parent involvement · units of study

Communicating Clear Expectations for Writing Workshop

A trusted colleague films Cameron talking about an upcoming unit of study.

Communication is key to any successful partnership. Communicating with students, colleagues, and families is necessary to set clear and concise expectations.

As classroom teachers, our goal to communicate what we are doing in the classroom as much as possible. We would like for families to support the learning at home. At times, this can be a challenge for many reasons:

  • Words can be confusing. For example, if you were trying to share how to help a child write a personal narrative at home, this may be challenging to explain in a brief email.
  • Time. Many families are busy with a little thing called life.
  • Language. If you teach in a school where there are many families who speak multiple languages, then reading a long email or handwritten message in English may be strenuous, which is not the most efficient way to communicate.

How do we address the challenges?

Families want to help, but some may not know how. As we would with any child, we must find ways to adapt our communication to meet the needs of all families.

After pondering on how I could efficiently and effectively communicate writing workshop expectations, I decided to embrace vulnerability and take a risk.

As a learner myself, whenever I get stuck with a task, I turn to a quick video to see the process, or “how to” do something. I had a brain spark. Instantly, I grabbed my phone and asked a colleague to film.

Just as I would with students, I set the families up for success. I modeled a brief introduction to the unit of writing, and showed how they could incorporate it at home. I used common language students hear in the classroom on a daily basis. Common language reinforced at home is valuable in keeping a strong connection between home and school.

I kept the video brief. Time is of the essence in today’s world. I made sure to explain any language I used to have a common understanding. For families that do not speak English, I would consult with the English as an Additional Language teacher to add subtitles to the video to adapt to meet all needs.

By now, you’re probably curious to see how this looks.

Here are two videos for two units of writing in first grade:

An explanation of small moment writing unit (from the TCRWP Units of Study).
An explanation of the nonfiction teaching books unit (from the TCRWP Units of Study).

Now what?

It’s your turn. Yes, that’s right. My challenge to you is:

  • Choose one area you feel the families would most benefit from viewing a video instead of an email or written explanation.
  • Make bullet points on a sticky note for the main items that you want to address and communicate with families.
  • Underline any common language in your notes that families will benefit from using.
  • Practice, if needed, but sometimes the best videos are off the cuff.
  • Ask a trusted colleague or friend, so you’re not too anxious, to film your video.
  • Keep it brief. Try to keep your video in the range of two to four minutes.
  • Upload your video to YouTube so sharing access to families is quick and simple.

Each and every day, we ask our students to embrace vulnerability and take risks. Now, as a learner, it’s your job to model this behavior. Have fun, and know that what you’re doing is setting both your students and their families up for success!

Cameron Carter is a first-grade teacher at Evening Street Elementary in Worthington, OH. He is the former Elementary Lead Ambassador for the National Council of Teachers of English and the current Elementary Liaison for the Ohio Council of Teachers of English Language Arts. Cameron has a Masters in Reading and Literacy from The Ohio State University. To continue learning with Cameron, follow him on Twitter @CRCarter313, Facebook @EduCarter10, and YouTube.

One thought on “Communicating Clear Expectations for Writing Workshop

  1. Amazing stuff! I will have to try actually being in the videos! I have been making these videos all year for phonics and reading strategies/explanation of the units. I make slides and then talk over them in less than 4 minutes. I post them to the student’s Seesaw accounts. This is also how I communicate the tools I make for the students and specific strategies their child is working on. The student growth in my classroom in comparison to previous years has been almost triple! Families have come in and thanked me for allowing them “a space in the classroom” to learn along side their child.


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