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
Have you ever considered encouraging your Kindergarten, Pre-K, or first grade students to keep their homework and papers organized into a homework binder? I started using organizational binders with my students about two years ago in my kindergarten classroom. The purpose of these binders is to help the children keep their homework and other papers organized, and to help parents stay organized, too! My students’ parents report that they LOVE the binder! They always know just where to look for the most important papers that need to be signed and where the homework and Read Aloud Charts will be found. It is so much easier for them to keep everything organized this way!
Last year, I started off the year by giving each child a brand new binder. But even so, I have noticed that many parents buy their child a different binder anyway, keeping my binder at home. I assume that many of them may have thrown it away! So I asked the parents to either provide their own binder or buy the one that I gave their child. As I recall, I think I asked for $1.50. About six or seven parents chose to buy their child a new binder, and gave me back the one I purchased. I put all of the prepared contents into their child’s new binder, and then saved the other one for a potential new student. Most of the other parents did give me the money, but if they didn’t, I just let it go. The best part was that I got back the unused binders, and regained some of the money that I invested in the binders.
I use one inch binders that I bought in 8 packs at Sam’s Club, and they held up for the great majority of the kids the whole year. I usually have to ask a parent to replace maybe one a year, usually because the child has been too rough on it and the rings got too bent to close. I only had one child lose her binder last year. When it didn’t show up after about a week and a half, I called. It eventually was returned, having been left in a non-custodial parents’ car.
Our binders have the following items inside of them:
* A name page slipped into the front pocket. I use FileMaker Pro and make seasonal pages with each child’s name on them, and they enjoy coloring them in. My clip art is mostly from www.djinkers.com.
* A page protector with their monthly Read Aloud Chart.
* A page protector with their sight words on them, so that the parents would know what words to work on at home.
* During the last trimester, I added a chart in a page protector to practice sounding out words on their RAN boards. A RAN board is a Rapid Automatic Naming Board. (Click here to read more about them and download an editable copy.) The children were supposed to read all of the words on the chart as quickly as they could. Then the parents were supposed to write the date that they practiced with their child, hopefully practicing each night (Well, some of them did it!) I think that the kids whose parents really didn’t know how to work with them really benefited from this the most- if they actually did it! About 20-25% of the class tends to “ignore” this assignment each year- and I can really tell the difference in terms of how well their children are doing in sounding out words!
* A plastic binder divider page with a pocket for their most important papers. I print a sticker that says, “Overnight Express” and the parents are told at the beginning of the year that anything that comes home in that pocket should be signed and returned the next day in that pocket.
* A plastic binder divider of a different color with a sticker on it that says, “Homework: Return at the end of the week.” The homework is supposed to stay in the binder all week, and they are NOT supposed to do the whole thing in one night. Occasionally, the kids turned in their homework early, not realizing that it wasn’t time. That was the only problem that we had with that. Of course, this happens with any homework situation. Click here for a free, editable, download of my weekly homework cover sheet and an explanation of a nice, easy system of how to manage it.
* A regular folder (three ring punched) with a sticker that says, “Leave these things at home.” They are supposed to take all of these things out daily and leave them at home. Last year, I referred to it as the “Puppy Dog Folder” since all of them had puppies on them. I try to get everybody the same kind. One year, I got them all plastic folders rather than cardboard. They held up better, but don’t seem to hold as much and are usually shorter than the paper ones, so they don’t hold construction paper projects as well. The plastic ones are usually not as stiff, and are therefore harder to stuff with papers.
* A zippered pocket for flash cards. I put a sticker on it that says, “Please use this pocket for flash cards only!” This was important to me because I use the small (1″ x 1″) flash cards from the CVC Book all the time with my students, and they come up in their homework frequently. (See the picture below.) If I provide a place for the children to put them, then I don’t find them floating around all over the insides of their backpacks (as much!)
|The student sized CVC flash cards come all on one page.|
I have heard that some people give their kids a zippered pocket for lunch money, and maybe another one for school supplies like crayons, etc. I have given an extra zippered pocket with supplies to some of my needier kids that never seem to have crayons, scissors, or glue at home to do their homework. Although, in the past, I know that I have given some of these things to children, only to have their parents remove them and take them for themselves! One little boy told me that his dad needed the scissors at work so he took them. 🙁
I had the kids turn in their binders every day to me, into designated bus tubs. It was easiest for me to manage this way, rather than have them turn it in some days but not others. I like to have a routine! I also find that the easiest way to get them to put them away is to have them put EVERYTHING away BEFORE they begin playtime, near the end of the day. Don’t wait until dismissal; they are in NO hurry, then! But they will hurry along nicely and do it efficiently if you ask them to stow their things right before something like recess or playtime. 🙂
I had my aide stuff the binders each day that they needed to have something go home, because I didn’t want to bother teaching the kids to stuff them. That was probably a “Lazy Heidi” mistake- they should learn to do it themselves- but I just didn’t want to take the time.
The best thing about the binders is that there is very little “I lost my homework” or “I lost my Reading Chart” going around! It stays in the binder, and as soon as it is lost, I know and can ask about it. The parents that use that excuse gave up on “I lost it” quite soon after the school year started, since it didn’t work. It is also easy to tell who is not completing the Read Aloud Chart early on. I can call and remind them that it is important long before the month is out! I also tell parents at the beginning of the year that the homework on the report card is really the parents‘ grade, since the kids can’t possibly do it alone (particularly the reading chart). 🙂 The only excuse they have is the truth- that they just didn’t feel like doing it, or couldn’t make time. Last year, just about everyone in my class did all of the Read Aloud Charts every time!
I am really glad that I gave these binders a try! I think it was worth it in terms of time and money. It was also far less frustrating trying to get permission slips and other important papers signed and returned. Yippee!!!!
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