Homework procedures teach responsibility and save you time and energy.
Are you a homeroom teacher, departmentalizing or both? Over the years I’ve said yes to all three of these. Each change has made me reexamine my procedures, including homework procedures, at the beginning of the school year. There are some parts of the procedures that I keep consistent. Others have to be adjusted. I’ll share a bit about my experiences and provide some tips at the end for a successful start to your school year.
As a homeroom teacher, I only had one group of students to work with. I taught K, 1, 2, and 3rd as a homeroom teacher and my procedures changed over the years but by the end I had it down.
I put homework in the cubbies after school Friday so the kids could pick it up Monday. The years where the homework came out of a book, I had parent volunteers tear them out and collate them at the beginning of the year. This as great for parents who wanted to help but couldn’t come in.
The students’ folder were all the same bright color. The folder was labeled ‘homework’, had their name on it, and had a number in the top right corner. They turned the folder into a homework bin on Fridays. I’d put the folders in number order and know right away who had turned it in. At first I’d have a bin that lay flat. I realized thought that using a book bin that kept the folders standing helped me thumb through them quickly.
If a student hadn’t finished their homework I’d give the kids another copy and they’d work on it during recess and during Friday Free Choice. As teachers we learn. I don’t anticipate having a routine where students finish homework at recess in the future. The kids that are benched are usually the ones that need the opportunity to move around at recess the most. That doesn’t mean their aren’t other times to have them finish it.
For a few years, I taught 5th grade math and had 3 groups of students rotating through, I had to develop a homework procedure that would work for all three.
At first sending homework home Mondays still worked. It cut back on the number of times you hear about a dog eating homework. I actually have a handwritten note from a former student’s parents that says, “I know how crazy this sounds, but __’s dog ate his homework. Can we have another copy.” I keep a file of things like that. You need a laugh once in a while.
Eventually, I would have the homework in a container attached to the door. They’d pick it up daily. But, both ways they’d turn it all in on Fridays. The students recorded their assignment in their agenda and added it to a folder in their binder.
I had a homework bin but now it has 3 folders in it. Each class has a college mascot. The three folders are color coded and have a mascot label and a directions label. Inside the folder is a class check off sheet. Students need to staple their homework, highlight their name, and put it in the folder.
A responsible student checked off names and ask the missing kids for their homework. I wrote the names of the students missing homework on a white board. If I were to departmentalize again, I’d leave off the highlight option and I wouldn’t write their name somewhere publicly.
Reflecting on Homework
In both situations one of the best things I ever started doing was having a place where I put extra homework. If someone loses something, they go get another on their own. If someone forgets it, there are plenty of copies for them to do it again. (Kids would say they “forgot” when really it was in their backpack unfinished. It was funny how many kids suddenly found their homework when I handed them a blank one.)
Part of me wonders if the main reason people on the internet complain about the Common Core is due to homework. While this post is about being organized, it is important to be thoughtful about the quality and quantity of homework we are sending. Sending home a homework sheet that goes with the curriculum the day that you introduced the topic isn’t always ideal. Consider just a few minutes practicing something they have already learned rather than something they still don’t understand.
I want my students to learn to be responsible. I don’t want them to hate school and learning. Depending on the grade level, I give parents an amount of time homework should take. I tell them they can sign it and say it was taking too long if a page is too challenging. I don’t want kids spending hours at the kitchen table crying because they don’t understand. It’s my job to teach them.
When Will Homework Go Home and Be Returned?
Be consistent. Whether you send it weekly or daily, stick to your procedure.
I’ve heard kids talking about how they got in trouble because their teacher sends home a math page everyday and they didn’t have one that day. The kid told the truth but, got in trouble because the parents didn’t believe them.
Weekly homework helps avoid that situation because you may just send two or three pages that week rather than a page a day. If you choose daily homework, consider having copies of worksheets on a skill that needs extra repetition around. That way if you decided not to send home a page from your curriculum, the routine stays consistent.
How Will I Hand it Out?
If you have one class, cubbies can be helpful. You can put homework in there as well as any of those lovely fliers that show up in our boxes. A cheaper option is file folders.
When I handed out homework daily to my departmentalized classes, I loved to have magnetic folder on the door. The kids picked up the homework on their way in and put it in their folder right away.