ORGANIZING HOMEWORK

Most students agree that doing homework is no fun. Most teachers agree that managing homework is no fun. Although you can't always control how well students manage to do their homework, you can control how you well you manage to organize it - maybe even with students' help! We've gathered a few ideas to make the process a little easier.

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The first step in any homework plan is to develop a solid homework policy and communicate it to both students and parents. Consider listing the following information when formulating your policy:

the types of homework students can expect - reports, projects, worksheets, etc.

the amount of homework - Your school may have a grade-by-grade policy on how much homework should be given or how much time should be taken to complete it. If not, please remember to take students' extra-curricular activities into account when deciding homework amounts. Also, make a note to parents to schedule an appointment with you if their child consistently exceeds the allotted time to complete homework.

the frequency of homework - homework should be given regularly and consistently, but not necessarily daily.

when homework will be evaluated (weekly, etc.)

style requirements - For example, include name and/or student number on paper, write in cursive or manuscript, use pencil or pen, follow spacing/type guidelines for written papers, etc.

how assignments will be communicated - Assignments should always be written, not just given orally. Consider handing out periodic (weekly, monthly) assignment sheets in addition to centrally posting the information.

how homework will be graded and its percentage of the entire grade

time limits and/or point/grade reductions for overdue assignments

student requirements for recording completed homework, maintaining homework binder, etc.

parental requirements for signing homework forms - Decide whether they sign a homework completion sheet nightly or weekly.

make-up policy - Decide if and how you want to communicate daily assignments to absentee students. We've included some suggestions further down in this newsletter.

Consider sending a separate letter to parents outlining suggestions for helping students with their homework, like finding a quiet place for them to work, designating a specific time frame each afternoon or evening to complete their homework, removing distractions, etc.

Organization is the key! Whether you have a cache of homework ideas from past teaching years, or you're a first-year teacher still gathering ideas for future years, finding just the right way to organize homework can be tricky. For each of the options below, you'll need to develop a color-code system. We recommend assigning a color to each subject or section, and a secondary color to each unit in that subject or section.

First, organize your homework for the entire marking period. There are two ways to do this. You can separately organize homework and all lesson materials, such as transparencies, or you can keep all lesson materials together with your lesson plans. Here's how:

Use HANGING FILES or FILE CADDIES and FILE FOLDERS. Hanging files or caddies should be the same color as the subject or section, and homework folders should be organized by unit color.

Use COLOR-CODE BINDERS. Again, the binder should be the same color as the subject. For color-coding by unit, use colored dividers and/or copy your homework masters on colored paper. If you keep pages in sheet protectors, remove the entire sheet protector to photocopy it rather than removing the paper from the protector each time.

Next, organize your homework for the week. Weekly organization makes it easy for a substitute should you be unexpectedly absent. Once you've pulled the homework masters for each week and made your copies (Make them all in one trip using THE STACKER!), you can:

Arrange them by days of the week. Place each subject's homework in a colored file folder, labeled by subject. Arrange each group of folders chronologically by your daily schedule, then place the folders in a 5-COMPARTMENT STEEL VERTICAL FILE according to the days of the week.

Arrange them by subject. Our six-color set of SEATWORK SORTERS lets you use one color for every subject. The five slots allow you to organize each subject's work by days of the week.

At the end of each week, re-file your masters prior to starting your information gathering for the next week.

Homework organizer sheet:

Create a master sheet for students to record homework assignments and for parents to sign. Include days and subjects, with blank spaces for assignment, due date and parent signature. Keep these in a central location for students to get each week. Our six-color PAPER CADDIES are ideal!

For reinforcement, create a poster-sized version to post in the front of the room. Laminate it to make it write-and-wipe, using wet- erase markers like our OVERHEAD MARKERS. Or, make a transparency to show on the overhead. Each day or week, you or a student helper can write the assignments for all students to see and copy onto their own sheets. You can also use a large classroom calendar, like our TAC-ON™ MONTHLY PLANNER, and write all assignments for the month.

Homework folders:

use one two-pocket folder for all subjects, color-coded two-pocket folders for each subject, or one binder with sheet protectors and color-coded tabbed dividers. In each folder or binder, include a homework sheet or a blank piece of paper for students to use to copy assignments off the board, along with a place for parent signature. Also include a weekly reading log. Ask students to place homework for each subject in the designated colored folder or sheet protector. For two-pocket folders, place all work that needs to be completed in one pocket, and all information for parents in the other.

Distributing homework:

If you give assignments daily: Students will be responsible for placing their homework in their homework folder each day. You can hand out each assignment during the lesson or organize them ahead of time by placing them in sorters or cubbies labeled with the day and subject. Our 24-COMPARTMENT ORGANIZER, 32-SECTION ORGANIZER WITH DRAWERS and 30-COMPARTMENT STUDENT CENTER are perfect. Be sure to label each cubby slot with student's names.(Our LABEL MANAGER makes it easy.)

If you give assignments weekly: Assign work at the beginning of the week and ask students to turn in their folders at the end of the week. You can either place all work in each folder yourself, have each student be responsible for his/her own or use a student helper.

A great way to distribute homework without taking extra time out of class is to have an individual cubby for each student, then distribute homework into the slots before or after class or while students are working.

Collecting homework: Whether students are required to turn in homework everyday or once a week, you can collect it the same ways:

Collect it yourself and organize it in color-coded file folders according to subject or section.

Have students place their entire homework folder in one "in bin", or in several color-coded bins labeled by subject or section (like our MATERIAL ORGANIZERS or THE PAPER WEDGE).

Label bins according to subject or section and have students place their homework folders or pre-sorted homework in the respective slots.

Once you have collected the homework, you may need to organize it to make it easy to take home.

Our HANGING MOBILE FILE and HANGING VERTICAL FILE each have removable, colored letter-size pockets. During the day, hang the file over the door. As you receive the papers for each class or subject, place them in the appropriate colored folder. At the end of the day, fold up the file and carry it with you.

Place your color-coded homework file folders in a file caddy, or our COMPUTER BRIEFCASE or ON-THE-GO ROLLING BRIEFCASE and easily take them home.

Two-pocket folders also fit nicely in our TOTE & GO CADDIES. The handles make it easy to transport the folders home, and with six colors, the caddies can double as subject- or grade-specific "in bins"!

Make-up work:

Set up a homework buddy system, where two students exchange phone numbers and/or e-mail addresses and are responsible for sharing notes and communicating homework assignments with each other.

At the end of each day, leave a voice-mail recording of the day's homework assignments. Parents can call after school hours and easily obtain their child's homework assignments

Post assignments on your classroom Website.

Missed assignments:

For younger students especially, you may choose to reward students for completing all their homework instead of reducing grades for missed work.

On your homework assignment sheet, consider including a space for the student to state why an assignment was missed (I left it at home, I lost it, I was absent, I didn't understand it). This gives the student the opportunity to make up work that was missed due to a valid excuse.

Post a checklist beside your homework "in bin(s)." When students turn in their folders, they must put a check beside their names.

Miscellaneous tips:

When checking homework, be sure to mark it to show you and the student that you've recorded it: clip corners of pages, make a mark (check, smiley face), or use a stamp or sticker, like our INCENTIVE STAMPS, ONE-TOUCH GRADING STAMPS or STICKER BOOKS FOR ALL SEASONS/ REASONS.

Make assignments worthwhile and interesting.

Be flexible. Not every student has homework support at home or learns on the same level.

Do not place homework "in bins" on your desk, which can lead to clutter.

Always promptly return homework.

There are many other great ideas for organizing homework

too many to list! If you have an idea for organizing homework or another great idea you think we should mention in a future newsletter, let us know!

To view detailed photos and descriptions of the products mentioned in this e-newsletter, click here.

HOT TIP: Got leftover homework sheets? Use the backs for students to do math problems, save them for art projects or keep them in a bin for students to work on when they need something to do!