Universal Homework Model: Star Homework

I am not sure how you like homework, but I was starting to despise it more and more as the years went on.

When I first began teaching, I assigned it dutifully every night, graded it all day and into the evening, only to have to do it all over again the next day. No Homework Days were more of a relief for me than for the kids, I think!

After getting settled into third grade, I have found myself assigning homework less and less. I feel that if it isn't purposeful, then why burden the parents and my students with it? The majority of my kids have massive amounts of after-school activities and to be honest, I have way less on my plate and all I want to do after a busy day at school is come home and relax. Shouldn't my 8 and 9 year olds be afforded that opportunity as well?

Ok, so that being my opinion, I still wanted a way to have kids and parents come together and work on "school stuff" in the evening. Parents are strong teachers and I wanted them to play an important and purposeful role in their child's learning.

Of course, I referred back to my favorite Whole Brain Teaching and came across their solution to my exact problem {sigh, I love them!} and it is called The Universal Homework Model, or as I have named it in my class, Star Homework.

I was inspired by Allison from A Whole Brain Teacher (and former WBT intern) and her version of UHM Homework:

If you have about 45 minutes, this professional development video from Chris Biffle, the founder of WBT, goes into great depth about the entire Universal Homework Model:

I have adjusted UHM to fit my needs and I am happy to say that both the kids and I are all much happier for it compared to our old system!

What is Star Homework?
Star Homework is a weekly bookmark that gets sent home with three activities for the kids to practice each night. Each activity earns them one star.
Click to enlarge
What does a student do to earn a star?
Simple, meaningful things that will benefit them in the long run and not cause any undue stress in the short run.
  1. Read for 20+ minutes= 1 Star
  2. Practice Xtra Math for 1+ round= 1 Star
  3. Practice Spelling Words & Independent Words= 1 Star
See? Simple and easy, and items that parents can help out with that won't make them or their kids want to tear their hair out :)

What happens the next day? Do they turn anything in?
At the very end of our Morning Meeting routine, I will have the students grab their bookmarks and tell me how many stars they earned, from 0-3. Any student who has 2 or 3 stars gets a short cheer from us :)

I tally all of these stars up on our Weekly Star Homework Graph and then the kids put their bookmarks back in their backpacks to complete that night.
Class rewards for a job well-done!
On Friday, we count up all of the stars we have earned for the week and, if they all did 2 or more stars for most of the days, then there is a high likelihood that there will be extra Free Choice minutes tacked on to Friday Choice Time!

We also will look to see if we met or beat the previous week's total. If we did, it's Sticker Time! My kids this year LOVE stickers, so this is a super fun, very easy, and inexpensive treat.

Class motivation during the week?
On Wednesday-ish, I will remind my class where we need to be by Friday to  meet/exceed our goal and/or get extra choice time and I will ask if there are any volunteers who would be willing to be 3-Star Kids for the rest of the week to help us out. If they raise their hand, I will put their name on the board and we all cheer them and thank them for leading by example. It's a great motivator to get all of the kids willing to do more, which I'll take any day of the week!

What about Thursday's Response to Text homework?
Our spelling quizzes are on Thursday and kids don't get their new words until Friday, so on Thursday, I have included the option of writing a response to the book they have been reading all week. This can look like any of the following:
  • a summary of what they have read
  • questions, predictions, inferences, connections, etc.
  • a letter to me about the book
  • a letter to the author
  • comparing themselves to the character and writing about what they would have done in the story
  • writing a sequel/prequel
  • or anything else that suits the child's fancy! 
This Response to Text should be no longer than a page, but a bit longer than a few sentences. As long as there is substance, I am not too strict on length.It must be neatly written and turned in on Friday to receive a star. If it is messy, not substantive, or clearly not worth a star, then the child does not get one- Chris Biffle explains it so well in the video above- I am not doing that child any favors by accepting and rewarding messy, sloppy work with no effort put into it. It may feel crummy to tell them no, but it will motivate them to do better next week :)

So far this system is working out very well. Have any of you tried this type of homework plan?

**UPDATE** I have a new post with Star Homework downloads and personalized options. Check it out HERE!


  1. I love this and may give it a try! I love WBT! I will check out the video when I have a moment.

    Check my blog out sometime too. It is new and is in its beginning stages.

  2. You are after my heart! I sooo feel the same way about homework!! I also do Xtramath and LOVE it!! Have we met? :) JT
    Come on over and say hi!!
    Thoughts of a Third Grade Teacher

  3. How can I get a copy of your star homework? I love it so much! Thanks,
    Angie @ timeoutsandtootsierolls

  4. Hi Angie & all,

    I have uploaded an entire Star Homework set to my TpT store- the sample download is the homework bookmarks, but the set includes some files in Word so you can customize the homework and the weekly graph to fit your class' needs.

    See my new post here:

    The direct link to the TpT files are here:

    Thanks so much and I hope you enjoy using them in your class!


  5. Are your homework bookmarks laminated or are they just paper for the one week? And we have homework folders, so I could just have my kiddos put their bookmarks and papers in there! I love this idea!!

  6. This sounds awesome, I would love this for my class. Have you had any complaints about this system from the fourth grade teachers? I know that the third grade teachers that get my kiddos always think I'm going to easy on my kids in homework.

    Second Grade Math Maniac

  7. I have taken your wonderful idea and added to it. It is a great system, I LOVE IT!!
    My students are so motivated to earn stars each day.
    I have added a STAR Menu for students to choose their activities as well as a goal sheet for individual students to begin to self monitor their own homework completion. I would love it if you would check out my links and free additional resources to complement your wonderful STAR homework program


  8. This is an awesome idea! I heard about you through the New Possibilities linky party! Thanks so much for sharing. I am a new follower!
    Second Grade is Out of This World!

  9. I think this is a great idea. Homework is such a problem and the teacher is always the one who worries about it the most

  10. I absolutely love all of your ideas! I am going into my fifth year teaching and because of much of your inspiration, I am revamping the way I do homework and rotations in our classroom! Thanks so much for all of the goodies. Also, you reference "free choice" as a reward on Fridays for star homework... what you mean by "free choice" exactly? Thanks!

  11. I think this is a great idea and I think I've got my team on board to do it! (we switch for math and for reading so it was going to need to be all in or nothing). I'm just starting with third grade this year. Thanks for the great information!


  12. I am a WBTr and am trying to implement the Star homework. Question... How is the star chart used exactly? Are stars placed on the chart in each column for each student as they go through the week? Are stars placed on the chart just to fill it up? I noticed on your sample it mentioned different colors for different days. This is what lead me to think maybe you do it by student since there are 25 blocks across the top.Please advise as soon as possible since we are trying to implement it for next week. THANKS!!!

  13. Hi Stephanie,
    I have been doing a weekly homework packet and really hate when Monday rolls around and it's not ready! I had noticed this on the WBT website but had forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder! I agree with the person above who was confused with the graph. Would you mind explaining how the graph works or showing an example of what a graph might look like at the end of a typical week please??
    Thanks so much!!