Hey, you wanna know a secret? I am not a fan of giving homework and I only assign it because parents expect it. Yes, I agree and support the fact that students must read every evening for a minimum of 25 minutes. In the perfect world- my homework assignments would be project based and only due once a month but …that works better in the upper grades and I don’t think it would have the same impact with my third graders. So…..with that said…homework has always been a thorn in my side and an area of constant reflection for me. Just about every year I change how I do homework in my classroom… In fact, sometimes, I change how I do homework midyear if I feel like a system isn’t working. I guess it is always something that I will have to change and adapt because every year the needs of my students are different. I am always looking for ways to improve how and what I assign to my students so that the assignments are not only meaningful but also completed consistently.
When developing my homework system, here are four things I consider:
1. Homework is an extension of our school day. The nightly assignments should reflect and reinforce what we are working on in class.
2. Primarily, homework should be able to be completed independently. If a student is struggling with homework and needs significant support with completing it, it is not homework— it is likely a parent’s biggest headache. It is also a different issue that needs to be addressed to ensure that he/she is getting the instructional support they need to be successful. Nonetheless, assignments should be differentiated to meet the needs of the children.
3. Homework should be reviewed in class at some point during the school day- even if it is just a quick review of a sampling of questions.
4. Students- on any level- should be held accountable for completing their nightly assignments. It is important for me, as their teacher, to design and administer a system for monitoring who does and doesn’t do their homework. (The primary purpose of this blog post 🙂
I mostly use reading companions as part of my nightly homework routine. This requires the student to read every evening from our current novel and answer comprehension questions based on the Common Core Standards. I will write more about those in the future; however, if you would like to see what some of companions look like, click here. For a quick sample/freebie using Ramona Quimby, Age 8, click here.
Even though my students receive credit for doing homework (it is part of their participation grade), I do not grade their homework. And up until January I had a few students who were very inconsistent with completing their assignments (see #4 above :). That was until I got an EXTRAORDINARY idea for a classroom monitoring system! My goal going into the new year was to improve our homework completion rate. I knew I wanted to do something that was interactive and placed accountability and the responsibility of completing our nightly assignments on my students. I also knew that I wanted the majority of the monitoring of the homework to be on a bulletin board so that students had a visual connection with our homework expectations and could eventually take over the management of the board (teacher tip #345- give students ownership over the daily operations of your classroom). When thinking about what I was going to make this bulletin board look like, I scrolled through my clip art collection for inspiration and came across my favorite candy clip art! That is when Candy Crushin’ Homework was born!
Here is how it works:
Each night students must complete all of their homework in order to earn a random Candy Crushin’ point. This does not include the chocolate bar or the multi-colored chocolate ball. I just go around with the bag of points while I check to see if their homework is complete. I pass out the points along the way. Students who receive a point add a sticker to their homework chart. At the end of the week, whoever has a point for completing homework each night it was assigned earns a chocolate bar.
Every Friday we calculate our points. Students can only cash in points when they have a “three of a kind”, “four of a kind”, or “five of a kind”. Basically, they have to match the candies by color. So, students can have all of the same type of colored candy or, a combination of striped candy, candy in a bag, and/or a solid piece of candy and it will count for three, four, or five of a kind.
Aside from the bright colored game pieces, the connection to a real life game that they enjoy, and the classroom competition, my students really enjoy the Sugar Rush Scratch-off Cards thatI incorporated into this game as an incentive for them to move along the game board. The cards are really easy to make and you can get all of the necessary supplies for about $5.00!
How to Make a Sugar Rush Scratch-off Card
You need: liquid dish soap, Metallic Acrylic Craft Paint, clear box tape, a thin paint brush
1.Print out the scratch off cards provided in this resource.
2.Mix 2 parts paint to one part liquid soap. I used 1 tbs liquid soap and 2 tbs paint.
3.Place a strip of the box tape over the area you want to be scratched off.
4.Paint over the tape.
5.Let dry. Apply a second coat `if necessary.
I have been using this homework system since the start of the new year and it has actually helped to make students excited about homework. Sometimes I even offer bonus points (a chocolate bar or multi-colored chocolate ball) for completing extra homework. At first some of the students didn’t complete the bonus homework. But, after they saw their classmates earn an “easy” 5 or 10 points, they completed their bonus work the next time it was offered. What I like best about this system is that the students can manage it. Sometimes I’ll have a student pass out the points, the students are responsible for calculating their points at the end of the week, they can move their game pieces, and of course they let me know when they’ve earned a Sugar Rush Scratch-off Card!
If you like this resource, feel free to check it out in my Teachers Pay Teachers store by clicking here!
This is the metallic paint I used: