Organize one or more literacy events during the year. They can be held either during school hours or in the evening. Having family members gather for these celebrations is important as they reinforce so much of what we are trying to accomplish. These events create unity for the class and can be an opportunity to celebrate student achievement. They also help demonstrate to parents the many aspects of literacy learning. Finally, and most importantly, families may be encouraged to try some of these activities at home.
- Family Story Time- Invite family members to come to class for an informal story time. The celebration could be done in 30 minutes either before or after lunch so working parents may be able to squeeze in the visit during their lunch break. If you have a good turn out you may need a second room, such as the school library, to house everyone. The story time will involve the student reading to their family, a family member reading to them, and a short, shared writing activity. Have parents prepare in advance by bringing in one book that a family member (parent, grandparent or sibling) would like to read to their family. Specify that they will not have to read out loud to the class, this is just for their own family. If the student has a sibling in another class, try to arrange for that sibling to join you for the 30 minute celebration. Inform parents that book bins will be placed throughout the room so if they do not have a book they may choose one that day. The family will find a comfortable spot around the room and share their books together. When they are done, have a paper and markers ready and let them write words or phrases all over the page that describe how they feel when they read together and why they love books so much.
The benefits of this are twofold: making sure families are reading together and having them reflect on how special and important reading really is.
- Letter Writing Day- Bring back snail mail! Invite a parent or grandparent of each child to join your class during a mini lesson on letter writing. Have the student and family member write a short letter to a friend or family member who lives far away. Encourage them both to take turns writing. Provide postage, if possible and go on a walk together to the nearest mail box for the students to mail their letters. Make sure the adult knows the mailing address!
We often tell parents to have their child write for a purpose, like shopping lists and letters, but sometimes with hectic schedules they forget to get their children involved. This gives them some relaxed time to work on writing together for an authentic purpose. Explain that since the letter is to be read by someone else, spelling is important. While they are writing, here’s your chance to model spelling techniques you use in class. Have the students use word walls, spelling patterns and sounds previously taught, dictionaries ( if you’ve introduced them), etc. Parents will see that there are other options for helping their child spell, rather than just spelling out the word for them. Of course, when necessary, they can spell the word for them.
- Poetry Café- Have an afternoon (or evening, if possible) where students invite family members to a Poetry Café. Set the stage by asking everyone to bring their own mug and provide tea, coffee, and juice or hot chocolate for the students. Make the seating as casual as possible, allowing guests to sit wherever comfortable, just as the students do in class. Have a special stool or reading chair for reading from and give each student a chance to share one or two poems they’ve written in class.
This is a chance to share the wonderful pieces the children create. It can also be a time to point out that the students practiced revision strategies so that their work would sound exactly as they wanted. However, for this piece, since the work would not be seen in print but rather listened to, the focus on spelling was not the first priority. Not everything students work on needs to be corrected.
- Game Night(or Day) – Organize a fun and relaxed game event. Provide games that involve words, spelling, reading, etc. and/or ask families to bring in games that fit the criteria. Make it an event for your whole cycle and hold it in the gym or cafeteria. Perhaps you may even like to have the students work in groups (well in advance) to create their own games for sharing that night. Allow families to circulate among the game stations as they choose. Include math games to touch on other areas of your curriculum too.
A simple, fun night that encourages family bonding and a sense of community within the school. Moreover, it demonstrates how literacy (and math) skills can be acquired through fun and games, not just drills and memorization.
- Literacy Treasure Hunt- Plan a family treasure hunt hour. Depending on the size of the families (not everyone in the family may be able to attend) they can be grouped alone or in groups of two families. The groups can walk through the school (if not too disruptive) and around the school block. Provide a paper with the list of things to find. Be creative! From collecting tangible items like books, pencils, etc. to interactive things like ‘Find a person who can recite a poem to you. Have them sign their name below’. You can also add an alphabetical or acrostic type hunt by using the school name or a special word or phrase. For example, if your school is called Sunlight School, then write the letters S, U, N, L, I, G, H, T vertically on the page and have them find those letters in posters or signs that they see on their walk. ‘S’ could be found on a STOP sign and they can write that beside the letter S. Have prizes and snacks for everyone upon their return.
Another fun event that puts families and literacy at the forefront. Need I say more?
Acquiring literacy is an empowering process, enabling millions to enjoy access to knowledge and information which broadens horizons, increases opportunities and creates alternatives for building a better life.