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Activity

Note Writing at a Message Center

 

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Note Writing at a Message Center

Grades K – 2
Activity Time 5 to 10 minutes a day
Activity Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia

 
Publisher National Council of Teachers of English
 

What You Need

Here's What To Do

More Ideas To Try

Glossary

 

What You Need

  • Writing materials, such as memo pads, sticky notes, stationery, clip boards, variety of pens, colored pencils, crayons, and markers
  • A bulletin board or magnet board plus push pins or magnets

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Here's What To Do

Setting Up and Using a Family Message Center

  1. Introduce the idea of a family message center. Ask the child to help design (or choose) and set up the message center. Remember to choose a location that is at the child's eye-level. You might reserve a specific area on the refrigerator door or put up a kitchen bulletin board.
  2. Together, gather supplies for the message center. If you are using a chalkboard, collect colored chalk and an eraser. For a white board, you'll need dry-erase markers and an eraser. Likely supplies for a bulletin board or magnet board include the following:

    • memo pads
    • sticky notes
    • stationery
    • clip boards
    • a variety of pens, colored pencils, crayons, and markers
    • magnets or push pins

  3. Demonstrate how to use the message center by writing and posting some example notes. You might post about the following subjects:

    • upcoming events ("Trip to Aunt Elena's Saturday")
    • lost and found ("Have you seen the TV remote control?")
    • reminders ("Remember to put your dishes in the sink.")
    • announcements ("Michael's lost a tooth!")
    • menus ("Corn dogs for dinner tonight!")

  4. Encourage the child to post notes, and share the responsibility for keeping the message center up-to-date. Demonstrate writing several short messages, mentioning the importance of signing the author's name (unless it's a secret message).
  5. Following your demonstration, allow time for children to write a few messages and to discuss the process.
  6. Role play situations with the child in which note writing could be used:

    • The child can write you a note to ask a question or report something to an adult who is busy cooking or talking on the phone.
    • The child can role play and write shopping lists, menus, reminders and greetings.
    • The child can write notes to plan their work or request that it not be dismantled (for instance, "Please don't knock down my Legos®").
    • Children can post signs around the house as reminders for family rules, like "Always use your manners."
    • When a child asks you to remember to bring something, to pick something up from the store, you can reply, "Please write me a note so I won't forget."

  7. Choose a special area on the message board to share "Good News":

    • When you observe the child's behavior, new learning, or a special interaction you want to share with the family, jot a note to yourself (e.g., "Keisha offered to help Michael clean up his room.")
    • Make your notes throughout the day and post them without comment.
    • The children will then be encouraged to use reading strategies during the day to try to find their names and activities in the notes.
    • At the end of the day or week, refer to the notes of "Good News" to acknowledge and celebrate the many wonderful, positive moments of each day.

Reviewing Old Notes Together

  1. As you clear notes from the message center, collect them in a folder for later activities. Once you've gathered a collection of notes, the child can sort the collection in one of these ways:

    • Divide the collection based on their audience: to family adults, to the siblings, to the entire family, to guests or visitors, to the baby sitter, and so forth.
    • Explore the purpose for different notes by going through your collected notes: notes that explain, notes that ask questions, notes that serve as reminders, short greetings, and so forth.
    • Sort notes based on their format: lists, letters, memos, sticky notes, unsigned notes, and so on.

  2. Once the child has sorted the notes, ask what is similar and different about the notes in a particular category. Ideally, this sorting and comparison of the sorted categories will lead to observations about when notes are more formal, more polished, and so forth. Draw the child's attention to characteristics such as when notes are signed and addressed and when they're left unsigned, and when you need more information to understand a note (for instance, do all the notes still make sense?).

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More Ideas To Try

  • Notes posted to the message center can be written in any languages used at home. For instance, if you use both English and Spanish at home, you can choose either language for the notes you write.

  • Share the Berenstain Bears' Pack a Picnic Interactive, from the PBSKids Web site, with the child to show the storybook characters using their checklists to prepare for their outing.

  • Read one of the following books together, which feature notes as a part of the plot:

    • Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells
      In this book, Max and his sister, Ruby, write grocery lists. The two characters learn how to communicate on paper and then learn the important lesson that notes must be legible!

    • Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
      In this humorous, yet realistic, story, the delightful, energetic Lilly gets in trouble with her teacher because she is unable to contain her excitement about her new purple plastic purse. Wise Mr. Slinger resolves the issue with a timely, well-worded note.

    • Maggie and the Pirate by Ezra Jack Keats
      Follow the tale of the disappearance of Maggie's pet cricket. Left in the cricket's place is an ominous note: "The Pirate Was Here!" As the suspenseful story unfolds, a more complicated and unusual motivation for note writing is revealed-to gain attention.

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Glossary

Purpose

 

The reason or goal someone has for writing a particular text. Common reasons for writing include to express feelings or ideas, to convince someone to believe something, and to provide someone information or instructions. The purpose will often determine the choices the writer makes about how and what to write.

Audience

 

The person or group of people that the message of a piece of writing is meant for. Most pieces of writing have more than one audience.

Role play

 

An activity in which children or teens pretend to be a character, object, or other person in a certain situation. Sometimes the roles are clearly defined and children act out an agreed upon script. At other times, the play can be freer, with more improvisation. Role play allows learners to experiment with language and ideas in a low-risk environment.

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