Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Homework Incentives

Homework and incentives – do they work?

How often do you actually get students to complete their homework because they realize the value of doing their homework?  Probably not very often!  Out of my 7 years of teaching, I can count on one hand how many students actually realized the importance of learning the skills being taught and wanting to complete their homework because they wanted to learn.  Now that’s not including the students who would simply do their homework because they wanted to please, or because their parents made them, or because they just did it.  A lot of students do that, or at least a fair amount.  But overall, I’d say homework is probably one of the areas that I struggled with.

For one, I don’t believe in giving homework just to give homework.  Most of the time, the homework I give my students is work that they had in class that they weren’t able to complete.  But I do have two homework staples: reading + math flash cards.  I teach grades 5/6, so my math flash cards this year are multiplications.  They NEED to memorize their multiplication table before they head off to grade 7! And reading, well, the benefits of reading needs no explanation.

Anyway, I have searched long and hard for great homework incentives.  I’ve done the whole “having to stay in at recess” thing, but frankly, that’s just punishing me (since that’s the only time I get to pee during the day!)  A pinterest search came back with some very interesting ideas that I’m going to share with you.

Bingo Board


First off is the idea of a Bingo board.  This idea comes from The Teaching Thief.  This Bingo Board  is super easy to set up and rewards students for great behaviour (aka completing their homework!)  You can use it for any behaviour issue you have in your classroom, but this post is about homework, so I’ll stick to that!  You can use it in a various ways, but the way I’d use it would be the following:

1 – Set a goal, such as 21 out of 25 students complete their homework on a daily basis, or 80% of students complete their homework on a daily basis.

2 – Every day, when you check their homework, if the target is met then you can pick a Bingo Number.  Mark that number off the Bingo board in any way you choose. 

3 – When you have a Bingo (a line, an X, a whole card – whichever you choose, although I’d go easier at first and then make it harder for them), then you can celebrate! 

Celebration can be done by giving an extra recess (5-10 minutes is often enough), or have a board game period on Friday afternoon, or extra computer time.  Anything, really!


Second idea is one that I’ve seen floating around a lot.  It requires a bit more set up, but unlike the first idea, which allows the whole class to reap the rewards, this one is more individual. Although you have so many options with it, you can most certainly set it up as a whole-class reward as well!  It’s Homeworkopoly!

A quick pinterest search will show you MANY different ideas on how to set up your Homeworkopoly board.  It’s a great way to reward students individually for having their homework completed.  You can do it daily, but most decide to do it weekly.  If your students completed their homework for the week, they can roll the dice and move on the homeworkopoly board.  It’s exactly like Monopoly, except for the whole house buying thing!  You can have some squares set with prizes or rewards (pick who you want to sit next to, use a pen all day, wear a hat in class, extra computer time).  You can have some squares have larger prizes but they must correctly answer a review question (yay!).  Parking space now becomes Free Homework Pass space.  Jail becomes anything you want (library, computer lab, etc).

Check out this great homework board made by Keeping Up with Class :
  Her blog about how she uses it in her classroom is available here.  What a great blog post! The safari theme is subtle, but oh so cute.

Lady Bugs Teacher Files made a GREAT blog post about how she uses it in her classroom and has even included free templates for you to use!  Don’t forget to thank her (and follow her) if you use her templates!

Monarch Madness also has a great Homeworkopoly board that uses Ziploc bags to hold the Chance and Community Chest cards.  You can check her blog post about it here
Monarch Madness

I really like the idea of the Homeworkopoly board.  It’s an individual game, so students become motivated to move around the board themselves and have a chance of winning a reward.  At the same time, it teaches them that they aren’t always winners and homework isn’t done only for prizes, as you can set it up so that there are minimal prizes to be won.  It’s the fun of the game! 
You can also set it up to be a classroom reward by saying that when all students cross GO, then the class can pick a reward.  It might work with your class, might not, depending on your students (you don’t want that ONE student who never does their homework to feel the weight of the reward on his/her shoulders).

Homework Chart 

The next option is one that I think is genius! It’s by Teacher mama and it’s called Easy Homework Chart
Teacher Mama
Super easy to set up, super easy to use and I’m sure students will love it!  The idea is simple – complete your homework on a weekly basis and you can initial a square.  When the chart is full, the teacher takes two sets of cards (one with the letters H-O-M-E-W-O-R-K and one with the numbers 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8) and draws one card from each set.  The winner is the student who drew their initials on the appropriate square.  So in her example, if the teacher drew M and 5, the winner would be the student with the initials “ce”. 

This system rewards students who always do their homework by giving them a higher chance of winning, but doesn’t mean they ALWAYS win.  The underdog also gets a chance, which is great! 

All three of these ideas are just a few of the many ideas that are out there.  The important thing is to keep it consistent.  If you check homework daily – make sure you check it daily!  Set aside time to play Homeworkopoly or to pick the prizes.  It’s important and if you start forgetting, students will stop caring about whatever system you have in place.  

Happy Tuesday!