“In a Million Words or Less” First Week Assignment

One of my favorite back to school activities is “In a Million Words or Less”.  My mentor teacher used this activity when I was student teaching and I fell in love.  For those who don’t know, the assignment is for parents.  It asks each parent to write the teacher a letter, in a million words or less, explaining what makes their child special.  The responses I get are truly amazing.  There are just some things I would never learn about the student or would take me most of the year to discover.  When a parent tells me that their son/daughter has a special talent or a specific anxiety I can look out for them from the beginning!

I handed out my assignment on the first day of school.  The students always love that they get to give mom and dad homework!  I explain to the students that because their parents have work and outside responsibilities, I give them a whole month to finish their assignment.  That night, I already had my first emailed responses.  I share the responses with my teammates, special ed teacher, and specials teacher as needed.

“In a Million Words or Less” is an invaluable assignment.  The letters I receive are priceless.  If you are interested in trying it out, my handout can be found below.

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5 Responses

  1. I’m going to give this a try this year. The parents of my ELLs have a wide range of English language ability, so I’ll invite them to respond in either Spanish or English. This will also give me a glimpse of language skills I might expect from the child.

    I love that it’s a chance for the parent to pay attention to what they feel/believe/hope from their child.

  2. I gave a letter writing homework assignment to my parents this year also. I got letters back from over half the parents, which I felt was a pretty good response, but do wish it would have been more. The parents were appreciative of the opportunity to share about their kid, and I learned more about the parents this way too. This homework assignment is a keeper. I will definitely do this every year!

  3. Thank you so much for posting this! I student taught in a district where they did listening conferences at the beginning of the year. Parents were given the opportunity to come in and conference with the teacher before school started and the whole purpose was to learn about individual students from the some of the experts on each one. I think they were invaluable but not every district does that. I think this would be a great way to learn about my class. I am a believe in knowing as much as I can about a student. I believe it is valuable in planning and even helps with management of a new group of individuals.

  4. [...] A Million Words or Less Assignment – What a GREAT exercise, whether its an assignment or not! [...]

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