In my grade level team, we use these monthly homework calendars not only to encourage students to practice their 1st grade skills at home, but also as a way of communicating with parents about the specific things we are looking for when it comes to assessments and standards. Parents have commented several times over the years about how they appreciate this format. Now, we are working on making this possible for 2nd grade families as well!
The idea behind these calendars is that our students can do these with their families or child care providers relatively quickly and that they require little to no supplies/resources. Our 1st graders complete these calendars in addition to reading 20+ minutes per night and completing weekly spelling and math homework sheets.
We hope that they give parents a heads up on 2nd grade curriculum and expectations in an accessible, direct manner and that they can better see their child's strengths and areas for improvement when working with them firsthand.
In my school district, we start the year in September and we always say that the first calendar is optional, just because kids and families are getting into the swing of things. After that, for some of us it becomes part of their homework/preparedness grade, while other teachers continue to use it as a "bonus" sheet.
While each morning I generally check my student's binders to see if they did their homework calendar activity from the previous night, I don't hold consequences if it is not done. Many of my students come from busy, working families with crazy schedules, and if they catch up on 6 activities or so in one night, I personally don't discourage that. However, I tell kiddos that they may not work ahead :)
And although I don't use too many extrinsic motivators, each month I have a Secret Prize for students who complete their entire calendar! Prizes generally range from Chinese finger traps, to parachute men, to highlighters or smelly markers, to temporary tattoos, pencil toppers, mini Play-Doh containers, etc. Nothing too spendy, but the kids are always over the moon when they get them!
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