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Taking the Work out of Homework

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Last week, I shared my 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Homework.  Be sure to check out that post to help you understand why I managed my homework system the way I did.  Today’s post is the second in my Homework series and I hope that it helps you to organize and manage homework in your classroom.  I love how my homework system works.  It basically runs itself
 

1. The Homework Folder

Start the year off right and have your homework ready to go. With this homework system, there will be less work throughout the year if you take care of it now.  Here is how I prepped my Homework Folders before the first day of school…

 

Folders:

 In order for homework to be organized, you have to have an organizer. I used a folder because it fit easily inside my students’ binders that returned to and from school every week.  This way all the homework resources belong in the folder and the folder belongs in their binder.
Each student had their own folder with their name on it.  When I assigned my students numbers, I simply wrote their number on the top right corner of their folder.  This made it easier to put in number order as I check and returned their folder.  I also put a small strip of packaging tape over the label on each folder.  I learned very quickly that labels, fade, tear, and slowly fall off if they are not protected.  This is a MUST!  If you don’t have your class list, no worries!  Get everything else ready to go.  Add the student labels once you have your class list.

Labels:

 I am a big fan of labels! If there is a label on it, there is no question about where something belongs.  There are two labels in my Homework Folder: Homework Packet and Homework Helpers.  This helps your students and their families to put homework away quickly.  Even better, you can check homework quickly because it is always in the same pocket (more on that later)!  I place a strip of packaging tape over these labels, as well.  They usually last ALL year…YAY!

Homework Helpers: 

With a homework system comes Homework Helpers! I usually start with the same Homework Helpers every year…Alphabet Chart, Sight Words, Reading Tools, Phonics, and Reading Log.   Throughout the year I add helpers as needed.  This is a great way to keep resources available to the parents before they ask for them.  For example, if you have worked with a 100’s chart and there are skills reinforcing this skill in their homework, you can have the add a 100’s chart to their Homework Helper pocket!   I also included Reading A-Z readers in the Homework Helpers pocket on a level that the students had mastered. 
 

2. Communicate With Parents

In order for my homework system to work, there must be communication. Communication with parents is ESSENTIAL to keep homework organized between school and home and home and school.  At the beginning of the year, I send a note home (in the Homework Folder) explaining how homework will be managed at home and school.
 If you are lucky enough to have a Parent-Teacher meeting at the beginning of the year, show and discuss each part of the Homework folder.  The more parents know about the folder the easier it will be for them to use it in their home.  I made to sure to give my parents a few tips to help them visualize how homework can be done in their home.  I shared some of these in my 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Homework post, but I want to mention them again here.

TIPS TO TELL PARENTS:

  1.  Find a place to keep your child’s Homework Folder in your home.  Have a shelf, basket, or bin that it goes in every Monday or keep it in your child’s binder if that is easiest for your family.
  2.  I will only check homework on Fridays.  If it is not turned one week, I will expect to check two weeks of homework the following week.
  3. There are 4 activities in each week of homework.  These activities can be completed each day OR in one sitting…it is up to you and your child.
  4.  If a Homework Folder is lost, it is you responsibility to replace the folder.  I will replace the labels for your child.
  5.  If the packet is not inside the Homework Folder it will not be checked.  I offer a reward for students that complete a month of homework, so it is important that their packet be kept in the folder.

 3.  The Homework Packet

Monthly Packets

I created weekly homework my first couple years of teaching and it was a pain!  I dreaded the time it took every week and was always forgetting it since it was not a priority to my instruction.  When I changed to monthly packets, my life became SO much easier.  If you are doing weekly homework…STOP!  Take that time to focus on your instruction and get your homework done once a month!

Calendar

One of my teammates brought the idea of an instructional calendar on the homework packet to me when I was creating our grade level’s homework and I LOVED it!  Having a instructional calendar as the cover page of each homework packet made it so EASY for me to give directions and even provide an extra (non-worksheet) activity for the parents and students to complete together.  Parents could initial that they check their child’s work and I could do the same.  Having an instructional calendar on the front also makes the homework seem less daunting and more official, since it looks so put together…gotta love that!
I sent homework home on Monday and wanted it returned on Friday, that meant 4 activities each week for my students…definitely doable!  This made it easier for me to focus on what skills I wanted them to practice home.  My activities primarily included, phonics, sight words, writing, and math.  These were the areas that my students always needed a little extra help in, so it worked out perfectly.
Like I stated in my 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Homework post, I assigned skills that I had already taught.  This also allowed me to copy and prepare my homework ahead of time because I didn’t have to work.  If you use my the Homework: Mega Bundles you can edit the text to fit what you have taught in your classroom.

4. Develop a System

This step took some planning and a bit of trial and error.  You HAVE to find a system that is simple and works for you.  I’m going to share what worked for me.

Student Procedures

The students are responsible for completing the 4 activities throughout the week.  They were also responsible for bringing their homework back to school every Friday and turning it in to the Homework Bin that was placed on my teacher table.

Parent Procedures

 Parent are responsible for making sure their child is doing their job.  Did they bring it home on Monday?  Was it placed in the appropriate location at home? Did they complete the activities correctly?  Is there an activity we should do together? When Thursday night rolled around they initialed that the work was complete and made sure the Homework Folder was placed in their child’s binder.

Teacher Procedures

  As the teacher, I placed the homework packet in each students’ folder the first Monday of every month.  I provide a Homework Bin that the students placed their Homework Folder in every Friday morning (it became such a routine that my students would remember when I forgot).  I checked the Homework Folders during the bathroom break on Friday (and sometimes Monday) and placed a sticker for the week that was complete.  Then at dismissal on Monday afternoon I laid the folders out on my teacher table and the students would pick up their folder when they packed up.
That’s it!  I continued this throughout the year and homework became very natural in my classroom.  If you think this system will work for you check out my Homework Bundles below!

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