Adventures in Literacy Land: Parental Involvement

Showing posts with label Parental Involvement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Parental Involvement. Show all posts

Oral Storytelling with Families

Help to support oral language in the homes of your students.

Last month I wrote about our need to build oral language in order to support the reading and writing of our students.  We can do this in so many different ways: routines we establish, lessons that we plan, or the games we play.  But most of the language that students acquire comes from their homes.  How can we help to support families?


Engaging Our Students At Home

My winter break has officially started.  Woot, woot!  How about you?  It is a magical couple of weeks off that are filled with family, friends, food, and fun.  It is exciting, somewhat relaxing, and eagerly awaited; however, there is also be a hint of anxiety.

Why, you may ask?

It is two weeks off for me...but also my students.  We have worked hard over the past few months and sometimes two weeks off can impact the upward swing or momentum of our learning.  This ties right back in to the posts that we wrote about Summer Reading by Richard Allington and the need to have reading routines in the homes of our students.  These routines can help to prevent any sliding backwards.

And really this is (one) of our ultimate goals: Encouraging lifetime learners and lifetime (anytime) readers!
We want to light the fire in our students so that they WANT to read at anytime or anywhere.
In August, I had mentioned one way that I was going to try to light that fire in my students: through a Readbox.  Basically the idea was to roll out a cart everyday filled with books for families to check out with his/her student.  They read the book, return the book, and check out another book.  The hope is that families begin to establish more routines for reading when the books are high interest and readily available to them each day.  (If you want to read the full description of how we do it, just click on the image below).

It is now December and here is what we have found:
  • Our students ask for the box to be rolled out daily
  • Over 1,500 books have been checked out (in a school of about 200 students)
  • Most families are returning "customers" that come each day
  • Students are eager to talk about the books they check out
  • Students request books and book titles
  • There is excitement each time new books are added
 To us...this has been a success.

But two weeks without this routine, made me a little worried.  I still wanted those books in their hands.  I didn't want the routines to end!  So the Readbox is now in phase two.  And we call it...."Readbox at Home."  It is our way of engaging our students at home with high interest books and they get to listen to all their favorite teachers!

Here's what we decided to do:

1. We set up a YouTube channel and called it "Readbox at Home."

2. The teachers at my school have decided to videotape themselves reading a book either in their classroom, next to their Christmas tree, or maybe sitting by a fire.  Then the videos are uploaded onto our YouTube channel.

3. We passed out "business cards" and recording sheets to all the families in our school so that they would know how to access the videos at home.

KG fonts
I am nervous, excited, and eager to see if the families utilize the videos at home.  If we find it to be successful, it may become a new routine for the teachers and families!

Be sure to check back because Jennifer will have some more tips to get our students reading over the holiday break!


When Parents Ask: What Did You Do Today?

"What did you do today?"

I have heard about it from parents year after year.  I have heard about it from friends with kids year after year.  I have experienced it myself.  The dreaded answer to that question....


The child comes home from school and they have absolutely nothing to say about their day.  Was it boring?  Were they not challenged?  Are they unhappy at school?  What is going on?

 I think that having this conversation with a child is very important. It promotes:
  • reflection
  • retelling skills 
  • vocabulary
  • language skills
 But it can be very frustrating when you hear day after day the same response, "nothing."  So how can we help our students be more responsive when this question is asked and how can we help parents get answers.

Asking the Right Questions

Now that I have two school age children, I have received the dreaded answer several times.  "Nothing"... "I can't remember" or even "Mom, it is the same thing everyday!"  Okay.  I know that none of these are true.  So I had to change my questioning technique.

I still ask each day "What did you do today?"  But if I don't get the answer I want, then I probe a bit further. 
  • What book did your teacher read?
  • What math game did you play?
  • Who did you play with at recess today?
My questions are more specific.  And sometimes the newsletters that are sent home can help me with this.  That leads me to my next idea...


This may seem a little obvious because I think pretty much most/all teachers send newsletters to keep families up to date on what is going on in the classroom.  There are a few small things that we may be able to add to help our parents.
  • Specific book titles--this allows parents to ask questions about the exact book being read
  • Vocabulary words--this year I am including these specific words and asking parents to use them, too
  • Questions--last year I started listing some questions that parents could ask their students about the lessons that were occuring
  • Apps--I list one app or website that we will be using so that families can try it out as well
My newsletters are pretty short and sweet.  I try to make sure that I have a fair amount of white space so that they seem less overwhelming.  But I try to make sure that I put information in the newsletter that will provide parents with a springboard to conversations with their children.

Social Media

Another way to help our parents engage in these conversations is through social media.  This summer I learned about several teachers using Twitter and blogs to reach out to their families daily.  I really wanted to try this out and I decided to use the Remind app.

Remind is a free communication tool for teachers.  Parents can get the message through email, a text message, or the app.  It is very easy and quick to use.  The message can be a sentence or two, an image, or a voice clip. Once the account is set up by the teacher, parents choose to sign up for these notifications. 

With this app, I have been sending one image a day highlighting something that was done.  My hope is that this daily information will provide parents with information to ask questions about their child's day.   Here are some examples:

There are so many other apps and methods to this approach available to teachers; however, this one has been quick and effective for me this year so far.  I look forward to talking to parents at conferences about the impact that this has made on them.

 What do you do to help promote these conversations at home?


Parent Reading Volunteers

It's Jen from An Adventure in Literacy here to share an easy, no hassle way to incorporate parent reading volunteers in your classroom.

Last year in my class I had "Read with Me" volunteers. These volunteers would come weekly on scheduled days/times to listen to students read. Once I set up the initial schedule the program ran flawlessly for the rest of the year. The parents and students loved the program and it took very little work on my end. Here are some tips to incorporate this in your classroom.

1. Enlist Volunteers

At back to school night I shared this program and put up a sign-up sheet for interested parents to sign up. I listed times that I knew would be ok for students to be out of the classroom for a few minutes (literacy centers and intervention time). I also put a blurb about this in my newsletter for parents that didn't attend back to school night.

You can download a no frills editable copy here.

2. Make a Schedule

After signups I made a schedule and contacted parents. 

3. Train Volunteers

Many classrooms in our school were using parent reading volunteers so our reading specialist had a brief training for volunteers that shared tips for reading with children and helpful prompts to use.

4. Set up a Routine

I put the reading log sheets and a pen on a clipboard hung by my door. When volunteers arrived they took the clipboard, grabbed two chairs to put in the hall, and selected the first reader. After the first reader finished they told them who to send out next. Students brought their independent book boxes with them so they had familiar books to read. The students and parents knew what to do so it minimized distractions and I could continue teaching.

5. Be Flexible

I let the volunteers decide how they wanted to run their session with the child. Some would read a few books while others would focus on just one but have discussions after. Each volunteer seemed to add their own spin which was great because my students were getting different opportunities to work on different skills. I also let the volunteers know that if something came up and they were unable to attend it was not a big deal.

The read with me program was a huge success in my room and I was so amazed at how easy it was. If you're interested in starting something similar you can download a free copy of my student book chart and directions here.


Tips for Title I Night

Hello Literacy Land readers!  This is Wendy from Read With Me ABC.  For many of you October is the month for pumpkins, scarecrows, and trick-or-treating.  However, if you're a reading specialist, you may be thinking more about hosting your annual Title I Reading Night.

Today's post was written to offer you a few ideas for hosting a successful Title I night.

Pick the (Perfect) Night

Plan your event to coincide with another school event.  Many successful Title I nights are scheduled to occur right before another school event. This helps to ensure that the event is well attended.  For example, if the PTO is hosting Bingo in the gym at 7:00, then schedule your event for 6:00 or 6:30 in the library on the same night.  More parents are likely to attend if they are already planning to come to school that evening.

Promote it!

  • Ask for your event to be published on the school calendar.
  • Post the event in your school's monthly newsletter.
  • Send out "save the date" cards well in advance.
  • Be sure to include an RSVP on the actual invitation. This is helpful for two reasons: it asks parents to make a commitment, and it gives you a headcount for planning.
  • Send home a reminder on the day of the event.  Consider printing reminders on sheets of adhesive labels.  Affixing the labels to students' shirts is quick and effective.
  • If your school has the capability, send an automated telephone alert.

Provide Babysitting or Invite Students

Parents may have difficulty finding or paying for a baby sitter.  Many schools offer complimentary babysitting during the event.

Another option is to invite the whole family and make the evening a family literacy night.

Provide Dinner

Who doesn't like having dinner prepared for them?  By removing the stress of planning dinner, parents are more likely to attend.  Keep it simple.  Offer pizza and a beverage.

Choose a Fun Theme

Make your event sound too fun to resist.  ;)  Some ideas include a Literacy Luau, a Book Swap, and a Night of Family Literacy (NFL football theme).

Keep It Short 

Make sure your presentation is meaningful, relevant, and succinct.  This is especially important if children are invited.  Consider adding hands-on stations where more information can be provided.  At our most recent literacy night, we held a short presentation followed by three stations that parents and children could visit: make-and-take, literacy games (Boggle, Bananagrams, etc.), and technology (laptops and iPads).

Plan a Make-and-Take Station

Parents will appreciate bringing home activities that they can use with their children.  Students will enjoy the chance to be creative.  Some items you may wish to include: a ring with comprehension questions on it, sight word or vocabulary games, a non-fiction question cube, and a fluency jar.

Involve Parents

Ask a few parents to help with the night.  For example, you might consider asking them to oversee a Make-and-Take station.

Include Classroom Teachers

Ask classroom teachers for ideas for the Make-and-Take portion of the night.  There may be specific items they would like parents/students to have at home.  Invite teachers to attend and help with a station.

Offer Attendance Incentives  

Offer free tickets to an upcoming school event.  For example, give tickets for a free game at Fall Fair or a certificate for a free book at the Book Fair.

Purchase door prizes and hold a raffle for those in attendance.

Give favors for every Title I student present.  At my school each student who attended this year's event received a book basket, a clip-on book light, and the choice of a new book.

Best of luck with planning your literacy night.  I hope it's an overwhelming success!

Do you have a really great idea for hosting a Title I Night?  We'd love to hear from you!  Please share  your thoughts in the comments below.


Host a Book Swap

My school is always looking for interesting and engaging ways to get families into the school.  We have hosted chili cook-offs, mystery events, book making parties, and lots of writing celebrations.   When I saw some book swap ideas online, I decided that this would be a great way to get families into school and books into the hands of our kids.

But I wanted to try it out first.  So I invited friends, friends of friends, and family members over to my house this past week for a book swap.  All the children that attended were Pre-K to 2nd grade, which made for a nice variety of texts.

Let me start at the beginning...I had to think about the following questions:

How many books do you want each guest to bring?

What age range did I want to target?

Where was I going to put all the books?

How long do you want the swap to last?

What other activities do I want to have at the party?

Should I have snacks and drinks?

Next up...the invitation.  I wanted it to look like an old library card.  There is a great website that generates this image for you.  After I plugged in my information, it came up like this:

Then it was time to get started on the decorations.  My girls (4 and 5 years old) helped me make banners

The day of the book swap approached and we were ready!  When each guest arrived, they received a ticket for each book that they brought.  That helped me to know how many books that they needed to pick out.

Once all the guests had arrived, the books were placed on the "red carpet" (it was just a long sheet of bulletin board paper held down with golf tees!)

The kids sat down and looked through the books as they tried to decide which ones they wanted to keep.

Once the kids were done picking out books, we had a book mark station and ice cream!

The book swap ended with a picnic.  Each family set out a picnic blanket and enjoyed a meal together.  I have to admit, it went so well and the kids walked away so excited to have new books.  This would be a great edition to the literacy events in our school.

I decided to make a pack that includes all that I will need to host the event at school.  I am going to make it free for our Literacy Land readers for the day.


Working to Get More Books in Their Little Hands

Happy (almost) summer everyone!  Our year is coming to a close this week.  As I analyzed our assessments, reflected on this year, started looking ahead to next year, I was pleased with the progress my students made this year.  They worked hard.  I worked hard.  My team worked hard.  And we all know that some of that hard work "sails" away during the fun of summer. Each year I remind them to read, send home information about the library programs, inform families of other local reading programs, give them all reading logs, and try to provide incentives if they bring the sheets back.  But I felt like I needed to do more this year.

Let me explain...just a little.

Last month I wrote a post all about books that you could access for free online.  I loved this post because it is a great tool for me to use in my classroom and with my own little ones at home.  But most of my students are not read to at home (especially not in the digital form).  Many do not have books.  And it is sad.  Really sad.  But something that I cannot control.  So I have to, first, motivate them to want to read to themselves, a sibling, or a stuffed animal.  And, second, make sure they have books in their hands.

Here are some things I do to accomplish these goals.

Reading A-Z
I have some students that have made a tremendous amount of growth but need to continue that journey throughout summer.  So I made them HUGE stacks of books to take home.  They are leveled by their need and month of summer.  Each of their parents have been called to explain the importance of their child reading the leveled books over the summer.  I put each set in a cute bag for them to carry around.  My students have been asking for their sets of books each day.  Nope!  They have to wait until the last week of school :)

Books for All
We called a local organization called, Crayons to Computers, and asked if they would be able to donate books to our school.  They agreed (THANK YOU!!)  On the last day of school, each student will get to "fish" for a good book!

Reading Packs
Most of my students come to school not knowing their nursery rhymes.  And they love reading them with us, especially the "silly" versions by Bruce Lansky.  Each of our first graders will get all of the rhymes that we have read in a bright, yellow folder.  They are super excited to have them all in one place to read!  I have made one book of nursery rhymes.  It is in the pack below.  This pack will be FREE today, in case you want it for your students.

Winning Books
This week when the students in my building find a hot air balloon they can win a book!  We picked out the best looking books we had and displayed them in one of our glass cases.  When they find a balloon, they get to go to the glass case and pick out a brand new book to take home.  Super motivating!

Take Your Pick
 This is a bulletin board (original idea from Lesson Plan SOS) for each grade level in my building.  Students earn tickets each week.  They vote on the book they would like to win.  Then I choose 15 winners a week.  That is about 540 books I give away in one school year.

Motivation to read during the summer can be a bit trickier.  One thing that my building decided to do this year was throw a celebration during the last week of school.  Since we missed our typical Dr. Seuss celebration (due to testing), we decided to call it "Sail into a Seusstastic Summer."  The entire hallway is decorated with book covers, hot air balloons, and Dr. Seuss characters.  Each day students will do activities to motivate them to want to read this summer:

*Discussing WHY they need to read this summer
*Making lists (on a hat) of the different places they can sit and read this summer
*Encouraging them to read together this summer and share books (like a little book club)
*Writing summer "bucket lists" together that include reading

For more ideas about the reading over the summer:

Emily wrote about that "summer slide" a few weeks ago with ideas on how to slow it down.
Lori from Conversations in Literacy wrote a great post about mailing books to her students (oh! how I wish I could do this).
I love this post about a summer book swap.  This would be a great idea to host at the school one day over the summer.
This post at From the Mrs. includes a summer bingo game to motivate kids to read in different places.

What do you do to keep your kids reading over the summer?


Lighting up Learning Family Style

Looking for parental involvement ideas? Look no further. This post include five simple ideas that your parents will love.

School can and should be fun, and it should be a place where everyone is included in the process and welcome regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or level of education. Our school district's motto speaks to this, "Every Child by Name and by Need to Graduation", and educating our children takes a village.  Here are a few ideas from my fellow contributors that you might consider to help improve the home-school-community connection.