My first year teaching Kindergarten also happened to be the first year that I had ever assigned homework to students. You see, before I began teaching Kindergarten, I taught Pre-K. In Pre-K, we did not give homework.
When I moved up to Kindergarten, I had big dreams about the homework I would assign. I’d give out exciting and engaging assignments (never worksheets). I’d provide families with fun learning games that would bring them together. I’d send home different homework for different students, differentiating assignments based upon their needs. I was going to make homework an enjoyable and productive part of my students’ home lives!
And then…reality hit. My first year teaching Kindergarten, I had an extremely challenging class. After an 8 hour school day with my kiddos (yes, you read that right – those 5 and 6 year olds were at school for 8 hours a day), I was exhausted. I could barely manage to get materials ready for the next day, much less find or create engaging homework activities.
And differentiation? Yeah, right. That year I had students who couldn’t read a Level A book, and other students who were reading beginning chapter books. I would have been up all night trying to get together 25 different homework assignments!
Needless to say, my grand homework plans didn’t exactly happen.
As the years went on, I slowly assembled a collection of activities to send home. I found and made games, activities, and worksheets to give my students meaningful practice opportunities.
But it still took a good bit of time each week to assemble my weekly homework packet. I only believe in assigning about 10 minutes of homework a night, so you’d think it’d be quick to pull together, but it wasn’t!
I was eventually able to differentiate homework some of the time, but not as often as I wanted to. I really wanted a set of engaging materials – with a lot of different options – that would make it easy for me to assign and differentiate homework for my kiddos.
And then, about 9 months ago, I decided that it was finally time to make the set of materials I’d been dreaming of!
My goal was to create literacy homework for Kindergarten that met the following criteria:
- Easy to differentiate (leveled, so that a teacher could use a student’s guiding reading level to pinpoint phonics and other reading activities appropriate for that student)
- Clear for parents to understand (with written instructions, visual aids, and videos)
- Accessible for both English- and Spanish- speaking families
- Suitable for students who have family help and for students who do not have family assistance
I had these goals in mind because I’ve seen kids fail to complete their homework for many different reasons. The homework may have been too hard or too easy, parents may not have understood the directions, students may not have had family help at home, etc.
And I knew I wasn’t alone in my homework struggles – I’ve never met a single teacher who found it easy to get all of their students to do their homework (even though Kinders are usually super enthusiastic learners!). Homework can be helpful and fun for our little learners, but there are so many challenges to assigning quality homework and then getting it back.
While creating my literacy homework series, I came up with some ways to overcome homework-related obstacles. In this post, I’ll share with you the solutions I’ve found to various challenges. Be sure to download all of the freebies, too!
Challenge: My kids don’t have the supplies they need at home to complete their homework.
Solution: Survey families about their needs several times throughout the year, and provide a take-home bag of school supplies.
The more information we have about students’ home situations, the better! Click on the image below to download a free parent survey (in English and Spanish). This survey will give you information about what supplies families have at home. If you’re worried about not getting the survey back, why not have parents fill it out during Back to School night or another school event that most parents attend?
Once you know what supplies students do and do not have, you can do several things. First, you can prepare take-home bags of supplies that students leave in their backpacks. Local churches and libraries will often hold school supply drives – if you are in need of duplicate supplies to send home, just ask around!
Another option is to be selective about the homework assignments that you give, sticking to assignments that don’t require many supplies. This doesn’t mean that your assignments have to be boring, however! There are lots of interactive activities that kids can do with a paper and pencil.
For example, check out this “Super Tic-Tac-Toe” game (download it below). A parent and child take turns “claiming” a space by saying the name of the alphabet letter inside it, and then tracing the missing upper or lowercase letter. Play continues until one person has claimed five spaces in a row. Two different colored pens or pencils are needed- no cutting, pasting, or coloring required!
A third option is to give different homework assignments to different kids, depending upon what supplies they have at home. This takes a little time, but my Kindergarten Homework series makes it easy.
For example, to have students practice determining whether pairs of words rhyme, you could send home a) Rhyming Memory or b) a “Rhyming Or Not?” worksheet. Both activities address the same skill, but the memory game requires cutting while the worksheet does not. Download the activities below.
Challenge: The kids in my class have very different needs, but it takes way too long to differentiate homework.
Solution: Keep a file folder for each child with activities appropriate to the student’s skill level. Quickly pull an assignment from the folder when you want to differentiate.
The photo below shows the “Homework Folder” concept in action:
On the outside of the folder is a list of the activities that are at the student’s level. All of the literacy activities on this particular list are designed for students whose instructional reading level is a Guided Reading Level A.
Inside the folder are copies of all of the activities on the list. To differentiate homework, just grab an assignment for each child from his/her folder. So quick and easy – and you don’t have to do it for every single assignment.
Challenge: I can’t seem to get out of the “worksheet rut” when assigning homework!
Solution: Create a weekly “formula” for your assignments. For example, in Kindergarten, you might assign 1 leveled book, 2 family games, and 3 worksheets per week. If you stick to that routine, then you’ll be less likely to rely only on worksheets for your homework assignments.
And if you use my Kindergarten literacy homework series, then you’ll have leveled books, family games, and worksheets at your fingertips. There’s no need to waste time searching online or in reproducible workbooks each week!
Challenge: My students’ parents are often confused by homework assignments. Some of them don’t read English, so they don’t understand the directions.
Solution: Send home assignments that have simple, predictable directions. Spend some time in class teaching students how to complete homework, so that they can teach their parents. Provide visual directions or directions in parents’ native languages whenever possible.
Below is an example of a homework assignment that has simple and predictable directions. These sight word sheets have students reading the word, tracing it, writing it, and reading it again in a sentence.
Each time, the instructions are the same – only the sight words and sentences vary between worksheets. Even if parents can’t read in English, students will be able to complete these assignments if you show them how to do it in class.
Another solution is to provide visual aids in your directions, as well as instructions in both English and Spanish. All of this definitely takes a lot of time to put together, but if you use my Kindergarten homework series, the work is done for you!
In my pack, each book and assignment (with the exception of simple worksheets), comes with 5 different options for parent direction sheets. You can choose written instructions with or without visual aids, as well as directions in English or Spanish.
All parent sheets also come with links to videos that parents can choose to watch. The videos explain the activities and give helpful hints, but families can also just read the written directions if they prefer.
Click here to download a sample book and the accompanying parent directions sheets.
Challenge: I want to give my students family games and interactive activities. But not all parents are able to help out with homework.
Solution: Try your best to involve all families, but if you know that a child has to complete homework on her own, send activities that she can do independently.
When creating my leveled literacy homework series, I designed two types of activities for each skill: family games or activities that require parent support, and worksheets that students can complete independently.
The rhyming words activities (scroll up) are an example of this. The Rhyming Word Memory game is played with family members, while the worksheet can be completed independently (if students are given the directions at school).
It can be tempting to just send home worksheets with all students if some parents can’t help out with homework. But many parents really appreciate interactive materials like family games. If you have a variety of activities available, you can select homework assignments based upon students’ individual home situations.
I hope that this post has given you some fresh ideas for preparing homework for your students! Finding materials can be time consuming, but I’ve seen my Kindergarteners benefit greatly from just 10-15 minutes of homework each night. And parents love the opportunity to be involved in their children’s learning!
To read more about my leveled literacy homework bundle, click here. You can also click on any of the images below to learn more about the homework activities for Guided Reading Level A, B, C, D, or E.
Every so often, people ask me what I give for Kindergarten homework. In this post, I will tell you how I create homework for kindergarten and manage it as quickly and easily as possible. There are also a couple of free downloads, too!
The free download for the cover sheet of the homework is editable, too, so that you can change it each week to reflect what you are working on in your own class. I also love that it doubles as a weekly newsletter for parents, and it forces me to be very concise. If I need to send another note and elaborate on something, I will. But quick, general reminders go on this paper. I do like it, because if parents tell me that they never saw a note, and I know I put it on the homework, my general response is that if the child did the homework and a parent signed off on it, then they should have also seen the paper with the note on it about the change in dismissal times, etc. To get your free download of the homework cover sheet,click here.orClick here for an editable version!
First of all, let me establish that my district requires nightly homework at all grade levels, so I really don’t have a choice about whether or not I want to assign it. The children are supposed to have about 15 minutes of homework nightly. The children that are struggling do wind up with more, because they also need to drill on letters and sounds, etc., that in order to catch up to the rest of the class. I regret that this is the case, but it is unavoidable, I’m afraid! They have to catch up somehow.
Second, you will notice that there is a lot more literacy homework than math. This is because I find that in Kindergarten, it takes a LOT longer for children to learn to read than to do the required mathematics, since most of the math is manipulative based and not as hard to learn, in my opinion. So, I would rather have parents spending their time on reading activities. When I taught first grade, I gave math homework every night, as well as literacy homework.
In addition to the nightly homework, children are supposed to read books with their parents as well, and mark them on their Read Aloud Chart for the month. I have a prize box with old toys in it, such as Happy Meal toys, etc. that I get from parents of former students. I let the children that bring back their Read Aloud Charts choose a prize from the prize box, too. Sometimes, parents tell me, “We do read every night, but I just don’t write it down. Can my child have a prize anyway? He really wants one.” I just tell them that I cannot give credit for incomplete work, and I suggest that they hand the child a pencil and have him or her write it down! That almost never seems to happen, unfortunately. Can’t think why.
Later in the year, when we really start sounding out words, I add another chart that is similar to the Read Aloud Chart, but says “Sounding Out Words Practice Chart” at the top. The parents are supposed to mark the date when they have practiced sounding out words with their children. I give them Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN) boards to have their children read, and change them out each month. I think this really helps some children learn to sound out words more easily because of the continued practice, and it goes very quickly once they get good at it. Here is a picture of a RAN board. You can download some RAN boards here, including a blank one, at this blog post.
Here is my weekly homework routine:
I do guided reading with my class, and we check out books for them to take home. Most of these books came from the Scholastic Book club, having acquired them in sets of seven or eight so that I could send them home for this purpose! I send home a note at the beginning of the year, asking parents to take responsibility for any lost books. If a book doesn’t come back, then I call or ask parents at dismissal time immediately for the book. The child cannot get any new ones until the previous one is paid for.
I use library book pockets and index cards for my check out system. Each book has a library pocket on the inside with an index card inside it. The card tells the name of the book and the copy number of the book. The book pocket also says what copy it is, too. When the children check out their books, they are asked to write their names on the index card. Then I keep the index cards in a little file box and clip them together by color group. They take their books home in library bags with their names taped on them that I purchase from Demco library supplies. They are very sturdy and usually last four or five years, provided that they do not get lost. (We usually lose about two per year out of 25-28 kids due to damage or loss.) If a child loses one, he or she then gets a zip lock bag for the rest of the year instead of a nice bag with a handle.
When the books come back, I cross out the name and put it back into the correct book, making sure that the child’s index card number matches the copy number on the book, because every now and then the kids get their books switched. (This is only a problem if a child loses a book, because parents don’t like to pay for books that someone else’s child lost.)
I know that checking out books to parents is a LOT of extra time and work, but I do think that it is well worth it, because many of the parents take the responsibility of helping their child learn to read quite seriously. The child gets tons of extra help at home, and then becomes a fluent reader by the end of kindergarten. So it’s one of the best time investments that I could possibly make, in my opinion. My aide does help me manage this as well.
Later in the year, I also assign a CVC worksheet as well for them to do. The worksheets come from my CVC books, either Volume One or Volume Two. There are five worksheets for each word family unit, and flash cards that go with each one. There are large flash cards to use in class, and small ones that fit on a single sheet that I can send home with just one click on my xerox machine. I send home these small flash cards for the kids to cut apart and practice matching up at the beginning of each word family unit. To download a few sample sheets from one of our CVC books, click here.
On Tuesdays, I usually assign a sentence or two for the children to write. Ideally, it should be very close to what we are going to write about in class on Wednesday during guided writing, because this will make my job just that much easier the next day. So when I make my homework, I think about my lesson plans, or visa versa. I ask the parents to help their child write a sentence, such as I did in the Tuesday box above. Then I give them the blank sentence writing sheet here.
On Wednesdays, I usually assign a sight word worksheet. I usually pick one from one of my Sight Word Workbooks. There are three different types of worksheets for each word, plus a Mini-Sing Along Songbook for each one. I just choose one of these worksheets to include into my homework. You can download some sample pages from one of these books here.
On Thursdays, I assign math homework. I plan my math homework based on what the children seem to need to practice the most. This week, my students needed to work on number formation and writing the numbers from memory, so I gave them a worksheet that would give them an opportunity to practice that. You can download it here. As you can see, each night also has a few instructions for the parents on how to help their child do the assignment. I do realize that there are probably some parents that do not really read it carefully, and just sign off on the activity any way. But I know that there are many that do! So I think that it is worth the trouble.
A few weeks ago, I sent home some xeroxed shapes in different sizes and colors and asked parents to help their children practice sorting. Before that, I gave them instructions to find household objects and have their child make patterns, and then included a patterning worksheet. I also use a LOT of the Counting Creatures worksheets. There is a book of worksheets for the numbers zero through ten, and another workbook for the numbers 11-20. I have also included some of the Matching Sets Worksheets, the Counting Creatures Addition and Counting Creatures Subtraction Worksheets, depending on our units of study. One thing I have to say is this: since we usually just use the worksheets as a learning center by putting a bunch of them in dry erase pockets, I don’t have to worry about the children doing one of them again with a pencil at home. The children have never complained about that! So far, given that I have access to all of these workbook sets, I have never run out of anything to give the children for homework! And if I lack something, I just make up an activity and tell the parents to practice it home, such as I just described with the shape sorting above. You can download some samples of the Counting Creatures Books here.
On Fridays, the children just need to turn in their homework, so the instructions are very minimal. I ask the families to keep the entire packet stapled together if they possibly can, and that helps me keep track of it.
One thing that I have encountered is that often children will do the homework, but forget to turn it in, even though the entire class is turning in their homework sheets in a great commotion! To encourage the children to get their homework out of their binders and put it in the homework box, I sometimes get out my Staples “Easy” button and let them push it after they put their homework in the box. That REALLY works! You can read a little more about this idea on this blog post here.
If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy reading these related posts:
Rapid Automatic Naming Boards
How to Teach Kids to Sound Out CVC Words
How I got 18 out of 23 Kids to Master 100% of Their Sight Words
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