Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Friendly Letter

One of the most powerful things we do in my fourth grade classroom is correspond through a dialog journal. The year starts with me writing a letter to my incoming class over the summer telling a little bit about me and what’s to come in our year together. The children then have an assignment, due on the first day of school, to write back to me relating what they’ve been up to over the long break.

For the next ten months we write back and forth, usually once a week. The children can ask me anything they want and I will answer. These written conversations are private and confidential. The students can tell me anything that’s bothering them. They tell me when a classmate is preventing them from getting their work done, a pet dies, or a sibling is annoying them. I try to give them strategies to deal with these sorts of things. They also tell me about their accomplishments, what sports they’re playing, or what dances they’re preparing for an upcoming recital.

The best thing about the dialog journal is the personal attention I can give each student. This is important to me because I want my students to know I care about them as individuals, something I didn’t have when I was in school. I felt invisible throughout my formative years; as if my teachers didn’t even know I existed. I certainly never felt like a teacher’s pet.  As a result, I didn’t feel important or valued. When I became a teacher I vowed that would never happen to any of my students, if I could help it.

As another school year comes to a close, I enjoy flipping through the dialog journals as a way to revisit our journey together. I know more about the lives of my students outside of school and they know more about mine due to our written conversations. They make me laugh! Some bring tears to my eyes. Soon it will be our last day together and as we celebrate our achievements I will hand back the journals one final time for the children to take home. Some children, I’m told, hang onto them for years to come, treasured memories of our time together.

Did this trigger any memories for you? Please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

1 comment:

  1. I had to ask permission to read the journals when they came home, and I was given access to these wonderful letters. It's a wonderful concept, a window of opportunity, an experience like no other. I know my daughter benefited so much with this dialog with you! THANKS!