Kindergarten homework is not developmentally appropriate. There I said it. Five-year-olds are not meant to sit down to do paper and pencil tasks about reading and writing. Somewhere along the way, someone who was most definitely not a kindergarten teacher decided that five and six-year-olds MUST read by the end of kindergarten.
This created unrealistic expectations of teachers to somehow overcome brain science and teach students how to read. Teachers began assigning sight word homework in addition to leveled readers and math worksheets. Suddenly, kindergarten kids have as much homework as older elementary students. Yet, there are no studies to support the notion that homework in kindergarten helps kids to achieve more.
Some teachers have stopped assigning homework altogether but others are required to assign kindergarten homework. Read on to find developmentally appropriate ways to assign kindergarten homework that parents will love.
Teachers Under Pressure
The pressure put on teachers to have all kindergarten students meet the same high academic standards at the same time is completely unrealistic. Then that pressure was transferred to teachers who decided that in order to achieve this goal, they needed to share the responsibility with parents. Then parents decided that they need kindergarten homework to help them to achieve this goal.
This notion isn't all bad. Sharing learning responsibilities with families is a productive way to help students achieve and giving parents activities and skills to practice at home is certainly helpful. The problem is that we've lost sight of what we know is natural child development.
So what can teachers do to help their young students to practice skills at home but still allow them to be kids? We can start by giving students a variety of homework options rather than requirements. In distance learning or remote learning situations, teachers are under even more pressure! Check out this page for some distance learning types for Kindergarten teachers.
Keep Homework Fun!
Kids work hard all day (or for half the day) at school. They don't need to go home to sit with worksheets and pencils to continue to practice sight words (which the latest brain research doesn't support anyway, but that's a blog post for another day).
In school, we know that all kids have different learning styles so we need to remember this when assigning homework. Sending the same worksheet with each student is not differentiating. You can differentiate homework by giving students options and allowing families to choose the activities that are the best fit for their students.
Keep “assignments” fun and engaging with a variety of ways to practice important foundational skills. Think about how you design engaging centers and apply that to homework. Practice writing letters and numbers in sand, finger paint or shaving cream! Create math problems with toys or breakfast cereal. Play games with dice to develop number sense and social skills like taking turns. There are so many fun possibilities!
Give Families Options!
Think about your academic goals for the week or the month. Then create a list of 15 – 20 choices full of skills you want your students to practice. This can be a list, a chart, or even a calendar! You can send this list home to give families options and give kids some choice in their assignments.
You can choose to include only academic tasks but I like to include some more developmentally appropriate skills that are often overlooked. Skills like memorizing phone numbers and addresses are important things kids do not often do anymore. You can add life skills like practice playing games (winning and losing with grace), tying shoes, helping to fold laundry and more.
I try to limit paper-pencil options. However, when I do include them, I try to keep them open-ended. For example, instead of practicing writing letters with a pencil, encourage students to write letters in sand or pudding. If you want kids to practice writing, give them fun writing prompts or open-ended options. For math practice, instead of doing a page of addition problems, have students tell and solve their own additions story problems using their favorite toys. There are a lot of easy, no extra materials needed ways to practice these skills that won't stress kindergarten kids or parents.
How Do You Find the Time to Revamp Homework?
I am hopeful that the pendulum is swinging back to more developmentally appropriate practices in kindergarten. I'm happy to see that many districts across the country are returning to play-based learning in kindergarten. This gives me hope! In the meantime, let's try some new homework options for our youngest students. What other suggestions do you have for homework in kindergarten? I'd love to hear them!