- The general rule is 10 minutes of homework for every grade level. That would be 20 minutes for 2nd grade. I don’t include reading at home when I’m talking about homework. So I expect 20 minutes (or so) of homework and 20 minutes of at-home reading.
- I only assign homework Monday-Thursday (again reading is not included in this).
- No parent assignments. If it’s a project that parents are going to have to orchestrate it’s not helping the kids.
- The kids should be able to complete it as independently as possible. I love the idea that parents sit with their children and help them finish their work each night, but with many families at our school that never happens.
- Nothing on the homework is new material. If I haven’t taught it, it doesn’t belong on a homework page. The purpose is to reinforce what’s already been taught and to show parents what’s happening in class. If a child is struggling on the homework (with content that should have been mastered) it’s a sign to parents and me that the child needs some support.
- I don’t do a lot of worksheets in class. This homework gives my students exposure to the format of many end-of-year test questions.
- If they come to school without their homework, they finish it during morning recess. They almost always finish it with at least 5 minutes to spare, so I know the assignments don’t take longer than 10-15 minutes.
But what does the research say? Harris Copper, a psychology and neuroscience professor at Duke University and the nation’s leading expert on homework (what a boring job!), reviewed 100+ homework related studies from the past decade.
His findings? Well, apparently homework in the elementary grades does little to help student achievement. Kids who do their homework aren’t necessarily going to outperform their non-homework doing classmates. In high school, it’s a different scenario, but for the little ones it isn’t that crucial.
“However, we support assigning homework to younger elementary-school children due to its potential long-term developmental impact,” Dr. Cooper says, “It helps elementary students develop proper study skills which, in turn, influence grades.”
And from Cathy Vatterott (former teacher, associate professor of education at the University of Missouri—St Louis, and author of Rethinking Homework) we find that the value of homework is in “reinforcing or practicing skills already learned and giving (teachers) feedback to check for understanding.”
Alright, well I’m not totally out in left field. So what do I do?
|½ sheet||½ sheet||½ sheet|
|1 min. reading||1 min. reading||1 min. reading||1 min. reading|
|read 20 min.||read 20 min.||read 20 min.||read 20 min.||read 20 min.|
On Monday 3 things go home:
- Timed 1 minute fluency story (more about this here). This is the only homework that can’t be done without a parent or older sibling helping. If it doesn’t come back to school at the end of the week, there is no consequence for the student because this is a parent that has dropped the ball, not the child.
- Spelling practice (read about it here). To be completed a little at a time or all on Thursday night. If this doesn’t come back to school on Friday morning, they must practice their spelling words 2 times during morning recess (it takes less than 5 minutes).
- What we call a “half-sheet” because it’s a half-sheet. Clever, right? 🙂 It’s a half-sheet of paper with language arts practice on one side and math on the other. Some of my coworkers send all 3 half-sheets on Monday and give them the week to do it. I send them one at a time and expect it back the next day.
We do 3 half-sheets a week (or less if it’s a short week). I don't send it home on Thursdays so they have time to finish up the spelling practice.
There are 5 main strands for language arts.
The emphasis is on practicing vowel sounds, but there are also some consonant skills. The sequence of phonics skills aligns with our morning work book practice.
Covering topics from the common core like contractions, plurals, past tense, etc. I also toss in some sight word review if it will fit on the page.
Sometimes the students are composing the writing.
A lot of times students are asked to edit writing because that’s a big part of our end-of-year test and no matter how much writing we do in-class, the transfer of skills to the test format doesn't happen automatically.
This strand is pretty eclectic. There’s practice with compound words and synonyms. There’s also some word analogies, glossary practice, and collective noun review. Sometimes they learn new words (using a modified Frayer model graphic organizer).
These 5 language art strands cycle through every 5 days of the homework. It’s the same with math.
This is huge in the 2nd grade common core for a reason. A firm understanding of our base-10 system and how to use it to understand and solve problems is essential for more complex mathematics. ESSENTIAL!
In the homework pages, the sequence of these skills follows the outline from Singapore math and the Learning Trajectories. Are you familiar with the Trajectories? A fabulous book! Assuming you have $45 to spend (!!) it will change the way you teach math.
Anyway, the place value pages build on those ideas. There’s practice of building numbers within ten. Working with ones and tens, making numbers with hundreds, and using place value patterns to problem solve.
What you won’t find are any pages with problems like this:
I debated this for a while. I used to have problems like that. But here’s why I decided against it.
The common core says this for 2nd grade:
Add and subtract within 1000, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction…
It says nothing about using the algorithm. And while the algorithm (step-by-step adding the ones , regrouping a ten if necessary, adding the tens, etc.) isn’t the enemy, teaching it too early stops the development of deeper thinking.
So when students see problems written like this:
And, more importantly, when parents see problems written like that, the reaction is to follow the algorithm regardless of a student’s readiness or understanding. I found that when I sent home problems like that, all of the amazing, creative thinking and problem solving perseverance that I’d nurtured like a rare orchid was crushed under the booted foot of, “Look what my mom showed me!” No longer were they interested in how the solved the problem or why their strategy worked. They just wanted to follow the steps and be done.
So, no more.
24 addition, subtraction, or mixed problems. These are sums to 20 that students should know automatically. The directions ask students to circle any problems they don’t know and continue, then return and solve the problems they circled. The idea is for students to:
- Recognize what they’ve mastered and
- Figure out how to master the rest. Strategies, strategies, strategies! All those great strategies we've learned in class (doubles +1, make a ten, etc.) get practiced here.
Each problem solving page has 3 problems and plenty of work room. Topics cover addition, subtraction (1 and 2-step problems), comparisons, multiplication, division, money, and writing their own story problems.
Even though there aren’t any 3-digit addition pages, there are plenty of story problems using 2 and 3-digit numbers. Why?
Well, using larger numbers helps students solidify their base-10 understanding. If they have to decompose 186 into 100+80+6 in order to figure out a problem, you can bet they’re really thinking about the numbers and how place value can help them find the answer. Also, in a problem solving format, students are more likely to solve it in a way that makes sense rather than following meaningless steps.
There's a great article here if you're curious about why I sometimes have kids write their own math problems.
Students get a chance to practice tally charts, bar graphs, pictographs, line graphs, data tables, and line plots.
I hadn't done much with line plots before they were in the core. I really enjoyed making some up for these homework pages.
This is where you’ll find questions about telling time, counting coins, even and odd, greater than/less than, geometry, even more place value, measurement, and fractions.
If you're interested in learning more about our 2nd grade homework, you can get the table of contents here. It goes through each day by topic and content.
At our Teachers Pay Teachers shop you can download a 10-page sample (pages 61-70). That's a preview of 2 weeks worth of homework!
I hope you find this as useful in your 2nd grade as my team does! A little bit of review every day pays big dividends in the end!
Note: We have created a 40 page add-on pack of homework for those who have requested more days. Find the add-on pack here.