Friday Letters Connect Parents to Your Classroom
Every parent wants to know what their child is learning and how they are doing in school. One fun and informative way to keep your parents connected to your classroom is through Friday letters. Every Friday my students write a letter home telling their parents and families all about their week at school.
Students return the letters to school where we file and save them. At the end of the year, I bind all of their letters into keepsake books for students to take home.
A Simple, Yet Powerful Tool
Friday Letters. Writing a letter every Friday to Mom and Dad. It’s such a simple little thing, but a powerful one. Besides cultivating a consistent connection between my students’ homes and my classroom, I learn a lot from these letters. They give me weekly insight into my students’ thoughts and feelings, excitements and anxieties, about school, their friends, what happens at home, and even how they feel about the food in the cafeteria.
Friday letters give me a window into things that my students may not tell me, but tell their parents. They afford me opportunities to see where I can quietly intervene or partner with parents to help a child socially, support them more emotionally, or even to celebrate accomplishments outside of school that I may not otherwise know about.
Skills At A Glance
is mastering and applying a variety of skills:
- writing conventions
- correct use of punctuation
- complete sentences
- writing the date
- use of transition words
- compound sentences
- vocabulary knowledge
Review The Format Of A Friendly Letter
At the beginning of the year, we review the format of, and how to write, a friendly letter. This is something our first graders learn, but I always spend time reteaching the purpose, the parts and the punctuation of a friendly letter. My goal is to get them started towards writing these letters independently.
What Can I Write About?
For the first few weeks, we brainstorm whole group and list on the board all of the things we learned and did during the week they could write about in their letters. Sometimes we make a big bubble map and sometimes we make a list. Sometimes we even make a tree map with the days of the week as the categories.
These are quick teachable moments to talk about the purpose of different graphic organizers and how they can help us plan our writing. Later, they will do this on their own in their writing journals. The one thing we always do the same every.single.week is to end our letters with a question. This gives the recipient a start to writing back.
Make Friday Letters Manage Themselves
This routine will manage itself after a few weeks of practicing the procedure. I train my class to file their letters all going the same way, behind their previous letter. They can do this when they first arrive or at the end of the day. I found this filing cart at a garage sale years ago and it’s been perfect for storing and saving students’ writing portfolios. A crate would work well also.
Each hanging file has a student number and a file folder (their writing portfolio) inside. The Friday letters go behind the file folder. At the end of the year I even have my students go through their own letters to make sure they’re set and organized before binding. If you don’t have access to a comb binder a heavy duty stapler works great too.
Flip Your Friday Letters
I’ve gotten many questions over the years about what to do when parents don’t write back to their child. I resolve that issue in two ways.
- I ask my student if they would like to write their letters and keep them all in their file, without sending them home, so they still have a keepsake book at the end of the year.
- I flip the Friday Letters and have students write to me. I write them back and they file the letters for their keepsake book. they have a book of letters to their teacher instead of to parents.
Flipping your Friday letters during school closures or school breaks is a wonderful way to stay connected to your students. Instead of writing to parents, students write weekly letters to their teacher. The free starter kit below includes a book cover that says, “Weekly letters to my teacher” if you need it.
But the Year Has Already Started
It’s easy to get started writing Friday letters with your class. You don’t have to start at the beginning of the year, you can start anytime. Just send home this parent letter explaining how it works and start writing!
Get a Free Friday Letters Starter Kit
Inside the starter kit:
- Ready to use parent letters
- Editable parent letters
- 6 Book covers-For letters written to parents/caregivers and letters written to the teacher.
- 3 Styles of book covers for younger and older students
- 6 Stationary pages in 2 line styles
- Graphic organizers
Where To Get Stationary
For more classroom ideas and management tips visit these posts:
Manage Meet the Teacher Like a Pro!
Where did you get all of the fun templates in the pictures? Thank you for including some with the pack! I’m so excited to start this!
The stationary I use is found in the books shown above in the post. They stationary/writing templates books are from amazon.
Hi there! I love this idea and as a first year teacher, I am excited to implement this in my classroom. Just one question- how do I edit the cover page to include my information instead of it being blank?
The cover is not editable but you can always type out your info in a font size that will fit the space. Trim around it and glue it to your master before you copy your covers.
I hope that helps and you have a fantastic year!
I did this last year for the first time and I loved it! My parents looked forward to reading them and responding over the week end. We started each Monday reading their letters from their parents. Then I collected and made them into a book at the end of the year. I color coded each month, so it was easy to keep the green Dec. all together. Kids loved seeing the growth from their first letter to the last. One of my parents favorite part of the year.
OMG! I love this idea for my 2nd grade class! Where did you purchase that rolling short file cabinet? I am obsessed with it.
Hi Chelsea! I found the cart at a garage sale. It was too perfect for the classroom to pass up!
Love the idea! Any suggestions on how to adapt for PreK?
To adapt Friday letters for PreK I would have your students draw a pictures showing something they enjoyed from the week. If they are able they may write words or a sentence to go with it as well as tell their parent all about what the picture depicts. Parents could write a response on the back and you could bind them all into a book.
I hope this helps and you have a wonderful year!
Hi! I’m wondering where you got that adorable file cart you used for your writing portfolios? I’m looking for something exactly like this for mine! Thanks in advance!
Hi Jamie! It looks like from you email address that you are in Mesa? I found that cart at Treasures 4 Teachers in Tempe. It’s an amazing warehouse for teachers. Membership is $35 per year and many many teachers and business donate to them. It’s an incredible place to find a TON of teaching resources, books, office supplies, filing cabinets and you name it for REALLY cheap. They have a huge free section too!
I’m new to your blog, I traveled her via Pinterest. Are you in Mesa as well? How is your year going?
Have you ever had students whose parents do not write back to them each week? If so, what have you done about it?
Yes, I usually have a few each year. What I do in that case is have the student write the letter and then rather than taking it home and risk it not coming back, I have them file it in the folder that each student stores returned letters in. I encourage this and make sure the student feels ok about it by telling them that we’re saving them all for a book at the end to surprise his/her parents. So far this has worked out well and then each student has letters for their book at the end.
I hope this helps and thanks so much for asking!
I have done this in the past and sent a book back and forth. Families really liked it! I like the idea of a single sheet of paper each week, filing and binding at the end of the year. I am looking for your affiliate links or titles of books from Scholastic where you get the letter paper/stationary from.
Thank you for you help,
Thanks so much for stopping by and asking! There are affiliate links to the Scholastic stationary books I use in the post above. I hope this helps and your class and parents enjoy writing Friday letters!
I love this idea and I think it would be a great way for my fourth graders to reflect on their week and what they have learned. I do have a few questions:
1. Do you set a time limit so it doesn’t take over your day?
2. How much do you edit and how do you find the time for that?
3. I assume the letters go home on Friday and students are expected to return them on Monday?
These are great questions! On Friday mornings our students take spelling assessments, turn in homework, I stamp reading logs etc. We then start our Friday letters. Depending on the time of year, it’s longer at the beginning, I take about 15-20 min. If students don’t finish, they work on them once they finish other work during the day. We edit a lot together at the beginning of the year and I model, model, model how to write a friendly letter. Later in the year, as students are writing I am scanning everyone’s letters. I also prep my parents at the beginning to praise improvements they see, correct spelling, punctuation etc. Of course not all do probably, but this helps also to motivate students to do their best. I don’t take a ton of time editing after about the first month. One of the things we do at the beginning is I create a chart with an example of a correctly written letter and hang that up all year. I have students look and the chart and check that they have written their letters in the correct format, check for punctuation, capital letters etc. It does take longer at the beginning but the dividends are worth it!
The letters go home on Fri. and are to come back on Monday. That doesn’t always happen of course, and that’s OK. I keep the file shown in the post above for them to file the letters once they bring them back. I teach explicitly how to file them in order so I don’t have to spend time organizing letters at the end before binding them.
I hope this helps and your class and parents enjoy the letters!
I used to do this with my second graders. I tried it with my kinders and it didn’t work so well but I really want to try it again….maybe this year. But something I did that I don’t see here is that the parents’ “homework” was to write back to their student. I had a little box at the bottom of the kids’ letters to write back.
Hi Michelle! Yes, I think Kinders would be to young for this, although maybe toward the end of the year. If you scroll to just under the first heading, you’ll see some examples and an explanation of how I have parents write back to their student on the back of the letters. My parents love having the book of letters at the end of the year.
Thanks for reminding me of something I did years ago. I love this!! I took a hiatus from teaching in the classroom and I’ve been back for a couple of years. My students LOVED their “go-home journals” when I was teaching in the 90’s. I downloaded your free link, but I would love to purchase the Scholastic letter template books. I can’t seem to find them! Thanks for providing this fun and valuable idea!
You’re welcome Suzanne, and welcome back to the classroom! Let me know if I can help you with anything!
I absolutely love this idea. It makes the kids own their learning too. My question for you is…. Do you edit the letter with the kids or send it as is? Thanks,Erin
I model extensively the format for writing a friendly letter for the first several weeks. My desks are arranged in groups, so I go to each group and have them check format, punctuation, complete sentences beginning with capital letters, correctly written closing etc. As the year goes on, I find I need to do this less and less for most students and there are weeks that I send them as is. As students are writing, I also quickly read what they have written as I gain so much insight from doing so.
I hope this helps, and thanks so much for stopping by!
I had my students write letters a couple of times a month. Sadly I had some students with only one letter or none at all for their book at the end of the year. I had the students write to each other so they would have at least one letter in their book. How do you handle it when they don’t bring any letters back during the school year?
That’s a great question and I’ve had it happen more than once. I include a couple of reminders in group parent emails explaining again that we will be saving and binding the weekly letters into a book to send home at the end of the year. If I still don’t receive letters back from any students after that, I have the student file the letters after they write them. That way we have them all or most of them. It is still a treasure for the parents whether or not they respond each week. Every family is different, and I have certainly been the mother, at times, that just can’t keep up! So, no judgement, I just save them for the child to take home at the end.
Another thing I do is to add a blurb occasionally in my class newsletters throughout the year reminding parents to respond and return the letters when they get a chance.
I hope this helps, and thanks so much for asking!
What a treasure for that child! I had a similar experience with one of my students. Her parents were so grateful to have the letters her grandmother wrote. It really is such a special project that means so much to students and their families.
I have students write on individual pieces of "stationary", rather than in a journal, and then take the letters home. The parents respond at home on the back side and read their responses to their child at that time. The students then bring the letters back to school where we file them until the end of the year. At the end of the year I bind each child's letters into a book. I hope this helps!
Hi! I love these journals and my teaching partner and I just started this year using them in our first grade classroom. We sent home our first letters, and noticed parents wrote really sweet, long, notes on the back… we were wondering how you manage reading the letters back to each student so they know what their parents responded each week. We are trying to figure out a good way to do this without taking too much time, but making sure those students who can't quite manage reading the responses themselves get to here what their parents wrote. Any ideas would be great! Thanks!
Such a wonderful idea to foster the home-school connection. Can't wait to start this with my kiddos!
I've been doing Friday Family Writing Journals for several years. A few years ago a student had several responses from her grandmother in her journal; the grandmother was very ill and passed away towards the end of the school year. The mother later told me what a precious keepsake that writing journal was for her daughter. We never know how what we do will touch a family. And for this reason I will always do Friday Family Writing Journals.
That's a great question! The answer is, absolutely! You can set up your system however you wish. I've been using Friday letters for about 9 years now and have never gotten push back from parents, but what I do is allow students to do whatever works for them and their families. I've had students every year who either have limited English proficiency or their parents do not speak English at all. In those cases students have done a number of different things. Some have written to older siblings, or grandparents, or even to friends or classmates. I've also had students who wrote to their parents each week and then we just filed them and bound the book to take home at the end of the year.
Two years ago I had a Vietnamese student who wrote to her grandmother each week. Her grandmother responded in Vietnamese after my student read and translated the letter to her. Her mother told me at conference time how much it meant to her grandmother to be able to do that and to be involved in her granddaughter's life at school.
So the answer is, yes! Make it work for your students.
I hope this helps!
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Do you ever get pushback from parents on this? I teach at a school that is fairly urban with parents who do not speak English or have other socioeconomic factors that may impact their ability to do this. Is the parent response optional?
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Hi Debbie and Venee!
I agree! Writing letters each Friday is really a great way to support their writing development and see their growth!
I love your idea Hope! Writing letters to their families has always been such a fun and rewarding experience for my class. I'm so glad to hear your families love it too! Thanks so much for stopping by and I hope the kit saves you some time.
I'm not sure what was going on with the document, but I have uploaded a new file link to this post.
Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and I hope your class enjoys writing Friday letters as much as mine does!
Have a great year!
This is adorable! I downloaded the Starter Kit but am having trouble putting my information on the cover page. It only lets me type one line of text. I can't press enter or use the arrow down key to add additional lines. Do you know what I am doing wrong?
Teaching With Hope
My kids and families love family journals! That's what we have always called them just because we don't always have time on the same day. We also have parents write back and return the journals each Monday. Before handing out the family journals I ask each student if they would like me to read their family's response and of course, they always do. It's so cute! I love how you have it all organized. This is really going to help me this year! Thank you!!
You’re welcome Hope! I’m so glad you found something helpful you can use in your classroom!
Debbie and Venee
We wrote to our families last year. Our kiddos are a split K/1 – their writing grew so much. I love how you end each letter with a question.