Writing Workshop Communication: Family’s Guides



Happy Holidays, friends! Alas, technology is getting me down today, so you’ll have to accept all my written words instead of a quick tip video this week. Thank you for being brave and carrying on.

A few weeks ago, I shared one way of creating a triangle of communication between teacher, parent, and child in the writing workshop by having students create screencasts of their reflections and writing at the end of a unit. It’s important to be intentional about the communication triangles since communication is so often NOT a triangle for secondary students.  Sometimes it’s downright nonexistent. Especially when it comes to the student’s writing.

I want to share another tip for communicating with parents so that they can effectively communicate with their child about his or her writing: create a parent’s guide to supporting his or her writer!

The Goal


  • To provide families with concrete ways they can support their child as a writer.
  • To define my role as writing teacher and their role as writing supporter
  • To make talking to parents about writing less painful for students

Making a Family Guide

These guides can be made once for the whole school year (like mine pictured to the right) or for each writing unit!

To make a guide for families, consider:

1) How can you define roles in the child’s writing life?

This is a topic I consider deeply as I write the family guide even though I may never explicitly share those definitions in the guide itself. Family members want to help … but they don’t know how. So, we have to consider what that role SHOULD be.

The biggest hurdle to family/child writing communication I have run-into is parents who want to be editors. But for me, the most important role for the family is to be an involved supporter, cheering the writer on. My role is to be the teacher and coach. I want these respective roles to be at the forefront of my thinking as I craft my guide.

2) What could a family member easily do that will help you teach their child?

We do not want to ask families to be writing teachers for a whole host of reasons. But there are things they can do from their end that help us be the writing teachers we want to be on our end. Perhaps they could helpfully remind their child to revise their work after they have received their first “best draft” grade. Perhaps they could nudge their child to ask for a writing conference tomorrow and help students rehearse what they want to confer about. Perhaps they can simply serve as a set of ears for students to read aloud. What can parents do — without teaching writing — to help YOU do your job better?

3) What resources do families need to be aware of?

Because family members don’t sit in my classroom, they can easily miss the wealth of resources iI provide my students. I use the guide as an opportunity to point them in that direction.

For instance, in the Family Guide for this year, I suggest:

“Ask to see the overview document for that writing workshop (available in Google Classroom) and discuss the skills that have been taught and will be assessed. “

Sure, the reminder is helpful to their child. But families also now know a valuable resource their child can access now and in the future to support their writing work.

3) What are the barriers to family/child communication around writing? How can we overcome them?

There are probably some predictable problems you can anticipate. So, how can you write your guide to answer them?

Family Barriers

For instance, maybe you know your students go home to non-English-speaking households where an adult family member might not feel comfortable or confident giving feedback in English? Work around that by asking family members to support their writer by simply listening to the student read his or her draft aloud.

Family members may feel nervous and unqualified to dig into their student’s writing because they are not confident writers themselves. No problem! Ask families to support students in ways that do not ask them to give constructive feedback. Maybe a supportive family member could simply read a draft and share what they like best with the writer so she knows what’s going well so she can capitalize on it.

Student Barriers

My students’ biggest barrier to sharing their writing at home is simply the fear of negative feedback. This year, I faced that head on in my family guide by asking families:

“Please don’t … correct your child’s writing for them. Put down the red pen! Feel free to give them constructive feedback, but only if they ask for it! (And don’t do the work for them! I don’t correct their work for them either.”

Without saying, “Don’t crush your writer’s spirit”, telling family members that they don’t need to correct the work takes away that criticizing edge. Parents can feel relief that their role is different (To listen! To point kids to resources! To encourage students! To get excited about their writing!)


Making a family guide eases communication for everyone involved and just might get you a partner at home. This might be excellent work for a whole department to take on together so there is a school-wide guide for families or perhaps just a grade level.

What would you add to your guide for families? How do you want them to see their job in their child’s writing life? What other tasks could family members do at home that would help you in your work as a writing teacher? Please share below, or let me know on Twitter or Facebook.


As an aside, Allison and I are still looking for teacher to share their mentor-text-related questions for our newest book! Please share on this form …and share the form with your colleagues! The more the merrier, and you just might end up on a podcast episode in our new book!


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