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Friday, January 31, 2014

Getting Families Involved in Math Education Part 4

If you are new to this series, we are taking a look at this book:

Today we are looking at HOMEWORK!

First let's take a look at what this book says about homework
- Gives kids a chance to extend learning and parents a chance to see what kids are learning
- Helps kids take responsibility for their own learning
- Newsletter goes home explaining homework expectations
- A homework diary can be used for families to give feedback about how each assignment went
- Notes to parents about ways a parent can help while still respecting the kid's way of doing things
- Homework is best given weekly and should be given and collected the same days each week

Clip art by Illumismart

How I use homework to get families involved.
- First of all, I have a major confession to make.  Every year I believe less in less in homework for elementary students.  Ideally I love the idea of sending home some of the great math games we use in school and seeing families sit around the table playing and learning together.  In reality, families are very busy and the kids who would benefit most from the extra practice are often the ones who are least likely to get it.

With that being said, we do have school and district policies surrounding homework and it is pretty clear that students should not be getting more than 10 minutes per night per grade level.  (Third grade gets 30 minutes max, etc) So here are my golden homework rules if it has to be given.

1. My Number 1 rule for homework is that I never EVER send home something that we are working on developing a conceptual understanding of in class.  For example, in second grade we spend a great deal of time developing conceptual understanding of double digit addition and subtraction.  I never send home double digit addition and subtraction practice with second graders for homework.  If a kid asks their parents for help, they will most likely be taught the traditional algorithm which is not something I wan my second graders exposed to.  Instead I give homework such as addition and subtraction facts or geometry games we have been playing in class.  The same thing applies in subsequent grades as kids first start learning multiplication and division.  As soon as I send it home, I invite the algorithm into my classroom so I wait until I am ready for that to happen.

2.  I believe all homework in elementary school should be due weekly and consistently.  A teacher should have a routine that homework folders go home Friday (or any consistent day) and are due back a week later.

3. I love the idea of math games and centers that students have already done in school going home for extra practice, reinforcement and to show parents the type of thinking their kid is doing in the classroom.  I know there are kids who do not have families who will do this type of homework for them and so I try to pull in an older student or classroom volunteer that each student who does not have home support gets to show the game to.  It is really great if this can be a consistent person.  

4.  If homework is important enough for you to assign and require, there should be a natural consequence of not getting it done.  If our goal with homework is to teach students to take responsibility for their own learning, we need to make sure their actions have consequences.

5.  I love the idea of a homework diary for kids of all ages.  This works very well in a planner format once kids are in grade 3 or 4 but including a homework diary in folders of younger students can be a great way to open lines of communication with families.   

How does homework help get families involved in your classroom?  Please respond in the comments below.

Want to check out all 6 parts, here they are!
Part 1: Newsletters 
Part 2: Open House
Part 4: Homework


  1. I agree with you, I wish I didn't have to give homework. What natural consequence do you use for students who don't have their homework? I have those who just forget one night accidentally and then those chronic no-homeworkers. I tend to be lenient on the once in a blue moon missers but can't seem to get the others motivated. Any suggestions?


    1. I like to use a system that allows for the accidentally forgot one night kids. I have little yellow slips of paper that the kids call yellow cards. If they forget their homework they fill out a yellow card and take it home. They then have until the next day to bring it back if it is their first or second time filling out a yellow card for the trimester. If it is past their second chance they either do their homework at recess or choice time depending on the grade level and the set up of the classroom.