Are you teaching in a hybrid model? All virtual? All in-person?
Whichever model your school has chosen for this fall, chances are you will be working with families more closely than ever to support at-home learning. In my own school district, we will be reopening with a hybrid model that involves children being in person at school two days a week, and at home three days a week. This presents an important opportunity to work together with families and caregivers to have a much stronger home-school connection than ever before. Children will be bringing home their book baggies for reading, their writing folders, notebooks, and laptops for writing, ready to continue their work from school daily, at home.
It’s up to us to create a connection between home and school that is supportive for students. In a best-case scenario, children open up their writing folders or notebooks (or laptops) at home and continue practicing what they were working on at school, just as if they were in the classroom.
Hasn’t this always been the goal of workshop teaching? Haven’t we always strived to teach in a way that allows students to carry on without us? Now is our time to shine, workshop teachers!
But, for this to be successful, we need to educate families along with students. It isn’t helpful for children to open up their writing folders, notebooks, and laptops at home, only to receive contradictory messages about how to write, from their well-intentioned family members and caregivers.
As a literacy coach, one of my goals this year is to create a collection of resources for families to help them understand workshop teaching, and how to support their children at home, hopefully in an engaging, stress-free (or stress-minimal) way.
Here is the first in what I hope will be a series of resources for families that teachers can download and share.
For Younger Students
For Older Students
(If you want to create your own version, here’s a pro tip: I used google slides to make these handouts by changing the size of the slides to 8.5X11 using the page setup option, and Walter Turncoat font. I made the images myself using the app Procreate on my iPad.)
For us writing workshop teachers, it is obvious to us that children should have choice over things like paper and writing utensils, but for many family members, child care providers, and even professional tutors, this is not so obvious. When families unintentionally (or intentionally) eliminate choice over these basics at home, it contradicts and undoes some of the important work we’re doing in school. It’s unhelpful for kids to have one set of expectations about materials and topic choice at school, and something completely different when they try to practice the work outside of school.
There are many things that are not within our control when it comes to at-home learning, but materials are something we can provide for families, and can support with resources, education, and communication with the adults in our students’ lives. For now, I’m aiming to support families with information that cuts across units of study, information that will be relevant for the long-term. It isn’t realistic to expect that families can keep up with every minilesson or strategy we teach kids at school, but a few key basics can go a really long way.
You may want to adapt these handouts to suit your unit of study or time of year, and you may want to add a letter, or video message for families to elaborate on the choices they can provide for their children outside of school.
As this exciting year unfolds, there is a LOT that we do not know and cannot plan for. But one thing is for sure. It will be a year unlike any other, filled with opportunities to innovate and collaborate – with other teachers, and with families.