Letters to Ms. Houghton

Background Image by Suzanne Lyons

A good portion of my usual weekly writing is done in Letters to Ms. Houghton, which students take home as homework on Tuesdays.

Lately, my routine has been to settle in with a cup of coffee and my favorite pen to write to my students. This is now my 5th year of writing weekly letters to my kids. My kids (and many teachers) ask how I manage to write so much to every student every week, and here’s what some of my core beliefs are as to why it’s a huge priority in our classroom.

  • We talk ALL THE TIME about how relationships are essential, and we talk about how we wish kids wrote more. My kids BEG for their Letters to Ms. Houghton. I’m able to do informal assessment on their writing while building a meaningful relationship with them. That’s a hugely worthwhile time investment to me.
  • I got the idea from Mrs. Chan. Mrs. Chan is one of the most highly efficient and highly effective educators I know. If she considers Letters to Mrs. Chan a productive use of her time, I do too.
  • I don’t let myself get overwhelmed by letters. If I’m not able to finish them all, I send home an IOU post-it note so students’ families don’t think their child is lying about not having homework.
  • After I started Letter to Ms. Houghton, I’ve ALWAYS had a ready response during writer’s workshop when a kid says they’re done writing. “Tell me more about XYZ that you wrote to me about a few weeks ago.” BAM.
  • 2nd graders don’t usually write a lot. Half my kids are 2nd graders. Their letters take three minutes to write, tops.

I have yet to launch my reading response journals, and it’s something that even after six years I don’t feel like I have a good handle on… I’ve shared my guiding principles about Letters to Ms. Houghton, now can you help me out with managing RRJs?

2 thoughts on “Letters to Ms. Houghton”

  1. I have always loved this as a parent and I know my daughter loved doing it. I plan to do the same thing with my classes when I start to teach :-)

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