Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Universal Homework Model

This week I began implementing the Universal Homework Model.  The UHM allows students flexibility on the homework they complete each night because they get to CHOOSE how much they do!  It is also easy on the teacher!

According to the Model Classroom Handbook (which can be downloaded for free), homework should include:

1.   Free reading for at least 20 minutes
2.   Increasing reading fluency with a reading speed exercise
3.   Increasing math fluency with a math speed exercise
4.   Recording results for 1-3 in a homework log
5.   Recognizing significant improvements

I made it work for my classroom by deciding on the following.  See my HW checklist on the left.
One Star Homework: Do a spelling activity and practice math facts.
Two Star Homework: 
Do a spelling activity, practice math facts, and read for X minutes.
Three Star Homework: 
Do a spelling activity, practice math facts, read for X minutes, and write a letter to your teacher about the book you read.

After I introduced the UHM my students explained it to each other using the teach-ok. They were excited to start having homework!  It was cute to hear how they planned to schedule their week and decide how many stars to do on each day.

The class tallies the stars earned each day.  The number of stars earned determines the number of minutes the students get to play Mind Soccer on Friday.  On the spur of the moment, I decided to draw a simple graph on the board to visually represent the number of stars the class needs to earn.

While it would be wonderful if everyone did 3 star homework every night, it really doesn't bother me in the least if they don't.  Why?  Because if they simply study spelling and math facts each night, I'll be a happy teacher.  I can't wait to see how this impacts our math data!  If they do 2 star homework and read for fun beyond the 20 minutes we do daily in the classroom, I'll be thrilled!  If they choose to practice their writing by writing me a letter, that is awesome!

I did have a couple of challenges, but that is to be expected when you do something new.

  • It took a while to tally up the stars each morning.  The students will learn the procedure and it will become easier.  I'm thinking about making a magnetic chart like people do to take attendance but have the students move their name to show 1 Star, 2 Stars, or 3 Stars each morning.
  • A few parents had some questions, which I expected.  It is an unusual way to do homework.  A few of the ESL students may need to be pulled aside next week for a UHM reteach to help them understand the details.
  • It was my first time to play Mind Soccer.  The teacher is really in control of the game and since the class only plays a few minutes, you really have to be on the ball!  The losing team was a bit disgruntled.  We'll work on that next week...
Each 6 weeks I plan to tweak the requirements for each star level.  For example, I will increase the number of minutes should be reading as the year progresses.

WBT Intern, 2011-12


  1. Wow Alison that is amazing....We are still working on Class/Yes and Teach - OK. Homework is next week!
    Good luck to you this year.

  2. I'm so used to traditional homework and thought I would miss it but the flexibility is nice. You also know what is coming because it's the same everyday. If you think about it, those really are the top three things to practice at this age.

  3. I love the details and the honesty in your blog. You share so much and it is so appreciated!

  4. Thank you so much! I love to hear that people are actually reading what I write. I appreciate it :)

  5. Wonderful post as usual! I received a Versitile Blogger Award and wanted to pass it on to you. Thanks for being an inspiration.

  6. wonderful ideas jotted down by an amazing teacher .My appreciation

  7. I think you blog is awesome, you post so much info that is relevant and interesting. I posted you on my blog for an award. It is one that you pass along, but I truly think your work is great. It will post on the 12th.

  8. Allison,
    I found your blog last summer and just glanced at the WBT but now that I will be in my 3rd year of teaching I wanted to actually try some WBT. So when I found the Universal Homework Model I thought that this would be great for the homework problem we have been experiencing in our grade level. However, I teach kindergarten and I haven't been able to find anyone who has talked about this working in a kindergarten classroom. Do you know of any Wibbeteers who have tried it in kindergarten? Thanks so much for your help!
    Kinders on the Block

  9. Would it be possible to get a copy of homework sheet?