Fostering the Home-School Connection Through Friday Letters
Gallery Of Fostering the Home-School Connection Through Friday Letters
Fostering the Home-School Connection Through Friday Letters
Teachers everywhere embrace the importance of a solid connection between home and school and strive to build positive and respectful parent partnerships. All teachers understand the value of volunteers and the need for parent involvement and support, but not all parents can spend time in our classrooms.
Friday Letters Connect Parents to Your Classroom
Every parent wants to know what their child is learning and how they are doing in school. One fun and informative way to keep your parents connected to your classroom is through Friday letters. Every Friday my students write a letter home telling their parents and families all about their week at school.
Parents respond by writing a letter back to their child on the reverse-side of the page.
Students return the letters to school where we file and save them. At the end of the year, I bind all of their letters into keepsake books for students to take home.
Friday Letters. Writing a letter every Friday to Mom and Dad. It’s such a simple little thing, but a powerful one. Besides cultivating a consistent connection between my students’ homes and my classroom, I learn a lot from these letters. They give me weekly insight into my students’ thoughts and feelings, excitements and anxieties, about school, their friends, what happens at home, and even how they feel about the food in the cafeteria.
Friday letters give me a window into things that my students may not tell me, but tell their parents. They afford me opportunities to see where I can quietly intervene or partner with parents to help a child socially, support them more emotionally, or even to celebrate accomplishments outside of school that I may not otherwise know about.
Academically speaking, I can see at a glance who
is mastering and applying a variety of skills:
Review The Format Of A Friendly Letter
At the beginning of the year, we review the format of, and how to write, a friendly letter. This is something our first graders learn, but I always spend time reteaching the purpose, the parts and the punctuation of a friendly letter. My goal is to get them started towards writing these letters independently.
At the beginning of the year when I introduce our writing journal routines, one of the first mini-lessons we do is “What Can I Write About?” We make a list on the first page of the journals of all the things they can write about. These come in handy on Fridays, too.
For the first few weeks, we brainstorm whole group and list on the board all of the things we learned and did during the week they could write about in their letters. Sometimes we make a big bubble map and sometimes we make a list. Sometimes we even make a tree map with the days of the week as the categories. These are quick teachable moments to talk about the purpose of different graphic organizers and how they can help us plan our writing. Later, they will do this on their own in their writing journals. The one thing we always do the same every.single.week is to end our letters with a question. This gives the recipient a start to writing back.
Make Friday Letters Manage Themselves
This routine will manage itself after a few weeks of practicing the procedure. I train my class to file their letters all going the same way, behind their previous letter. They can do this when they first arrive or at the end of the day. I found this filing cart at a garage sale years ago and it’s been perfect for storing and saving students’ writing portfolios. A crate would work well also.
Each hanging file has a student number and a file folder inside. The Friday letters go behind the file folder. At the end of the year I even have my students go through their own letters to make sure they’re set and organized before binding.
If you don’t have access to a comb binder a heavy duty stapler works great too.
But the Year Has Already Started
It’s easy to get started writing Friday letters with your class. You don’t have to start at the beginning of the year, you can start anytime. Just send home this parent letter explaining how it works and start writing!
Subscribe to our newsletter and get this Free Friday Letters Starter Kit to save you time and get you going. This editable file includes the parent letter and book cover that I use plus some back-to-school stationery to get you started. Download it now or pin this for later.
For the rest of the year, I use lined stationery from a combination of books I purchased from Scholastic.
I hope this post has been helpful as you consider ways you can continue to foster your home-school connections and parent partnerships!
If you like this idea, why not share it with your teacher friends on Pinterest or Facebook? For more ideas and resources on this topic follow my board on Pinterest!
Looking for more ideas to start in your classroom? Visit this post to see how we use student data folders and how I themselves.
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We wrote to our families last year. Our kiddos are a split K/1 – their writing grew so much. I love how you end each letter with a question.
My kids and families love family journals! That's what we have always called them just because we don't always have time on the same day. We also have parents write back and return the journals each Monday. Before handing out the family journals I ask each student if they would like me to read their family's response and of course, they always do. It's so cute! I love how you have it all organized. This is really going to help me this year! Thank you!!
You’re welcome Hope! I’m so glad you found something helpful you can use in your classroom!
This is adorable! I downloaded the Starter Kit but am having trouble putting my information on the cover page. It only lets me type one line of text. I can't press enter or use the arrow down key to add additional lines. Do you know what I am doing wrong?
I'm not sure what was going on with the document, but I have uploaded a new file link to this post.
Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and I hope your class enjoys writing Friday letters as much as mine does!
I love your idea Hope! Writing letters to their families has always been such a fun and rewarding experience for my class. I'm so glad to hear your families love it too! Thanks so much for stopping by and I hope the kit saves you some time.
I agree! Writing letters each Friday is really a great way to support their writing development and see their growth!
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Do you ever get pushback from parents on this? I teach at a school that is fairly urban with parents who do not speak English or have other socioeconomic factors that may impact their ability to do this. Is the parent response optional?
This comment has been removed by the author.
That's a great question! The answer is, absolutely! You can set up your system however you wish. I've been using Friday letters for about 9 years now and have never gotten push back from parents, but what I do is allow students to do whatever works for them and their families. I've had students every year who either have limited English proficiency or their parents do not speak English at all. In those cases students have done a number of different things. Some have written to older siblings, or grandparents, or even to friends or classmates. I've also had students who wrote to their parents each week and then we just filed them and bound the book to take home at the end of the year.
Two years ago I had a Vietnamese student who wrote to her grandmother each week. Her grandmother responded in Vietnamese after my student read and translated the letter to her. Her mother told me at conference time how much it meant to her grandmother to be able to do that and to be involved in her granddaughter's life at school.
So the answer is, yes! Make it work for your students.
I've been doing Friday Family Writing Journals for several years. A few years ago a student had several responses from her grandmother in her journal; the grandmother was very ill and passed away towards the end of the school year. The mother later told me what a precious keepsake that writing journal was for her daughter. We never know how what we do will touch a family. And for this reason I will always do Friday Family Writing Journals.
Such a wonderful idea to foster the home-school connection. Can't wait to start this with my kiddos!
Hi! I love these journals and my teaching partner and I just started this year using them in our first grade classroom. We sent home our first letters, and noticed parents wrote really sweet, long, notes on the back… we were wondering how you manage reading the letters back to each student so they know what their parents responded each week. We are trying to figure out a good way to do this without taking too much time, but making sure those students who can't quite manage reading the responses themselves get to here what their parents wrote. Any ideas would be great! Thanks!
I have students write on individual pieces of "stationary", rather than in a journal, and then take the letters home. The parents respond at home on the back side and read their responses to their child at that time. The students then bring the letters back to school where we file them until the end of the year. At the end of the year I bind each child's letters into a book. I hope this helps!
What a treasure for that child! I had a similar experience with one of my students. Her parents were so grateful to have the letters her grandmother wrote. It really is such a special project that means so much to students and their families.
I had my students write letters a couple of times a month. Sadly I had some students with only one letter or none at all for their book at the end of the year. I had the students write to each other so they would have at least one letter in their book. How do you handle it when they don’t bring any letters back during the school year?
That’s a great question and I’ve had it happen more than once. I include a couple of reminders in group parent emails explaining again that we will be saving and binding the weekly letters into a book to send home at the end of the year. If I still don’t receive letters back from any students after that, I have the student file the letters after they write them. That way we have them all or most of them. It is still a treasure for the parents whether or not they respond each week. Every family is different, and I have certainly been the mother, at times, that just can’t keep up! So, no judgement, I just save them for the child to take home at the end.
Another thing I do is to add a blurb occasionally in my class newsletters throughout the year reminding parents to respond and return the letters when they get a chance.
I hope this helps, and thanks so much for asking!
I absolutely love this idea. It makes the kids own their learning too. My question for you is…. Do you edit the letter with the kids or send it as is? Thanks,Erin
I model extensively the format for writing a friendly letter for the first several weeks. My desks are arranged in groups, so I go to each group and have them check format, punctuation, complete sentences beginning with capital letters, correctly written closing etc. As the year goes on, I find I need to do this less and less for most students and there are weeks that I send them as is. As students are writing, I also quickly read what they have written as I gain so much insight from doing so.
I hope this helps, and thanks so much for stopping by!
Thanks for reminding me of something I did years ago. I love this!! I took a hiatus from teaching in the classroom and I’ve been back for a couple of years. My students LOVED their “go-home journals” when I was teaching in the 90’s. I downloaded your free link, but I would love to purchase the Scholastic letter template books. I can’t seem to find them! Thanks for providing this fun and valuable idea!
You’re welcome Suzanne, and welcome back to the classroom! Let me know if I can help you with anything!
I used to do this with my second graders. I tried it with my kinders and it didn’t work so well but I really want to try it again….maybe this year. But something I did that I don’t see here is that the parents’ “homework” was to write back to their student. I had a little box at the bottom of the kids’ letters to write back.
Hi Michelle! Yes, I think Kinders would be to young for this, although maybe toward the end of the year. If you scroll to just under the first heading, you’ll see some examples and an explanation of how I have parents write back to their student on the back of the letters. My parents love having the book of letters at the end of the year.
I love this idea and I think it would be a great way for my fourth graders to reflect on their week and what they have learned. I do have a few questions:
1. Do you set a time limit so it doesn’t take over your day?
2. How much do you edit and how do you find the time for that?
3. I assume the letters go home on Friday and students are expected to return them on Monday?
These are great questions! On Friday mornings our students take spelling assessments, turn in homework, I stamp reading logs etc. We then start our Friday letters. Depending on the time of year, it’s longer at the beginning, I take about 15-20 min. If students don’t finish, they work on them once they finish other work during the day. We edit a lot together at the beginning of the year and I model, model, model how to write a friendly letter. Later in the year, as students are writing I am scanning everyone’s letters. I also prep my parents at the beginning to praise improvements they see, correct spelling, punctuation etc. Of course not all do probably, but this helps also to motivate students to do their best. I don’t take a ton of time editing after about the first month. One of the things we do at the beginning is I create a chart with an example of a correctly written letter and hang that up all year. I have students look and the chart and check that they have written their letters in the correct format, check for punctuation, capital letters etc. It does take longer at the beginning but the dividends are worth it!
The letters go home on Fri. and are to come back on Monday. That doesn’t always happen of course, and that’s OK. I keep the file shown in the post above for them to file the letters once they bring them back. I teach explicitly how to file them in order so I don’t have to spend time organizing letters at the end before binding them.
I hope this helps and your class and parents enjoy the letters!
I have done this in the past and sent a book back and forth. Families really liked it! I like the idea of a single sheet of paper each week, filing and binding at the end of the year. I am looking for your affiliate links or titles of books from Scholastic where you get the letter paper/stationary from.
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