Homework and Family Involvement
~bringing school and home together

Reading at Home & Sharing ~ For me, reading logs didn't work. Kids wrote down things they did not read, and parents often signed-off without even checking to see if the child read the material listed. It was a "school game" - something done for school because we have to. Instead, I had children read for a minimum of 30 minutes every night (3rd grade) and they met with a partner the first thing in the morning to talk about what they read. My goal was to get kids to love to read. No written work, no grades. They did not have the same partner everyday, but instead just chose someone when they walked into the classroom. They had 10 minutes to find a partner and discuss what they read. At times I would have to help someone find a partner, but not very often. I would listen in on discussions, and ask a question once in a while -but it was purely share what you are reading. They were encouraged to make notes as they read so they wouldn't forget what they wanted to talk about (I assured them I would often forget if I didn't have notes -sometimes just a character's name and 1 word to remind me).

After the 10 minutes we would gather at the carpet for sharing. I would randomly choose someone (names on cards) and I would have them tell the class what their partner had to say today. This taught them to really listen to what their partner was saying. I would choose 2 or 3 students to share, and an additional student if someone was dying to say something.
Great things that happened... kids got excited about reading! They formed book groups (2-4 kids reading the same book and meeting in the morning to talk about it). They read books that other students had talked about. Most (about 14 of 18) kept some kind of notes -I had provided a spiral journal for each student.

I did provide a list of "Thinking About Reading" ideas for discussion (glued onto the inside front cover of their journal) and parents were thankful, and used them with their child. The students used the list often in the morning during discussion time. This was the only homework and the parents knew that. ~ ~ Jan Goularte

 Children Teaching Parents ~ Try having students explain and teach something they've learned in class to someone at home, and have the adult write something about how the lesson went. ~~ Becky Schaller
 Stump the Adult ~ This is a great game for students to play with mom or dad or any adult, to try to outsmart them. To play the game, use any set of ten objects in the house, like ten toy cars, ten video boxes, ten silverware items, ten pieces of jewelry, ten socks, ten toys, ten stuffed animals, ten pens and pencils, or ten of anything you can think of. Sort those ten objects into two groups. One group will follow a rule, and the other group will not follow the rule. For example, you might have ten toy cars and three of them are red. You could put the three red ones together in one group (follows the rule) and the other seven in another group (doesn't follow the rule). Once the items are sorted, the child has an adult see if they can guess the rule. The student should write down what they sorted, how they sorted them, and who won, and have the adult sign their paper. ~ Renee Goularte
Friendship Quilts ~ One year we did a quilting unit in December (focusing on literature, geometry and culture). One thing we did was send a 12 x 12 inch square of white paper home with an envelope containing construction paper scraps, markers and glue and asked each family to design a quilt square for our "Friendship Quilt." Then each student helped to explain the square design and their explanations were recorded and displayed by the paper mural quilt we created. ~~ Lori Jackson
 Reading at Home ~ Kindergarten ~ When my kindergarten kids take a book home to read, they are asked to read it to three listeners. (It is fine to read it to the same listener three times if no one else is there to listen.) I keep the returned slips with the book title, child's name and the signature of the three listeners. ~~ Devon Hamner
 Reading at Home & Place Value ~ I had my kindergarten students read at home and return a simple reading log each Friday. The log had a place for the title and number of pages. As part of our circle time each Friday, we would use base ten blocks to count how many books students had read. We passed a bin of "ones" around the circle and students would refer to their logs to count out blocks and put them in the counting bin (a plastic container). When finished, we would dump out the blocks and trade sets of ten "ones" for "ten sticks" and finally we would count out the total together and I would write the "grand total" on a 3x5 card and tape it to the container. The container stayed near the calendar so students could count and recount the blocks during the week. ~ Renee Goularte

Reading at Home with Fractions ~ As part of reading at home, I have my students log the time they read in fractional parts of an hour. When they return their logs on Friday, we work as a whole group to add up the total amount of time read. At the beginning of the year, depending on grade level and student ability, we use pictures to add up the parts, categorizing the time as fourths, thirds, or halves of an hour. Eventually, we shift over to using numerical fractions rather than pictures. This is a great way to introduce fraction addition with both like and unlike denominators, as well as mixed numbers. These are the directions students receive on their logs:

- Read fifteen minutes or more every day.
- Log the amount of time you read, in fractions.
15 minutes is 1/4 hour -- write "1/4"
30 minutes is 1/2 hour -- write "1/2"
20 minutes is 1/3 hour -- write "1/3"
1 hour is written as "1"
-Thursday homework:
-- add up the number of hours you read
-- write the total in the box
-- Example:
If you read 1/2 hour every night, add
1/2 + 1/2 + 1/2 + 1/2 + 1/2 + 1/2 + 1/2
- Turn in the log on Friday.

~ Renee Goularte

 Home/School Journals ~ I have been doing Home/School Journals for four years in second grade. The parents and children love these journals. I buy those hard cover black and white Mead Composition books with 100 sheets of paper. Each week on Friday the kids write a one to two page letter to their parents. They write about things that have happened in school or home. The kids take these journals home over the weekend and then the parents write back to them. On Monday morning I have a list of names near the basket where these journals are kept so the kids can cross off their names when they return their journal. This list helps me to keep track of which journals are missing so I can send a friendly reminder to parents to return their child's journal. The letters that the parents and kids write back to each other are very touching. ~~ Mary Bencini

School/Home Communication

Parent Center ~ I have a parent center on top of my file cabinet with a little sign that says Parent Center. It has a few books for them to read, and a post office box and envelopes and paper and a place for visitors to sign with comments or questions. I also have in my Science Center work parents have done with children. They come from Laura Chandler's book Science Buddies, which I love. I think I am going to change the sign in to a parent wall where I will ask for comments and notes to the students about things
they saw. ~ Pat Kimathi
Student-Written Monthly Newsletters ~ At the beginning of each month, choose a group of students to publish a newsletter about the classroom, with a deadline for the end of the month. Meet with the students to decide who will report on what, and create a timeline for completion of work. Possibilities include interviews with other school staff, curriculum reports, special classroom news, and student illustrations. Have a parent volunteer do the photocopying. ~ Renee Goularte
Weekly Newsletters ~ A relatively easy way to keep parents informed about what's happening in class is to create a template and jot down a few notes at the end of each day about something special that happened that day. Then, on Friday, it's ready for a parent volunteer to make copies for each student to bring home. ~ Renee Goularte
Involving Parents in Planning ~ We mailed a letter home during the holiday break (I team teach a multiage 1/2 class) to remind our students of the unit we'll be starting when they come back--we asked them to talk about the topic with their families while they were enjoying the last few days together and brainstorm fun activities and directions to go with the unit. This way we tried to involve parents (as well as how we usually involve the kids) in the planning process for each unit we do. ~~ from Jo Hoffman, Clinton, NJ

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