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March 7, 2013 Ten Weeks of Reading Response Homework By Genia Connell
Grades 3–5

    While my students are expected to spend time reading at home every evening, they have written reading homework nearly every week starting in September. I assign the homework methodically beginning the third week of our school year. We start off slowly, reading a one-page story then answering multiple choice questions that have to do with main idea, inferring, cause and effect, and fact/opinion statements. From there, we work our way up to longer stories that have multiple choice questions, but also require constructed responses or the comparing/contrasting of two different texts. Now that we’re nearing the end of the third quarter, my students are ready to transition to homework that asks them to read independently at home, then summarize and respond to a Common Core-inspired prompt. This week I’ll share with you 10 of the weekly reading response prompts my students complete during the last quarter of the school year, along with rubrics, and I'll let you in on how I prepare them to complete these at-home assignments successfully.


    Model, Model, Model

    Modeling is the key to success in so much of what we do in the classroom. In my class we tend to go slow to go fast.  Before any reading homework ever goes home, we do it in class together at least two or three times, and I have my 3rd graders try it independently in class as well. Early in the year, when we go over the correct answers for our reading work in class, my aim isn’t to assess their work with my list of correct answers. Instead, my objective is to help my students understand why each answer is correct and how close reading of the text improves their understanding. While the written responses required in my 10 weeks of reading response homework are quite different from multiple choice tasks, they also require a great deal of modeling. If I want my students to write a good summary, I show them what a good summary looks like. Several times. Go slow to go fast, I always say.


    Summarizing Skills

    Each week, my reading response sheets require students to begin with a summary of what they read. Whenever I ask a student to retell a story orally, they normally do a good job recounting the main events of the story in order. If I ask that same student to write down what happened in the story, however, the organization is rarely as good and several unimportant details seem to find their way onto the page. To teach succinct summarizing, I tell students exactly what they need to include in their writing. Then, using common text from books we’ve read aloud, I show them what a good summary looks like. Here is an example of one I did with my class last spring:

    Today I read The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo for about 25 minutes. The characters in the chapters I read today included Cook, a tough woman who is very upset the princess is missing, Louise, the hardened housekeeper who almost seems happy that Mig is missing, and Despereaux, who can only think about saving the princess. In the beginning, Cook is running around the castle’s kitchen crying because the princess is missing. She hates that there could be a world without the Princess and without soup. Despereaux, who was still sleeping after having his tail chopped off, wakes up and realizes he’s too late; Roscuro has already carried out his evil plan. Thinking of his love for the princess, however, and his dream of a happily ever after, Despereaux makes up his mind to rescue the princess.


    Each student receives the following sheet with my summary expectations to keep in their reading binder:

    As a whole group, we will write summaries of our read-aloud book several days in a row on the interactive whiteboard. Students can either copy the summary from the interactive whiteboard or put it in their own words. Next, students write summaries in class following their independent reading. By the time the first reading response homework sheet is handed out, students feel as though they are looking at an old friend. After only two weeks, however, and after a great deal of modeling, my students are successfully writing short and meaningful summaries.

    Homework Time!

    Every Friday I pass out a different homework sheet, and it is due the following Friday. Each week students also get the sheet of what is expected and an example summary. The rubric is copied back to back with the expectations and stapled to the prompt, which allows students to see how they are graded and makes it easier for me to grade. Students are asked to have their parents sign it. My 3rd graders seem to put a little more effort into their work when they know Mom or Dad will be reading it. 

    Click the image above to download ten different customizable reading response homework sheets plus directions, examples, rubrics, and lined paper.


    These reading response homework sheets I created work well for my students, but they are very easy to customize to fit your class or grade level. Some of the Common Core Standards these sheets cover include:

    • recounting stories 
    • understanding differing perspectives 
    • asking and answering questions to determine importance in a text
    • determining main idea
    • describing setting of a story
    • describing characters in a story (character traits)
    • referring to details in a text
    • referring to parts of a story when writing



    Scholastic offers many great resources you can use as reading homework in your classroom. A few that I have tried this year include:

    What are you doing for reading homework in your classroom? Share your ideas and thoughts in the comments section below.


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Susan Cheyney