Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tricks of the Trade Thursday: Collecting and Returning Homework (Freebie Included)

June is racing by!  It's already the 6th!  That's so crazy!

I feel like May lagged a bit, but then June snuck up on me and the year has gone back to full speed ahead.  Maybe it's because there is so much to do for the end of the year.

Our ABC Countdown is still in full swing.  The kids are having a blast.  Stay tuned for more pictures for this week's Five for Friday.

Since it's Thursday, not Friday, it's time for Tricks of the Trade Thursday!  Jessica and I have decided that this weeks' topic will be something that even you lucky duck teachers on summer break can share about since it's relevant all year.  That being said, the topic is...

Homework Folders
Homework folders are pretty standard in every classroom, so I will not elaborate extensively.  I'll just take a quick second to share how my Homework Folders are set up and used.

Quick disclaimer before I share the pictures.  It is late in the year.  First graders like to draw and doodle.  I cannot always catch their mischievous little fingers.  Also, backpacks are rough places.  They are battlegrounds full of toys, books, water bottles, and lunch boxes.  What can a poor, flimsy (cheap) Homework Folder do to protect himself?  Not very much.  Therefore, the folders you will see are "well-loved" to put it nicely. Hehe.

At the beginning of the year, I was ambitious and decided to use actual sticker labels to label my folders.  As you can tell, I abandoned that practice by Replacement Folder #1.  Once a kid needed a new folder, they got the good old-fashioned sharpie.  Unless of course, their parents provided them with a new, cute folder, which some parents have kindly done this year even without me asking.  

Inside the folders, I have the traditional "Keep" and "Return" sides.  

On the "Return" side, students keep their monthly behavior chart, reading log, and What I Learned Sheet.  Since it's the last month of school, I am not having the students do a What I Learned Sheet (more freebies of those next year) or reading log this month, but typically they are kept in the folders all month.  I have also had the kids keep a Math Facts Practice log in their folders to help them remember to practice their facts.  In addition to being home to all of the monthly papers, the "Return" side is used for nightly homework, notes for me, forms that need to be brought back to school etc.  Pretty straightforward.  The "Keep" side of the Homework Folder is where students put their checked homework, newsletters, fliers, and other things that can be kept at home.

By the way, my colleague found these adorable, free monthly reading logs that I have been using all year:

Homework Bin and Mailboxes

Another classroom staple is the Homework Bin.  This is where my kids turn in their work each morning.  Then, I pick it up and check it when I get the chance, either during the day or later at home.  The bin sits right on top of the students' mailboxes, which are right outside the classroom door.  That way, the kids can easily drop off their work as they exit the closet.  
Right now, the students are doing reading journals for homework, so the bin is overflowing with their awesome reading responses.
Here are some free organizational bin labels:

My dad built my AMAZING mailboxes after the first set I had broke before I even used them.  Read more about that insanity here.  Every morning (or when I get the chance), I file the nightly homework and any other notes/forms in the students' mailboxes.  If I am feeling lazy, I have my Teacher's Helper student do it for me. Then, at the end of the day, the students stop by their mailboxes, put everything in their Homework Folders, and then head into the closet to pack up.


Work with Parents

As a new teacher last year, I must confess that I was incredibly intimidated by having to work with my students' parents.  However, I quickly realized, they are not the enemy.  They are not out to get me.  They are supportive of what is best for their child (usually).  That being said, I work with parents on homework issues.  I tell the parents first thing at Back to School Night that homework is to be done by their children, not by them.  While the parents are allowed to check their child's work for accuracy or help with directions, they are not to do the work for them.  Therefore, if their son or daughter has an excessively difficult time with the homework for some reason (this shouldn't happen since it's always just practice), the parent can just write me a note on the homework and the child will be excused from completing that assignment.  This works since I just check homework and do not record it for a grade.

I also tell parents that if they have an especially busy night, then their child can take longer to do the work.  I would rather have quality then rushed work that causes major frustration.  My students are 6 and 7 years-old.  They should be outside running around and playing make-believe!

In order to gauge how students are doing with the homework, I always ask the parents at conferences.  Then, I make adjustments as necessary.  I do not take special requests and change my entire policy, but I try to work with the parents to help the students.  A lot of parents end up requesting enrichment work, since the homework I give is not overly challenging (it shouldn't be!).  If the child can handle a challenge, then I usually give math enrichment work from the special book included in our curriculum.

So, those are my tricks of the trade for homework.  What are yours?  Grab the button and link up below.

Also, be sure to check out Jessica's post for some more great ideas from a fifth grade teacher!

Joy in the Journey


  1. I love your labels! I also love how you work with parents. It is easy to forget how overwhelming homework can be for a busy family.

  2. Thanks for the ideas and the linky party! New follower of your blog. :) Love the labels.

  3. It is so important to work with the parents. I love that you take the time to work with them.

    Hunter's Tales from Teaching