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
What do other K teachers assign for homework?I have recently had a parent complain that it was “way too much” for their child. All we assign is an oral practice page to go along with our series (covers phonics, sight words, phonemic awareness, etc) that they are to do with their child 3x, sign, and return. The page takes 10-15 minutes if that.
We also encourage practice with sight words (flash cards) and reading (leveled books that are sent home) for fluency.
We do not give homework. We encourage families to read together – that is all!
I know I’m old-fashioned but I don’t think kindergartners should have homework except to have parents read good literature to them. The other thing I have parents do is play dice and strategy games with them to develop numeral recognition and problem solving skills. Flash cards could be used in matching games or games like “Bang”
I’ve read that developmentally, 10 minutes per grade starting in grade 1 is acceptable/appropriate. Reading and playing board and card games are appropriate for kindergarten. Especially if you don’t have play in your classroom, those kindergarten kids should be playing!!!
I completely agree! They should be digging up worms and getting dirty outside, then be able to talk about their discoveries. A good book before bed. Done!
10-15 minutes….and they’re complaining? HOW SELFISH!!! I KNOW THEY SPEND LONGER THAN THAT @ T BALL OR DANCE. NOW WE KNOW WHATS MOST IMPORTANT TO THEM. HOW SAD. YES, IM FROM THE OLD SCHOOL BUT KINDERGARTEN ISNT WHAT IT USED TO BE FOR SURE…..SADLY!!!
We don’t do the “homework” our son’s K teacher sends (it is optional anyway). I don’t want my kids to hate school starting in K because of homework. We do lots of other learning here that is not assigned by the teacher: reading, board games, going outside, non-school groups, oh, and he plays with his family. He’s home for fewer waking hours than he is at school, he’s entitled to down time. From experience, what may seem like 10-15 minutes of work can be much more than that if you have to nag your child to do it (and if that’s the case, not much learning is going on IMHO.) Every teacher should read The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn.
I don’t give my students homework. I feel my students should be playing. Period. Play IS how they learn.
I don’t like giving homework…for years I was the only k teacher on my team that didn’t. Now I am required to do it. I don’t like it…I don’t believe in it…
I give my students homework. This prepares them and gets them in the routine. The homework is practice skills based on what has been taught. It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. Plus a bedtime story. If I don’t give homework one night, my Kiddos complain. So Mon – thurs, they know what to expect.
Homework in kindergarten is simply not appropriate in terms of development. Children learn through play and relationships, not by sitting down and completing worksheets and flash cards. By requiring children to complete homework we are sending them a message that the way to succeed is to memorize facts, not create-dance-play-laugh-problem solve. Additionally, sending homework home is potentially setting children up to fail. Not all families can (or will) complete homework with their child. Then what happens when a child who’s single mother is working her second shift job can’t assist with homework comes into school the next day without their homework? That child feels bad, and we don’t want children to feel bad about school and learning. We want children to love school and learning. If your goal of sending homework is one of creating a routine and responsibility there are many more appropriate ways to cultivate that within the classroom that don’t require homework.
Most research shows there is little to no benefit for homework for kids below the High School level. Parents should be encouraged to read daily to (or with) their child, and that is all. If you must send homework I suggest: Play outside, dig for worms, collect leaves, visit all the parks in your city, fly a kite etc. Play IS a child’s work!
Wow… Your parents would not like me as their teacher!!!
What do you do when you work in a low income area? My kids come in not writing their name or even knowing what it looks like. I’m not supposed to give them practice pages? I give them things they can do on their own a lot of the time and there is no penalty for those who don’t do their homework.
We have an optional homework calendar. On each day there is something fun related to objectives we have taught. Go on a nature walk, read a book, count the smoke detectors in your home. Stuff like that. My kids school sent home a packet for each month. Waste of my time. We never did it. I hate busy work.
When I student taught I gave one HW assignment a week. My daughter’s k teacher gave one worksheet a night, but it was very easy and only took 5 mins independently to complete. I think her goal was simply to get into the habit for first grade.
We are not supposed to give homework. I send home reading books that parents can use and I suggest things for students who are struggling, but I do not feel that students should have homework to do at that age. Reading a story before bed is also a suggestion I give to parents. They are too young. Homework should not cause parents stress at that age. In Ontario, 10 minutes is supposed to be max. for grade one.
From a parent’s perspective I would like to see a return to kids being allowed to be kids. Translation : no homework at this age. One thing I find that teachers do not consider when estimating the time frame for homework is that the child w/ADHD will do a typical 10-15 minute assignment in double or even triple that amount of time which is a lot after a whole day of school which also largely excludes physical activity. Of course, the latter is a whole other issue. My opinion is that it works better for everyone when, as much as possible, school is done at school.
Do a tic tac toe board and allow them to pick the assignments they do and the nights they do it!
We have a math page, phonics and reading page nightly.
I give a phonics, math, and writing page due on Friday! I also send home a little reader to practice reading skills, due on Friday. Rewards for those who do it!
Perhaps dig for worms and collect leaves should be on the homework sheet. With our busy parents, homework tends to be instead of video games and tv. My homework (10 min) is designed to communicate with the parents and develop organizational habits. I ask my kids to read a simple book, check their calendar and pack their backpack ,with a letter sharing object or library book, have parents read to them, and once a week they write and illustrate a sentence…which they can’t wait to show their friends, and 2 times a week they do a very simple math page. If a child doesn’t do it at home, I help them in the morning. I firmly believe that 10 minutes of one-on-one time with a parent is very valuable. Yes, they should play but parents also need to demonstrate the value of learning. Play is super important, but so are organizational skills!
They have one short page that goes with our math series and that is it. I don’t even check it. I’m just required to give it. I have a monthly homework packet that reinforces skills that we’ve learned in our classroom. I post it to my website once a month. I tell parents it’s there if they would like to do something at home with their child, but it is completely optional. Some parents just don’t have any ideas on how to help their child at home, so it’s really meant for them.
Wow! Most of The kids in my 1st grade class watch tv and play video games when they get home from school. So they are not learning anything. The homework that I do send will give them an opportunity to do something worth while. Some parents don’t work with their children if they dont have any guidance. So I think homework should be given if the teacher is aware of the lack of learning going on at home.
We use Kelly’s Kindergarten –http://www.kellyskindergarten.com/ – it’s not hard or long homework. I also work in a low income area where my students can not (or can barely) write their names when they get to me. They need the practice with that, with counting, with letter recognition and sounds, they NEED the practice. Parents can take 10 minutes to help their child with that. If there is no structured, assigned homework, I honestly don’t know that SOME of my area’s parents would do anything with their child! (I have a kid now who clearly does the homework herself! – She’ll do what she thinks is right, like write the color word instead of an object that is that color.)Homework is a family time. Homework in kindergarten gets the routine started for both the kids and the parents.
I give my parents a list of sight words at the beginning of the school year as well as instructions and “parts” for several games they can play with their child to make learning letters, sounds and words fun. The games all come from theschoolbell.com. I also hand out homework kits that align with skills we are learning in all areas (the Ten Finger Tote for fine motor, Habitat backpack when we are learning about animal homes, etc. We have around 50 kits, and the kids BEG to take them–each contains at least one book, an activity and a journal (typically fill-in-the-blank and draw a picture).
Homework is way overrated. Reading together, playing outside, playing a game, cooking a meal together, or just having a conversation is what 5 year olds should be doing with their parents.
I give my students daily reading homework where they practice their reading skills with their parents. I check to make sure a parent has signed it daily. About 75% of my students are from low income homes and I’ve found this system helps to keep some of my more clueless parents accountable. Parents also see their kids growing reading skills as they are able to read more and more. Kids who don’t return homework signed are given time during the day to read to me or another adult. I feel it’s totally reasonable.
No homework for many reasons. I tell parents who ask to read with their child.
My boss looked at me like I was nuts when I asked if they did homework. I came from a school that did homework in K. He gets it. What is the point of homework for a 5 year old? They should be playing. That is how they, and as I keep telling adults, we all, learn.
Jessie, The use of the word clueless is very negative. Maybe they are working 3 jobs or struggled in school themselves.
The research on homework is clear: at the primary level, it has NO benefit: not academic, not work habits, not organizational. It disrupts family time, and causes stress and conflict at home. I absolutely do NOT want my kindergarten program to be a source of stress. My students work and play hard all day at school, I don’t have any claim to their after-school time. Homework in kindergarten is developmentally inappropriate and a waste of time: mine (to prep it), children’s, and parents’.
Perhaps a larger issue than that of giving homework that must first be addressed is the way we talk about the parents of our students. The parents (primary caregivers) are the most important people in our student’s lives. A such, we need to be careful in how we refer to them. Using words like “clueless” or insinuating that low income families are at fault for their children not writing their names is disrespectful and counterproductive in helping our students learn to love learning and schools. Families are systems in which our students are just one member of-we need to remember that there are many many factors that shape the ways our children learn and interact that come from being a member of those systems. We also need to remember that for many families homework is not a feasible option and that these parents are not being lazy or “clueless”, they are doing what they need to to survive.
YES! I am so glad there are others that agree with me that K kids don’t need homework!! Unfortunately I have had some parents that keep asking about homework and since I have a twin and the other teacher gives homework, I felt like I need to do something. I hate checking homework because the ones who are struggling are the ones who parents/siblings/etc do a lot of “helping” so it is not so beneficial. This year I have taken a blank calendar and written one thing in each box and the parents can initial the ones they complete. For example, practice writing your first name, practice counting backwards from 10, practice rhyming words…. I send home flash cards for everything too so they will have everything they need. I also told the parents it should not take more than 5 minutes a night.
Not all homework has to be worksheets. It can be count to 20 to an adult, look for triangles in your house, be a chef and make a menu. Be creative and it still reinforces.
No homework! 5 year olds need to play and talk and laugh and be read to! If parents pester me for it I tell them to go get a workbook or go online and find it themselves.
No assigned HW…encourage reading and practicing take home books as well as playing dice, card and board games. Kids need to be kids! a full day K program is packed full all day long. Unless kids are looking for “homework”, I would not assign it (for the most part). The one exception is if a child did not complete something because of behavior issues.
I used to give weekly packets with one page per day, stapled together and with a parent signature line on the front to show that they knew what work was to be done/was done. There were detailed instructions and ample time allowances, plus I always encouraged the parents to take part in and help their child with the homework. Some assignments were very parentally involved. Most of my parents enjoyed this, or at least appreciated it and responded kindly. I am retired now but have had many students and parents tell me how much they “enjoyed” my homework packets. Everything related to the curriculum.
Homework packet every week per our principal: read 20 minutes with child & practice sight words every night, then Monday night write 3 short sentences using sight words (I like red. I can play. etc.), Tuesday night write write first & last name correctly 5 times, Wednesday night write 3 sets of rhyming words with 5 words in each set, and Thursday night cut out pictures or draw pictures & label them of things that begin with the 2 letters we are learning that week ( like this week was “Vv” & Xx”).
I didn’t give homework when I taught full day, but with a half day program I give a worksheet each night and ask the parents to read to their child each night. I tell the parents the worksheet will let them know what we are doing in class and if the work is too hard to let me know.
I love to read all these comments! Of course the kids SHOULD be out playing, digging for worms, etc. but it totally depends on your population. Most of mine are not. I am philosophically opposed to “too much” homework as well. HOWEVER, my students and their parents practically beg for it. I give a simple worksheet each day and a little book to practice over the weekend. I don’t reward for bringing it back nor punish for not bringing it back. MOST of my students to go our school’s after-school program because their parents are working all day, so they do it there. But at least the parents can look at it and see what we are working on and what I expect their child to be able to do independently.
No homework. I ask that parents read to/ with their child. Maybe send sight words to practice but nothing official.
Sarah, I think we can do a better job of showing the learning than sending worksheets home. Parents are begging to be engaged and informed… not for worksheets. My experience is when I engage parents in their child’s learning the need for homework and assessments fades away. After school time is for families and I feel it should stay that way.
We do a calendar for M-Th as many of our parents work afternoons and nights. We just put a sentence or two to practice specific letters, sight words, or other concepts for the week. We try to set it up to no more than 10-15 minutes a night plus 15 minutes of reading. I work in an poor urban setting so it doesn’t take more than the spiral notebook we send home and a pencil. We also include a page for reading like poetry or short story so the actual homework “packet” isn’t more than 2-3 pages max. Hope this helps. I really dislike homework in kinder as it’s already a long day with our kinder full day. But the district requires it so we comply as simply as possible.
Interesting to see how many urban districts have homework. Is there a reason for this? An assumption that children need more practice in these settings? Curious since this was the case in my experience working in an inner city setting vs suburban.
I don’t think kids should have homework till they are old enough to do it by themselves: grade 4. Maybe. If you want to create tension between school and home, assign homework in the early grades. My own son, who is quite smart, spent nights sobbing at the kitchen table over homework. I swore that I would never do that to another family and I haven’t. I send things home, but they are optional. My students want to take stuff home, but I never make them return it. And, by the way, my test scores are as good as anybody else’s.
To put an even finer point on it: parents don’t get to dictate how I spend MY time with their children, so I don’t get to dictate how they spend THEIR time with their children. You know how it sucks for us as teachers if a parent sends a lunch that the child hates, and WE have to have the battle to get them to eat? Yeah, the homework battle is WAY uglier for them. If the research shows us that homework doesn’t WORK, then there is NO population of children who NEED it. Period. Children DO need quality school experiences and excellent parent-teacher relationships. Those things are also grounded in research.
Wow! I’m shocked! I give four “homeworks” every night! I’m in an urban district and feel they need it and can do it! They would be hard pressed to find any worms! Their parents usually have enough time and appreciate that I have given them educational ways for them to interact with their child. 1) counting practice. 2) letter/sight word ID 3) reading to your child 4) letter formation worksheet. The parents really get engaged with their success in learning – especially counting and letter ID. They are so excited when their kids get tested and have learned them! I have Never Had a complaint in ten years. My parents seem to appreciate that I expect the best from both them and their kids.
If they are complaining then its possible that the teacher has not explained the value of that particular homework, OR there really isn’t much value to that homework…
I am so excited about this conversation. Glad this is what #kinderchat looks like! Come to #kinderchat on twitter everyone!
I’m shocked that homework is being pushed for 5 year olds. And, remember most ed stuff is geared towards white, middle class population. Maybe kids don’t need extra work, but to have better curriculum that is geared towards all populations. Most testing stuff and words kids need to know favors children of privilege. It’s our job to push for social justice, not make kids do more work to catch up.
I gave hw to my K kids because I had to. I tried to make it easy and fun, but the school expected too much of the students and there was not much I could say.
I send home a reading book that we read in school and also a a page of science and math. And a couple of fun pages. They have until Friday. In the reading packet they read the story and writeour sight words 3 times and write a sentence and draw a picture of it.
Each Thursday my kids have homework. My fabulous assistant makes homework backpacks out of paper sacks. I have the kids glue 3-4 things that start with our letter of the week in their backpacks and bring them back on Friday. When they bring them back they get a sticker on their folder.
I’m not a fan of homework for Kinders but the parents (and often my administration) insisted so I complied. Most times it wasn’t completed and I wasted paper!
Homework in kindergarten is an interesting thing — much like conferences, it is most often the parents of children who need it least who attend to it most. And we get burnt out doing piles and piles of homework. I told my second-grader and her teacher last year that we were only going to write an essay every other week, not every week as assigned — parents need to figure out what makes sense for their family.
As a parent, I say: PHOOEY! You have our kids for 5-6 hours a day. That should be enough work. I don’t think kids should have substantial homework until 5th grade. I know I didn’t (and my class days were shorter), and I have a bachelors and two masters from top-notch universities.
I give a leveled reader to read Tuesday and Thursday night with a reading log their parents have to sign. It is max 8 pages with one sentence on each page. Some only have 4 pages. I completely agree children should learn through play and interactions and many parents do that wonderfully. It just seems the only play some kids get are tv and video games(not saying they can’t learn through that but it does not need to be the main source). So at least this will hold those parents accountable to help their child and it lets them see how they are reading using sight words and sounding out the words using the letter sounds we have covered.
One way I make the required K homework more fun is using our online programs Raz-Kids.com and mathletics.com and do online assignments– they enjoy both these!
I don’t mean to be difficult, but I guess I feel the parenting should be left to the parents. I am still unclear on the necessity of homework when our kids are at school 5-6 hours a day. I haven’t see evidence based research that shows that giving homework to 5-10 year olds improves academic outcomes. But, I am open and would love to be informed of it.
I give homework because I want my parents to have the tools to help their child succeed academically. I don’t punish children who don’t complete it or hound parents about it. I send home a packet each Monday consisting of a name writing sheet, LA review sheet, math practice sheets, CVC picture/word cards and a leveled reader. It’s easy to say parenting should be left to the parents, but too often parenting is left to the teacher.