June 28, 2014

Reader Spotlight: Lana

Hey! My name is Lana and I blog over at For the Love of Teaching. I am so excited to blog today here at My Carolina Classroom! Thank you, Kristin, for letting me!!

I have been a teacher for six years now, five of those being in fourth grade and one of those being in fifth grade. This coming year I will be teaching 5th grade Reading/Writing/Language Arts. I recently moved from South Carolina to Georgia so I will be at a new school!

Today I want to share you with something I've used all six years of teaching and something I feel very passionate about! My partner teacher is the one who introduced it to me and I really grew to love it! They are called Family Message Journals, or FMJ's for short.

A Family Message Journals is a notebook that students use weekly to write a letter to a parent/guardian. For homework, the parent/guardian writes a letter in response back to the student.

We always had a notebook that we dedicated as our FMJ at the beginning of school - a composition book works great. Last year the composition books we ordered didn't come in so we put paper in a folder - which I did not like. I definitely recommend an actual notebook. 

Each Wednesday, students wrote in their FMJ to a family member, preferably a parent/guardian, about a topic that we were studying. We did this during our Writer's Workshop time. They write a minimum of a paragraph about the given topic. Occasionally, I'd give them choices, but it's usually pre-selected.  For example, one week the topic was Reconstruction because that's what we'd been studying about. After the students finish their writing, I checked their FMJ's for accuracy and completion and place a sticker on the page, which is my sign that I've checked it. For homework, their parent/guardian writes them a note back.  I keep FMJ's until Wednesday when we write in them and once they turn them in, I keep them until the next Wednesday. *You can pick any day to do the FMJ. We just chose to do it mid-week. As you know, all students will not finish their FMJ's at the same time, so I always had a list of things for students to do when they finished.
I've had some parents love it and some hate it. I've even
had some NOT to write back and for those few cases, I let the student write to
someone in our school (me, assistant principal, guidance counselor, etc) and
they write back instead of the parent. I've only had that happen twice in six
years. Overall, most families really enjoy the FMJ's and think of it as a special thing between their child and them! As a parent, I would love it!
Here are some of the main reasons I like it as a teacher:

  • It's a great way to see how well students
    understand the given topic. I allowed students to refer back to their notebooks if they got stuck, but they had to write it in their own words.
  • It supports parental/family involvement. I've
    found that many parents want to know more/do more and this is a great way to do that.
  • It's a wonderful keepsake for parents to have
    a journal of the memories of their child in that grade. 
  • WRITING! Kids practice summarizing, explaining, and
    writing in a letter format weekly.
  • I can jot down notes in it as needed. I send
    home a weekly newsletter with information, but if something comes up, I can make
    a note in the FMJ.
  • Parents see the progression of their child's
    writing skills throughout the year.  Of course, the teacher does too!
  • You can write about anything! I always tied it into something  we were studying, but always incorporated all subjects throughout the year. We wrote about Social Studies topics, Science topics, summarized novels and short stories we were reading in class, and even talked about Math problems. Once we had students explain how they would solve a certain problem and the parents wrote back how they would've solved it. The sky is the limit when it comes to what to write about! Sometimes I'd have a certain topic and sometimes I'd give them 2-3 choices. It's totally up to you!
  • It can work in multiple grade levels! At my previous school, students in grades 3-5 wrote in FMJ's weekly.

Now, let's look at a few Family Message Journals. These photos were taken from my 5th grade classroom and the topic was Reconstruction. You can click on them to read them more easily.

I would love to answer any questions you may have about Family Message Journals! You can find me at my blog: For the Love of Teaching or you can comment here and I'll reply to you here!

Thank you again, Kristin, for letting me guest blog! 


1 comment:

  1. I do this same thing! We called them Friday Journals this past year. The kiddos wrote at least half a page to their family describing what we did during the week. I always loved reading what the parents wrote back! :)


Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input!