Saturday, January 12, 2013

Family Journal: A Versatile Tool

One of my favorite activities in class is having the kids write in their Family Journals on Fridays. I've been doing it for years. It's so easy to implement and serves multiple purposes! (Can be adapted to any grade level!)

First, it's a great way to communicate what's going on in the classroom.  Of course I send newsletters all the time so what makes this different?  The kids are sharing what they feel were the week's highlights. 

Second, it's a quick assessment of the child's skills.  At one glance, I know what I need to reinforce with the child and many, many mini-lessons have been born this way.  Sometimes individually and often, whole group.(Sometimes I use as a formal assessment and conference with child.)

The skills are broad and besides the obvious, handwriting is also in the spotlight here.  I admit, it's so much fun to look back to the first entry of many of my kids and see the change.  Whoa!  Big changes for most! 

Third, it's a great way to create a memory book of the year!  Easy peasy lemon squeezy style!  (And be prepared for babies and pets responding!  A hoot!)

If you plan on implementing a journal like this, here are some TIPS!

When I started this years ago, many of the journals were returned on Monday mornings CORRECTED with writing splitter splattered all over it.  Boo to that! 

Those eager parents certainly deflated my budding learner's enthusiasm for writing.  Now, I include a letter to the parents explaining to them that while light editing goes on at school, they are NOT to correct the letters.  However, I encourage them, when they write back/respond, to stick to what the child has written about and use the correct spelling/format in their letter.  I assure them the kiddos are geniuses but don't have all the skills necessary at this point in the year to spell everything the right way.  Temporary Spelling, as I prefer to call it over Invented Spelling, is a good thing! We know that but you know how parents need the reassurance! 

So if a child wrote:  tsday was fin in schol. 
They can respond:  Wow!  Tuesday really did seem like a fun day in school! 

It's also important to make sure parent's stick to the topics their child wrote about.  Why?  First of all, you don't want novels coming back!  The kids share these with partners and often with the class during Morning Meetings on Mondays.  I don't want the sharing to be too long.

Also, if parents are throwing in info about their vacation coming up or such, it gets the kids sidetracked AND the beginning readers won't know most of the words.  Then guess who has to read them all to the kids? :)

Since I include a letter in the front, it doesn't happen too often anymore.

Another tip I've garnered this year: if a child's parent doesn't respond, have someone else respond.  In all my years, this has never been a problem.  Until this year. I have had one parent who hasn't responded. The child also "lost" two journals . Since he never brought it back with a response in September/October, I found someone else the child writes to (after discussing with the child) and it's worked out well. 

Occasionally, I've had a child forget to bring it back on Monday morning and even the whole week!  It doesn't happen often but I'm ready if it does:  keep extra papers handy and have kids write a letter in school along with their buddies but insert it into their journals over the weekend. Simple!

I offer the packet in my TpT Store .(includes secondary handwriting lines as well as the primary ones shown here.)

While I always start mine in September, January seems like a good place to implement this super activity as well!   Do you have journals go home?  Any tips to offer me?  I'd love to hear them!


  1. I really like this idea! I teach second graders, so I may need to re-make the paper, but what a great thing to do on a Friday afternoon. Thanks so much for sharing this great idea!
    Second Grade is Out of This World!

  2. Go for it! You will be glad you did. My packet does have the other paper too but like I said, you can easily make your own! Good luck!

  3. That's a wonderful and authentic way to hit many different skills. I can see how the families would enjoy it too. Great idea and super tips!
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

  4. Thanks, Tammy! Another bonus is that my kids have the whole "friendly letter format" down pat between my morning message (2 posts ago) and this.

    Have a great day!

  5. I love this authentic writing! I need to figure out if I can make this work for my Title 1 classes. Thanks for the idea!
    Conversations in Literacy

    1. I bet you can! Modify a bit and you're good to go. Maybe have you photocopy the beginning of the letter and they write one sentence or draw a picture! Yes, why not draw a pic and label? Let me know what you decide. Good luck!

  6. Thank you for the reminder. I used to do this before and forgot about after teaching 5th grade. And you are right this would be a perfect time to start it up. I love seeing what they thought was going on during the week.
    First Grade by the Sea

    1. I must admit, sometimes I scratch my head and think,"Out of all the cool things I planned and worked hours on, you're talking about recess and what you did in art?" :)

  7. Wow this is super cute, I did it a few years ago, but I really like your set up and I think I will change my friday journal around. Thanks for the great ideas!

    First Grade Fun with Mrs. Dunn

  8. So glad the post was helpful! I'm always changing things up, too! Good luck!

  9. Such an amazing journal book. You can also check out these stylish Eco-Friendly Journals for your kids. The journals are made of eco-friendly papers and colors as well.


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