Friday, March 24, 2017

HAPPY HOLLA-DAYS: OPTIONAL BREAK HOMEWORK PACKETS {AND WHY YOU NEED THEM}


I know you love the perks of having long breaks as a teacher right!? There is no shame in that. We deserve it! But what can often be frustrating coming back from those breaks is that the students have a little bit of digression with their learning. It’s normal, but it doesn’t have to be.
Ever since my first year of teaching, I have always given out optional break homework packets. I emphasize the optional with the kids, they really don’t have to do it.
I’ve never had an entire class complete a packet. Close, but never 100%. However, if they do, it’s entirely worth it. I’ll share with you how I put together the packet, how I communicate this with parents, and what the incentive is for kids once they complete it.

STEP 1: SETTING UP THE PACKET
I actually haven’t done paper homework in 3 years which has been AMAZING! {Keep an eye out for an upcoming blog post.} With the break homework packet, I would suggest always doing paper. That way kids can take it anywhere, especially if they are traveling during that time.
On the first page, write a fun letter describing the purpose of the packet and when it will be due. On the next page, include a checklist of the items the student needs to complete. I always do: a reading log, math fact log, a letter to the teacher, a reading article with comprehension questions, math question review and a fun activity {like a hidden picture, game or crossword puzzle.}


Increase the amount of pages based on the length of your break. I always do more on the two week breaks. I try to make the packet fun but challenging enough where it would take some effort to complete.
I've included some of my favorite online resources for grabbing things to fill up my packet. {The links to each site are clickable and listed at the end of this blog post.}

STEP 2: BUILDING THE EXCITEMENT
As you already know, part of being a teacher is “selling” ideas to kids. You have to convince them that what they are learning or get to do is the best thing in the world. I definitely do this for this Optional Break Packet.
I mean, come on, does homework EVER seem like a good idea?
Once your packet is put together, give little previews the few days before break. The first day, show them the front page letter, enticing them about this extra learning opportunity.

The next day, show them a cool page they will get to do in the packet, like this awesome reading log I created to include.
{Need inspiration for your packet? Click to grab your freebie from the resource library!}
Have the packets sitting out in a place that students will see them so they can’t wait to get their hands on them. I’m telling you, it’s all about the way you sell it to them!
On the day before break, pass out those packets like they are the best thing in the world and how excited you are to get them all back the day you return.
STEP 3: COMMUNICATING WITH PARENTS
When communicating to parents in your weekly email or newsletter, really emphasize that this is an optional assignment and that students won’t be punished for not completing it.
I’ve never had an issue with parents with sending homework home over break by the way I’ve presented it to them.
A few weeks before break, communicate with parents that this is something you are going to be sending home with their child the day before break along with when it’s due {the day returning from break.}

One trick that I have when emailing my whole parent list is copying & pasting that same message to the homepage of my blog. That way if they somehow miss my email, there is another place for them to look.
If you want to get even more techy, add a link to a digital version of your packet that parents can print just in case the packet is lost or their child was absent the day the packet has been sent out.
This tip has been a lifesaver every time I’ve sent a packet home so there are less excuses as to not completing it and I don't have to feel obligated to check my email on my time off.

STEP 4: REWARDING HARD-WORK
Now, the kids do all of this work, what do they get out of it? This part was a little tricky for me to decide on because I didn’t want to take away from regular instructional time.
The best solution I found, that was meaningful, is to have a special lunch party. It could be as simple as having the kids come and eat lunch with you if they turn in the packet.
I boost up the lunch a little and include a special treat. I don’t even know how this happened, but I somehow themed each homework party off of the “If you Give….” by Laura Numeroff book series.
I’ve done: a pancake party, cookie party, donut party, cupcake party and even a popcorn party. The kids still eat their regular lunch, but bring in a topping to share for their sweet treat.

The kids go CRAZY over these parties and even more so if you don’t tell them what the party is beforehand. It sounds weird, but it builds the anticipation even more.



Maybe now you are convinced that assigning break homework isn’t so bad. Is this something you already do? Is this something that you might try and implement?


I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or in our Exclusive Facebook Group.  

Stay marvelous!

Links To Break Packet Resources
{Click the resource to be redirected to their site. Books are affiliate links but the others are just resources I recommend!}



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