Alternative Homework Ideas - Why I Stopped Giving Homework and What I did Instead

Do you struggle to get students to complete homework assignments? Are you looking for alternative homework ideas that don't involve pencil and paper? Do you think that students maybe need a break after a long day at school? Well look no further! I know how you feel.

It's been a few years since my own kids were in elementary school, but I have clear memories of the nightly homework fight with my son. He HATED doing homework, especially anything that involved any type of writing. We spent so much time erasing and complaining and arguing and crying. It's not a pleasant memory.

Now, as a teacher, I have a real love-hate relationship with homework. No, make that a hate-hate relationship.

  • I HATE trying to come up with meaningful assignments.

  • I HATE that the students who need extra practice are the same ones who never do their homework.

  • I HATE knowing my students are tired at the end of the day and will have to do more when they get home.

  • I HATE that some students have a parent to help with difficult assignments and others don't.

  • I absolutely HATE checking homework.

It's just one more source of stress for everyone and one more thing contributing to teacher burnout.

So what's a teacher to do? I thought about scrapping homework altogether, but I'm part of a big grade level team and I'd be the only one not doing it. Plus, there are always those few parents who would never accept a straight no-homework policy. And personally, I don't feel like digging up nightly homework for a few individuals.

So this year I'm doing UNHOMEWORK!

Huh? Yeah, you heard me... UNhomework. Here's how this alternative homework idea works...

My students still have some assignments, but they are alternative homework assignments. They come from a choice sheet - a list of activities that they can choose from.

These activities involve very little paperwork and no checking on my part. In fact, many of my assignments are fun and have the sole purpose of encouraging family time.

kids happy because of unhomework


Here are some of the assignments on my choice sheet. I'm sure you can think of more...

  • Read a book for 20 minutes

  • Read a book to a parent or sibling

  • Play a board game with a parent or grandparent

  • Play a game of Hangman with your spelling words

  • Play a game on Spelling City

  • Create a map of your neighborhood

  • Play 3 games on the Turtle Diary website

  • Write a letter or email to a relative

  • Help cook dinner - Read the recipe and help measure

  • Help your family by doing an extra chore

  • Visit the public library

  • Make a list of books you like on the Epic website

  • Spend 20 minutes exercising with your family (walk, run, bike, swim)

  • Research a country you would like to visit and plan a pretend vacation

  • Learn to say HELLO and GOODBYE in another language

  • Practice telling time or counting money with an adult

  • Count all of the money in your piggy bank

  • Look up the history of your town - Find out when it was founded and by whom

Many of these stay the same every week, but I add a few new ones here and there. One that I like to include is "Visit Sugar Mill Gardens". This is a very cool public garden in my town of Port Orange that features sugar mill ruins from the days of Florida plantations. They were burned down during the Seminole Indian War but you can still see what's left of them.

visit the battle of dunlawton battle site an unhomework idea for my students

Wouldn't this be a worthwhile family outing? It's free, easy to get to, and so much more meaningful than a doing a worksheet. They would learn so much in just half an hour walking through the gardens!

I know some of my students' parents won't take the time to do this one, but I add it to the list at least a couple of times throughout the year. You probably have something similar in your town that you can add to your own list of alternative homework ideas!

will parents BE on board with this ALTERNATIVE HOMEWORK idea?

Most of mine were thrilled with no persuading from me. But for the few that did not totally agree, I came up with this little letter...

unhomework letter to send home to parents

I am super excited about un-homework and so are my students! It has certainly made morning arrival less stressful - no more excuses about missing homework, or crying about forgetting it at home, or scrambling to copy someone else's to avoid getting in trouble. The kids are much more relaxed and so am I. Best of all, I know that my alternative homework assignments are giving the families a break and an excuse to do things together. That's a win-win if you ask me!


Download editable versions of my parent letter and choice sheets to get started with alternative homework in your own classroom!

Want more teaching ideas, tips, and freebies like this delivered right to you? Sign up for my