Differentiating homework assignments easily and efficiently may seem like something that cannot be done, but I have actually figured out a system for doing just that! And it’s not that hard! I’ve been doing it for the last few weeks in my first and second grade combination class. It’s MUCH easier than creating, grading, and keeping track of two totally separate homework packets, too! This could work within one single grade level with a wide range of abilities in it or in a split grade setting. Check it out!
When I started out the school year, I was just using the homework packets from the other first and second grade teachers’ classrooms. However, I quickly discovered that keeping track of TWO completely separate types of reading logs and math fact practice systems was a LOT of work, and was also confusing for ME! Plus, I felt like the homework packets weren’t really meeting my students’ needs.
It only took about three weeks of dealing with this to decide that creating my own homework would take me LESS time than dealing with the fallout from having two separate packets, reading logs, and everything else. So I decided to try and fix the problems I was experiencing, and this is how I did it. The result is a system of homework differentiation that I think will work in just about any classroom. Hooray!
Homework Cover Sheet
The first thing you will need is a cover sheet each week that explains what the children are to do on each day, and how the expectations differ for each group, level, or grade. The first time I sent this home, I also sent a note home to the parents explaining why I was changing systems, especially since we had already had our parent night. You can find an editable copy of my homework copy sheet on this blog post here.
Daily Math Facts Practice
Our administration really wanted us to emphasize math fact fluency for homework this year. So if you look at the photo of the cover sheet, you will see that on each day, the children are supposed to do a math facts practice sheet with dry erase markers on a worksheet that is in a page protector. The school provided each child with a dry erase marker for this purpose.
My first graders get a two sided math facts page with 25 problems on one side, and 50 on the other. (The reason for the difference is that some of them are incredibly advanced in both reading and math!) My second graders get a two sided math facts practice page with 50 problems on both sides. All children can choose to do one side or the other. I’ve been downloading all of these worksheets from Math-Drills.com.
On Fridays, the children take that sheet out of the page protector and take their math fact fluency test right on that very page! It’s a system that has been working very well so far! I just keep a few extra sheets on hand for the children that have forgotten their binders or accidentally used a pencil on the worksheet.
One of the teachers at my school decided to copy off all of the worksheets for the week to maintain accountability, but I decided to give each child a math facts log that the parents are supposed to fill out each day instead. On the log, they write how long it took the child to complete the math facts worksheet. It seems to be working! This log and the reading log below were created by a great teacher at my school named Marla Humphrey! I REALLY like the fact that I don’t have to CORRECT all of those daily math facts pages!
My first graders are only on week three of this routine, but my second graders have been doing the math fact fluency homework since the beginning of the school year. Of all of the first grade teachers at my school, I am the only one doing the timed math fact fluency so soon in the year, but I do have an extremely advanced class due to the combination! Most of my first graders are finishing the side with 25 problems easily and accurately in just two minutes. Can you imagine???
Everyone has the same reading log to fill out, and it only asks for the minutes read rather than the name of the book as I did in Kindergarten. At the moment, I am just using the log that the other teachers created. The kids keep it in their homework binder in a page protector, and it is used for the entire trimester! I sure miss the monthly reading logs that I created for Kindergarten, though! (Check them out here- so cute!) I may go back and create something with cute clip art for the next trimester if I can find the time (cough, cough!) I feel lucky that this group of children and parents don’t seem to LOSE things like this! Of course, keeping it in the binder in a page protector really helps!
My first graders are supposed to read a minimum of 15 minutes per night. The second graders are supposed to read 20 minutes per night. That’s the only difference!
Spelling and Dictation Practice
I have sent home a variety of spelling practice pages, and have adapted them so that they work for the two different levels. On the directions, it tells the children where the first graders may stop, which is usually at number 11. The second graders need to continue up to number 20. Take a look at some samples below of what we have done.
It occurred to me that it would be very easy to differentiate this homework packet for children in the same grade level. All you would have to do is designate a set of advanced spelling words for one group of kids, and some easier words for another group of kids. As long as the parents all know which group the children are in, you should be good to go. If parents at your school tend to be uninvolved, I think you could also go through and cross out the list that certain children should NOT use, also. That would take very little time.
In the case of the Secret Code Spelling worksheets, I copied them front to back, and noted on the cover sheet that they only needed to do the one for their own grade level. However, if they WANTED to do both, they certainly could!
For the crossword puzzle that I made, I put ALL of the words for both grade levels on one puzzle, and told the children that they only needed to find their own grade level’s words! Some of the children found them all, and some only found their own grade level’s words. I made this puzzle on the site ArmoredPenguin.com. It was free!
I like the site ArmoredPenguin.com because it allows you to decide if you want the words to go down and across only, or if you want to include diagonal or backwards words, etc. You can also choose the font size. (I chose not to include any backwards or diagonal words.) In order to insert the words “First” and “Second” in the list of words to find at the bottom, I had to include those words in the actual word search puzzle! But that’s okay! If you know of a different crossword site for generating worksheets such as this that is better, please let me know!
The other first grade teachers at my school do not send home dictation with their kiddos yet, but I decided that my little smarties are ready, so I have started including that on their homework. The separate dictation sentences for each grade are on the same page as their spelling lists. Both grades have to do two sentences, but of course the second grade sentences are more difficult.
The last night of the week, the children are to take a practice spelling and dictation test with their parents, and practice any mistakes they have made. There is room on the master for the second graders to go up to 20, but it says at the top that the first graders may stop at 11. In any case, there is a space to practice the dictation on the back. It is really working!
“Rainbow Writing the Spelling Words” is a fun way to practice. The kids write their words first with a pencil, and then trace over it with other colors. Notice how I have it noted that first graders only do up to number 11.
Another fun spelling practice activity is having them write their spelling words in alphabetical order! Again, I note that first graders need only go up to number 11. I also have two versions of this worksheet – One with 11 spaces, and one with 20.
For writing practice, I have them write a story! Then for fun, they draw a picture of the story on the back.
This one is by my first grader, Myles.
This one is by my second grader, Rachel.
SO.. This “One Packet, Two Grades” system has made things much easier for me! I hope it will help you, too!