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.
Homework for Preschool, Pre-K, or Kindergarten
Homework in Preschool and Kindergarten
Homework from vanessa on Vimeo.
To do or not to do, that is the question! The topic of homework for young children is one that is fiercely debated in the field of early childhood education. Many parents and administrators are all for it, many teachers are against it.
Some schools mandate homework for Pre-K because they think it’s going to close the achievement gap, others do it because they think parents “expect it” and still others assign homework because it’s what they’ve always done. There’s a little something here for everyone, no matter what your situation.
Different types of homework has been shown to benefit different populations. The type of program you work in may also dictate the type of homework you send home, if any.
Parents and Homework
My goal for homework in my own classroom is to support and encourage parents as partners in their child’s education. It is my responsibility as the teacher to teach the required skills, but it is the parent’s job to help support me in my efforts. In other words, “It takes a village…” Some parents need more help and encouragement than others, it is also my job to offer that help and encouragement to those who need it.
Reading Aloud to Children as Homework
I believe every parent and teacher should be required to read The Read-Aloud Handbook: 7th Edition by Jim Trelease. Jim explains, very clearly and with plenty of anecdotes, humor and wisdom, the importance of reading aloud to children.
If you’re interested in reading more on this topic I encourage you to check out the online book study I hosted for The Read-Aloud Handbook.
Meaningful Homework Activities for Parents to Do With Children
The book Just Right Homework Activities for Pre-K offers many meaningful activities that parents can do at home with their children. It includes detailed instructions for parents for each activity as well as blackline masters.
When working with Title 1 and programs that serve at-risk populations it may be necessary to provide parent training through educational sessions. All parents want to help their children, but not all parents know how to do so.
I created the video at the top of this page to show to parents at our “Homework Help” educational session.
Printable Personalized Practice Cards
A useful tool that can help you not only assess students, but communicate progress to parents is ESGI. ESGI auto-generates personalized parent letters, in both English and Spanish, that you can use to easily show parents their child’s progress and provide them with personalized practice cards to help their child at home.
With just one click of a button in ESGI, you can quickly generate parent letters for each child in your class along with corresponding flash cards, specifically aligned to each child’s individual needs.
Click HERE to try ESGI free for 60 days and use promo code PREKPAGES to save $40 off your first year!
In the beginning, some components of a structured homework program might include:
- First Name Identification & Writing Practice
- Numbers and Counting
- Color Recognition- for those that need it
- Shape Recognition-for those that need it
- Letter Recognition
- Books for parents to read aloud to their child (See my take-home book program)
As young children mature and their needs change some changes to the homework may be necessary, such as:
- Last Name Identification & Writing Practice
- Sight Words (for those who are ready)
- Number identification, 20 and up
- Rhyming and other phonemic awareness skills
- Letter sounds
Of course, differentiation for students performing above or below grade level expectations should always be taken into consideration when assigning homework.
How Do I Get Started Setting Up a Homework Program?
Step 1: Prepare your materials. Prepare the following materials to give to each child.
- Name Card and Letter Tiles: Prepare a name card for every student using ABC Print Arrow font (see resources section) then print on cardstock and laminate. You could also use a sentence strip and a permanent to create name cards. You can use letter tiles from Wal-Mart or Staples or you can cut a matching sentence strip apart between the letters to make the name puzzle.
- Number Flash Cards: You can use a simple font to type the numbers into a document in Word, print, laminate, cut, hole punch, and put on rings. The rings are highly recommended so the cards don’t become lost. You can also find free, printable number flash cards on-line.
- Letter Flash Cards: The letter flash cards at left were made in Word using the ABC Print font, just print, laminate, cut, hole punch, and put on rings. Don’t forget to make one set of upper and one set of lowercase. The rings are highly recommended so the cards don’t become lost.
- Color Flash Cards: The color flash cards pictured above were made by placing color stickers on paper. You can also find free, printable color flash cards on-line. The rings are highly recommended so the cards don’t become lost.
- Shape Flash Cards: You can also find free, printable shape flash cards on-line. Just print, laminate, cut, hole punch, and put on rings.
Step 2: Next, you will need to create a system to communicate what activities you expect your students to do each night. One of the most effective ways to do this is by creating a monthly “Homework Calendar.”
You can download free calendars online that you can customize to meet your needs. In each space on the calendar indicate which activities you want parents to focus on each night, this helps parents from becoming overwhelmed. At the bottom of each space on the calendar there is a place for parents to sign indicating they have helped their child complete the assigned tasks. You can mark each space with a stamp or sticker to indicate your acknowledgement of homework completion. The homework calendars are kept in our BEAR books and carried back and forth by the child each day in his or her backpack.
If this method is too much for you then you may prefer the simpler Reading Log method.
Step 3: To implement a successful Pre-K Homework Program in your classroom you must meet with all the parents to explain your program. Do not expect your program to be successful without this critical component. Have an informational meeting or “Parent Night” and send home flyers to invite the parents. Make sure to include this event in your weekly newsletter as well.
When having parent education sessions such as this it is best to have some sort of prior arrangements made for the students and siblings to be outside of the classroom in an alternate location so the parents can focus on the information that is being presented.
- After parents have arrived and you have welcomed them and thanked them for attending, show them the homework video (see top of page).
- Next, use your document camera to show them the actual materials they will be receiving. Model how to use the materials and how to do each activity they were shown in the video.
- Show them a sample homework calendar and what to do with it.
- Explain your system for sending materials home in detail, for example will materials be sent home in a bag or a folder?
- Make sure parents thoroughly understand the purpose and expectations for your homework program as well as your system.
- Allow parents to ask questions and thank them again for attending.
You could also create a video like the one at the top of this page to show to parents.
- Homework should last no more than 5-10 minutes total each night including the book that parents read to their child.
- Worksheets should never be sent home as homework. This sends the message to parents that worksheets are an acceptable form of “work” and it is a good teaching practice when the exact opposite is true.
- Homework at this age should be fun and children should enjoy doing it. Advise parents that if their child does not seem to enjoy homework time they should make an appointment to see you so you can help them determine what is wrong and how to make it fun.
- Emphasize that reading to their children every day is the single most important thing they can do as parents. It is also highly recommended that you show the parents one of the following short video clips about the importance of reading to their children:
How to Help Your Child Read (English)
How to Read Out Loud to Your Preschooler (English)
Como ayudar a tu hijo leer (Spanish)