Homework can be a hot topic for debate, but surveys have shown that teachers and families see the benefit of meaningful homework. As a teacher, it is important to establish a homework routine and find homework activities that are mearningful for families. I have always found that parents want to help their first graders. They may not know the best way to help or always have the best resources, but parents love their kids! Here are my Top Five Tips for creating Fuss Free and Family Friendly Homework.
1. Allow flexibility for families
"Homework" is designed for kids to do at home so you have to create something that works for different types of homes. I send our homework home on Monday, and it is due on Friday. This gives families a whole school week to decide when and how to work on activities. (I know some teachers send it home and Friday and give families a complete week to turn it in.)
2. Start a homework routine
Our homework looks almost exactly the same all year. It is a collection of activities that focus on the literacy and math skills we are learning each week. The order of activities is the same and the directions for the activities remains consistent. The high frequency words, phonics skills, and math concepts are what change.
At the beginning of the year, I send home a homework guide so families know what we are practicing and why. I attach the same sheet for a couple of weeks, because it's so easy to lose papers at home! I also model and teach my first graders how to complete their homework. I show them how to do each page so they can develop their independence!
There is no surprise or mystery when first graders grab new homework from their mailboxes. Some people may love the novelty of new assignments, but I found that consistency works best! Families and children know what to expect. It helps build confidence and independence. First graders who may not be able to read a full set of directions can still easily navigate their practice.
There is an optional activity included in each assignment. This works great for families who may call and ask "what else can we do to practice?" I also send home books each day most of my guided reading groups.
3. Explain what you are teaching
Parents appreciate seeing homework when it helps them understand what their kids are learning about at school. I include information about what children are learning and what they are expected to be able to do. It's a great way to communicate with every family each week!
4. Motivate everyone
I have found that kids and families work best through positive motivation! I reward children who complete all of their homework each month with an invitation to a "lunch party"...more on that in a bit. I will often write little notes or draw little pictures on the pages of a kiddo's homework to surprise her and keep her motivated if homework seems like a challenge.
I love to send home thank you notes to families- like brag tags for parents! I created designs for each month of the year, and I send them home our test sign-off sheet each month. Parents really appreciate this little note that recognizing their efforts!
You can get all of the thank you note designs for FREE by clicking on the picture below!
Although there were a couple late assignments, I had 100% homework completion for every child in my class last year. I teach a very socioeconomically diverse population with a lot of need so this was a huge accomplishment for my kids! To reward their hard work, we had a monthly "lunch party."
I love calling the reward a party, because it automatically gets kids excited....but here's a little secret- it's not really a party! I just make a big deal about it! I let the students who completed their homework eat lunch in the classroom. They eat the regular cafeteria lunch or they lunch they packed so there isn't a special menu to organize. We don't typically ever watch movies at our school so while they are eating, I put on a movie for them to watch. They may only get to see 27 minutes of the movie, but they LOVE it! (It also eliminates any chaos that kids might have thought would happen at the "party.")
If you are feeling super adventurous, you may want to add a snack to the party plans. I created a list of movies and snacks that match the parent homework notes! Check out all of the ideas here!
You can also follow my Lunch Parties Please board on Pinterest to find more ideas for simple ways to make your lunch parties awesome!
5. Send Support
I try to send home all of the materials that children may need to be successful. If I want my kids to keep their sight words, I send home a bag to keep them. Putting supplies in these bags helps ensure that no one says they don't have what they need to complete. Just outline a ziploc bag with some duct tape to keep the endges strong. I also send home pencils or crayons if needed.
I am currently working on updating all of my homework to align with our district's new English Language Arts curriculum, but you can already grab the short vowel practice pages now!