Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Homework-Tips for Organizing and Managing Homework

What’s the first word you think of when I say “homework?”

It’s one of those hot topics that people feel very strongly about one way or another. However, more often than not, it is a requirement and so today I am here to share tips for managing homework in the classroom.

I used to send homework home nightly, but found it to add chaos to each and every day. I would spend many lunch periods copying an assignment for that night. Kids would forget to take their copy home. Parents would call or email to get clarification on what the assignment was for that night.

Then I switched to a weekly packet. The packet included all of the pages for the week along with a cover sheet that listed spelling words and assignments. This was an improvement, but still not ideal.

Last year I started using a separate folder just for homework. It includes the homework calendar and all of the printables they will need for the week  Last year, my teaching partner and I began sending home a Paragraph of the Week assignment each week (you can read all about those and grab a free sample here). The consistency was outstanding and we really felt like we hit gold because the kids were all working on something meaningful with a purpose. The parents liked it because it was easy for them to understand and help with. Since we knew in advance what the assignment would be we experimented with a monthly homework packet.
It. was. Awesome! 

We placed everything into a homework folder for the month and included an assignment calendar. The folder stayed at home and the students returned their completed work each morning in the communication folder. I’m looking forward to using the same system again this year and have created some calendar templates to include in the folders.

Misc. Tips and Ideas:
  • Strive to find easy-to-manage, yet effective assignments. Although it is true that you shouldn’t be sending home tasks that students can’t complete on their own, you also need to be careful not to give them “busy work” either.  Having them complete an assignment for a skill they are proficient in also creates unnecessary work for the teacher. Time is a teacher’s greatest obstacle so be careful not to spend it copying, correcting, managing, chasing, etc sheets of paper that students are not gaining anything from. 
  • Strive to be consistent with your grade level colleagues. Ideally, the assignments and policies should be identical.
  • Save time by teaming up with the other teacher(s) at your grade level. Alternate prepping the packet for the week or designate different subjects to different teachers.
  • Communicate your expectations with parents from the beginning. Discuss them at open house and make a hard copy available for students who may transfer in later in the year.
  • Use homework as an opportunity to teach organization and responsibility. While homework may not always be a reflection of a student’s abilities, it can be a valuable learning tool for time management and work habits.
  • Design a simple and consistent format for homework.  It could be reading and a math page every night or you may have students work on a different subject each night.  When I taught 2nd grade I used to do Math Monday (computation), Teacher Choice Tuesday (a spelling activity), Word Study Wednesday, Thinking Thursday (word problems)
  • Implement an efficient routine for checking homework. If you are just going to check for completion and spot check the homework you could have students place it on their desk while they do morning work and you can circulate and check the pages.
  • Determine how you will communicate homework progress with parents. In general no news is good news, but I do have a homework alert that gets sent home as needed. It needs to be signed by an adult at home so the families know if they are not meeting the expectations.
  • Consider creating a menu of optional homework activities. Some parents find homework to be a burden and others want more. One way to make everyone happy is to send home a basic assignment that is required for all students and a list of optional enrichment choices for those who want additional assignments.

Grading Homework:
  • Determine if correcting homework is an effective use of your time. Teachers don’t know how much assistance a child had with an assignment so it isn’t always an accurate representation of their abilities.
  • Checking the homework for effort and general understanding may be sufficient. 
  • If you are assigning work sheets. select a few questions to go over in class.

Homework Incentives
Homework should be completed because it is an expectation and not to receive a trinket. However, some teachers do find that extrinsic rewards are motivational to their students. If you choose to make those a part of your homework procedure here are a few easy-to-manage suggestions:
  • a raffle: Students earn a ticket when they complete an assignment. Have them place the tickets into a container. Draw one ticket a week to win a No Homework Night Coupon.
  • Certificate: Honor perfect homework efforts with a certificate. This could be done monthly or by marking period.

Homework Consequences:
  • Determine a plan for how you will handle homework that is incomplete, missing, poor quality, etc and be consistent. 

  • Check with your school and district to see if there is a policy in place.

  • Be cautious about using recess as a punishment for not doing homework. Often the kids who are not doing their homework are the ones who most need recess 


For more tips and ideas on organizing and managing your classroom please check out my Clutter-Free Guide along with my Teaching Procedures and Routines Workbook. This post is part of:

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