Over the years I've had many conversations with parents and colleagues about homework in first grade. Boy, it's a hot topic! My personal belief is that young children need to have time to be kids and have some social, emotional and physical needs met before spending time on homework.
- Our kids need time with family and friends to develop key social and language skills.
- Our kids need time to exercise and play outdoors.
- Our kids need to develop a love of learning that exists outside of school.
We all know that my list is "in a perfect world." Our world isn't perfect. Some families are stretched for time, and homework creates additional stress for them. Other parents want their children to have homework because they want their children to get ahead. Finally, there are those families that don't want the homework, but their children really need it because they are so far behind.
To reconcile the gap between my beliefs, what parents want, and what children need, I've come up with differentiated homework options for my students. They're not necessarily differentiated in terms of student ability, but more in terms of what families need, want, and can manage. At the beginning of the year, I review these options with parents and let them tell me what works best for them.
Option 1: Reading Log
It goes without saying that children need to read and be read to every night. Many of us have students use reading logs to track their reading. As a parent, I didn't do too well with reading logs when my boys were young. We read a lot, but we couldn't seem to maintain the reading logs that sat by their beds. As a result, we'd have a mad scramble to fill them out the morning they were due.
Even though they didn't work for us, reading logs are great option for many families. Over the years, I've encountered families who use the reading log as a tool. For those families, the reading log is invaluable because it helps them keep on track with fulfilling recommended reading times.
For those families, I provide a reading log. Here's a free copy for you!
Option 2: Monthly Homework Calendars
Another homework option is monthly homework calendars. I like homework calendars because busy families can choose what works for them. I ask families to select 3-4 activities a week, but they can chose which activities to do. They don't have to do an activity on the corresponding day. In other words, if it's April 6, but they'd rather do the April 7 activity, that's fine with me.
At the beginning of each month, I send home a packet with the month's homework calendar and lined paper so my students have appropriate paper at home to do the writing activities. As students do a writing activity, they simply date the journal page, and do the writing activity under the date. They do the next activity under the previous one. They return the completed packet to me at the end of the month.
My Monthly Homework Calendar is now editable, and available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store for $5.
Option 3: Take-Home Thematic Bags
These are by far my favorite homework option! I can't take credit for them. Several of my parent volunteers have worked over the years to make these amazing kits. Each bag is filled with a variety of thematic educational activities, related props (such as toys), books, student and parent journals, and additional supplies such as crayons and glue. Parents and kids LOVE them!I gathered the majority of the contents from my own resources, but the ideas and print-outs came from Literacy Bags by Kathy Howell.
Option 4: Individualized Homework
As the school year progresses, and I get to know my students' needs, I individualize homework, as needed. I make recommendations about what families can do at home with their kids to build specific skills, and provide resources accordingly. For example, I might send home practice activities for building sight word knowledge. Invariably, everyone gets extra practice sheets for word problems at some point.
Overall, I'm pretty flexible with families about homework as the year progresses. I find that most of my families appreciate the freedom and flexibility and are committed to working on homework with their children. The result is happy kids, happy parents, and a happy me!
I'd love to hear what you do for homework with your students!