Sunday, February 12, 2012

Reading Homework: What to Do?

What should reading homework look like? As I've taught at different grade levels, I've struggled with this. On the one hand, I would love to think that students are reading on their own for pleasure each night. But I've had several parents tell me, "I can't get __ to read at home unless it's an assignment!"

As a parent, I have come to appreciate predictable homework routines. I love it when we do the same kinds of assignments, week after week. I know that my seventh grader will have an Article of the Week assignment each week, and that my first grader has a book to read each night.

The homework routine that I've come to use in fourth grade is a blend of approaches. (That's pretty much me--finding the middle path!) I do like to provide students with a weekly text to read. I think that having shared texts gives our class a common ground for discussions. I also like to keep practicing multiple choice questions throughout the year.

But students also have the opportunity to add self-selected reading to their weekly work. The Wide Reading menu gives students a variety of choices for independent reading. Students can choose to read their independent reading books for all three sessions. I add in a few other possibilities, such as following a recipe, visiting a website, or reading a magazine. I change these each week, with the choices sometimes matching the content of our shared reading.

What about fluency? Students practice reading the shared text aloud three times during the week. I put a place for parents to initial and write comments on the assignment sheet. Sometimes parents write notes about words that were problematic each night, or how the student progressed with showing expression over the course of the reading. I always appreciate what they have to say.

I use texts from a variety of sources. The Fluency Formula kit from Scholastic has been a good source of texts, although I do create my own questions and activities to go along with them. This spring, I've written a series of texts about springtime--skunk cabbage, vernal pools, the vernal equinox, animal migration--to extend our classroom learning. (Plus, it's so hard to find good student texts about real nature! I want my rural kids to go out and poke about in their yards looking for skunk cabbage flowers.)

A weekly homework routine is friendly for families who are rushing from activity to activity. I run mine from Monday to Monday, which gives students the weekend if needed. Many students turn their assignments in early, on Thursday or Friday, so that they have the weekend free.

Reading homework is a way to extend what we do in our classroom. For many parents, the weekly homework assignments are a way to check in with their growing reader and enjoy some activities together. An example of the whole packet is posted over at Slideshare and embedded below.


  1. I love this! And I always wonder how to get fluency practice in. I have a question. Do you have them practice spelling words for homework a homework assignment? I find that if I don't, they won't practice on their own and scores go down. So I was wondering if you address that.

    1. Hi Nikki! Students have a separate spelling assignment. We run our spelling program along with the 6-day school cycle, so it's offset from the reading homework. The spelling packet includes three assignments for them to do, also given ahead so that they can spread out the tasks. We don't give content area homework, so kids only get reading, spelling, and math, and the homework stays at 40 minutes or less per nght.

  2. I was just considering how I wanted my homework routine to go this school year, thanks for sharing what you do. Do all your students have at home Internet access to do the math homework??
    :) your newest follower,
    Antonia @

  3. Hello! Thanks for writing. My kids do not all have Internet access. I make sure that the Internet assignments are options, but not required.