Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Take Home Literacy Packs: A Great Way to Involve Families!

Every year, many teachers worry endlessly about how to develop a trusting relationship with the families of the students in their classroom, and how to get them involved in the classroom.

There are so many ways to give families an active role in their child's education; they also become a partner with the teacher throughout the school year.

For example,
  • Invite them to do a read aloud for the students in the classroom;
  • Encourage them to chaperone field trips;
  • Have them share their jobs with the students to model real life experiences;
  • Create a blog that is updated weekly with helpful resources and news;
  • Get to know the interests of the families and integrate their ideas into the curriculum if possible (such as a parent who is interested in sustainability helping out during a sustainability unit);
Of course, to get parents participating in the classroom you must communicate, communicate and communicate some more! Keep your interaction meaningful and pleasant; families may become embarrassed and frustrated if they feel that too much is expected of them.

A great idea for incorporating family participation in the classroom without having them come into the actual classroom is to send home literacy packs throughout the year. A literacy pack is usually a a file that includes several books and activities on a certain topic that can be enjoyed by families and their children. It is extremely easy to use because all of the materials have been premade with directions.

Recently, I created a take home literacy pack for the topic "Counting and Numbers". It is extremely easy to make and can be reused throughout the year again and again. It doesn't have to be elaborate, all of the items are inexpensive.

For this literacy pack, I have used a expanding file folder to hold the books and activities. Included inside are:

  • 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo by Eric Carle
  • One Too Many by Gianna Marino
  • Bag of colored popsicle sticks
  • Bag of assorted "creatures" (for use with paper cups)
  • 10 paper cups, labeled first, second, third, etc. 
  • Number cards
  • Number-Word cards
As you can see, there are many materials for use at home. Families can easily use the literacy pack with their child and be assured that they are helping them learn critical skills; they have a powerful role in their child's education and this should reflect in their communication with the teacher because they have taken the time to prepare materials and include families in their child's learning. Not only parents can use this pack; other family members, such as siblings, can also easily do these activities.

So, what activities can be done with this pack? Ideally, there should be an index card with each bag in the folder that tells families how to use the materials, and a letter to the family in a folder/journal explaining the purpose of that particular literacy pack and how it will help their child.
  • Read the books together;
  • Use the popsicle sticks to make different shapes. Increase the number of sticks each time and discuss what shapes are made and how many sides it has;
  • Arrange both the number and number-word cards in order (1-10);
  • Count the "creatures" by twos, fives, and tens. Free play with the items and make up a counting or number game;
  • Play a guessing game: Line the cups from first to tenth and hide a "creature" under one of the cups. Have the child guess which cup has the "creature" by using first, second, third, etc;

    While I have chosen two counting books that I enjoy, any books can be used. Some other excellent counting books are More than One by Miriam Schlein, The Icky Bug Counting Book by Jerry Palotta, Over in the Meadow by Ezra Jack Keats and Anno's Counting Book by Mitsumasa Anno.

    1 comment:

    1. Great post full of examples and suggestions. The one suggestion that caught my eye was recommending that parents should read aloud to the class to involve and introduce themselves. Where as reading to a son or daughter seems to help the bond amongst them grow, reading to a child's classroom does a couple of things. It adds an extra connection with a son/daughter, the teacher, and the classmates. Reading is an easy way to show these people who are important to you and your child that you care.