Truly, who invented homework? It would be interesting to find out.
Because depending on your approach, it can serve your students’ needs. Or make their confidence fall apart.
Whether you’re just beginning your career or you’re a well-seasoned educator, it’s worth looking at your homework process to see if it’s helping or hindering your students.
Routined Homework with Purpose
Why are you giving it?
Maybe instead of wondering who invented homework, we should be asking, “Why did they assign it?”
Once you get clear on why you’re giving it, it becomes easier to manage.
Some teachers like giving challenging homework that pushes students’ thinking at home. Others prefer home assignments that involved flipped learning.
My “why” is to give students’ daily practice on a skill they’ve previously learned in class. So, for example, if we’ve already gone over the Southeast states, I might assign them a states game to play with a parent. Or a practice test on the capitals that gives them immediate feedback. (Which I can check online.)
When you know your why, it will be easier to pick assignments and to explain it to students and parents.
Making a routine
Sticking with a routine makes homework easier for your kids and for you. Sure, it’s fun to change things up once in a while. But in general, a predictable format works better for everyone.
Do you want to give it daily or in a weekly packet? There are great reasons for both!
But for simplicity? Weekly is easier to manage. Here’s the magic formula that’s worked for me.
My Magic Homework Formula
- Cover Sheet: List the date, assignments each day, and expectations. (I use a checklist for each day on the cover so they can see if they’ve forgotten anything.)
- Weekly Reading Log plus four Reading Selections from Readworks, another free site. Keep the answer keys for Friday. Or you can use the site itself when it’s time to correct.
- Math: I pick four pages from one of these two free sites: Worksheet Works or Common Cores Sheets. Keep the answer keys for when they turn it in on Friday.
- Social Studies: Usually I have kids practice their states and capitals. I’ll often include a game, flashcards, or a practice sheet.
The best two-for-one homework hacks
I used to give homework packets on Mondays. A few years ago, though, I tried something new and it saved me so many headaches.
I’d stay a little late on Thursdays and put together the packets for the following week. I’d copy them and get them all set up in a special bin in my work area. But as I copied them, I used the scan function of our school copier. Yup! Your copier probably has this function too.
You scan all the homework pages. Then email them home that day to parents as a backup! (The subject line was something easy-to-find for them, like “Homework for 2/1 – 2/5.” The text of the email was pre-written and ready to go on my computer desktop.)
So instead of rushing to make another copy of the homework when a child lost theirs (’cause they always do!) the parent could simply print it out at home. Master this trick, and you’ll love the time it saves you!
Then, you give kids their homework packets on Friday. They’re not expected to do their homework over the weekend (unless that’s your policy) but it’s there in case they need to get a head start.
In fact, it’s a great opportunity for kids to share with each other their own time management hacks. So you might have them turn and talk in response to, “How you can you prevent leaving homework until Thursday night?” Many kids do prefer to do it ahead of time.
How to correct homework
Correcting homework can be a drag.
Remember your purpose we talked about? This is where it will guide you.
Because I’m only giving it as a quick practice, I have the kids correct it. (To get the deets on that, go to this post and read #8.) We go FAST, so it only takes ten minutes. (You’d be amazed how much they love this part. Have some colored pens on hand for them to pick from and they’re in heaven.)
Let a student help
First, though, you have to collect it, right? Big pain, right? What about having a student do it for you? Consider a student who needs practice in organization but who’s also kind to peers.
My students passed it in as part of their morning routine. Then my helper student did the following:
- put homework in order according to a student list and checked off their names
- followed up with students who’d forgotten to pass it in
- stamped it
- put it together with a binder clip on my table where I’d spot check it later in the day
Customized stamps can save your sanity. My helper student stamps each homework packets with two stamps.
The first one shows that I reviewed it and the student corrected it. The helper student checks off the boxes for me. (This saves parent questions later.)
Then they stamp it with this checklist. When I skim (not correct) the homework, students — and their parents — know what they still need to work on. If they did everything wonderfully, I’ll make a smiley face next to “You can do hard things!”
(The latter monster one I ordered here.)
We often think that differentiating work is a Herculean task. But it doesn’t need to be.
With Readworks, for example, you can select the reading level of your lower or higher student.
In math, you can pick two levels on the same skill using Worksheetworks. Copy them back to back and write on the homework that they get to pick which one they want to work on for that night. (Often, kids will end up doing both just because!) I will often put an on-grade level worksheet on one side and a challenge on the other. Any time you can give kids choice, do it! 🙂
Or create a customized stamp that says, “Pick __ to complete.” Then stamp the page and write in the appropriate number. Maybe you have a page of 30 problems, but your student gets easily overwhelmed. Stamp it and write 5 in the blank on their homework packet.
Once you get in the habit of doing this, your mindspace can focus on higher-level tasks. (i.e. You become more efficient and leave work earlier!)
Making sure homework gets passed in
Kids not passing in homework? There are a few fixes. (Of course, you need to establish trust with parents for this to work smoothly.)
BCC all parents of students who didn’t turn in homework. Keep it short and sweet. Something like,
“Greetings! Just letting you know that your student did not pass in their homework packet today. If you have any questions or concerns please reach out. My goal is to make them super proud of themselves and develop great study habits! :)”
You can also create an incentive. Maybe if a child turns in their homework on Friday, you give them 3 effort dots towards your Friday book raffle. Maybe they get a ticket to the monthly raffle to be the one to decorate your classroom door or bulletin board. Or a raffle where they get to pick the classroom job they want to do.
Now It’s Your Turn!
Tell us in the comments below:
- How do you make homework easy-peasy? Tell us YOUR hacks!
- What about homework makes you most nervous?
Want more good stuff?
Click here and get “8 Ways to Create Lifelong Readers.” Want your kids to love reading? In 8 easy steps, you’ll have a well-loved book haven in your classroom.
Visit my Teachers Pay Teachers Store and click on the green “Follow” star under the store name. You’ll get monthly messages and first dibs on ways to save time in your classroom.
Follow me on social media for daily ideas to get you out the door on time.