Homework has become somewhat of a hot topic lately. I’ve read articles about schools adopting no-homework policies. I’ve seen research on the ineffectiveness of homework. I’ve found infographics on the absence of homework in other successful nations.
All of this has made me question whether or not my students should have homework. I’m a Kindergarten reading specialist, so I don’t usually assign homework in my current position. But as a Kindergarten teacher, I did give out a very brief weekly homework packet. Was it a waste of my time? Did I damage my students’ learning or home lives? Should Kindergarteners have homework at all?
I believe that the answer to this last question is yes, Kindergarteners should have homework. No, I don’t mean 5 meaningless worksheets a night. No, I don’t mean elaborate projects that their parents end up doing. But I do feel that Kindergarten homework can be valuable, particularly when the homework is reading. And here’s why:
- Homework is an opportunity for parents to show kids that they value education. When a parent (or other family member) sits down with a child to work on homework, that adult figure is telling the child, “Hey, this is important. This is something I value.”
- Homework can give parents an idea of what students are working on in class. Kindergarten was a long time ago for many parents! Kindergarten expectations have also changed greatly over the years. By assigning meaningful homework that is relevant to what is going on in class, we can give parents a window into their children’s daily lives and learning.
- Homework can provide students with additional practice and repetition. I don’t know about you, but my Kinders sure need a lot of repetition to master concepts! Having my students spend 5-10 minutes practicing something outside of school is an opportunity to get in some of that extra practice.
- Homework can send kids the message that learning needn’t be restricted to school. When you assign kids meaningful homework that encourages them to interact with their families and home environment, this sends the message that learning happens everywhere – not just at school. Here’s an example of a simple homework task that sends this message: “Find 4 things in your house that start with the letter g. Draw them on this paper.”
What Appropriate Kindergarten Homework Looks Like
Okay, so homework can be positive. But what kind of homework is appropriate for Kindergarten? Here are some suggestions for designing positive homework experiences:
- Emphasize reading. It’s so valuable for kids to spend time reading with their parents. Maybe for homework you request that parents read with their children for 10 minutes a night – and that’s it!
- Give assignments that are SUPER brief! Kindergarteners’ attention spans are short. So their homework should be short, too! Send home nightly tasks that can be completed in about 5-10 minutes. If you send home a weekly homework packet, make sure to educate parents about the importance of doing some each night (rather than all of it on Thursday night!). Check in periodically with students and parents to make sure that the homework isn’t taking too long.
- Provide tasks that are meaningful. I have to think that an assignment like “Find 4 things in your house that start with the letter g. Draw them on this paper” is more fun and engaging than a worksheet on the letter g! When possible, involve family members in completing the homework. Games and scavenger hunts can get everyone in the family involved!
- Assign tasks at the right difficulty level. Why assign homework at all if it’s way too easy or way too hard? It may take a little time, but giving students slightly different homework can help maximize its effectiveness.
- Create a “homework bag” to provide necessary materials. If you think that students may not have pencils or crayons at home, why not send a few home with the homework? Also, reading with an adult makes for a wonderful homework assignment, but make sure to send home books. Many families do not have access to books in the home.
- Teach students how to do homework. Some students may not have an adult in their lives to help them with homework. Talk to students about how to have a snack after school and then work on homework. Explain that even if an adult can’t help them, they can still sit down to do the work by themselves. If the assignment is to read, they can read with a pet or stuffed animal. You may want to go over the homework and directions with students before sending it home each night, so that they can complete it independently if necessary.
Challenges of Assigning Kindergarten Homework
In theory, the suggestions above can be relatively easy to implement. But it’s never quite that easy, is it? Here are some of the challenges that I (and my colleagues) have encountered when assigning homework to our students:
- Not all students have parent or family support to complete homework. I believe strongly in educating parents during Open House and other school events about the importance of devoting home time to learning. However, some parents are still not able to help students with homework for a variety of reasons (language barrier, time, education, etc.).
- Finding or creating differentiated homework assignments is very time consuming. I always have a huge range of abilities in my classroom, and I want to provide homework assignments at my students’ individual levels. I don’t want students to become frustrated by the homework, or completely bored by it. But differentiating homework takes a TON of time!
- Keeping up with missing assignments can be challenging. Kids don’t always turn in their homework. I can’t tell you how many times I inquired about a missing homework assignment, only to find out that it had been in the child’s backpack for a week! Kids also don’t always do their homework. Trying to track down missing assignments can take up a lot of time.
In spite of these challenges, I still believe that a little bit of homework or time spent reading with parents can be very valuable for Kindergarteners. Because I know firsthand how time-consuming it can be to find the right homework for students, I’ve created a Leveled Literacy Homework series that you can use with your Kindergarten (or 1st grade) students.
The idea behind the series is to give you materials that are engaging and meaningful (like family games), can be used to differentiate your homework assignments, and are ideal for students who either do or do not have family help with completing their homework.
All activities (except for simple worksheets) come with parent instructions in English and Spanish. They also have links to optional videos that parents can choose to watch to learn how to read with their child or play the literacy games together. To learn more about the series, click on the image below.
What are your thoughts on homework in the Kindergarten classroom?