Friday, November 21, 2014

Homework Choices

Hi there folks - it's Lisa from Second Grade Stories.  Time to talk about homework.
Blah!!!  Homework??!!  Honestly, I don't know a single primary grade teacher who really enjoys any part of homework for little ones.  How much should you give?  How directed should it be?  Any consequences for not returning it on time?  Who brought it back and who didn't?  Sometimes it just gets overwhelming.
My grade level took time at the beginning of this year to completely revamp our homework practice.  We talked about how to balance the importance of practice and review of skills with being able to work independently.  We talked about how to make homework easier for families.  We talked about how to make it a little more FUN for everyone.  And we decided to try homework choice menus.
Here's what the homework menu looked like for my kiddos this week:
Let me take you through it one part at a time.  The main idea is for students to choose at least one activity from each row of shapes.  That works out to one activity of about 15-20 minutes each night, plus nightly reading. 
We decided we wanted students to be reading every night, so they can either choose a different activity each night, or do the same one more than once.  The first circle always stays the same.  Our kiddos LOVE the book tower project.
This is what we do instead of a reading log.  We send home one tower a semester and when a completed one is returned, we hang it up in the hall, the student gets a certificate and gets recognized at our grade 2 monthly morning meeting.  It's a big deal :-)
The other circles are always an idea of a way to read (to an adult, under the covers, under a table...), an online book idea and a reading sheet that we send home.  Here are the two online ones we've shared so far:
Same idea.  An online game or app, an actual math sheet, a card game (one that we have already played in class A LOT!) and another idea.  The games and apps usually come from
One way to practice writing words (rainbow words, draw with chalk...), one movement way to spell words aloud, an online activity or app and the choice of spelling notebook ideas.  (We started using spelling ideas from Denise at Sunny Days in Second Grade and we LOVE this product!  My kiddos have notebooks in school for different subjects and they like the idea of having one at home, too!)
So how has it worked so far?  Let's just say I have had more POSITIVE emails, notes and comments from parents this year than I have had negative notes in past years combined.  Parents really like the choice part - it gives students a chance to be invested in the homework.  The variety of choices has also proven to be important - some parents (and kids!) prefer sitting down and DOING a homework sheet, rather than having to think up an idea of how to practice something.  Most of my students do more than the minimum each week, as well!  We take time during one closing circle meeting each week to share what everyone has done from the menu so far - this often encourages others to try that activity, too.
Changing the menu every week is easy for me, too.  I'll usually leave the online choices there for a couple weeks before I change them out.  And if I hear one choice my kids really loved (like reading under the table!), that one will stay a few times, too.  Since the general idea of each activity stays the same, I only need to change the specifics.
After Thanksgiving, I'm going to start adding an optional "project" kind of activity each month, as well.  This will give students who want to do something extra an opportunity to extend their homework and add a creative aspect to the menu.
Although the choice menu idea is certainly not new, by tweaking it to work with my grade level and the unique needs of my class, I've found a way to make homework not only relevant, but also more enjoyable! I'd love to hear about other ways you've found to make homework successful with your class.


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