This is the question being asked on the latest BAM Radio Network show that I commentated on: “Should You Be Assigning Homework in Preschool?” by Rae Pica along with Etta Kralovec and Dr. Ann Barbour.
Go and take a listen to the show and see what you think!
Before you answer this question consider this…
These two boys are at play with large pattern blocks…
They are exploring patterns and shapes and how they fit together to create the train….
They are learning how to cooperate, collaborate, take turns, listen to each other’s ideas, follow directions, and adapt where needed to build their train…
While building the train, the children are reinforcing their recognition of shapes and colors…
The process of creating this train requires some trial and error, problem solving, and plenty of floor space to spread out their work…
They are building more than just a train, they are also building a friendship as they work together and play together…
Can you package all of these wonderful elements of learning into a single assignment and send it home as homework?
My random thoughts on homework for preschoolers…
In all of my years of teaching preschoolers, I have never sent home homework. At least not the kind of homework where a child is expected to complete an activity then return it to school for some type of reward, grade, or accountability.
For children in full time preschool or childcare programs, I think that after a long day at school what they need most is time relaxing and interacting with with mom and dad. The preschool years are an important time for bonding with parents and their time time together should be respected.
If you are wanting to provide any kind of “homework” let me suggest these everyday activities that parents can do at home to help their child build the skills their child needs to be successful in while in school.
What kinds of activities can parents do at home to help their preschooler be successful in preschool? Here are a few simple ideas…
- Promote independence by helping your preschooler develop skills such as dressing himself, washing hands, going potty, putting on coats, and feeding himself.
- Build communication skills by talking with your preschooler often and encouraging your preschooler to ask questions or express his views on topics.
- Promote an interest in literacy by reading with your preschooler- read simple books, signs in the grocery store, the back of a cereal box, street signs, and so on.
- Promote social skills by inviting friends over so your preschooler will develop their ability to share, work out conflicts, and play positively with his or her peers.
- Promote decision making skills by letting your child choose from a menu at a restaurant.
- Promote problem solving skills by letting your child figure out how to open a container or how to do other things without your help.
- Promote organizational skills by letting your child put away his own toys.
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)