“Relationships” is the One Little Word (OLW) I chose for this new school year. When you value a relationship, you take time to communicate, listen and respond with the best of intentions. As I meet my new third graders, I will be carving out time for us to get to know each other and build positive relationships based on trust and respect. I will also need to reach out to the families of my students, building relationships with them to become partners in their children’s education.
Back to School Night is the first chance I have to speak face to face with parents. When it comes to writing workshop, what do I need the families to know? What misconceptions might they have that I can clear up? What resources and suggestions can I provide so they can help their child grow as a writer outside of school? These are the questions I’ve been asking myself. I’ve also asked friends who are parents of school-age children what they would want to know more about in regards to their child growing as a writer. I’ve asked colleagues what they’ve noticed are top parent concerns when it comes to writing.
The parents who I heard from commented on making writing more fun for the students and ideas for home practice. One parent said there are so many ideas on helping young children become readers but not as much about writing. Another parent discussed handwriting and how her child would get frustrated if letters were not formed perfectly. The colleagues I spoke with shared that many times parents were upset that their children were misspelling words in their writing or not using conventions properly. That has also been my experience: Parents are often worried that students are not learning to spell. They often focus on that as the most important component of their child’s writing.
With this information, and thinking about what I want parents to truly understand about writing workshop, I decided to create a Google Slides presentation to share with the parents at Open School Night.
My goals were to explain the grade level expectations my district has for the students, describe how writing workshop helps students meet those goals, provide explanations for terms we commonly use when talking about writing workshop, address the concerns about spelling and conventions, and provide some ideas for supporting writers at home. I created a Symbaloo with some additional writing resources for students and families. I plan on posting the presentation on my class web page so families can refer to it whenever they like and families who were unable to attend Open School Night can access it.
The Open School Night presentation is the start of a ongoing conversation with families about student writing. One way to continue the conversation is to send home a newsletter that will have some tips and ideas for ways to help students develop as writers. I recently learned about SeeSaw, where students can independently document what they are learning and writing at school through pictures, audio and videos. Families can receive an email of what the student has created and shared. I envision students sending a writer’s notebook entry they are proud of or a draft of a piece where they tried a new craft move. This tool can be helpful in flattening the walls of the classroom and allowing parents an insider’s view of what we are doing in writing workshop.
My class will be blogging through Kidblog and parents will be encouraged to read student blogs and comment on them. My own blogging experience has helped me see the power of being part of a community of writers who read and comment on my writing. I am hoping to invite more parents and families to be active members of our writing community and contribute to the conversation. My class will be tweeting from @Learningin215 and it will be a rotating class job to compose our class tweet of the day to share our learning with a broader, more global community. It is my hope that these experiences will provide ongoing information to families about all the learning happening in our classroom, including the writing.
How do you reach out to parents and communicate about writing workshop expectations, procedures, and goals? How do you share resources and ideas to support writers outside the classroom? Please share your ideas in the comments!