The Value of Take-Home-Journals
Keeping parents up to date on what is going on in the classroom is imperative as a teacher. My most successful communication method in my third grade classroom, was the Take- Home-Journal. I wanted parents to know what was happening but it needed to be personal and give my students writing practice. I discovered the best part of the journals was the communication between child and parent! Some children had never received a hand-written note from their mom or dad praising their accomplishments. I remember a boy who re-read the encouraging words from his mom over and over during the next week.
What do the journals look like?
It’s really quite simple. Each student has a small (5.5” x 8.5”) expandable book that goes home every Friday and returned on Monday. The outside is a piece of card stock cut in half and decorated by the child. Inside there are 3 new sheets added to the front each week, held together with brads. Students assemble the books on their own.
First sheet – a short typed letter (half sheet), from the teacher explaining the activities accomplished that week and suggestions for parents on how to reinforce the learning.
Second sheet – a lined piece of paper (half sheet) for the student to write a letter to his/her parents, sharing what we did in class that week from their perspective.
Third sheet – a different color half sheet which is blank for the purpose of the parent writing a note of encouragement to his/her child. It is not a communication to the teacher but is specifically for praising their child.
It takes very little teacher prep time. The advantages far outweigh any hesitation.
Why are Take-Home Journals important?
There are three purposes for Take-Home-Journals:
1. Parents receive information about the curriculum and class projects. Parents think you are the greatest teacher in the world because they know what is happening in the classroom!
2. The journals give students weekly practice in the correct form of letter writing and how to organize and express their thoughts clearly.
3. The child’s self-esteem is nourished when they read a hand-written note from a parent, praising their efforts with encouraging words.
Step by Step Instructions for Getting Started
At the beginning of the year, prepare the journals. Use 8.5″ x 11″ card stock and cut in half. Invest in a 2-hole punch and punch holes in covers (40 covers for a class of 20 students).
Use 8.5″ x 11″ lined paper with no holes. Cut in half and punch two holes. Make enough for several months.
Use 8.5″ x 11″ colored paper, cut in half and punch two holes. Make enough for several months.
How does the process work?
Prior to the writing of their letters, I lead a brainstorming session with the students about the week’s activities. I make a spider-web layout on the board, writing down everything. Paragraphs are talked about and students are told to pick 3 ideas and write a paragraph for each topic.
When they are finished, I check it and point out any glaring spelling or grammatical errors. It goes into the backpack and they are rewarded if they bring it back on time on Monday. Another student is in charge of monitoring the returns.
Students decorate the card stock covers at the beginning of the school year and quickly learn how to assemble the book. We always did this activity on Friday and it took about 45 minutes. I’m sure you feel you don’t have an extra 45 minutes but the benefits far out-weigh the time spent. If you have any questions, please contact me.