Primary Chalkboard: Family Response Journals - Reading, Writing, and Memories

Family Response Journals - Reading, Writing, and Memories

Hi, Friends!  This is Autumn from The Primary Techie.  I am always excited to blog for the Primary Chalkboard.  Today I am going to share one of my favorite reading and writing tools: Family Response Journals.  These journals are for parents and kids to write letters back and forth.

I got this idea from my daughter's first grade teacher many years ago.  I absolutely loved writing her letters and knowing that she would get to read them during her school day.  My daughter is 16 now and I still have that journal.  It is one of my most treasured keepsakes because it is a record of our relationship and what was happening during that time in our lives.  I have done Family Response Journals with my first graders for the past eleven years.  Here are some of the tips and tricks I have learned to make them successful.

In the beginning of the year, we brainstorm a letter that we can all write about - "Dear Mom,  We are learning about bugs.  My favorite bug is a _______________.  What is your favorite bug?  Love, ________."  If kids can or want to write independently, they are encouraged to do so.  I write the "generic" letter on the board for beginning writers to copy.  After Christmas, I no longer model a letter on the board.  I just wander around and help students as needed.  We write in our journals on Monday.  Parents have all week to write back before sending them back to school on Friday.

Kids LOVE to get letters back from their parents!  Here are some tips I always share with my parents:
  • If you don't send the journals, they can't do it!  This is a really fun way to encourage reading and writing.  PLEASE write back to your child and send journals back to school! 
  • Remember that this is being read by a beginning reader!  Use your NICEST printing.  The kids gain reading practice with this activity.  Cursive makes this impossible with little guys.
  • Kids should write to someone in their house, so they can write back.  Sometimes my journals are missing for weeks because a student decided to write to his grandma and left the journal at her house. 

 To make the journals, I print covers on colored paper and laminate.  The back cover has a word bank with words kids commonly use in their journals.  I have two types of pages for the inside - primary lined for the kids to use and regular lines for parents.  I print kid lines on the front and parent lines on the back.  My journals have 34 pages in them.  We are usually done with them a couple weeks before school gets out.  I find this nice because the end of the year can be hectic and it is nice to have something DONE.  I use a binding machine to bind the book and E6000 to glue the binding comb shut.

These make great end of the year keepsakes.  They take about 20-30 minutes a week, but are wonderful reading and writing practice.

Click here to download journal pages for FREE!

Thanks for reading, Friends!  Until next time,


  1. I have always loved doing this project in my own classroom! We've called them dialogue journals and circle journals :)


  2. I love these. I have seen similar ones on pinterest and I've wanted to try them. Most of the ones I read about send them home Friday and expect them back on Monday. I love that you give parents a lot of time. I think I will send mine home Friday and give them until Wednesday. That way they have lots of time and even if students forget their book at home for Wednesdy they still have a couple days until we use them again on Friday. Thanks for sharing :)
    @Wiley Teaching

  3. What a fantastic idea! I'm going to give these a try. Thank you for the freebie!

  4. Both of my girls kindergarten and first grade teachers did these! Then at the end of the year it was a keepsake that we were able to keep. It was amazing to see how far their writing and drawing {they did a lot of drawings in kindergarten at first} came! What a great idea, especially with lower elementary grades.

    Teaching Tidbits and More with Jamie