I'm Lovin' Homework {A Mini-Series}

The dreaded word.  Students do not look forward to it.  Parents do not look forward to it.  And, do you know what?  Neither do teachers!!  Can I get an "AMEN?"  But, after 17 years of teaching 2nd grade I can say I have FINALLY figured out the homework method that works for ME and I'm LOVIN' it!  So, this week I'll be sharing my homework routine with you in hopes that you will love it, too!

Check out all of the posts in this series here:

Post 1: TEAM Homework

When I began teaching I assigned nightly homework.  It never dawned on me that I could do anything differently.  I sucked at it.  Seriously.  Why?

First, I hated having students write down their homework assignments in agendas.  It would literally take some of them an hour to copy down a few words.  And even then sometimes it wouldn't be copied down correctly - or neatly (so parents weren't able to understand it).  Don't hate me - I totally get the importance of young students needing to be able to copy from the board, but I just didn't think this was time well spent.

Second, there was the passing out of homework.  Again.  I sucked.  I would more often than not forget to pass it out.  So even if it did get written down, the students may or may not have the worksheets to complete once they got home. #hangsheadinshame  I would just get so wrapped up in teaching and teach my heart out all the way up to the bell.  Oops!

Third, I would have to collect that same homework (if it had been passed out) the next day.  Then what?  Did I check it?  What did that show me?  Some students would return "perfect" homework every single day because their parents would go over it with them.  Therefore, I may think they understood the concepts perfectly when in fact they didn't.  Or, some kids would return the homework with every problem wrong.  Not good.  They just practiced how to do something the wrong way TWENTY times because they had no support at all.

I very quickly realized that traditional homework wasn't for me....so...
I changed to weekly homework packets.  #lifechanger  Instead of assigning nightly homework that students copied from the board and I passed out/collected daily, I compiled all assignments and stapled them together with a "cover page."

The cover page listed the homework for the week with "suggested" times of completion.  I loved that students didn't have to copy assignments from the board any longer - an instant 15 more minutes of instruction time!  Woohoo!  Parents loved this method as it provided flexibility.  Soccer and ballet tonight?  No problem.  Just skip homework tonight and double up another night!  I loved it because I only had to pass out homework on Mondays and collect it on Fridays.

But still...what to do with it once collected?  Check?  Correct?  "Store?" (Don't judge...you know you've done that!)  The homework wasn't telling me anything as a teacher that I didn't already know about students' performance.  I mean, I've been working with these kids on these concepts ALL DAY LONG!  I know what they can and cannot do.  So, why was I assigning it?

Because the students needed extra practice?  Really?  Do they?  Most of them actually didn't.  And those that did often didn't have the support at home and were the ones who would practice it incorrectly.

Let's face it.  Most of the time I assigned it because parents expected it to come home.  Of course, you have those parents who would be thrilled if you didn't assign any homework.  But, on the other hand, you have those parents who are asking for EXTRA homework. 

How do you please everyone?

A couple of years ago I discovered Whole Brain Teaching's Universal Homework Method.  Here's a {detailed} video about it.

I took this concept and made it my own.  I now call it "TEAM Homework".  Basically, my students have a list of homework assignments each week.  I list them on our class newsletter.  For each task that students complete, they put a "star" beside it.  At the end of the week, students add up their stars and parents initial the page.  This page is returned on Friday.  As a class, we add up our stars and try to reach a "TEAM" goal.

If our class earned 100-150 stars, they receive 10 minutes of game time
If our class earned 151-200 stars, they receive 13 minutes of game time
If our class earned over 200 stars, they receive 15 minutes of game time

And, by game time, I mean learning games, of course.  Sneaky huh?  Their reward is that they get to keep practicing skills in a fun way.  They eat it up, too!  They work so hard to try to get the full 15 minutes!

Here's a look at one of my newsletters that shows TEAM homework assignments each week.  {**Update: After many requests, I created an editable version of my weekly newsletter than can be found HERE.}

I always include a reading, spelling, and math homework option.  There's usually an option for reviewing a study guide also.  Then, there are "extras" - perfect for those students who want to go above and beyond!

This homework format works for everyone for several reasons.

1) Differentiation
Parents can guide their students in picking the options that work best for their child.  If a students knows all of his/her spelling words at the beginning of the week, then why should they have to practice the words each night??  They don't!  Pick a different homework option!  Do one of the extras instead!

2) Flexiblity
Life too busy today?  No problem!  Skip homework one night.  Do a few extra throughout the week to make up for it.  You're still done your part for the TEAM!

3) Routine
Without having the "traditional" homework, students and parents will still know what to expect each night.  They know right where to look to find homework each week.  They have all of the tools at their fingertips (this will be explained in future posts).  It's an easy routine that works for all!

4) No more "lost" homework
Did you notice that the only thing students turn in to the teacher is the newsletter page with their star totals on Fridays?? <3  Students don't have to keep up with a ton of worksheets/pages - just this one page that stays in a page protector throughout the week in their folders.

That leads me to why this TEACHER loves this homework method.  I do not have any homework to CHECK!!!!  Jealous much?  Remember, the homework that I had checked in the past really didn't tell me anything at all - it all depended on how much support students had at home anyway.  On Fridays, students turn their newsletter page into a basket in the mornings.  I quickly add up the stars and announce our TEAM score for the week.  At the end of that day (Friday) students get their "reward" time and reinforce skills we've been learning through games.  It's a win-win, friends!

Have I convinced you yet?  I must say that this system works well for me because I'm not a huge cheerleader for homework anyway.  I am a believer that students work hard while they're at school.  And, they've been at school ALL DAY LONG.  Once they leave school, they need time to be a kid!  Play outdoors, go to baseball practice, play games with their families, read for fun....

But, I also realize that homework provides a bridge between home and school.  It lets parents see what we've been working on at school and how their children are mastering the concepts.  So, with that said, most of the homework I give is FUN homework.  They get to play games with their families that tie into practicing skills we're learning, they get to read (whatever they WANT)...and it counts as HOMEWORK!

In fact, I did not send ONE SINGLE WORKSHEET home last year.  Not ONE!  Come back tomorrow to find out how I did away with worksheets and really got my students (and parents) LOVIN' homework!

For the remainder of this week, I'll focus on one subject area per day with a little in depth look at our homework.  If you have questions about my system, leave them below!  I hope I've at least given you something to think about.

**Update**Questions Answered**

1) Do all of the teachers on your team use this homework approach?
No, and I'm fine with that.  One of my biggest peeves about education is trying to make all teachers "cookie cutters".  I realize that not everything that works for me will work for others.  I also realize that teachers (including me) are hesitant to change and it takes time.  I started using this homework approach two years ago.  Last year two of my teammates used (and loved) it, as well.  Maybe this coming year even more will want to try it out!
2) What happens to students who do not earn any stars?
Nothing.  I wish I had a better answer for this, but honestly I don't think it matters what homework system you use, you can't control what happens when the students are at home.  I focus on what they do when they're at school - with me.  What happens (or doesn't happen) at home is out of my control.  
However, I will say that students are very keen on noticing who goes to the basket to turn in their page on Fridays and who doesn't.  The know and peer pressure works!  I very rarely have a student who doesn't turn in homework.  For one, since the homework is "fun" students are more apt to attempt it - even with no support at home.  But also, they WANT to be a part of the TEAM to help us earn points toward the goal.  They very quickly realize that it takes everyone contributing to earn the entire 15 minutes of game time...and they can be very persuasive with each other!

3)  What exactly do you send home if you don't use worksheets?
For this one, you'll have to keep reading the posts this week for an exact answer, but for the most part I use lots of games and menus.  Check back for those posts!

Links to all posts in this series:

Post 1: TEAM Homework
Post 5:  That's a Wrap!


  1. Mind blown! Not only do you get the kids motivated to do their homework (that you don't have to check), but you get the parents to look at the newsletter! WIN WIN!

  2. Seriously, I might have to try this out this year. I'm horrible about printing, passing, collecting, and returning homework! lol

  3. If someone forgets to turn the cover sheet in on Friday, or if someone turns it in with 0 or 1 stars, does anything happen? Just curious- do you give a spelling test on Fri.?
    I SO agree with the points you made about homework!!

    1. I do give a spelling test on Fridays. I'm working on my differentiated spelling pack now and once it's completed I'll be doing a series of posts on spelling! :)

      Nothing really happens if students don't turn in their newsletter page, well, other than peer pressure. :) Somehow students always know if someone didn't bring theirs back! Unfortunately, there is THAT kid some years who doesn't return anything (including homework). However, I will say that it's not usually a problem. Because I try to give "fun" homework, they're usually eager to do it and be a part of the TEAM.

  4. Thank you so much for posting this! I have been dying to start something different with homework. I look forward to reading about how you handle each subject. Just a quick question: Does your grade level partners do this as well? I know at my school if any teacher tries something different the parents always talk and question. Ugh!! Just wanted to see how you handle it.

    1. There are 8 teachers on my team. I started doing my homework in this style two years ago (and was the only one). Last year there were 3 of us who did this homework system. Hopefully more will get on board this year. ;)

  5. Thanks so much for posting this. Even as a first year teacher I know that I don't want to do "traditional homework". I have children at home as well and know too well how much added stress homework adds. I am curious too what the consequences are for not turning in the newsletter or has zero stars.

    1. Hi Sara - I just added a little blurb on the post addressing this since it is a common question. Look at the bottom of the post for the update. :)

  6. This looks great! I have struggled for years (27) and still have problems with homework. I don;t understand where the students get the work if you don't send home worksheets. Can you explain that part please? Thanks so much, appreciate it!

    1. Hi Isobel - I use a lot of games and menus. I'll be addressing these in the upcoming subject-specific posts this week so be sure to check back! ;)

  7. Love your idea, and I plan to steal it this year.

    Crazy question - how do you deal with those parents who star everything each week & you know that the student didn't do a thing? We hope that parents are honest, but we know we have a few who aren't.

    1. You're right Sara! Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about those parents. They're probably the same ones who correct all of their work and send the worksheets back perfect, right? Sometimes even in THEIR handwriting instead of the child's! UGH! I do explain the system at the beginning of the year and let them know that I do not expect students to complete every single option every single week. I've been surprised at how honest they've been, but it certainly doesn't fix all of the homework problems.

  8. This is a great post. I'm interested in reading the rest this week.
    I don't always like giving my students homework, but I only see them for 42 minutes per day, so it would be a difficult adjustment. Something to think about!
    Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans

  9. I am eager to read more about this! I am currently a homework packet at the beginning if the week teacher. It works better for me than the nightly homework. I love the way you can differentiate easily with your system. I will certainly be looking forward to the rest of this series!

  10. Genius! I will be eagerly awaiting more details!!

  11. I would love to do this!! I am assuming it would work for firsties, right? I do a spelling menu and it was better because it was contained paperwork! HA! But to get them in their homework and working for a team would be AWESOME! I feel like I have to at least look at their homework but I don't always have the time or energy and it ends up in a pile. Plus, I consume trees. :( Looking forward to your next posts.

  12. This is so helpful! I have a hard time with homework. Thank you for posting! I can't wait to read the next post about how you do this. :)
    Sarah's First Grade Snippets

  13. In LOVE with this homework model! Definitely looking forward to more posts on this one!

    Little In Betweens
    (formerly Teach on a Limb)

  14. Can't wait to read the rest of the week! Thanks for this great post!

  15. I can't wait to read the rest of your posts about how to manage homework in such a fun way! I really appreciate how you bridge your philosophy with parents seeking home involvement. I'm definitely using this next year!

  16. This is great! I'm pinning it. I am thinking about how I am going to revamp homework this year and I love this approach. Can't wait to read the rest of the series. Thanks!!

    My Carolina Classroom

  17. I LOVE, absolutely LOVE, your thoughts on homework. The "Traditionally" and "What I Used to Do" sections are spot on! These are my exact thoughts! Thank you for this post! I am inspired by your homework plan and am your newest follower!

  18. This is brilliant! Would you mind posting the beginning of the year letter explaining to parents your TEAM homework system? You've convinced me to convert! :)

    1. I purchased your math homework, so I saw the TEAM homework letter. THANK YOU!!

  19. I stumbled upon your website at the right time! I've been wondering what approach to take with homework this year. My previous techniques just didn't work for me like I wanted it to. I LOVE this idea. I've added the math to my wishlist while I continue reading through the rest of the posts. I have a feeling I'll have a cart full when I'm done. As a parent and a teacher, I can understand both sides of the homework struggle between home, school, sports, siblings, etc. Thank you.

  20. This is brilliant!! I must do this for my 3rd graders! I can't wait to read the rest of your posts. I, too, am curious where you get your games/ideas for menus. Love, love, love!!!

  21. Do you still count the stars if parents don't initial it?

  22. I love this idea but i don't think administration will go for it

  23. Amanda- I came across your blog last night and YOU. ARE. AMAZING. seriously your ideas and resources have blown my mind. Especially this homework series! I only wish I discovered you sooner (say around the TPT sale) because I am about to do some damage on my credit card ha I truly appreciate all your hard work that goes into making your resources then the extra effort you put into sharing your ideas on your blog.
    I'm just crushed that you cannot share your MONSTERS Club :(

    Thank you, thank you!!



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