What is the purpose of the agenda, anyway?

Most schools encourage or even provide an agenda for their students from kindergarten to upper elementary. Teachers use them in different ways, often depending on the age of the children.

Kindergarten teachers are marvels of organization. Somehow, they get every agenda out of the kids' backpacks and into a bin, where things are added, taken out, money is collected and forms filled out. Usually a newsletter for the month is tucked in and, as if by magic, each child gets his own agenda to put back in the backpack by the end of the day. (I know it isn't magic; it is hard work and time management. Just amazing.)

By grade one to grade three, a morning message-- that has been picked over for sight words, phonics, meaning, and punctuation--is copied by the children into their agenda. Some children have the message written in in highlighter to trace if their skills are not up to copying. Some children copy from a "Post-it" note if they have a problem transferring the copying from the board.

In the Junior and Intermediate grades, teachers have the students copy their learning goals in the agenda. This is a good way to communicate to parents what the students have been learning. Some classes use it as a way of keeping track of homework, and what is due.

Agenda notes have to be made a priority by the teachers if they are to be effective, and parents must be vigilant about asking to see them. Initialing the agenda from both school and home is time-consuming, but valuable. Sometimes it becomes a battleground, with students slipping out without writing anything, or never having the agenda at hand. I must admit, I was often frustrated by the problems the agenda caused. And, since homework was different for most of the kids in my class, parents were sometimes frustrated with why I couldn't write their child's homework down! But, these were often the same ones who wanted me to ensure their child's homework was in their backpack, too.

How do you, as a teacher use an agenda? If you don't use one, how do you communicate with parents? What value do you place on an agenda?

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