Friday, September 16, 2011

Partnering with Parents - Week 2

We're continuing our guests posts about partnering with parents that we are hosting here at Teach Mentor Texts. Kellee and I are ecstatic to get some ideas for our own teaching as well as to share ideas from some of our most respected colleagues with you. Today's guest post comes from Haley, am 8th grade English teacher from Ohio! A big round of applause for Haley! Haley tweets at @hale27storm. Thanks for sharing your ideas with us!

       I recently had open house at my middle school. When I passed out my supply list, my parents commented on how little they needed to purchase.

“We don’t need glue sticks? Or markers?  Or a three-ring binder with 5 pocket dividers, each in a different color?”

Nope. I don’t require any of those items.  For my class, the only tools necessary are what students need to read and write: pencils, paper, and a public library card.

The supply list initiates a conversation about how parents can help their students with reading and writing.  The first thing I introduce is the classroom blog. When I got the idea to blog about books four years ago, it started as a tool for posting book reviews. It quickly evolved into so much more. Before I knew it, students were posting links to articles about books, pictures of newly released book covers, and interviews conducted with their favorite authors. I knew I needed to capitalize on this enthusiasm. I sent out an email to parents, inviting them to also join our blog. Soon, parents were posting book recommendations! This began a dialogue between parents and students. I loved that the parents would comment on students’ posts, even if they had never met face-to-face.  I leave all my old blogs up, and students have continued to post on them, years after they’ve left my classroom.

An added bonus to the blog was an increased interest in the books students were choosing. As parents began to see and hear what their students were reading, they started wanting to read the same books.  This presented a problem because I generally have only one copy of a book in my classroom library. So, working with the librarian, I started to send two books home-one for the student to read, and one for their parent to read.  Organic conversations about books began to occur at home because parents and children were reading the same book.

One sign-up sheet at my open house that almost always gets filled is the one for guest book talkers.   I ask each parent to commit to a one minute book talk. Their book talk could be recorded, given live in class, or via Skype. The students’ reactions were priceless when they discovered their best friend’s mom was reading Divergent.

In addition to the strategies above, I occasionally form book groups because some of the most popular books in my classroom library have been made into movies. As trailers started to appear on television, students wanted to check out books like The City of Ember, Hoot, Twilight, or more recently, The Notebook and I Am Number Four. If I had a large group of students reading the same book, I organized a Family Book Night. Parents and students (and sometimes, aunts, siblings, and grandparents) who read the book would meet at the school. We would discuss the book, play some trivia games, then go to the movie theater together, to see if we liked the movie just as much as the book.

       I’ve learned the more social I make reading, the more parents and students become involved in reading.  

Thanks, Haley! I agree that reading itself is a social activity! While it doesn't always seem that way, it's true that readers seem to enjoy sharing books and connecting through books. What a great idea to capitalize on this and to give your students some different opportunities to share books with others. I love how you include not only parents but other family members! Stop back next week for more awesome ideas for partnering with parents!


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