Increase parent awareness about early literacy learning while fostering student development in reading, writing, speaking, and media literacy.
- Promote reading daily. Send home leveled readers, library books, poems, song lyrics, anything you can get your hands on and share with your students. We learn to read by reading. This is most evident when we read texts that are at an appropriate level for us. Also, children are never too old to be read to and they are provided such a rich experience when they listen to stories that are beyond their reading level, but not beyond their comprehension level.
- Regularly provide homework that practices a reading strategy used in class*. When working on the comprehension strategy of retelling, tell the children that after reading or listening to their book tonight, they must retell what the story was about to their parents. When working on vocabulary, have the student and parent each pick out one interesting word from the text and share why they chose that word. We need our teaching of reading strategies to be explicit so that parents are not doing things like covering pictures when their child needs them, or repeatedly saying, “Sound it out” when they could say, “What word would make sense here?”
- If you are teaching the students that there are three ways to read a book (read the words, read the pictures, retell a familiar story, [Boushey & Moser, 2006]), share this with the parents. On library day, when the children may be taking home an unfamiliar book, have them read the pictures to their parents first. Then the parents can read the story aloud and together they can have fun comparing the two versions. Find simple opportunities to add bits of your philosophy of reading and writing into homework.
- Foster conversations that will promote literacy and demonstrate what is being covered in the classroom*. ‘Today we read the story Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts. Tell your family how the book made you feel.’ Or, ‘During our assembly today we watched a skit created by the cycle three students about bullying. Talk to somebody at home about the ideas you got from the skit.’ From grand moments like field trips to little incidents like a bee in the classroom (that initially seem like a huge disruption but could spark a writing workshop!)- embrace them all and provide opportunities to talk about them.
- Take (or draw) a picture of your favourite place to read (or write) at home*. What do you like best about it? Is there anything you wish you could change? Talk to your family about this special spot. Write about your special place to share with the class. We need students and parents to be more aware of the places they spend their time doing literacy activities; how those places make them feel and how well they can work in those places.
- Share phonics and grammar work in a fun way. ‘This week we are learning about compound words. With a parent, write a list of as many compound words that you can think of. Decide together your favourite word and circle it so that you can add it to our class list tomorrow.’ Or, ‘Find three objects in your house that start with the ‘br’ blend. Draw a picture of the items and label them so you can add them to your ‘blends’ book.’ I’m not knocking worksheets completely, but making the learning hands-on will resonate better with the kids and the parents will still see that you are covering the basics. Once parents know what you are doing, they can continue with these fun activities at home and feel good about using these new, quick, educational games with their children.
- Explore media literacy at home. ‘This week, take a walk or drive with an adult and notice the street signs, building signs, and advertisements. Discuss which signs were new for you. What do all these signs mean? Which signs look most interesting? Draw (or take a picture of) your favourite sign to share with the class.’ Turn TV viewing into homework – they’re going to watch it anyway! ‘This week, watch an age appropriate cartoon with a parent. Pay special attention to the commercials. Why do you think there are so many toy commercials during your show?’ This kind of homework opens dialogue about issues families face daily. It also encourages critical thinking and promotes media awareness. Sometimes, in the younger years, parents may not think to discuss these issues with their children. You may surprise a few parents at how reflective their children can be.
Boushey, Gail and Moser, Joan. 2006. The Daily 5: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades. Portland, ME. Stenhouse Publishers.
*Ideas adapted from Kathy Collins at www.choiceliteracy.com/public/1669.cfm
I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.
~Lily Tomlin as "Edith Ann"