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)
More Teaching Tips from Pre-K Pages
Every so often, people ask me what I give for Kindergarten homework. In this post, I will tell you how I create homework for kindergarten and manage it as quickly and easily as possible. There are also a couple of free downloads, too!
The free download for the cover sheet of the homework is editable, too, so that you can change it each week to reflect what you are working on in your own class. I also love that it doubles as a weekly newsletter for parents, and it forces me to be very concise. If I need to send another note and elaborate on something, I will. But quick, general reminders go on this paper. I do like it, because if parents tell me that they never saw a note, and I know I put it on the homework, my general response is that if the child did the homework and a parent signed off on it, then they should have also seen the paper with the note on it about the change in dismissal times, etc. To get your free download of the homework cover sheet,click here.orClick here for an editable version!
First of all, let me establish that my district requires nightly homework at all grade levels, so I really don’t have a choice about whether or not I want to assign it. The children are supposed to have about 15 minutes of homework nightly. The children that are struggling do wind up with more, because they also need to drill on letters and sounds, etc., that in order to catch up to the rest of the class. I regret that this is the case, but it is unavoidable, I’m afraid! They have to catch up somehow.
Second, you will notice that there is a lot more literacy homework than math. This is because I find that in Kindergarten, it takes a LOT longer for children to learn to read than to do the required mathematics, since most of the math is manipulative based and not as hard to learn, in my opinion. So, I would rather have parents spending their time on reading activities. When I taught first grade, I gave math homework every night, as well as literacy homework.
In addition to the nightly homework, children are supposed to read books with their parents as well, and mark them on their Read Aloud Chart for the month. I have a prize box with old toys in it, such as Happy Meal toys, etc. that I get from parents of former students. I let the children that bring back their Read Aloud Charts choose a prize from the prize box, too. Sometimes, parents tell me, “We do read every night, but I just don’t write it down. Can my child have a prize anyway? He really wants one.” I just tell them that I cannot give credit for incomplete work, and I suggest that they hand the child a pencil and have him or her write it down! That almost never seems to happen, unfortunately. Can’t think why.
Later in the year, when we really start sounding out words, I add another chart that is similar to the Read Aloud Chart, but says “Sounding Out Words Practice Chart” at the top. The parents are supposed to mark the date when they have practiced sounding out words with their children. I give them Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN) boards to have their children read, and change them out each month. I think this really helps some children learn to sound out words more easily because of the continued practice, and it goes very quickly once they get good at it. Here is a picture of a RAN board. You can download some RAN boards here, including a blank one, at this blog post.
Here is my weekly homework routine:
I do guided reading with my class, and we check out books for them to take home. Most of these books came from the Scholastic Book club, having acquired them in sets of seven or eight so that I could send them home for this purpose! I send home a note at the beginning of the year, asking parents to take responsibility for any lost books. If a book doesn’t come back, then I call or ask parents at dismissal time immediately for the book. The child cannot get any new ones until the previous one is paid for.
I use library book pockets and index cards for my check out system. Each book has a library pocket on the inside with an index card inside it. The card tells the name of the book and the copy number of the book. The book pocket also says what copy it is, too. When the children check out their books, they are asked to write their names on the index card. Then I keep the index cards in a little file box and clip them together by color group. They take their books home in library bags with their names taped on them that I purchase from Demco library supplies. They are very sturdy and usually last four or five years, provided that they do not get lost. (We usually lose about two per year out of 25-28 kids due to damage or loss.) If a child loses one, he or she then gets a zip lock bag for the rest of the year instead of a nice bag with a handle.
When the books come back, I cross out the name and put it back into the correct book, making sure that the child’s index card number matches the copy number on the book, because every now and then the kids get their books switched. (This is only a problem if a child loses a book, because parents don’t like to pay for books that someone else’s child lost.)
I know that checking out books to parents is a LOT of extra time and work, but I do think that it is well worth it, because many of the parents take the responsibility of helping their child learn to read quite seriously. The child gets tons of extra help at home, and then becomes a fluent reader by the end of kindergarten. So it’s one of the best time investments that I could possibly make, in my opinion. My aide does help me manage this as well.
Later in the year, I also assign a CVC worksheet as well for them to do. The worksheets come from my CVC books, either Volume One or Volume Two. There are five worksheets for each word family unit, and flash cards that go with each one. There are large flash cards to use in class, and small ones that fit on a single sheet that I can send home with just one click on my xerox machine. I send home these small flash cards for the kids to cut apart and practice matching up at the beginning of each word family unit. To download a few sample sheets from one of our CVC books, click here.
On Tuesdays, I usually assign a sentence or two for the children to write. Ideally, it should be very close to what we are going to write about in class on Wednesday during guided writing, because this will make my job just that much easier the next day. So when I make my homework, I think about my lesson plans, or visa versa. I ask the parents to help their child write a sentence, such as I did in the Tuesday box above. Then I give them the blank sentence writing sheet here.
On Wednesdays, I usually assign a sight word worksheet. I usually pick one from one of my Sight Word Workbooks. There are three different types of worksheets for each word, plus a Mini-Sing Along Songbook for each one. I just choose one of these worksheets to include into my homework. You can download some sample pages from one of these books here.
On Thursdays, I assign math homework. I plan my math homework based on what the children seem to need to practice the most. This week, my students needed to work on number formation and writing the numbers from memory, so I gave them a worksheet that would give them an opportunity to practice that. You can download it here. As you can see, each night also has a few instructions for the parents on how to help their child do the assignment. I do realize that there are probably some parents that do not really read it carefully, and just sign off on the activity any way. But I know that there are many that do! So I think that it is worth the trouble.
A few weeks ago, I sent home some xeroxed shapes in different sizes and colors and asked parents to help their children practice sorting. Before that, I gave them instructions to find household objects and have their child make patterns, and then included a patterning worksheet. I also use a LOT of the Counting Creatures worksheets. There is a book of worksheets for the numbers zero through ten, and another workbook for the numbers 11-20. I have also included some of the Matching Sets Worksheets, the Counting Creatures Addition and Counting Creatures Subtraction Worksheets, depending on our units of study. One thing I have to say is this: since we usually just use the worksheets as a learning center by putting a bunch of them in dry erase pockets, I don’t have to worry about the children doing one of them again with a pencil at home. The children have never complained about that! So far, given that I have access to all of these workbook sets, I have never run out of anything to give the children for homework! And if I lack something, I just make up an activity and tell the parents to practice it home, such as I just described with the shape sorting above. You can download some samples of the Counting Creatures Books here.
On Fridays, the children just need to turn in their homework, so the instructions are very minimal. I ask the families to keep the entire packet stapled together if they possibly can, and that helps me keep track of it.
One thing that I have encountered is that often children will do the homework, but forget to turn it in, even though the entire class is turning in their homework sheets in a great commotion! To encourage the children to get their homework out of their binders and put it in the homework box, I sometimes get out my Staples “Easy” button and let them push it after they put their homework in the box. That REALLY works! You can read a little more about this idea on this blog post here.
If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy reading these related posts:
Rapid Automatic Naming Boards
How to Teach Kids to Sound Out CVC Words
How I got 18 out of 23 Kids to Master 100% of Their Sight Words
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