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When I first started teaching, reading homework was the bane of my existence. I spent countless hours pulling worksheets that matched what we were learning, and using a good portion of my copy allowance. My fifth year teaching, I moved into a teaching position where I taught only language arts – to 3 grade levels. I knew I had to change how I did reading homework, or I wouldn’t survive the year (or have enough copies left over).
That’s when I developed my reading homework: one double-sided copy each week for each student, with high-interest passages and reading questions that spiraled the literature and informational standards. I shared the reading homework with teacher friends locally, but recently I decided to make this homework even better – and share it with the world!
Below are my tips to simplify reading homework, whether or not you use my paper-saving reading resources! Scroll to the end to get a free week of reading homework!
The #1 question I get about homework is: How do I grade it when I’m already drowning in other grading?
My suggestion is to use the homework as yet another learning opportunity on Friday. Use a printed or digital spreadsheet to mark off the students that completed the homework. You can do this by quickly glancing at the written responses and the color-coded text evidence. When students have to prove their answers with evidence, it’s a lot easier to tell who put forth the effort.
Next, have students work in partners to discuss their answers. Have them give each other feedback on their work. A simple rubric, or just a few guidelines, can help students provide an effort grade for their partner. It also helps students become more accountable for doing their homework when they know that they will be using it Friday to work with someone in class.
Lastly, turning in the entire week on Friday will save you a lot of time. However, there may be some students that need to be checked every day.
One of my main goals was saving myself from going over my copy count. The way I do my reading homework, it has the passage on the front, with the color-coding directions, and a question for each day on the back. Each question is open-ended and spirals concepts from the reading standards.
Wait, one question? A day?
Yes! Each day has them reading (or re-reading) the passage, writing a 1-paragraph response to the question, and underlining evidence that supports their response. I have students use the R-A-C-E strategy to write each response. It takes students 15-20 minutes each day to complete their reading homework.
“RACE” strategy for reading response paragraphs
- Restate the question. Use words from the question in your answer, so that anyone that reads it knows what the question was.
- Answer the question(s). Answer every part of the question.
- Cite evidence from the text. Give examples and quotes from the text to support your answer.
- Explain the evidence. Explain how these examples and quotes support your answer.
Keeping Students Accountable
Each week, I copy the passage and questions onto one double-sided piece of paper for each student. They take home crayons or colored pencils and the passage in their homework folders. Each day, they read the passage and complete a task. The task usually involves a written response. While they’re writing they’re written responses, they have to color code the evidence from the text.
This color-coding keeps them accountable. When I collect the homework on Friday, students compare their responses and use their evidence to show that their answers are correct. Because the questions are open-ended, there are multiple answers. This evidence allows for students to argue that their response is the best, or at least reasonable.
Spiraling Reading Standards
The homework I made is aligned to informational reading standards. Each month, we focus on spiraling either the informational or literature standards in our reading homework. You can view the other months here to see how I use them for both informational and literature standards.
There’s an alignment guide included in the resource that tells both the skills (for non-Common Core) and Common Core Standards that each passage practices.