In the past, I always set up my homework in the summertime and copied all the weekly packets for the first quarter before school started. I used our long-range plans to choose reading and math activities for each week. I liked that I didn't really have to worry or think about homework every Monday, that I only had to collect/grade it once a week, and that it was a standard predictable format that even my lowest readers could navigate, while still keeping the higher kiddos engaged. But I tended to slack on the grading and would end up grading the whole 9 weeks' worth of homework at report card time. Plus I only give one grade a week for homework as a work habits grade so it seemed like a lot of time and effort for so little gain.
Then I saw this:
This is from 3rd Grade Thoughts and is based on the Universal Homework model from Whole Brain Teaching (which I love and use a lot of anyway). Her post has a great description of how she uses it in the classroom.
I liked that this basically makes Homework more or less paperless. It is totally paperless if you don't count the recording sheet above. But I don't because you can get three weeks of homework on one sheet of paper. Six weeks if you print it double-sided.
Here's how I see this working for me:
This is how I plan to explain my homework to my parents. When it really came down to it, I decided that the only thing I think my students HAVE to do for homework is to read. All the other stuff has some value, but I don't really see a lot of payoff from students who do homework religiously vs. students who don't. So why make them do the extra stuff? Now, if they want to do more, and are motivated and having fun doing those practice activities then everyone wins! Kids are having fun, choice is involved, parents don't have to fight with their kids over homework taking forever, and there is nothing for me to grade and very little to manage.
I may add some more choices after I find out what sites my school has subscriptions to. For example, First In Math was very popular with my students last year, and two years ago my students would have jumped through a flaming hoop just to get on Reading Eggs.
This is what they will use to keep track of their homework assignments. I think I will glue/staple this page into a composition book (since I'm going to have to figure out what to do with 4 of them!) and they can use the notebook to practice spelling words and write their reading responses. I won't actually grade the written work, just keep track of the stars. As part of the morning routine students can bring me their Homework Notebook and their punch card and I will punch their stars for them. Later on this can be a student helper job so I won't have to do anything really. On Fridays, we can have a class meeting, graph our stars for the week and make goals based on our class progress.
And that's it.
Now, I have to say that I wouldn't have attempted this at my old school (there goes Phoebe again!) because of the limited internet access of my families. Also, we were a high ESOL population so many parents may have had trouble understanding this system without getting a translation. But, just looking at my new school's website tells me this population has internet access readily available and using the internet in connection with school processes is fairly standard. This new school doesn't send any fliers home. Anything that has to be distributed to parents is scanned in and posted on the website for download. And I've noticed that each teacher scans and posts their homework on their page each night. Which is another reason I want to go with a system like this... I can just post those three slides and leave it for the entire school year. One less thing to worry about.
Whether or not this system will work for me is still to be determined. I've read a few similar posts and it seems to work fine for those teachers so I will give it a try and let you know how it goes.