This is a guest post by my wife, Jennifer Dees, who currently works for the Alliance for Catholic Education. Jen taught fourth grade in Nashville for four years and since then has helped out with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at our parish.
Like every good parent, when my kids jump into the car after a morning at daycare, I ask the question, “What did you do today?” The response is almost always the same, either silence or a simple, “Nothing.”
Although I’m discouraged I don’t give up. I follow my original attempt with a series of more pointed questions: “Did you read a story today? Did you play with so-and-so today? Did you sing a song today?” Sometimes these spark some conversations, but most of the time all of these followup questions are answered by, “No. No. No.”
At this point I usually give up and turn on the Veggie Tales CD. Even my twenty-one month old has already learned that this is the format for the post-school conversation and just demands the music as soon as she gets in the car. She doesn’t have time for the formalities.
Getting Kids to Talk to Their Parents about Learning
As a parent and former teacher, this exchange always frustrates me, but the other day a heard a great idea on the Today Show for helping parents and children overcome this seemingly unavoidable dead end in conversations. The solution: the “Ask Me About” sheet.
An “Ask Me About” Handout is a simple way for teachers and catechists to inform parents of what is going on in their classrooms, for kids to demonstrate what they have learned, and to spark some meaningful conversation during those often silent car rides.
The idea is simple; after each class give students an “Ask Me About” sheet to give to their parents when they jump in the car. Or if you teach older students, have students give the sheets to their parents when they get home or email it directly to them yourself. Give your parents fair warning ahead of time to expect these handouts. You might even ask them to sign it and hand it back into you the next time you meet.
This sheet can include terms and topics covered in class, as well as topics that will be covered next time. The questions are less about being right or wrong, and more about jogging students’ memory.
Sample Ask Me About Printables
You should be able to make your own Ask Me About sheets very easily. Below you can find two simple sheets based on some lesson plans here at The Religion Teacher.
Here is an example based on a lesson on Advent (Download it and print these questions on purple paper!):
- what purple has to do with Advent.
- what an Advent wreath looks like.
- what my favorite part of the Nativity scene is. (Share yours with me.)
- why the Church celebrates a time of preparation before Christmas.
Here is another example based on this lesson plan for Ash Wednesday (Download it and use that purple paper again!):
- what I’m giving up for Lent this year.
- what I think will be hard about giving that up.
- why we wear ashes on our heads on Ash Wednesday.
- what ashes meant in the Old Testament.
These sheets are a great way to review what was taught in class, empower parents as the primary educators of their children, and strengthen the connection between catechesis and the home. You will also find that when you create these sheets yourself, you’ll be challenged to find the top three or four most important lessons of the day. If your objectives didn’t already help you clarify what was most important, these few summary points will definitely help. You can also have the students create their own Ask Me About sheets. This way you can get an idea of what they remember the best (great for formative assessment) and you can make sure they have an awareness of day’s lesson objectives.
Great article I hope to use it in my class
These “Ask Me About” ideas are great! I was thinking that rather than copying it and handing them out each week, you could include these in an email. I email parents every week to let them know what’s going on and what our homework is. (My son’s “regular” teacher does this almost every day.) Perhaps if we add the “Ask Me Abouts,” parents will see that the kids aren’t studying/paying enough attention in class. I suspect my kids this year wouldn’t be able to answer these simple questions.
Kathy, I love that idea! Way to make a great application to modern technology!
LOVE this website … I just found it; although I noticed this post was made last year, I would add to this that with our own kids we have found it very helpful to do something similar to this within our family. When our kids get home, they fill out a 10 Question page that is super simple and done within 1-2 minutes. It basically asks them questions like: “On a scale from 1-10, my day was ____” and “Mr/Mrs. ____________ did a great job in class today”, “I saw God in my life today because __________” ~ we have found this page as an easy tool for our kids to get out how their thoughts & feelings right after school while its fresh on their mind without a lot of time and effort. Once its down on paper, it gives me a chance to bring it up when I see an opportunity (car ride, waiting in line, cooking, etc) throughout the rest of our day/evening. My husband LOVES it ~ when he gets home he looks forward to reading these papers and asking them “what did Mr. ____” do today? or “wow, what happened in _____ class?”. THANK YOU for your great website & ideas, so glad I found it!