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Alicia Harman


"It was my experience as both a mom and teacher that gave impetus to my idea for the letters to home," Alicia Harman told Education World. "Those dual roles have shown me the importance of open lines of communication between home and school, and who better to be the communicator than the student?"

Teacher-in-training Alicia Harman trys out her "letters to home" activity on kindergartners in her Sunday-school class. [Photo provided by Alicia Harman]
Though teachers can send home weekly newsletters with class information, Harman thinks it also is beneficial to explore the student's view of his or her learning experiences. In her writing activity, kids share what they have learned academically during the day, as well as any other events that might be important to them (especially happenings that impact them emotionally or socially) in the form of a friendly letter to their parents or caregiver(s). The activity is an exercise completed at the end of each school day.

"With my own children, I always feel like Im pulling teeth to get the slightest details of their school life," explained Harman. "When something is bothering them, that feeling is tenfold. The notes home serve as both informational update and outlet for emotion."

With three children -- seven-year-old Zachariah, six-year-old Alexander, and Jacob, who is 18 months old -- Harman has been involved in education for years. She currently is completing her training in elementary education at York College of Pennsylvania and will do her student teaching in January. Her letter-writing activity was created for a course project. Harman, who lives in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, says that she is constantly planning her future classroom as she observes and works with students in other classroom settings.

If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected].
"This activity was designed to bring the lost art of writing letters back to life, as well as to keep parents informed about what their children are experiencing for the eight hours they are away from home," said Harman. "Kids love when parents take an interest in their educational life, and in an age when time is a precious commodity, these notes cross two hurdles with one leap."

Harman adds that teachers can easily adapt the letter-writing activity to fit class schedule and format. Perfection need not be the goal. Those personal letters to parents are a starting point for discussion about the day, as well as the stuff of memoirs and memories.

"My suggestion for teachers wishing to try the exercise would be to initially focus less on format and more on content," she stated. "Just let the kids write, and be glad for every word! Grammar and structure can come later."

Article by Cara Bafile
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