My first few years of teaching I used communication notebooks in my elementary special education classroom.... and I HATED them.
For those who are not familiar, a communication notebook is a notebook passed between home and school to communicate between families and school staff. It sounds good in theory, but in my experience it was not.
Why did I hate these darn notebooks so much?!
- they were time-consuming... and the absolute worst time of the day to add something that is time-consuming is during pack up and dismissal. It is chaos enough as it is!
- they were ignored... every teacher knows which notebooks, binders, folders, etc. are checked every night and which ones are not. Which essentially means you have just wasted your time writing in the notebook.
- they were negative... written communication about student behavior can be easily misunderstood and can lead to defensiveness which is not an effective way to foster a parent-teacher relationship
- they leave out the student... for our students it is so important to facilitate communication opportunities at every opportunity
So what can you do instead?!
- Reminder Bracelets: These were a game changer! I would attach them to the student's wrist or backpack loop and write on any reminder that I wanted to be sure wasn't ignored and they were MUCH faster (i.e. field trip tomorrow, please send more diapers, etc.)
|Oriental Trading Reminder Bracelets|
- Think it Over Sheets: When a student engaged in negative behavior, I learned to focus less on the offensive and more on making it a teachable moment. In Dr. Ross Greene's book Lost at School I really connected with the concept that "kids do well if they can" and this was especially enlightening considering all of my students had disabilities which often impacted their emotional and behavioral regulation skills. Rather than sending home a long note to parents, my staff and I would reflect with the student on their behavior and help them choose an alternative for the future. (We also directly taught regulation skills through social stories, role playing, and sensory activities). Then I would sign the form and send it home for parent signature.
- Home-School Communication Reports: To involve my students and work on their recall skills, I created these communication reports which we would complete at the end of each day. My students would circle or write what they did that day and then when they got home they could easily refer to their report to tell their families about their day. My families LOVED how their children could now share and it was a great authentic communication opportunity. On some, I also included a small box where staff or families could write a brief note if needed. This definitely eliminated any rambling negativity!