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Lesson Plan

Have Journal...Will Travel: Promoting Family Involvement in Literacy

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Have Journal...Will Travel: Promoting Family Involvement in Literacy

Grades K – 2
Lesson Plan Type Recurring Lesson
Estimated Time 5-7 minutes per session
Lesson Author

Devon Hamner

Devon Hamner

Grand Island, Nebraska


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Instruction & Activities

Topics Iíve Used Successfully

Tips for Success

Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • share a carefully chosen book with their families, reading it together.

  • discuss the book and its journaling topic with their families.

  • complete the journal entry with their families.

  • return the journal to share with the class.

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Instruction & Activities

  1. Introduce your mascot and let him/her visit the classroom for a few days. Take him/her on a tour of the school, including attending music class, PE, etc.

  2. After about a week, tell the students that your mascot would like to meet their families too and will be coming home to spend the night at their houses.

  3. Carefully explain your procedure and expectations for the visit. Show them the bag and its contents. Set a tone of expectation for the visit, the book, and the journaling. Share your mascotís visit to your home and the fun you had. (I do the first journal entry with my family, using pictures and words to tell about our visit.) Continue this discussion for several days before starting the first rotation to be sure expectations are understood.

  4. Choose a child to take the bag home first. Review the process for what to do at home with the book and journal,and when to return the bag.

  5. When the child returns the bag the next day, be sure to let him/her tell about the experience and share his/her family journal entry. Clap for the child and his/her family! Let your mascot whisper to you about the fun they shared at the childís house.

  6. Choose the next child to take home the bag.

  7. Continue until every child has had a visit. Then bind the journal entries into a classroom book.

  8. Ask students to create a book cover or dust jacket for the class book using the Book Cover Creator. The tool does not include an option to save the work, so be sure that students do enough planning that they will be able to complete their covers in one session.

  9. Select a new topic, book, and journal project, add blank pages for the journal, write a new letter, and start again.

  10. Invite students to help you write the letter that accompanies the bag on its next rotation. Display the Letter Generator, using an LCD projector, and ask students to suggest information to add to the letter. Once the letter is composed, print it out and add it to the bag.

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Topics Iíve Used Successfully

  • How did you feel on your first day of school?

  • What is a favorite memory that you have as a family? A special holiday? A vacation? A new baby? Write and tell us about it. Draw a picture to go with your story.

  • What is a special tradition in your family? Do you celebrate a special holiday or does your family get together on a certain day for a special meal? Some traditions come down to us through our families and represent traditions from other countries or cultures. Sometimes a family starts a new tradition that is and will be special for them. Tell us about one of your family traditions and draw pictures or send photographs to help us learn about your tradition. Maybe some of the people from your family would like to come to school with you to help you tell about your special tradition!

  • What is your favorite book? Write about what makes this book special to you. Bring it to school to show us!

  • Each of us has a name. How did you get yours? Who chose your name? Write the special story of how you got your name. You may even want to bring a baby picture to show us.

  • Pets: Some of you have a special pet that you can tell us about. Some of you may have a pet you would like someday. Write and tell us about it and draw or bring a picture of your pet or the pet you would like to have.

  • Where is your favorite place to go? Is it a place you visited on vacation? Grandmaís house? The library? School? Your own house? Write and tell us about your special place.

  • What is your favorite season and what makes it special for you?

  • What is your favorite memory of kindergarten?

  • What was your very favorite thing about our year together? Parents, share a favorite memory of your own school days too!

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Tips for Success

  • Choose quality books that will appeal to children and parents. Your goal is to hook them on books!

  • What about the child that forgets to return the bag? I call the parent to ask if they could bring it to school or make sure it is returned the next day.

  • What about a lost book? Parents usually agree to replace it. Some canít, and I just go and buy another copy so the bag can continue its rotation. The important thing is that quality books are being shared and families are discussing the book and responding to it in the journal.
    The goal is to have this an inviting and rewarding time, and I donít want to interrupt that by waiting for a lost book to be returned or replaced.

  • What do you do with a child whose family doesnít speak English? They respond in their home language, and I find a translator.

  • What if no one helps the child at home and the journal entry isnít completed? I find out the reason why it was not completed. If the bag was left at daycare overnight or the family was too busy that night, I let the child have an extra day to complete it. If no one could help the child, we complete it together as a team of two, teacher and student, and share our journal entry with the class.

  • What if the mascot gets dirty? I give the mascot a bath after each rotationóand occasionally Ducky Lucky comes home with me for a night during the rotation if he has been so loved that he ate and slept with the student and now needs a bath.

  • What happens to the mascot at the end of the year? We hold a drawing, and one child gets to keep it forever. This mascot becomes part of our class, a living reality to the students, and he needs to stay with someone in this class with a new mascot chosen for the next class.

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The students self-assess their ability to listen to the child sharing his/her journal entry when their role is listener, and self-assess their ability to share their ideas when it is their turn to return the bag and share their familyís journal entry using the Listening and Speaking Rubric.

Your main feedback about the success of this project comes informally as children and families share their experiences and talk to you about how meaningful this has been to them. I have had wonderful responses from families, and years later a former student will recall how exciting it was to bring the bag home to share with his/her family.

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