10 Steps to the Homework System that will Work For You

Time is money.

This is not a saying that you would usually associate with teaching. However, time is a precious commodity for teachers, both in and out of the classroom.

One of the big things I try to do is to work more efficiently to make the best use of my time.

Today I’ll be sharing with you how I simplified my homework system. This system has helped me to spend less time grading while providing immediate feedback for my students.

My hope is that you’ll be able to glean some ideas to help you streamline your homework system, too!

Let’s dive right in.

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Plan ahead

I just finished my 4th year of teaching first grade at my current school. Those four years have helped me to become very familiar with our curriculum and the standards my students need to master.

I wrote an earlier post about organizing a year’s worth of tests based on our yearlong pacing plans. I also use these plans to map out homework for the entire year.

How I map out my assessments for the year

So what does that look like?

My grade level team decided to use some of the provided resources from our reading and math curriculum as homework. When we first started using our current curriculums, we looked through and chose the best stories and worksheets.

We created detailed notes on which things were sent home during which units.

This meant that in the following years, we could pull up those notes and copy all of our homework at once. 

No need to reinvent the wheel if it’s working just fine.

Every day, my students have the same four assignments:

  1. Read and log
  2. Reading Fluency
  3. Reading Passage
  4. Math

They receive a new reading passage each day and a new math packet each week. Both students and their families know what to expect each day. This allows them to plan ahead and use their time at home most efficiently.

For example, I send home the new math packet at the end of each week. The packet isn’t due until the following Friday, but most students would choose to complete the packet over the weekend. That way they don’t have to worry about it during the week when they had various sports or club activities.

Math Homework Pacing
Math Choice Chart Example

How I keep it all organized

As soon as all of the homework is copied, I cut, staple, and file it in the order that it’ll be sent home. I utilize stacking paper trays to keep the homework organized and accessible.

When it’s time to send home the next assignment, I simply grab it from the top of the pile.

Work smarter, not harder

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Absent students

If a student is absent, I write their name on the top of their assignment and place it on their desk. They place it in their homework binder when they return.

I’ve tried other systems where students would grab their missing work from a basket or filing folder in the past. However, I always and difficulty reminding students to grab their work or remembering who had missed what.

Now, by placing it right on their desk, I eliminate the chance that I’ll forget to give them their work.

Extra copies

If ever there are extra copies of assignments or letters sent home from the office, I keep them on the back of my homework check-in clipboard until they’re no longer relevant.

I do this just in case a student loses their homework or needs an extra copy of something. This is an easy way for me to keep track of extra copies. 

After a week or two, I recycle any old papers.

I’ve tried keeping extra copies in baskets but my current system is much easier to manage.

Grading homework

Okay, here’s where the magic happens.

Now that I have a 15-month-old at home, I see more and more that time is a precious commodity. My homework grading routine means that I no longer spend any time grading homework at home.

Here’s how I do it.

Every year, I send home a parent volunteer letter.

One of the ways that I have parents volunteer in the classroom is by helping check students’ homework each morning.

Last year, I had one parent assigned to each day of the week. I model the check-in routine for my volunteers when they initially start checking homework. However, I monitor and provide guidance each time they come in to help.

Every day, I open my classroom door 15 minutes early. Starting my day 15 minutes earlier is well worth the tradeoff of having more quality time with my son.

At the beginning of the school year, I also take time to teach my students their daily morning routine.

Students' morning routine

I project the routine on the board each morning but it doesn’t take long for them to learn it.

The students bring their homework binder and tablet to either myself or my parent volunteer. 

We check each piece of homework and draw a star next to each completed assignment. 

Any assignments that are not completed are circled to be completed later. Some assignments I have them complete with me at recess. Other things, like some of our math assignments, require parent involvement so I remind them to complete it at home.

If a student completes all of their homework, they get a star on my homework check-in sheet.

Any missing assignments are noted there as well for documentation.

I have a number coding key at the top of my check-in sheet that corresponds with each piece of homework. We write the corresponding number next to the student’s name if they didn’t complete that assignment.

clipboard homework organization

How I motivate kids to complete their homework every day

For many students, missing recess to do homework is a big enough motivator to complete their assignments at home.

However, some students need additional motivation.

I use ClassDojo as my main behavior management system.

ClassDojo allows me to award and take away points based on various actions.

At the end of the day, the number of points a student has will determine their color for their behavior calendar.

I want my students to be Self-Directed Learners (GLO #1). They have an opportunity of earning 4 Dojo points each morning before school starts by completing their morning routine:

  1. Be on time
  2. Check in before the tardy bell
  3. Completed all of their homework
  4. Write down that night’s assignments before 8:00

Each of these things emphasize the importance of being responsible for one’s own learning.

Now, I know my students are only 6- or 7-years-old and some of these things are not always in their control. Because of this, I don’t take away points if they miss any of these things. 

However, I encourage them to find ways they can take more responsibility. For example, if they struggle with tardiness, we talk about strategies such as packing their bag the night before.

By the end of the year, these responsibilities have become second nature and most of my students earn all 4 points.

This is just one way that I use ClassDojo to encourage my students to take charge of their own learning.

ClassDojo logo

So let’s review the keys for simplifying your homework routine.

  1. Use your yearlong pacing to map out your homework for the year
  2. Create a system that will work for you year after year
  3. Keep all your copies organized
  4. Determine how you’ll organize homework for absent students and extra copies
  5. Take some time to grade homework each day
  6. Record completed or missing homework
  7. Provide immediate feedback
  8. Utilize parent volunteers
  9. Teach your students a simple homework routine
  10. Motivate your students to be Self-Directed Learners

So what will you take away from this blog post? Are you frantically searching for homework to send home the next week? Or are you ready to streamline your process by setting up routines and inviting parents to help you?

Wherever you are in the process, I’m sure your next step will help you get that much closer to simplifying your homework system.

Words to Live By 

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Deuteronomy 6:6-7

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: 10 Tips for New Teachers - Teaching with Mama Owl

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