Using Home Journals to Enhance Communication

HOMEJOURNALSDo you ever hear from parents that they have no idea what their children are learning at school? They ask their child what they did today, and the reply is, “I can’t remember,” or “Nothing.” If you have school-aged children yourself, you know all about this.

This is the reason that I began using Home Journals with my students. Each Friday, students write a paragraph or two to their parents about their week at school. I always let them draw a picture to accompany their writing as well. THEN (and this is my favorite part), parents read the journals at home and write back to their child. Students absolutely love this and feel SO important! Not only is communication between home and school enhanced, but students are practicing writing to a real audience at the same time! Win-win!

 

Below I have provided some key points to remember when implementing Home Journals in your classroom:

1. Provide each student with a notebook that they will use throughout the year. I stay away from the coil-bound notebooks, as the pages tend to get ripped out easier.

HOMEJOURNALSLIST 2. Before you have students write about their week, brainstorm a list of what happened in class that week. As they think of ideas, write a point-form list on the whiteboard (here’s a great opportunity to teach about list writing!). If you skip the brainstorming session, you can expect many students to say that they have no ideas, or don’t know what they did that week. Please don’t skip this step!

3. DO NOT correct spelling or grammatical mistakes in students’ Home Journals, and ask that parents do the same. The goal here is just to write to an audience who cares what they are writing about. Encourage students to be descriptive and use their own voice in their writing, but please do not point out their errors.

4. Provide time on Monday for students to read the note from their parent, just in case they didn’t get a chance at home.

5. Tell parents about the goals of the Home Journal, and reinforce how important it is to write back to their child. Throughout the year, tell parents how much it means to the students when they read their responses.

**Since this blog post was first published, I’ve had many people ask what to do when a student’s parents do not write back. This can be upsetting for the child if he/she never gets written back to. If you have this situation occurring in your classroom, I recommend pairing that student with an adult who works in the school. Would the custodian write back and forth to a child? Or perhaps a librarian? There are likely many people in your school who would love the chance to be involved and make a student feel special.**

 

I always used notebooks with my students, but if you’d like to make your own books, I’ve created some cover pages that you can use. I also wrote a parent letter that you can send home if you wish to. You can download those HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

  • What a fabulous idea! Would this work for grades 1 and 2? I will have a 1/2 split next year and would love to do something like this. I realize they might not write as much as in older grades, especially at the beginning of the year but I still think this would be a great experience for them.

    Reply
  • I love this idea and I would love to use it with my class. However, about half of my students’ parents speak Spanish only. Do you have any suggestions with how to use this with ESL students?

    Heidi Raki

    Reply
  • I used to do this with my 2nd graders my first few years of teaching. We didn’t used to have any set programs being used for language arts, but now we have an intense writing program that takes up a lot of time so unfortunately I had to stop. The last year I tried it, I was always rushing to fit it in and half the time we had to skip it. One suggestion that worked well for my class was that we wrote a letter together for the first half of the year so that I could model the structure and language conventions. The could copy it over, copy and add on, or opt to create their own letter. I also used this part of the year to enforce handwriting skills. Then after halfway through the year we only brainstormed together. For my students who had parents that didn’t speak English well, I encouraged my students to read their letter to them and explain it in their home language then have their parent respond in their own language and read it back to them. Most of my ESOL students don’t know how to read or write in their home language so this was a good opportunity to give them that exposure. I’m still determined to make it work with our schedule again!

    Reply

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