In the classroom, one of my favorite ways to maintain communication between home and school was through Friday Letters.
Friday Letters put the students in the driver seat of sharing what is important to them. By using their own words to share what was challenging and uplifting to them we can learn more about our students and have a more open line of communication between home and school.
At the beginning of the year, writing Friday Letters can often be quite the challenge! Students who aren’t used to writing might complain about their hand cramping up or that they don’t know what to write. With a little modeling and a lot of practice, students will soon be writing Letters that include details you never thought possible.
Friday Letters serve a dual purpose of encouraging students to write more and creating an open dialogue between home and school. The audience for Friday Letters is so clear it often makes it easier for students to decide what to write.
So What Do You Include In a Friday Letter?
Friday Letters are open to whatever you would like to include but, providing students with a specific framework will increase their success rate and make them feel more confident in their writing.
Every Friday Letter does include some non-negotiables which are the parts of a friendly letter. Including a date, a greeting, the body of the letter, a closing, and a signature.
Within the body of the letter, you can include different ideas for students to write about. I like to leave this kind of open-ended so that students can decide what is important to them. Instead of requiring students to write the exact same thing every week I provide them with a bulleted list of ideas they can include.
- What is something you want your family to know about from this week?
- What is something you wish we would have done?
- Have you faced any challenges?
- What do you want to know more about?
- What is a goal you have for yourself in the classroom or at home?
- Is there something you would like help with?
- What is something you want to make sure you never forget?
For students who need a little more support, I provide sentence stems they can use to elaborate upon. At the beginning of the year, their letters might just look like a few sentence stems they completed. By the end of the year, it flourishes into complete paragraphs with detailed thoughts about their week.
During my years in the classroom, I received more positive feedback about using Friday Letters to communicate with parents than any other form of communication including weekly newsletters typed up by myself as well as personal emails to families.
The fact that Friday Letters are written by students instead of me allows them to be more personal. When families have a question they can ask me about it directly. The letters also give both families and me more specific information about their own students’ learning.
So When Should You Write Friday Letters?
I prefer to carve out some time at the beginning of the day on Friday, even during morning work possibly.
By writing the letters in the morning students were able to have a bit more time to complete them throughout the day when needed. This also gave me time to read them over.
Taking the time to read students’ letters each week allowed me insight into their week through their own eyes. I learned so many intimate details about my students’ thoughts about our classroom and their learning through these letters. The letters also allowed me to get out in front of any issues that may be developing either academically or socially.
Students shared very deep thoughts about their lives in these letters that they often would not share with me verbally. By reading the letters, it allowed our connections to grow deeper and me to get to know my students better.
How Long Do Friday Letters Take?
I am not going to lie, at the beginning of the year, Friday Letters took a really long time. On average the first couple weeks of letters took about an hour. Throughout the year though, the process got more and more fluid. Students were able to complete them on their own in about 10 to 15 minutes.
By providing students with the support of sentence stems and ideas to write on they were able to unblock their writing block and get to writing on their own. As student confidence grows in writing their letters they were able to expand upon the ideas and write more personally.
When Should You Get Started on Friday Letters?
I would encourage you to start Friday Letters the very first week of school. By including it in the routine from the beginning, your students will know it is part of your classroom community. It is also important they know the letters serve as a connection between their home life and school life.
If the school year has already started, don’t feel like you have to wait until next year to do it. You can start Friday Letters at any point in the year, just know that you will need to do some front loading in order to make your students feel successful while using them.