Got Homework?

Hate it...or Love it?

Speech Homework. Some love it, some hate it. Personally, I love it, especially when I can incorporate it into the independent station during 5-Minute Day. I try to give my students homework every week. Just once a week, that's all they need to realize that they aren't supposed to only say their sounds correctly in speech, but at home as well. If a student comes to me on Mondays/Wednesdays, then Wednesday is his day to receive his homework folder. That gives him 5 days to say his target to his parent/caregiver, have it signed, and bring it back on Monday. If I don't have the time to have homework ready on the correct day, most of the students ask me about it. I would conclude that most of the students love having homework!

Put the Responsibility on the Student

The benefits of giving the student homework (and him actually doing it) will be seen during therapy. If the parent is actively involved, the student will progress faster. It seems that most of the students who rarely bring their folders back progress slower. I don't have data or numbers to back this up, just years of observation. One thing I ask the student who says, "Mom forgot to put it in my backpack" is "Whose responsibility is it?" Even my Kinders know that it is their responsibility, not their parents'. That may seem a little harsh, but they catch on quickly! I occasionally will have the student who will be tearful when he doesn't have his folder. I don't make a big deal out of it, I tell him that everyone forgets things sometimes and ask him to try to remember it next time. 

Determining Motivation to Improve

Using homework is a way that I determine an older student's motivation to improve. I keep track of whether the homework is returned with a signature, returned without a signature, or not returned.  With those older students, I can be a little more firm. To the student who has only brought his folder back once this whole year and who isn't progressing, I can highly suggest that the lack of progression may be due, in part,  to not completing his homework.  On progress reports, I make sure to note how often homework has been returned. 

Short & Sweet

If you're considering sending home a speech activity, make it short; no longer than 5 minutes. Parents work, they get home, and they're tired. Speech homework on top of class homework is probably not high on the priority list. Keep the homework short and sweet, and make sure that the page either has a line for the helper to sign, or put a stamp on it asking the parent to sign. I prefer to have a box on the page where all I have to do is check what the child is to do, but I have some pages that I use where I have to stamp requesting a signature. On those pages, I write what they are to do, such as "Say each word". 

Getting the Folder Ready

I like to use folders that have 3 prongs in them for homework folders. I prefer that type as opposed to the ones with only the slots so that the pages don't fall out.  I tape a piece of paper in the front of the book with instructions for the parent/caregiver. This paper informs the parent of when their child comes to speech when he receives his folder, and what day it is to be returned. I also request that the parent sign the last page in the folder so I will know that it has been completed. At the beginning of the year (or, if the student begins later than the first day) I review the note with the student. They are usually excited to get their folders; the ones who have been in speech for at least a year will ask me the first day of school when they are going to get them.

Age-Appropriate Homework

For my younger students, I use pictures. I want them to be able to say the word/sentence without having the parent model it, so I steer clear of printed words when possible. If I have a sheet that doesn't include pictures as an option, I will use a blank sheet (if that is provided) or will white out the words. The students choose a picture from a container that is specific to their sounds and glue pictures on the page.
Below are some examples of what I've used for homework for my students. (Click on the pictures to be taken directly to the product on TpT.)
This is a typical homework sheet for a younger student that I would put in the student's folder:

This is a great activity for an independent station for a 5-Minute Day: The student pulls out a picture from his container, says the word into a curved PVC pipe "x" amount of times, then glues the picture on his paper. Since my Kinders haven't started 5-Minute Days, they glue on the pictures while they are waiting for their turn during a game.
My older students prefer to write down words so they aren't doing anything "babyish". During a 5-Minute Day, the student writes words from a list provided. During a traditional session, he writes down the words that he missed while saying his target cards.
I have just added "Search and Find" pages in my TpT Store. During the independent stations of a 5-Minute Day, the student looks for pictures containing his target sound and colors/circles them. During a traditional session, he finds and colors/circles whil waiting for his turn. The older (3rd through 5th graders) also enjoy doing this activity.
Winter Search & Find is currently in the store. Spring Search & Find will be uploaded soon!
Even language students take work home to practice. This is an example of what I would give a student working on story retell. We would complete the page in therapy and he will take the sheet home and go over it with his "helper".

Don't Forget the Reward

In my opinion, having some kind of reward is key in homework being a successful tool as part of the student's progression. It doesn't matter what you use: sticker chart, an extra turn on the reinforcement bulletin board, extra ClassDojo points...whatever you use. There has to be some incentive for bringing the folder back signed. It doesn't have to be big; it doesn't have to be anything major. Don't think for a minute that the students don't keep up with if they get their folders or not. There have been several times that they've had to keep me in line, especially when things get too crazy and I don't have time to get homework together for a couple of weeks. The parents start asking about it, too. 
It may take a while to get the students and the parents in the habit of Speech Homework. I haven't had any parents tell me they wish I didn't send anything, but I have had parents ask me about it when they notice their child hasn't brought his folder home consistently.
Does it take extra time? Yes, but if you put in your planning routine, it will eventually take less time and it will become part of your routine. 'bout it? Do you send homework home with your students? If not, what's holding you back?

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