it's basically participation. I grade my reading logs on a rubric scale. Each Reading Log is worth 20 points. If you turn in the first 5 of the six weeks, you don't have to do one the 6th week of the six weeks.

    1. It sounds really manageable! It's so tricky--if I could spend the time I spend on homework doing other work-related tasks, I would feel ah-mazing.

  3. I have the worst time with homework. I think something like this might work for my class, but I wold have to suck it up and give rewards. I like to think that intrinsic motivation is best, but I sure do look forward to payday-the ultimate extrinsic motivator!

    I agree that the sheer volume of work to be graded is massive in 5th grade. Sometimes I wonder how our workload compares to other grade levels. I am sure that each grade level comes with it's own burden. Grading and body odor seem to be fifth grade territory! Haha!

    1. I wonder the same thing. Not that each grade doesn't have its own issues, but I think that if you are a 5th grade teacher who teaches all subjects, it's pretty brutal. They write so much more each year, kwim? And the body odor? Yikes. I've had to have the deodorant convo already this year. Usually I don't have to until the spring.