Monday, August 17, 2015

"What do you LOVE about your child?" Getting to Know Your Students Through Parents

Today is our last official day of summer, it is incredibly hard to believe that 77 days have come and gone and tomorrow we tackle another school year. As a teacher-mom I always wonder what will walk through that classroom door.  I would love to chat with my students' parents, grandparents, or caretakers over a cup of hot coffee to get the nitty gritty, but I know that is not possible.  So my favorite thing to do is make phone calls home after the first day or two of the school year to find out what I can about my students.  In addition, I always want families to know that I truly care about their child and can't wait for what we have in store.
This year I send three children off to new adventures-a 4th grader, a 1st grader, and a two year-old pre-preschooler.  I am already so thankful for my children's teachers and all they will do to teach my kiddos this year.  I know they will teach them, care about them, and do everything in their power to make each day the best school day possible.

So how do you get the info you want to learn about your students?  What questions do you ask kids and families in order to learn as much as you can to make the school year the best for everyone?  Do you give a parent interest inventory or parent questionnaire?  Do you make phone calls?  I would love to hear your "getting to know your students strategy."  Here is mine...I just ask, "What do you love about your child?" or "What is your favorite thing about your child?"  Simple, but I promise the responses to these questions will make you see that kiddo in a whole new light...

Here is what I would offer the teacher that asked me that question about my three...

I LOVE Brennan's enthusiasm for fun!  Having fun makes him genuinely happy!  Brennan is not very excited about school!  Once he realizes how much fun fourth grade is and that he can trust his new teachers, life will be grand.  This may take a few days, but he will come around.  He is smart, but he would much rather be taking part in sports, riding his scooter, playing with his friends, and listening to music.  All four at once would be ideal!   Don't let him be a minimalist, because he can do so much more than he cares to showcase, he just needs a prod now and then.  He is a rule follower and will be listening carefully to EVERYTHING you say.  He is a bit of an old soul and will be that boy laughing in the back of the room because he is the one who "got" that witty joke you just shared that went over everyone else's head.  If you have ever read the poem, "Love That Boy" by Walter Dean Myers, it sums my boy up perfectly.

I LOVE Lilah's smile!  She has a smile that lights up her whole face.  She loves her friends and likes to do special jobs.  Lilah can't wait to be in school!  She is a people pleaser and has a love for learning.  She can be very sensitive and will cry!  A hug or quick snuggle will make everything better.  She LOVES art and could make books all day long.  She often needs a bit of a nudge and some kind words of encouragement before she believes she can do anything!  She has a loose tooth that may come out any day now.  She will want to help you with any teacher task that needs completing.  She will adore you a bit more each day and she will walk to school excited to have your smiling face greet her.

I LOVE Landon's love for life!  There is pure joy that oozes out of him when he sees something he wants to explore.  Landon has been by my side since March 7, 2013.  He is a busy boy who seems older than his two year-old body because he has been trying to keep up with his big brother and sister.  He LOVES TRUCKS and anything that has to do with TRUCKS!  If you can make trucks CRASH, that is even better.  He loves to listen to books, color, and share with friends.  He is going to love his time with you.  I know the first few days are going to have some tears, so thanks in advance for the extra snuggles I know you will give to him. He doesn't know it, but he is an expert at physical comedy and will have you giggling at his resemblance to Chris Farley.  I just hope he strives for more than "living in a van down by the river."

When you are considering how to best get to know your students, check in with those parents!  I promise they will LOVE sharing those favorite things!  Best wishes with your school year!

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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Oh, Snap, It's Almost September!

I am finding it particularly hard to believe that I am already preparing for September.  While school has not started in our household, it is right around the corner-Tuesday, August 19th, in fact!  We are trading our swimsuits and pool bags for school clothes and backpacks.  Where have the last 10 weeks gone?  While jam-packed with fun, it has flown by!

In order to keep up with all that the fast-paced school year brings, I am teaming up with my teacher friends and and sharing some teaching resources for September.  While this month tends to be loaded up with establishing routines and assessing student ability levels, it is also a time when we take time to remember a HUGE event from our American history-September 11th.

I struggled to find a resource to share what that day was like four years into my teaching career, so I created a reader's theater and reading literature toolkit in order to help my students best understand the events of that day and the impact it had on Americans.  Your students will LOVE performing this reader's theater script and then having the opportunity to compare it to a nonfiction selection.  The discussion that this resource generates it priceless.

Included in this 23-page toolkit:
  • clear directions for easy implementation
  • CCSS covering both ELA: RL& RI and History:R.H.4-8.4
  • 7-page, 12-character reader's theater script
  • reader response questions
  • context clue word work
  • an informational text with reader response questions for Close Reading and compare and contrast work
  • a Venn diagram for compare and contrast between the two texts
  • interview questions
  • research sites for student research
  • research bubbles, an interactive tool for recording research 
Click either image to grab this 23-page resource for $2...

Best of luck navigating the start of school, the month of September, and everything in between. Check out these other great September resources...

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Do This! Not That...Back to School Blog Hop

I am teaming up with my Lesson Delicatessen friends to bring you our DO THIS! NOT THAT Back to School Blog Hop!  As teachers we are always reflecting on what works, what bombed, and what needs some tweaking!  I am all about self-reflection.  Read on if you want to find out about a blunder I have made for awhile as a 6th grade teacher...grab a great FREEBIE, and find more valuable ideas and goodies from my buddies as you head through the hop!  The last stop lets you enter to win a $100 TPT Gift Card!

I had the opportunity to go to Las Vegas this summer and meet 1,100 other teachers that are passionate about their work in the classroom, blogging, and creating the best classroom resources.  It was an AMAZING adventure and I was so fortunate to share the experience with my children's kindergarten teacher, Jonelle Bell from A Place Called Kindergarten.  I adore this lady and am so grateful to have had this experience together!

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I attended blogger meet-ups and had the chance to learn a great deal in different conference sessions.  What I wasn't prepared for was introducing myself repeatedly and sharing "All About Me."  I was separated from Jonelle due to teaching different grade levels, and it was a bit overwhelming to branch out and talk to so many others I truly wanted to "Get to Know."  I wanted to meet everyone, but the environment was busy, loud, and a bit intimidating, at times.

What I realized is that so is EVERY SINGLE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!  For so many of my students it is busy, loud, and overstimulating.   Add to it a first day activity that I thought was fun for the students, but has potential to be truly uncomfortable for many.  You know the one, students have to get up out of their seat and ask everyone in the class a question, then get all of their peers to sign next to said questions on their paper?!  For a number of years I decided to implement this Class Signature Scavenger Hunt on the first day of school without realizing how it is loud, it is busy, and it is overwhelming to new and introverted students. DON'T DO THAT! I, too, plan to take a break from these intense hunts and I plan to...

DO THIS...(and grab this FREEBIE)
The purpose of this Getting to Know You! Chit Chat Cards resource is to allow students to have the chance to share about themselves and listen to a peer while providing them with a focal point to begin their conversation in order to generate even more thoughtful discussion.  These question cards give students the chance to engage in conversation with a peer or small group without overwhelming them and sending them all over the classroom.   

Simply PRINT, LAMINATE, CUT, and EXPLAIN!  Have students share their thoughts with a partner or in a small group.  These cards will encourage positive peer interactions from that very first day of the school year, while making students feel more comfortable with one another.  That is our ultimate goal, right?! 

Enter my ELA Made Easy Upper Elementary Bundle Giveaway (a $90 value) below.
Then, head to my friend Amy's blog, Teaching Ideas 4 U, and snag another great tip and FREEBIE!  Best of luck as you and your students tackle the 2015-2016 school year!

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