How To Send Student Writing Home With Intent
“Can we bring our books home?” is heard nearly every day since the beginning of the school year. “Not yet,” we respond, explaining (because of course they will ask, Why?) that writers hold onto their writing in a special place so they can come back to books and revise and to notice how writing grows.
As the unit of study comes to a close, folders are brimming with books. Writers page through each book carefully, admiring treasured work, selecting favorites to publish, and finally gathering the rest to bring home.
In the same moment, these thoughts may run through our minds:
Will the books make it all the way home?
What will caretakers think about their child’s writing?
What will they SAY to their child about their writing?
What will families do with all of those books?
With three added steps to the process, kids can be much more excited to bring writing home, teachers can feel more confident with families receiving student work, and families can feel more prepared to engage with their children about their writing.
Find the Purpose
Yes, we bring books home because our folders can’t hold anymore. Yes, we need empty folders to make room for new kinds of books.
But, before beginning a process of moving a pile of writing from one place to another, we can stop and make this a more joyful, meaningful process.
While kids peruse their folders for their favorite books to publish, we can:
- Devote time to reading books. Spotlight a student writer who turns the pages slowly, admiring work. Find joy in books we’ve forgotten about, but love dearly. Make plans for books — will we add them to a library, give them as a gift, read at bedtime?
- Reflect. While reading their writing, kindergartners said: “I have a lot of books on my ‘Not done yet’ side. I need to come back to these books!” “I write a lot about superheroes.” “Wow, look at how many books you have! Can you read that one to me?” “I don’t have as many books, but I took my time on these.”
- Notice growth, set goals. This is a great opportunity for quick conferences with writers. “What do you notice about your books now compared to at the beginning of the unit? What are you proud of? What still feels tricky? What do you want to work on next as a writer?” When printed, these Growth/Goal reflections make a great addition to writing that is sent home (see end of post), an excellent artifact for parent-teacher conferences, and provide students with a goal to carry into the next unit (talk about meaningful small groups that we can plan ahead of time!).
- Collect artifacts. This part of the process is more manageable to me in small groups (I did this as a part of stations, with three groups of 8 writers). As kids looked through their books, so we can we! Quick pictures and notes will help with planning mini lessons, small groups, and conferences for the next unit.
Send Writing Home With a Message
A writer’s life at home is as important (and fragile) as it is as school. We can support transfer of learning by communicating with families the habits and skills we are building, language we use, and tips for encountering challenges.
In a letter home following a unit of study, we can include:
Here’s one I made recently. At first, I wrote my own big ideas. Then, I thought it would be a great informal assessment and ownership-building process if kids helped me share big ideas with families and friends (it was an added boost to discover that kids came up with most of the big ideas as I had, and allowed me to reflect upon components of the unit that writers did not mention).
PS 59 1st grade teachers Amy Lynch and Rachel Federbush include charts and a letter to make an interactive writing display.
Handle Writing With Care
Writing that is stuffed in backpacks is sure to get bent, ripped, or even lost or unseen. By taking an extra step to protect writing, we’re sending the messages that:
Your work is important, valuable, and should be treated with the same care that we would give to brand new books in our library.
Plus, getting to unwrap writing at home feels like a gift we are sharing with families!
You can access my Glow/Growth conferencing tool here (make a copy to edit): https://docs.google.com/document/d/14M5MuBWtpwa6z-Jk3Kn3E2AaGMcSKnStT62nxFBYGKw/edit?usp=sharing
These steps take a little more work, but they are worth investing time in. They will boost the energy of writing workshop, nurture writing identities, and strengthen family partnerships.