Parenting: Weekend Family Message Boards

October 4, 2011

Weekends may offer more time to connect with your youngsters to talk about school. But that's assuming you can get your elementary-aged child to give more than one-word answers.

A local teacher had a great idea that may spark the conversation. Sue DeMeglio of Penn Valley Elementary in Levittown, Pennsylvania suggests writing a weekend family message board or journal. Her idea is described in the new book "Parents and Teachers Working Together". It is a simple concept, but one that can keep you up-to-date with how your little one thinks, feels, and sees their school day.

Basically, you ask your child to write a 2- or 3-sentence letter to you every week, like the one at the top of this blog. Then over the weekend, you write them a short note in response, making sure to talk about the topics they brought up. The idea can be adapted for any age student.

Your child might write: "I played with Kelly at recess." "We played soccer and I scored a goal." "We are learning to make graphs." That type of short sentence, and your child can even make a drawing to go with it.

Then the parent's reply should be printed on the same type of lined paper and should be short and sweet. Something like this, "That's cool that you scored at soccer. Who else is on your team?" Or, "I saw your graph. I always liked making them too. What's your favorite thing about drawing graphs?"

For children, the journal gives them a chance to practice handwriting and staying in the lines. When they read your responses, their reading improves.

Sue suggests getting the book "The Jolly Postman" from your local library or bookstore before you start a journal to help explain to your child what a letter is and why people write them.

You can also give the child a checklist of what the letter should include: the date, a greeting "Hi mom," their signature, complete sentences, etc. It's helpful if your child writes the letter on Thursday, Friday or Saturday so that they have plenty of fresh experiences from the prior week to talk about.

Over time, the letters tend to get longer and more detailed. And they can provide a wonderful document showing a child's progression over the years. This idea gets a big thumbs-up from the International Reading Association and the National council of Teachers of English.

Hope your journal writing is fine, helpful and brings fond memories for years to come!

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