Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tools of the Trade: Lack of Progress Letter

We are already into week number three of the school year in my neck of the woods. The school year is divided into four nine-week semesters. Week number four, which is looming in front of me, is the magical time when midterm grades are entered and each student’s progress is analyzed.

While many students start the year off with a bang and do very well, many struggle with suddenly having three or four different teachers and having to learn to deal with taking notes, and actually using a textbook. Please remember though, I don’t teach based on the textbook. My students use it as just one of many tools to access content, and since they are nine and ten years old part of my efforts involve teaching them HOW to use a textbook, and to extend their skills with informational reading.

By this time students have completed our first unit of study….Native Americans….and have submitted their notebook for a grade. I usually take a few classwork grades, a project grade, a quiz or two, as well as homework checks. It’s a very busy four week period. If a student ends the first four weeks of a semester with a grade of 79 or below the follow slip is sent home for parental review. This notice reaches parents BEFORE the actual midterm is handed out.

Student Name:______

Native Americans Test Grade _______
Notebook Grade ______

Midterm Average _____

Dear ____________,

I’m sending you this note because I am concerned regarding your child’s performance on our unit test given this past Friday. The test had been announced for several days and had been listed on my board for students to record a reminder to study in their agendas. Students also had a review sheet with every question and answer for the test in their possession to study. Each unit begins with a study guide that has all the important information you might need as parent to help oversee your child’s study.

Students cannot simply listen to me in class and “get it”. They must work with the material on their own by completing the classwork and homework assignments, and by creating and turning in their Native American project. They must review their notes and reread sections of the text on their own to grasp the concepts. Many times during the week I have students write in their agendas “Review or study notes.” Please help me by checking the agenda daily and by asking your child to see their notebook. It would also be to your child’s benefit if they brought home their Social Studies text in order to reread material we have already read in class. This study time should take no longer than 15-20 minutes. It would help students a great deal in focusing more on the concepts we are studying. I appreciate your assistance.


I print these out on half-sheets of paper and staple them into the child’s agenda and follow up with phone calls when necessary. For parents who have children with grades below 70 this midterm note from me is not the first time they have ever heard from me. I would have already contacted them during the second or third week of school to voice my concern.

It is ludicrous to believe that you can garner a parent’s support and partnership by remaining silent for four weeks, and then allow a midterm report to express that a student is having problems.

Another classroom management topic that is appropriate for this time of the year involves classroom procedures. You can read my past posting regarding my classroom syllabus here and here.


Anonymous said...


This is great info for a soon-to-be teacher! Thanks for posting. I have one question - what kinds of things/sections do the students have in their notebooks (aside from the syllabus and study guides that you mentioned)? What are the elements of the notebook grading rubric?

Thanks again!

Mrs. Bluebird said...

At our school we make it a point to call each and every parent during the first two weeks just to introduce ourselves. Since it's middle school and the kids have 7 teachers, we do call by homeroom so the parent doesn't get overwhelmed. Granted, we often end up talking to voicemail (especially when the school's name pops up on caller ID), but at least we tried. And the parents we end up talking to are usually just besides themselves.

I also do a weekly email to parents and every year I have more and more parents with email - it tells them what we're doing, what homework is, what tests are coming up, school information, study tips, etc. It's amazing how much that has helped.

Anonymous said...

those are good tips I will share them with my associates

Build links to your blog with RSS Instant Feed of 6,000+ Links! Widgets so you can share the data too!

Dan Edwards said...

Hi EHT ! um....Yes, I am still with us.

What are the elements of the notebook grading rubric? Just a few to consider: Is it complete? neat? Did the student follow instructions? Is it completed on time? Is there evidence that the student is using their notebook as a learning tool?


Most interesting.

the anonymous teacher said...

I just finished my second week and have already got an email conversation going with one parent. I'm doing some grading this weekend, and I have a feeling I'll be doing more emailing Tuesday. I'm lucky to work in a district with very involved parents and most with emails. It makes my life that much easier, as a phone isn't very handy. I can shoot off an email as soon as a student begins acting up/not doing homework.

Teacha said...

Gave you some blog love, Here!

EHT said...

Thanks Miss A....how kind!

Anonymous Teacher, email is where it's at. If you keep the same email string running with that parent you have a complete record of conversation that you simply can't maintain through an old-fashioned phone log. However, I print out my emails and maintain them in the student file because we all know how those school system techno systems like to fail and things mysteriously disappear. :)

EHT said...

Hey Polski! Good questions on the notebook rubric. I'm getting together a postlink and my own rubric to include in a post and will let you know when I've completed it.

Anonymous said...

As far as i suggest Your Web site acts a great role in providing information to targated visitors. I recognize or rated it as excellent.