Friday letters are mine and my students FAVORITE part of the week. Whenever students start telling me a story and I can tell we might not have time for it, instead of telling them to tell me later and we don’t get to it, I tell them that I cannot WAIT to hear about it in their Friday letters!
What is a Friday Letter?
You might be asking yourself, what IS a Friday Letter? Well, each week I have my students write a letter to me about their week.
What to Write About?
I always keep a generic list on the board of things that they can write about (grab it free!). This way, it is clear and consistent each week. However, I also often add different topics that I want them to write about.
At the beginning of the year, it’s often “tell me about your family” or “tell me a story about you and your best friend.” But, by the end of the year, we talk about deeper things, like “tell me how you can make the world a better place” or “what are you hopes and dreams for second grade” or I base it off of what I have been told in my letters.
You would be surprised at what students will put in writing that they will be too scared to say aloud. I sometimes get “I am lonely and don’t have many friends” which provides me with the knowledge to watch out for that student, the ability to connect that student with similar students, and the ability for me to write advice for that student on ways he or she may be able to solve that problem.
I also allow students to ask me any questions they want (within reason). But they key to Friday Letters is to WRITE BACK or RESPOND in some way. You do not have to write back to every kid, every time, but students want to know they are being heard.
The Importance of a Reply
It is as simple sometimes as making a comment to that student about what you have read in their letter. Or, you may choose to write back to 3-5 students a week, and rotate on who you write back to.
Personally, my students know I will only write back if it is well written, legible and has all the parts of a letter. I also always type my letters back, to save time, and I only write back as long as the letter was. If it is a short letter, it is a short response. Longer letters get longer responses.
Usually, I find myself writing about 15-20 letters back per week, which when I am typing takes me about 30-40 minutes. I try to keep track of who I have and have not written back to, so that I can write back to each kid at least once a month, if they want to be written back to.
The Impact it Has
It seems like a lot of time, but for my class it is SO worth it. It is a great way to get to know the kids, to see what kids like and don’t like about school, and to learn new things that you would never know about kids. Some kids always want to write about football and superheroes, while other kids just want to ask all of the questions in the world. Either way, it is so fun and funny to read what they have to say!
What to Write On
I just have my students write on notebook paper, they turn their letters in Friday, and I return them on Monday. We do not have a specific time to work on their letters, but they know they can do that as early finisher work or during workshop time. I staple my letter back to the top of their letter, and then they write a new letter the following week.
Another option is to keep a notebook and have students write in one page, and glue or write your response on the next page. Personally, I do not want to have to take that many notebooks back and forth from school each week, but you have to do what works for you!
Other teachers in my building have also used this system for students to write to parents rather than teachers, and then the parents write back in a notebook all year long. I think this is great for goal setting and to keep parents connected with what is happening in a classroom. I could also see this working well with a fifth grade buddy classroom, or other peers.
Friday letters have truly changed my classroom community, and I hope they help yours too! What questions or comments do you have? Drop them in the comment section below!