Tried & True Wk. 4: Homework

Today you will find Tried and True activities at The Teaching Tribune.

I am sharing a post that I wrote at the start of the school year. It was featured on Rachel Lynette's blog, Minds in Bloom. I used this homework all year long and found it very successful!! Enjoy!

Homework has always been one of those things I struggle with. I don't want to give students homework for the sake of giving homework.  It should be very relevant to what is happening in the classroom. I think kids and families are extra busy these days. Parents are working hard. Kids are involved in, sometimes, several after school activities.  I want their time at home to be well spent. Homework doesn't have to be long and tedious for it to be valuable. With that said, I'm super excited to share a reading homework idea that I have started to use this year in my 3rd grade classroom. I think you will find it gives students the opportunity to work with text in a meaningful way.

Assigning the traditional reading passage with multiple choice questions at the end--your basic test prep type packet--was something I have been wanting to get away from. Along with a teammate, we developed what we call the Reader's Think Book. (A simple spiral notebook works just fine.) In this notebook, students work with one passage all week (3-4 nights). Passages will vary, depending on skills and strategies we are working on in class. Genres will also vary. We will assign literature, informational text, poetry, or excerpts from longer pieces of text. Later in the year, we will assign two passages on the same topic or by the same author and students will work on comparing these.

To set up the notebook, I had the students glue a general directions page on the inside cover. On the first page, they glued in the "cell phone" text codes. These are simple symbols the students will use when responding and coding the text. We tried to create some "fun" codes that kids could relate to like, LOL or OMG.  The codes on the left are for informational text and the others are for literature.

Since we knew our students might have very little experience coding text, we decided to start with a model and think aloud. We found some passages and created posters. We also created a poster of the text code phones. I gathered my students on the carpet and read the piece to them as I coded. I was sure to tell them my thinking and reason for the code I chose.
The second night's assignment was to highlight new or interesting vocabulary and my lesson in class was to model this activity. The third night I asked the students to come up with a title and to illustrate a picture to go with the text. Together, we worked on a title that made sense for the modeled piece.

(Above is another passage I used for modeling.)

Here are some of my third graders completed homework assignments in their Reader's Think Books. I love the variation on titles and illustrations. They did some very thoughtful work.

Each day I was able to check their homework easily to see that is was completed. As I checked their notebooks more closely, I called each student over and asked a question or 2 about the work they did. For example, I asked: Why did you highlight this word? Do you know what it means? Why is this part your favorite? Tell me about your illustration. How does your title fit the story?

Asking these kinds of questions, gives me a very quick formative assessment opportunity. These will be a valuable tool in reading conferences and a big help in setting reading goals with my students.  

As the year progresses,  tasks that I assign them will get more complex. There may be times we work with the vocabulary they highlight, maybe choosing words to put on their personal word walls in their reader's notebooks. I may choose two pieces of text on the same topic or by the same author that they will need to compare. The levels of the passages assigned can even vary from student to student, giving you a way to differentiate assignments. 

Where do we get the passages? They can come from any source you may have on hand, but so far we have selected passages from At this site, you are able to select passages based on Lexile level, grade level, and/or skill and strategy.

If you would like a copy of the directions and text codes I used, you can find it free HERE at my TpT store.

I hope you find this a valuable homework task for your students!


  1. Thank you for re-sharing this! I love this! Last year my principal said we could cut WAY back on homework, so I did, but I realized I hated it. I like hw that is meaningful as well. This is awesome! :)
    Thrills in Third Grade

  2. I hate figuring out homework, but so many parents want their kids to do something! I love this idea. Thanks so much for sharing.


  3. What a wonderful model. I too have struggled with the whole homework thing. I think I will be implementing some of your ideas. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks for sharing this great idea!


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