One my biggest struggles as a 5th grade teacher was getting kids to do their homework. I’m guessing you can relate! I was never a fan of loading kids up with homework, but I did expect them to complete whatever was assigned. Most of my homework was finishing classwork, returning a signed paper, or reading for 20 to 30 minutes. Yet precious minutes of class time were wasted every day while kids looked for missing assignments or worse, wasted my time trying to explain why they didn’t have it.
Then I discovered the magic solution to missing homework… Fun Friday! I can’t take credit for the idea, but I can tell you that it works! It was definitely the most effective system I’ve ever used for dealing with the problem of missing assignments.
Fun Friday is a weekly event that 3 or 4 teachers organize and implement together. On Friday afternoon, each teacher hosts one activity in his or her classroom for 30 minutes. One or two teachers take a group of students out to play or organize indoor recess activities. Another teacher hosts a free time in the classroom where students play board games, draw on the Smartboard, use iPads or play with a class pet. Sometimes a teacher will offer a special arts and crafts activity.
At least one teacher supervises a “study hall.”Students who have not completed all homework for the week attend the Study Hall and use that time to make up missing work. Each week teachers rotate activities so that all share the responsibilities equally.
If there aren’t 3 or 4 teachers at your school who want to participate in Fun Friday, you can implement the program with just two teachers. One will take students outside or provide indoor recess, and the other will split his or her room between a study hall and a quiet reading or game room.
My students loved Fun Friday and looked forward to the chance to get together with friends in other classrooms. It was one of the few rewards that actually motivated them to complete every single assignment all week. I kept a homework chart where I checked off those who completed all assignments for the week, and I was pretty strict with my requirements for Fun Friday. If a student even had one missing or late assignment during the week, they went to Study Hall. If you think this is a bit extreme, let me say that after just a few weeks of implementing Fun Friday, most kids would earn it every week. I was amazed at the difference this program made and how much time it saved me from dealing with late and missing assignments.
One thing that helped make Fun Friday easy to implement was a sign up chart. Right after lunch on Friday, I allowed those who had completed all assignments to sign up for their preference of activities. I’ve created several variations for you to try that you can download here for free.
Over the years I did have a few principals who needed to be convinced that the 30 minutes we devoted to Fun Friday were not wasted. My rationale was that we easily made up this time by not having to deal with missing and late assignments all week. Also, everyone, teachers and students alike, are downright brain-dead by the time Friday afternoon rolls around! Have you ever seriously tried to teach a lesson on a Friday afternoon? Trust me, it’s a wasted effort. You’ll just have to reteach it on Monday!
Do you implement a similar program in your classroom? Have you found it to be effective? If you haven’t tried it, I hope you’ll test it out. I believe you’ll discover the magic of Fun Friday, too!