Recently, I read a tweet from a fellow district administrator:
This tweet made me reflect upon my own use of the traditional student planner when I was a classroom teacher. I taught primary grades – many of which included teaching the youngest learners – students in Grade 1. We had the typical student planners and used them in the typical manner. Students would write messages (which they copied off the board) at the end of each school day. Some students had a great deal of difficulty writing these messages at the end of each day. It was a lesson in frustration and perseverance for them there is no doubt. Of course, I would ease their pain by writing some or all of the message depending on their day and their level of frustration. I did not want this time to be difficult for my students, but I do believe, looking back, that it was difficult for some.
My sole purpose of using student planners was to continue the communication between home and school – to help parents have a window into our classroom, if you will. When I think back to the messages my students wrote each day and I reflect, I wonder how successful I would have been had this been my only method of communication to our families. In addition to the planners though, I had a classroom website which I updated regularly, a weekly newsletter written by students each day (which I would photocopy at the end of the day so the parents would see what we did during the week), and a monthly paper newsletter that went home as well. Furthermore, I was fortunate in my collaboration with another Grade 1 teacher and we would have parents come into our classrooms every few weeks to participate in our Family Literacy sessions. These sessions allowed them to become more comfortable in the school environment and learn literacy and numeracy strategies to help their children at home.
When I reflect on what my students wrote in their daily planners I am somewhat disappointed. There was no personal reflection. Much of what we wrote was teacher-directed. In fact, looking back, the messages were not all that meaningful. I would have them write things like: Gym tomorrow. Do home reading. OR Library tomorrow. Remember your library books. OR Hot lunch orders due tomorrow. OR … We had music today. Well, you get the idea. The messages were brief pieces of information, but nothing that really engage the parents. These messages didn’t give any real insight into what we were doing during the day. It is a good thing I didn’t rely on this as my sole method of communication because had I done so, my parents would be in the dark about a very large part of their child’s day.
Even though the use of planners wasn’t all that engaging for my student’s parents, I think they have possibility. However, if I were to have a classroom of students again, I would change the way I had my students complete their daily Planners. Instead of writing brief information pieces (which could instead be put on the classroom blog, tweeted out, sent via email or sent out using Remind 101 or another similar tool), I would have them write about what we did, their favourite parts of the day, questions they had, and things that would help engage parents in our classroom.
Think for a moment as a parent of a school-age child. What would you find most useful and engaging? Which would you find would help facilitate discussions with your child about their day at school? Which would help bridge the gap between home and school and make you feel more connected to your child’s day at school?
Old Message Examples
21st Century Message Examples
|We had music today.||Ask me about _____(famous musician or musical instrument).|
|Gym tomorrow.||We will be learning patterns in dance tomorrow.|
|Do home reading.||Talk to someone about a connection to the book you read at home tonight.|
|We learned about plants.||Did you know that plants need three things to survive? Ask me.|
|My best question I asked today was _____.|
|Ask me about a mistake I made today.|
|Today, I worked with ____, _____, and _____.|
So, while Hart (in the tweet above) questions the validity of student planners in the digital age we find ourselves, I still think they could have possibility IF they are used differently. Planners could be great for those quick daily reflections that students may not be able to do quickly on devices (yet, anyways – as we are not 1-1 in our district). If teachers want to involve their parents in their student’s school life regularly, there are many other, relatively easy, tools out there to help with this.
What do you think about the use of student planners?
Is there still a place for student planners in schools?
How do you use student planners and would you change anything? If so, what would you change?