Family Message Journals: A tool for writing instruction combined with parent involvement.
Mandates on reading and math achievement in elementary education in rural Georgia have led to a decline in writing proficiency as the subject becomes increasingly neglected. At the same time, schools strive to increase parental involvement programs. Consequently, there is a need for more research on the impact of parental involvement on student writing proficiency. Accordingly, this qualitative case study examined the impact of Family Message Journals (FMJ) and parent participation on teaching writing across the curriculum. Participants included 6 third-graders and their parents. Students wrote in journals 4 days per week across the 4 months of the study, and parents provided parallel responses each night. Student entries were examined and coded by academic subject and the 4 domains of the Georgia Writing Assessment Rubric to document students' growth in specific writing skills; parental responses were coded according to the type of response. Inductive analysis was used to analyze and interpret structured interview data to document emergent themes and search for patterns of meaning. All FMJ data were triangulated in a data source matrix with interviews of parents and students to explore linkages across sources. Findings revealed that (a) using FMJ increased students' writing ability, (b) teaching writing across the curriculum provided time for writing instruction, (c) comprehension was enhanced in subject content areas, and (d) parents felt more informed and appreciated. This study will prove beneficial for educators desiring to include writing without compromising time in currently mandated content areas, and also for parents who want to be informed, involved, and empowered. Teachers using FMJ can initiate social change by preparing more proficient students with a positive attitude for writing. Ideally, these attributes will build and follow these students into the workforce.