Sunday, November 1, 2015

Friday Letters - Easy Parent Communication

I'm always trying to think of new ways to keep parents and families in the loop about what's going on in our classroom.  I use lots of different ways to meet different parents needs -- paper newsletters, e-mails, the Remind App, but I've decided on my favorite...FRIDAY LETTERS!

students write Friday letters to parents

I still use the communication methods listed above, but Friday Letters have become one of my absolute favorite parts of our classroom routine. The process has evolved over the years, but the way it looks now is every Friday, my kids take out their Friday Letter notebook and write a letter to their parents about what they've learned in school that week, challenges they've faced, successes they've had, and just life in general. ("Can we please have pizza this weekend???") Then, and I think this is the coolest part, over the weekend, parents sit down and write a letter back to their child.  It honestly warms my heart seeing the letters that are written back and forth on a weekly basis.  Kids are telling their parents cool facts they've learned, what they are reading in class, that they are having a hard time getting the hang of multiplication, or that they've made a new friend in class.  The letters back from parents are encouraging, full of advice, pride, and love.  And sometimes reminders about sloppy handwriting! :)

Friday letters to parents
Writing about the books she read this week.
Friday Letters serve a few important purposes:
  • Kids are keeping their parents in the loop about what is going on in the classroom.
  • Students are practicing their writing with an authentic purpose.
  • Parents are able to model good writing for their students. 
  • They further build the relationship between parents and students. 
  • These notebooks serve as a chronicle of a (school)year in the life of a child.  Parents and/or students can hang on to these for years!
communicating with parents
Telling his mom what he learned from Time for Kids.

On Mondays, I do a quick check to see if Friday Letters have been completed.  We keep track with a chart on the back cover and a sticker every Monday each time a letter is written.  For every 5 stickers the kids get a small reward.  In a perfect world, every student would have a letter back from their parents every week, but I know life gets in the way sometimes! I'll send home reminders, and for most families that is effective. The student forgot to show their mom and dad, or it  was just one of those weekends.  No big deal.  We put forth every possible effort to get students' family members to write to them, but as a last resort, I will have our principal, assistant principal, or another adult at school write back to them.  

friday letter parent communication

I HIGHLY recommend starting Friday Letters in your classroom, even if it's the middle of the school year.  You'll love seeing the connection and communication between students and their parents!

UPDATED:  You can grab a copy of the 2018-19 cover page and parent letter (HERE}

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Fall in Love With Teaching Blog Hop

I'm so excited to be getting together with a fantastic group of 3rd grade teachers to share what we love about teaching.  I can't think of a better way to kick of my new blog, so...welcome!

A handful of years ago, my principal decided that our school was going to be going departmentalized. And he wanted me to teach Math.  He was very complimentary about why he wanted me to be a Math teacher, and I do enjoy teaching Math, but...

books on a bookshelf

...what about all my books?  My classroom library is my pride and joy! I'm attached to all these books!  (Ok, to be fair, I probably haven't read half of them, but still!)  I had a really hard time wrapping my brain around how life as a teacher would look for me without teaching reading. 

Well, I was determined to still fit quality children's literature into my day in as many ways as possible.  I did my best to bring books into Math, and even more than ever into Writing.  I still got to do Read Aloud with my homeroom class, and I cherished that chance to share some awesome books with my kids. (Stay tuned for future blog posts where I share some of these ideas with you!)

After 3 years as a "Math Teacher", one of my teammates announced she was moving to another state. We wondered who would be the new Reading teacher to join our team...would it be someone in the building, or would we have to interview external candidates?  Then all of a sudden, smack dab in the middle of a math lesson, it hit! ME! MEMEME! I want to be the Reading Teacher!!  As soon as I could I went to my principal to throw out my idea to him.  I was honest.  I told him, "I need to get my spark back.  I need to teach Reading." Luckily, cause he was awesome, he agreed right away.

Just focusing on Math and Writing helped me grow as a teacher for sure, but once I got to be a "Reading Teacher" again, it felt like all was right with my teaching world.  Now we're self-contained again, and I'm loving teaching every subject!`

When my awesome Third Grade Tribe decided to do a Blog Hop with a fall theme, focusing on what we love about teaching, I knew right away that this post would be about...well, I think you can tell by now!

All the Places to Love

I've got a stack of books that I love to use as Mentor Texts (the picture above is just a sample), but one of my favorites to start the beginning of the year with is All the Places to Love, by Patricia MacLachlan.  It's a beautiful story of a boy describing his family's favorite places on their farm.  The detail in both the pictures and text is fabulous!

pages of the picture book

I have my students practice paragraph structure and the writing process, while describing a place that is special to them.   Tip: it works best to describe the place as "special" instead of "favorite" -- kids do a much better job writing about a place that is close to their heart than why __________ is their favorite restaurant!

examples of student work

Each student publishes their writing on a simple piece of lined paper.  You could absolutely have them type it up, we're just not quite there at the beginning of the year. They also get a full page to draw an illustration of the place they love.  

We chose one of the pictures to serve as our cover, and then I scanned it into my computer and typed a title in a text box.  I bound the pages together, and we had our first class book of the year.  So easy! 

All the Places to Love class book