Universal Homework Model

The dreaded homework that student's dislike and gives teachers more 'stuff' to grade. Do you feel that way too? I hope I'm not the only one!

Last year I did homework packets that went out Monday and were due Friday. We played Homeworkopoly each Friday where student's won prizes from treasure box and class coupons. You can read more about this here.

I liked the procedure actually, especially having homework packets for 1st graders since didn't waste much class time.

This year I want to try something different that gives my 2nd graders more independence, responsibility, and choice.

After I was first introduced to the Universal Homework Model (UHM) though 3rd Grade Thoughts who posted about it here. I knew I wanted to give it a shot.

Here is what is going to be in my 'Handbook' for parents to explain it a little further:

That cute bookmark on the left hand side is what student's will be taking home. You can download your own customizable bookmark from 3rd Grade Thoughts here. She's fabulous isn't she?

I've customized her bookmark a little to make it work for my class. I'm giving my students 4 homework choices that include spelling, math practice, independent reading, and writing a letter to me about whatever they want but it has to be neat and over a half a page. Students can choose to do one star or all 4 stars; it is truly up to them. I'm going to be pushing they do two a night.

I will also be using Words Their Way for my spelling instruction so our spelling activities are a little different. Here is my page to parents giving them more information about the word work activities:
The bookmark on the right will go on the back of the Star Homework bookmark above so it will be one double sided bookmark. I love how this means they can see their Word Work choices each night with detailed directions. Students will know these activities well since they will be doing them in class weekly but I think it will help in case they need a reminder at home.

How will this look in my classroom?
Each morning when students enter the class, I'll have them record how many stars they completed on a clipboard and then turn in their homework into a basket right next to it (can't wait to be back in my room so I can show you pictures!!). 

Then at our morning meeting, I can quickly tally up how many stars our class has earned and there is a record of how many each student has completed for accountability (that I didn't have to do!). If any issues arise we will chat about it at our morning meeting.

I'll be quickly checking homework sometime through out the day and if any of it is not up to standard they will get their star taken away. These are things I would chat about at the morning meeting. I would never single out that child but just talk about the issue generally. 

During our morning meeting I'll also remind students we need however many stars to get our goal for the week. 

For example, if our class earns 75 stars (I'm making this number up right now, depends on your expectations and class size) they might get 2 minutes of free time, extra recess, or Mind Soccer (a whole brain teaching game students go crazy for). If our class earns 100 stars then students might get 3 minutes of desired activity. Or if our class earns 125 stars then students might get 5 minutes of desired activity!

Make sure you keep the desired activity super desired by the students so they want to work hard to obtain it.

There will be a graph kept similar to this one:
From A Whole Brain Teacher
It's purpose is to keep track of our class total of stars and is a great visual representation. 

Also have students volunteer to do more stars on Wednesday/Thursday and write their name down on the board. Follow up with them and see if they did complete 3 or 4 star homework and if so celebrate, thank them, and cheer for them. Students love attention and this entire homework program is somewhat based around class peer pressure. The more homework they do, the more attention they will receive! 

If you want more information, check out 3rd Grade Thoughts post here and this funny and fabulous video by Chris Biffle (founder of Whole Brain Teaching):

Watch live streaming video from wholebrainteaching1 at livestream.com

I'm really, really hoping this system works out well *crossing my fingers* I am very excited to give the students choices so hopefully homework is more engaging. Have you used the Universal Homework Model? 

I have done way too my talking.. or typing.. so now it is your turn. Please share how you do homework in your class or if you have any further questions!

Here are documents for you to download!
Star Homework & Word Work Parent Sheet (PDF)
Customizable Star Homework & Word Work Parent Sheet (Will look different due to the fonts)
Word Work Bookmark (PDF)
Customizable Word Work Bookmark (Word Document)
Star Homework Customizable Bookmark 


  1. I have a question - if the students are choosing which homework assignments to do, are you still making copies of the spelling sorts & math worksheets for all students or do they have to ask for them?
    Stories by Storie

    1. Yes/No, I'll only be making one extra copy for their spelling.

      For math, our district does Go Math and they have a 'Practice Book' that has practice pages that go with our text book so they will tear our that page and put it in their agendas in the morning. No copies! But just doing fact fluency especially using Xtra Math (https://www.xtramath.org/) would be much less work and still great practice, most of my students just don't have internet at home though :(

      For their spelling sorts, I'll give them two copies of their words when they receive them monday. One for class and one for home. They use the words for all the sorts we do and keep them in an envelope.

      Hope that helps :)

  2. This sounds great. Homework is always one of those horrible things that they maybe need but you don't want to grade.
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  3. Do you have a place you can download your word work page? I love it!

  4. Do you have a place you can download your word work page? I love it!

    1. Yes, I added it! Their in PDF, I'm putting up word versions shortly :)

  5. This is great, but do you have a word document so I can make it fit what I do?

    1. Check the bottom of the post for the updates, they are all in word documents now! Hope that helps :)

  6. Hi I love your blog, very good info. I am giving you the Versatile Blogger award. You can get it at Homemade First Grade http://homemadefirstgrade.blogspot.com

  7. What a fabulous idea! I love it....I'm thinking of a way to use the SmartBoard with the kids to track their stars in the morning? Hmmmmm...you've now given my brain yet ANOTHER thing to consider! Awesome!

  8. I just found your blog & I'm your newest follower!! I am excited to follow along & share ideas with each other!
    Learning Is Something to Treasure

  9. I love this idea! I work at a Title school, and homework is often a difficult thing to enforce, but this gives the student an opportunity to choose to be successful.

  10. This is amazing!!! I am transition from being a Grade 8 teacher to Grade 3 and was wondering how I would handle homework...now I know.
    Thanks so much.

  11. This looks awesome, Amber! Thanks for the shout-out and I LOVE how you've customized it. I can't wait to read more about your WBT journey :)

    3rd Grade Thoughts

  12. I love your blog! I am proud to be one of your newest followers :)


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  14. Wow! Just started using WTW in our school and I was scratching my head trying to think how to implement it as homework. Your Word Work sheet is PERFECT! You just saved me some very valuable time. Thanks : )

  15. How did this Universal Homework System work for you??

  16. Hi,
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  17. Love this idea as I am a HUGE lover of WBT and the whole notion. I am ready to delve full force into this but I am in an inner city area with limited parent involvement- I can barely get signed permission slips back. I also have a hw turn in rate that is VERY low- so I am hoping this will be a great self motivation tool. Few questions I am really hoping you can help me with.

    1) do u think it can be successful ( honestly) without parent involvement?
    2) is it solely on an honor system for sorts and things or do u have them write the sorts and bring them in? A little confused on how it actually works but love the concept.

    Thank you so much for your help! You are wonderful : )

    ( I apologize for anonymous post, I don't have a google log in)

    - Amanda
    ( a2moore@mac.com)

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  21. This is really interesting! Thanks for sharing these neat ideas. I hope you don't mind but I was posting about homework on my blog so I included a link to your post here. I think my readers would enjoy your post.Its here if you want a peek: http://readingandwritingredhead.blogspot.com/2014/04/homework-personal-reflection-from.html
    Thanks for sharing your ideas!
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  22. I've never seen anything like this. Thanks a lot for sharing this info.

  23. Hi There,
    I was wondering if you had a word document file of the page you will be sharing with parents? I am teaching 5th grade and would need to change it, but I love the ease of it.

  24. I love your post. I would like to be able to change the bookmark on the powerpoint to show the custom one that I have made. Can you tell me how to change it? I can't seem to be able to cut and paste my bookmark to replace yours. Sorry, I am usually pretty savvy with these things, but I am stuck on this! Thanks.

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  28. buy essay papers I'm really, really hoping this system works out well *crossing my fingers* I am very excited to give the students choices so hopefully homework is more engaging. Have you used the Universal Homework Model?

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  33. So excited to try this out next year. I was also using the homework packets each week. I dreaded gathering homework & making copies each week. But I have two questions about this strategy: How would you address a student that is choosing the same stars each night? I feel that some of my students would only choose the stars they enjoyed while ignoring the stars they struggled with (and needed the most practice with.) & What do they turn in/ what is checked for their word work activity?


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