Friday, February 6, 2015

The BEST Change I Made for this Year

Happy Friday! I'm actually home--hubby went to watch our boy play basketball without me (sad face). I couldn't miss practice because our daughter's team (and the team I coach) has first round of league tournament tomorrow. We have to win tomorrow if we want to keep playing another week. We have had two really good practices and "shot the lights out" so I hope we have saved some of that for tomorrow! :-)

Anyway, today I thought I'd share the one change I made in my classroom for this year that I absolutely love.

STAR Homework

I take NO credit for this idea. Click here to see the blog post by Amanda Madden that inspired me.

In the past, I sent home homework three nights a week. On Mondays students were required to read a decodable and get a parent signature. Tuesdays/Thursdays were "traditional" math homework nights.

I was never really happy with the system, but I wanted parents to see the kinds of things we were working on. I wanted the kids to get practice at home and learn a little responsibility.

After reading Amanda's blog post, I knew it was time for a change.  I abandoned the idea of "traditional" homework and I am so happy with the results.

Here's how homework "works" in my room this year.

Every Monday, I send home the class newsletter. Here's a picture of the corner that is devoted to our STAR homework. 

This one belongs to our school secretary's daughter.
She is an over-achiever and loves homework. Ha!
Here's how it works:

1. It is completely optional (but strongly encouraged). Here's how I encourage…I eat with my Homework Club kids once a month in the classroom. All students start each month in the club, but they must earn 4 stars a week to stay in the club. I also give 5 extra Dojo points for anyone with 5 or more stars. And if that doesn't work, we might have a one on one chat about helping your class earn stars.
2. Reading - Any and all reading counts, no time limits or reading logs.
3. The math is all games. My students love to play them and so do most of my parents! See Dealing With Math Homework by Teacher's Clubhouse. The cards and instruction ring are kept in their GO Books.
4. Spelling Practice - I gave them a page of ideas on how to practice and they keep it in their GO Books.
5. Extras - Reading response options are also kept in their GO Books. Math Timed Test sheets are also kept in a plastic sleeve in their GO Books so they can use dry erase and keep practicing. Seuss Club is really Mastery Club where students complete challenges of their choice.

This picture shows a more "normal" student's stars for the week (average is 8-9 stars).

Now what about those stars?

We add them all up on Friday mornings. This could also contribute to the encouragement. I call each student's name and their number of stars. They come to the front of the room and write their number of stars on the board. We all clap for our star earners. I give the extra Dojo points.

Then we start searching for "friendly numbers." I truly believe that this weekly activity has made this class the best at finding those 10s, 20s, and even 30s. Even my lowest kids are spotting them and volunteering to come up and show us what they see.

Take a look:

At the beginning of the year, I set the goal of 80 stars for my class to earn 10 minutes of educational game time. I only have 15 students, so I thought that would be a reasonable goal. As their stars increase, the game time does as well. 12 minutes for 100 stars. 15 minutes for 120 stars. We have exceeded 80 stars all but the first week after Christmas break…I think it took a bit to get back in the routine. Most of the time we get over 100 stars.

Why do I love it so much?

1. They love it!

2. I no longer have kids having to "make up" homework during recess.

2. No papers to grade. I mean, really.

3. The stars are tracked on my newsletter, so parents have several opportunities to actually read it!

4. Adding up the stars has turned into one of our favorite parts of Fun Friday.

I'm sure there are more reasons, but that is all I can think of right now. 

How do you handle homework in your class?


  1. This is really a great way to get students to want to do their homework and make it stress-free for you! Thank you so much for sharing!

    Mrs O Knows

  2. I really like this idea. Homework has been a real struggle in my class and this might provide some added encouragement for my kids!

    Swinging for Success


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