Summer Letters to My Students: Beginning to Build Relationships

Each year at this time, I send a letter to the students who will soon be skipping through my classroom door. It began before the computer era as a way to promote literacy by giving students another chance to see print as important in their lives, but each year the letter’s purpose and the letter itself has changed as I saw new potential for informing and involving the students and their parents before the school year began.

FullSizeRender (23)This year as I wrote the letter, I thought about how I wanted the students to feel when they got the letter. I wanted them to feel valued. I wanted them to feel like they would be part of something special. I wanted them to feel excited for the year to come and to feel that I cared about their thoughts and ideas.

And this year, I wanted them to start to wonder.

I got this idea from a comment by Grace Toler on the post I wrote about last year’s letter. Grace shared that she also included a “what do you wonder about Primer?” page along with her letter. I wish I had thought of this years ago. Wondering is so much a part of what we do in my classroom. It’s FullSizeRender (22)something we begin to do right away. Why not get them wondering before the school year even starts? So along with the letter to my students and the letter to their parents, this year I included an “I wonder…” card for the students to bring to school with them.

This is the letter I wrote this year…

Dear Erica,

I’m so glad I get to be your teacher this year. I  can’t wait to see you on the first day of school! 

I’ve been busy in our classroom getting things ready. We are going to have an exciting year. You will get your own iPad to use at school and you’ll find out how to use it to demonstrate your learning to your parents and to people you don’t yet even know. 

We will get to learn with other classrooms from all over the world and find out how the children in those classrooms are the same as us and how they are different than we are. 

The best thing about grade one, though, is that you will learn to read! I have lots of books to share with you.

I wonder what special things are interesting to you. What do you like to do in your free time? What kind of books do you like to read? What would you like to learn more about? I hope you will ask your mom or dad to email me with the answer to those questions. They are my wonders.

You will do lots of wondering this year, too. What do you wonder about grade one? Tell an adult what you wonder so that he or she can print it on the card in this envelope. Bring it with you on the first day of school. 

On September 1st, I will meet you in our classroom (Room 69) at 8:50. Look for the door with your handprint on it.
I’ll see you soon.

Your Grade 1 Teacher,

Mrs. Cassidy  

The letter I included to the students’ parents is below.

Dear Parents,

I will be your child’s grade one teacher.

I’m looking forward to the school year and to getting to know your child. I look forward to getting to know you as well and to working together with you to help your child to be a successful learner.

I would LOVE to have some information about your child before the school year starts to help me get books and other items ready to match his or her interests. Could you email me and tell me about your child? I’d like to know about any special interests he or she has. Lego? Dinosaurs? Horses? Whatever it is, I’d like to know. What does your child enjoy doing at home? What kind of books does he or she enjoy? What would your child like to learn more about? Is there anything in particular you would like me to know about your child? Please email me (Cassidy.kathy@prairiesouth.ca) before school starts. Email is one of the ways that I keep in touch with parents, so this will give me a chance to have your email address as well.

I’d like you to send all of your child’s school supplies on the first day of school. We will share most items, but it would help a lot if you would put your child’s name on his or her scissors and headphones or earbuds before they come to school.

Please ask your child what he or she wonders about grade one and print the answer on the “wonder card” I have enclosed. I’m not looking for anything profound, just whatever it is that your child is wondering about.

Please also have your child print his or her name on the front of the wonder card and send it with your child on the first day of school.

Watch for a note early in the year about a special parent night!

See you soon.

Kathy Cassidy

Hopefully these letters will be the start of wonderful learning relationships with the students and their parents.

What do you include in the letter to your students?

21 thoughts on “Summer Letters to My Students: Beginning to Build Relationships

  1. This is wonderful! A great way to help students fee valued on their first day.
    Very inspiring!!

  2. This is a wonderful idea! I have always thought about sending a welcome letter before school begins but I seem to always run out of time. You have inspired me to make it happen in the future. I really like how your letter begins to set up the culture of your classroom even before school begins. It’s so important to connect with our students and to make them feel important. I like how the letter gets your students excited for the year to come and the addition of the “I wonder” card is a great idea. “Wondering” is a fun part of 1st grade and it let’s the students minds begin to explore new ideas for the upcoming school year. In my welcome letter, I include a parent survey about their child. It includes questions about family members, likes and dislikes and their hopes and dreams for their child. I have found this information to be helpful and it is the first step in building a relationship with the families I will be working with for the upcoming year.

  3. It is amazing to see how much time and effort is put into projects like these to really make students feel welcomed and appreciated. I like how the student letter gives an opportunity for students to tell you more about themselves before they even start the school year. I also like how parents receive a letter too and you encourage them to e-mail you about their child; thus, promoting an open communication between them and you (teacher). Thank you for sharing a sample of your letters because this gives me an idea for when my students are to transition to my classroom.

  4. A summer letter to your students is such a nice idea. I teach kindergarten and our school site holds an ice cream social the Friday before school starts and it is at this time families learn who will be their teacher. Because of that, I’d not be able to send something out over the summer. We do however, include a “Getting to Know Your Child” form in our kindergarten registration packet that inquires about some personal interests. I’ve felt for several years now it was in need of revision. Reading your student and parent letter has inspired me to draft a new document for next year. Like your summer letter, it’s our way of getting a glimpse of a student’s interests and talents. I love your idea of the “I wonder…” card. I’m going to send that home in my homework folder this week! I’m looking forward to the responses.

  5. I just love this idea that allows you to connect with your students before you even get the chance to meet them face to face! I know that on the first day of school both students and teachers are nervous to see who they will spend the next school year with and a simple, heartfelt letter to them will eliminate some of the anxiety that could be building. In my second grade class we also read First Day Jitters to discuss the feelings on the first day of school. The students enjoy hearing that teachers can be nervous to meet their class as well. It also is an ice breaker for students to begin sharing ideas and relate to each other. I will definitely keep this idea in mind for next year’s beginning of school year! Thank you for sharing!

    1. My pleasure, Ashley. I’m going to look up that book for next year. I used to read Franklin’s First Day of School, but the kindergarten teacher started reading it when the kids were in her class, so I’ve moved on to other books.

  6. I am in love with this idea! Remembering back to when I was in primary school, I couldn’t wait to know who my teacher was or anything about school. I was very excited. This letter is a way to get them even more ready for school. Automatically, they are seeing that ‘my teacher cares about me.’ More importantly, with this letter, we as teachers get the parents on our side as well. This letter starts communication and a partnership with the parents to ensure that our students will succeed. I can not wait to use this in my own classroom.

  7. This is a wonderful suggestion. When my fifteen-year-old son was in 4th grade, he made a special bond with his fourth grade teacher. Unexpectedly over the summer, he received a letter as he was beginning to transition from elementary school to middle school. In the letter were words of encouragement and tidbits of advice on how to survive your first year in middle school. We framed that letter and today whenever he has a big day of competition or and athletic advent I find him reading over the letter taking a deep breath, and rising to the occasion. As teachers, we have the ability to influence our students in positive ways. Sending a letter over the summer takes on a completely new meaning, student feels as if the teacher is thinking of them beyond the classroom. The gives a child inspiration to know Mrs. X or Mr. X is thinking about me and care about my academic career.
    As we forge on into the age of technology, I am encouraged by this blog to send letters to my students by way of my website. I have created a place where they can contact me through my page and I can respond back to them and vice versa. As a teacher and mentor, I can keep in touch with them throughout the summer and their academic career and hopefully my lifetime, it is the new way 21st century students and teachers to keep in touch. Although, the students will not have a letter that came in the mail to frame they can print off our virtual conversation and do the same.

  8. Kathy,

    I am a special education teacher and I love being able to start the relationship with the student and family before school starts on the first day! It really helps the student transitioning and it helps me build a solid relationship with the parents who I work very closely with. I am so inspired by your letters to your new students and parents. I am so excited to use this in the coming years. I have always sent home a letter to parents and students on the first day of school, but what a special way to begin that process before school starts!

  9. For years now I have sent letters to my new students a few weeks before school. I have had many students and parents who have commented on how much they appreciated the letter. I introduce myself, let them know the school supplies they might want to bring with them, any special information about this new grade level, and a few things that they have to look forward to this school year.
    Many people today do not receive a personal letter that comes in the mail anymore, so this is one way to start a special relationship with my students.

  10. Hi Kathy,
    What a wonderful idea, and right from the start you are building a positive relationship with students and families. I remember how excited my own kids were when they received ‘Thank You’ notes in the mail from their teachers! Our school will be beginning a ‘year round calendar’ this July, so there will not be a “Meet your Teacher” event. The first day of school is always so eventful, especially at the primary grades, and a welcome letter may take some of the anxiety out of that first meeting, for both students and parents. Also, to have the parents respond, via email, to the teacher before school starts, with important information about a student is a great tool to build a relationship with all involved. (ie. allergies, how they will be getting to/from school, buying/bringing lunch) If your classroom has a website it would also be a perfect opportunity to pass that information on to parents, so that they can find out classroom news and important events, such as Back to School Night, straightaway. I will definitely use this idea to welcome my students to the 2016-2017 school year!

  11. Hello Kathy,

    Wow this is such a wonderful idea! It is so important to build a relationship with our parents as well as our students, and this really does both. I send out a survey the first day with the students for their parents to feel out, which includes things like; interests, weakness, strengths, and anything they would like to tell me about their child. This works well, but it would be great to have information before your students even come to the class. Another thing I really like is that you already have a form of communication with the parents ahead of time. I will definitely try this next year.

  12. This is such a wonderful opportunity to connect with both students and parents. I recently changed teaching assignments and moved from teaching high school students to the Pre-K level. School has only been in session for two weeks, but I am quickly realizing how important it is to establish a bond with both the parents and students very early in the school year. After reading your post, I think creating a summer letter would be just the activity I need to jump start the bonding process. As a parent, I can really appreciate the time teachers take getting to know my child and their interests. It makes the transition into a new grade so much smoother and more comfortable. As an educator, the summer letter provides teachers an advantage to understanding a little more about each student before the school year begins. I can only imagine the insight you have gathered about your students, not to mention the ability to create a proactive approach to the new school year. Thanks so much for sharing this fantastic idea, I’ll be sure to apply it to my classroom in the future.

  13. Hi Kathy,
    My name is Nikki and I am a senior at SUNY Geneseo studying Early Childhood/ Childhood Education. I agree with you that sending home letters to your students and parents is a great way to begin forming positive relationships. In one of my classes this semester, we have to create a newsletter and write letters to students and parents for the start of the school year. I never thought about asking them questions in the letters for them to respond to. I think that is a terrific idea and really makes both the students and their families feel important. This is also a good way to learn more about your students before they even step into the classroom on the first day. Do parents and students actually respond to your questions? I will definitely keep this in mind for my future classroom! Thank you!

  14. What a wonderful idea! I love how this allows you and your students to start on a positive note. I remember that when my kids were that age, they loved getting mail addressed to them, even if it was just junk mail from kid stores. So, I can imagine how exciting getting a letter from their future teacher would be. The preview of some of the things they can look forward to, such as getting their own ipad and learning to read will probably get the students excited and ease the beginning of the year jitters. It is also smart to include important information such as your room number and school start time. Thank you for sharing!

  15. This is such a thoughtful way to start off the school year, and show the children and families that they are valued members of the classroom community before they even begin their year with you. I especially like how you encourage positive dialogue between yourself, the parents and the children. Creating an atmosphere that encourages open and positive conversations between teacher and families at the beginning of the year can make such a difference in teacher-parent relationships. I have also heard of teachers including links to private galleries of pictures or videos of themselves and their classroom in these summer letters, and I was wondering if you have ever tried that, and what you think the pros and cons might be. I have thought it could be very reassuring to the families (especially in the early grades), but worry that it could exclude families without easy internet access. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and thank you for the wonderful letter ideas!

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