Sunday, July 26, 2015

Homework Craziness {End the Madness with Choice Boards!}

Y'all, I really don't like homework. Parents stress about it, kids refuse to do it, teachers dread checking it - it's just a fight. 

Two years ago, I decided I wasn't going to participate in that cycle anymore. I sat down and decided to pare away some of the "fluff" from my homework - I needed to focus on the purpose of homework, not my ideals about what "should" happen at home.  I decided I wanted homework to achieve three goals: 

At the same time, I thought it was equally important to decide what homework was NOT about: 

With that being said, I asked myself what homework would look like if it achieved all my goals, while being simpler for me, for my kids, and for parents. With input from my team and our curriculum coach - I settled on a choice board ---- and I. LOVE. IT. {And so do parents and kids!} 

Every three weeks I send home a choice board. Here's what weekly homework looks like -- each week, students must complete three tasks: 
  • Reading {for 20 minutes each day} --- The research says that reading MORE is the best way to become a better reader. This is simple and EASY. Just read! 
  • Math {five boxes from the choice board} --- The choice board I give my students includes math work from all strands of the Common Core, and it's set up to run from simple to complex. Student have to complete five problems a week. They choose the problems. They write the answers. 
  • Other {one choice of "reading response," "writing," "research and current events" or "other fun stuff"} ---- These are fun, real-life activities that help kids explore the topics we're learning about in class, in ways that make it seem less like work. Setting up a lemonade stand. Reading about current events. Writing a diary entry. Bringing in a book they love from home. FUN STUFF! 

Here's a close-up of the choice boards that I use: 

That's it! Read, do a math problem, and do something fun. Students bring in their work on Fridays and share the work from their "other" section with each other. I look through it and give feedback immediately. All in all the process takes around thirty minutes, and the benefits are SOOOOOO great: 

For Students: 
  •  LOVE the choice! They love to pick. They LOVE that their homework is "fun." 
  • They learn valuable lessons about how to manage their time. We always start the year with a conversation about how they get the work three weeks in advance, so they can decide when the best time is to do their homework. Maybe they have swimming on Tuesday! They'll need to do more work on Monday so they have time for swimming. Or maybe they know that one week is going to be super busy, so they plan to do homework on the weekends so they have no work. 
  • They get to share their work with others! Kids LOVE this - it's immediate feedback, and they want to impress their friends. There's no better investment tool. Seriously. 
For teachers and parents: 
  • Parents LOVE that they get the work in advance. 
  • There are always conversations about how much parental involvement is best, but the vast majority of parents let their kids do the work. 
  • The amount of choice for kids means that there are MANY fewer disagreements at home. 
  • I love that I print out homework once every three weeks, and that I can give feedback immediately. Other than that, I spend very little time on homework. 
  • I LOVE Fridays, when the kids share their work. It's such a great community-building time, and it's SO interesting to see the different ways that kids approach their assignments. I went from dreading homework turn-in day to waiting for it with bated breath! 
  • I love seeing how my kids independence grows. It's magical. 
If you want to use the {EDITABLE!!} files I use {for the whole year -- 33 weeks!}, as well as information about how I set up homework folders AND my feedback forms, check out my product listing at TpT here.

The preview for that product includes the first three weeks of homework free {!!!!}. If you have questions, leave them in the comments! 

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