Several years ago I decided to circumvent the homework/no homework debate by asking myself, "What would the very best homework actually look like?" Over the next few years, I created month-by-month sets of homework texts with comprehension questions, vocabulary, and wide reading activities. These texts have helped to bring together elements of my reading instruction and provide a unifying structure for the entire year.
Last year I was talking (okay, maybe bragging) to my husband about these texts. He teaches third grade and he said, "I wish I had homework texts like that."
So of course I set about making a different set of homework texts for him! From the start, we talked about what he envisioned for his third graders and what he wanted to the texts to look like. Like me, he prefers routine homework that students can complete over a week or two. He prefers a very simple, uncluttered style for classroom materials, so we made a cover sheet that looks like this.
Then, we discussed the texts. He requested narrative texts for the first set--a tall order, as stories are much more difficult for me to write than nonfiction. I settled on a short snippet for practicing visualizing, a story called "The Recess Troll" in two parts, and "A School Surprise". "A School Surprise" turned out very well, if I do say so myself--it's tough to tell a complete historical fiction story in two pages!
While my fourth/fifth grade reading homework texts include multiple choice questions for comprehension, these packets include open-ended questions. This helps students to avoid guessing and really think about the questions.
Each text includes four vocabulary words, with two pages of vocabulary activities and an interactive PowerPoint to use for teaching. Of course I love to work in PowerPoint and add as many images as I can to help reader attach meaning to words. I also included some semantic analysis in the presentations--students
A simple vocabulary assessment for each text helps students to see if they have learned the words. It's also great practice in using context clues and working with CLOZE readings.
After creating the set, it took some polishing and tweaking to add a teaching guide, answers, and full description. (My husband: "Hey, you never gave me an answer key!") A set of expository passages will be available shortly.
These texts and activities fill so many gaps in our classrooms. Because they are so useful and important, I provide time for students to work on them in class; they are also a great tool to use when an instructional assistant or volunteer needs something to work on with a student. They are not just mindless worksheets, but real texts with meaningful tasks.
Third Grade Reading Packets
September Homework (fourth/fifth grade level)
Of course, now that I am teaching sixth grade I will have to start from scratch again! But that is part of the fun of it...