Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Conference Request Form for Parents

Throughout the year I initiate conferences with parents on a regular basis. A few years ago I decided to try to make it easier for parents to request a conference with me, but couldn’t figure out the best way to do it. The next week I walked into the computer lab and saw the solution to my problem! Marykate, a long time teacher, created this fabulous conference request form that I now use several times a year.

At the beginning of the year, I send home a short note along with the form that lets parents know when I’m available for conferences and that they can request one any time they like. When a parent returns the form to ask for a conference I print another one to give them at our meeting. Additionally, I send home another request form and a reminder note about how to use it to all parents halfway through the year.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Can You Greet a Brand New Class?

Isn’t it exciting to meet your new students and learn about their diversity? Where Erin and I teach, we are lucky enough to have students each year that represent at least 7-10 different countries. One activity we enjoy doing is learning how to speak words (like hello, good-bye and thank-you) in their native languages. Sometimes the students are too shy to share, so we introduce the concept through this amazing book, Can You Greet the Whole Wide World: 12 Common Phrases in 12 Different Languages, by Lezlie Evans

The book teaches many common words and phrases in a basic, easy to learn format. It even includes pronunciations! Sometimes we use the book as an opener to morning meetings, exploring one new word each time. The book’s illustrations are vibrant and colorful and the students love trying to pronounce the words. Even if everyone in your class is a native English speaker, they will still want to try their tongues at something multi-cultural! Arrevederci!

Ann Marie

Friday, August 23, 2013

Reteaching Log

Teachers know the importance of documentation these days. We teach and then we reteach and very often we have to prove our efforts to our administrators. So we developed something to promote record keeping as an easy and convenient practice. Make multiple copies of our Reteaching Log and put them in a folder or notebook. As you grade student papers or teach lessons, fill in the date, names and pertinent skills for those students who are struggling. Then, whenever you can make the time in your schedule, you will reteach the skill(s).  Afterwards, you will log in that date and the date of mastery, which will probably be identified after a unit or benchmark test. The few minutes we take to reteach have proven to be extremely helpful and effective.
Hope it works for you too!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Handy Word Bank

Try this alternative to displaying thematic word banks on word walls, SMARTBoards or chalkboards. For each unit of study, write related words on 3X5 index cards and post them on a small corkboard. You can use colored index cards, add a thin border, background paper and even novelty thumbtacks for a real eye-catching look. Prop the board at a center, on a chalkboard ledge or in another appropriate spot when in use. At the end of each unit, remove the cards from the corkboard and store them in a labeled envelope until next year. Another option would be to laminate the cards and the envelopes and allow the students to use them at a center for review.  When the board is not in use, slide it somewhere out of sight. You’ll save precious space and be organized too.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Library Check-Out Made Easy

Does your classroom library stress you out? Books lost? Shoved in the wrong places? Here’s a simple and classroom-tested solution to this common problem. We use these over-sized library cards. We have created two versions, which are available in both color and black and white.

Print a class set and allow your students to color their own cards. You might choose to write the students’ names depending on your grade-level. We recommend laminating the cards so they will last longer. Another tip is to run the cards on 3 or 4 different colors of cardstock. This helps the students locate their cards more quickly because they know what color their cards are. Once the cards are made and passed out, the students will visit your classroom library. Decide ahead of time how many students are permitted at one time. When a student sees a book he/she wants to check-out, the card is placed face out, in the crate where the book came from.
Later, when he/she is ready to return the book, the card will be waiting at the front of the crate for easy pick-up and the book will go back in its proper home.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Top 10 Beginning of the Year Traditions

As the school year begins there are many reasons to become stressed. You have new students who know none of your routines, your class is bigger than you expected it to be, your schedule is constantly being changed, etc.

Instead of giving in to the stress, we try to find ways to make the beginning of school special for our students and fun for ourselves. Here are ten of our favorite beginning of the year traditions.

1. Journey Through the Year: Each month, have your students draw a self-portrait and write their name on a piece of paper. You can use these pages to keep a consistent format. Let students write the name they like to be called. For instance, Ella changed to Eleanor, then to Ellie, and back to Ella throughout the year so it was a fun way to keep track of that. Keep all the pages and at the end of the year compile them into a book that students get to take home. Your students will love to look at their drawing and handwriting skills from September and how they’ve grown.

2. Healthy Snack of the Month: Encourage your students to pack healthier snacks. Feature 1 snack a month, hang a mini-poster and discuss the benefits of the featured food. You can even read books about each snack and do various follow-up activities.

3. Top 10 Monthly Lists: Use our monthly lists, or create your own, to motivate your students and their families to keep learning and exploring at home.

4. Recruit Volunteers: Send home our volunteer request letter and then confirmation form to solicit much-needed help in your classroom. So many parents want to get involved. You may even discover parents who want to help from home if they can’t come in.

5. Get to Know Your Students: Send home our Student Information Sheet on the first day of school. This valuable information gives you immediate and important feedback.
6. Free Snack: During the first week of school, students sometimes struggle to remember routine. Part of our daily schedule includes an optional snack from home. So for the first week of school we bring in snack for our students. This gets them in the habit of remembering for the weeks to come. Some options are cheese crackers, pretzels, granola bars or fruit snacks. Make sure you are aware of any student allergies before buying!

7. First Day Goodie Bag: To settle first day jitters and to make our students feel welcome, we set up goodie bags on every desk. Possible fillers could be: a “Welcome” postcard, a new pencil, a name tag, an eraser, a small notepad, a snack or a sticker to wear. The students love opening the bags as soon as they find their seats. This also keeps everyone busy and buys us time to greet each student or parents as they walk through the door.

8. A Few of Our Favorite Things: Sometime during the first week of school, read, My Favorite Thing (According to Alberta) by Emily Jenkins. Then make a class book with a similar title such as: Our Favorite Things (According to Mrs. ____’s Class).

9. Take a Tour: After going over all the important information, rules, introductions and drills, make some time to take a tour of the school and playground. This helps new students to become familiar with their surroundings and also gives a nice review to our young students who tend to forget their way. Make sure to point out rooms to which you will be frequently sending students (for example, other classrooms on your grade level).

10. One Time Show-and-Tell: Usually after kindergarten, we do away with weekly show-and-tell. But have you ever noticed how many students still ask to bring things in? Sometime during the first week of school, read Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox. Discuss the objects Wilfrid has and why they are special to him. Then invite your students to participate in a “One Time Show-and-Tell”. No matter what grade you teach, encourage students to bring one item that will fit in a brown lunch bag. (Send home a lunch bag the day before.) If someone forgets their item, have them draw a picture or write about their special item on an index card to share.

What are your favorite beginning of the year traditions? Let us know!