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Saturday, July 11, 2009

In a Million Words or Less...

One of my favorite beginning of the school year activities while in the classroom was actually a parent assignment. This voluntary task was done willingly by parents and gave food for thought for the entire school year. The biggest thing it gave was an inside view into the life of my students through the eyes of their first teacher...the parent.

The idea was discovered while taking a college course at the University of Montevallo. It was called, "In a million words or less" and consisted of parents being encouraged to write an essay (no longer than a million words) to tell the teacher anything they wanted them to know. What one might share about their child if you had the leisure of sitting with a cup of coffee and chatting.

The only preparation for the activity is constructing a letter of instructions to give to parents at Open House or at the early beginning of school. It is important to stress that this is an ungraded assignment and the content is more important than their writing expertise. To see a sample letter to parents, click here.

You can read the entire article here.

Excerpts from the article:
"Any teacher who is not currently doing this activity, or something similar, is really missing out," said Matt Dickendesher, who teaches at Sandusky (Michigan) Middle School. "It's a terrific way to learn about our students at the beginning of the year."

"I thought the activity was worthwhile for all involved -- parents, students, and myself. In fact, I even recommended it to other teachers," said Kate Geisen, who taught last year at Whiteside Middle School in Belleville, Illinois, and will start a new job this month as a kindergarten teacher at Whiteside Elementary. "I will definitely have use for this activity in kindergarten. It might be an even more valuable tool at that level."

Final note...
I recently ran into a parent of a former student and we discussed the essay he wrote about his daughter when she was in first grade. He said it was certainly a keepsake because he was able to record his thoughts and feelings about his child at that stage in her life. She is now going in the six grade and he plans to pass these words onto her. What validation to a child to see the thoughts of their parent.


At 11:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone tried this at the high school level? All of the comments I'ver heard are from middle school teachers.

At 8:57 AM, Blogger Pattie Thomas said...

You could be the first! Of course, not every parent will participate, but for the ones that do, the information will be rich and meaningful.

At 10:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

...and it would be great for their kids to see, at that age, how their parents feel about them...because sometimes teenagers forget that they're still mommy's little babies. :)


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