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July 13, 2024

Connect With Families Before Back-to-School Time

 As summer winds down and the new school year approaches, building strong relationships with families becomes a priority. Establishing these connections before the first day of school can set a positive tone for the year and foster a supportive community.

1. Send a Welcome Letter.

A personalized welcome letter can make a big impact. Introduce yourself, share a bit about your background, and outline your excitement for the upcoming school year. Include a fun fact or two about yourself to make it more personable.

2. Host a Virtual Meet-up.

Organize a virtual meet-and-greet session. This can be a casual event where families can log in, meet you, ask questions, and share any concerns. It’s a great way to put faces to names and start building rapport.

3. Send a Survey.

Distribute a survey to gather information about your students and their families. Ask about their interests, learning preferences, and any concerns they might have. This not only helps you get to know them better but also shows that you value their input.

4. Plan a Family Night.

If possible, organize an informal family night at the school. This event can include a tour of the classroom, a brief presentation about the upcoming school year, and time for families to mingle. Offering refreshments and engaging activities can make it more enjoyable.

5. Make Personal Phone Calls.

Taking the time to call each family individually can be incredibly impactful. Introduce yourself, express your enthusiasm for having their child in your class, and ask if they have any questions or concerns. This personal touch can help build trust and openness.

6. Offer Office Hours

Set aside specific times when families can call or visit you with any questions they might have. Advertise these office hours in your welcome letter and on your classroom website. Being available shows that you are approachable and ready to support them.

7. Send a Postcard.

Send a cheerful postcard to each student. This simple gesture can make students feel special and excited about the upcoming year. A short, positive message from their new teacher can go a long way in easing first-day jitters.

Connecting with families before the school year begins can create a strong foundation for a successful academic year. These efforts show that you care about your students’ well-being and are committed to fostering a collaborative, supportive environment. By implementing these strategies, you’ll be well on your way to building lasting, meaningful relationships with the families in your school community!

Check out these other Back-to-School ideas!

With faith and friendship,

June 15, 2024

Exit Tickets - 10 Creative Ideas!

Exit tickets can be used to assess students' understanding and plan future instruction. These 10 ideas will encourage engagement and appeal to different learning styles.

1. Draw and Describe: 

Students draw a picture related to the lesson and write a sentence or two describing it. For example, after a science lesson on plants, they might draw a flower and label its parts.

2. Emoji Reactions

Provide a set of emojis (happy, confused, excited, etc.) and ask students to circle the one that best represents how they feel about the lesson, then write a short explanation.

3. 3-2-1 Summary

Students write down three things they learned, two questions they have, and one thing they found interesting. This format helps synthesize learning and identify areas needing clarification.

4. One-Question Exit Ticket

Pose a single, open-ended question related to the lesson, such as "What is one thing you will remember from today’s lesson?" or "What is one question you still have about today's topic?"

5. Pair-and-Share Exit Ticket

Students pair up and discuss their answers to a prompt, then write down their partner's response. This encourages collaboration and listening skills

6. Sticky Note Exit Tickets

Provide sticky notes for students to write their responses and place them on a designated area (like a "parking lot" poster) as they leave the classroom.

7. Mini-Book Exit Ticket

Students create a small booklet where each page represents a different aspect of the lesson. For example, in a history lesson, each page could cover a different historical figure or event.

8. Comic Strip Exit Ticket

Students draw a short comic strip that explains a concept from the lesson. This format is especially engaging and helps students who enjoy visual storytelling.

9. Traffic Light Exit Ticket

Students use a traffic light system to indicate their understanding: green for "I understand well," yellow for "I understand but need more practice," and red for "I am confused." They can add a sentence explaining their choice.

10. Self-Assessment Exit Ticket

Provide a simple rubric or checklist for students to assess their own learning and effort. For example, "I participated in the discussion," "I asked questions," or "I completed my work."

Check out these exit tickets to add variety to your informal assessments:

There are many ways to use exit tickets as quick and easy assessment tools!

More Assessment Ideas:

With faith and friendship,

May 27, 2024

Summer Reading (not a challenge)

One of the best ways to prevent the summer slide is to keep kids reading over the summer. Help the grown-ups by suggesting ways to make reading easy and fun. 

Some ideas include: 

1. Book Clubs

Students can form summer book clubs with their friends. They can plan regular meet-ups to share their thoughts about the books. Wouldn't it be fun to make a fort to have the meet-ups?!

2. Audio Books

Audiobooks are a way to change things up a bit. Some apps are even free from the library.

3. Local Library

Make regular trips to the library. Children can choose books that interest them. Many libraries offer programs and events along with a summer reading program.

4. Book-Themed Movie Nights

Read a book together and then watch the movie. You could even serve snacks that relate to the story.

5. Family Reading Nights

Designate one night a week to gather and read. 

6. Storytelling

Create stories together as a family. Each family member can take turns adding to the story. Be sure to write it down!

7. Book Swap

Organize a book swap with other families. Each child can bring books they've read and exchange them for new ones. The adults can participate as well.

8. Reading Picnic

Pack some books and a picnic lunch. Head to the park or beach.

9. Bookstore

Visit a local bookstore to browse. Set a budget and let each child choose a book to buy.

10. Reading Nook

Create cozy reading nooks with pillows and comfy chairs. Try a tent or fort for added fun!

Engaging students in summer reading with their families can create memories and strengthen reading habits.

More about Reading:

10 Ways to Promote Reading at Home

5 Ways to Teach Reading Comprehension

Benefits of Read Alouds in the Classroom

With faith and friendship,

April 23, 2024

Fun + Educational Spring Activities for Elementary School Students

 Spring is a wonderful time for engaging, hands-on lessons that connect with nature!

1. Plant Life Cycle Exploration

Start with seeds and have students plant them in small pots. If time permits, they could decorate the pots first. (Sponge painting is fairly quick and easy.) Students can track the growth of the plants and make observations.

2. Nature Walk with Journaling

Make the most of beautiful spring days with a nature walk. It's a great way to get outside and explore the natural world around us. Encourage students to document what they see, hear, smell, and feel. You may want to discourage touching!

3. Bird Watching

Spring is prime time for bird migration and nesting. Consider adding a bird feeder outside your classroom for observations. Grab a few books and see if students can identify any species. Do you see your state bird?

4. Weather Tracking and Data Analysis

Students can learn about weather patterns by tracking daily weather conditions including temperature, precipitation, wind speed, and cloud cover. They can record data on charts and graphs and analyze trends over time.

5. Insect Study and Identification

Engage students in an insect study by observing, identifying, and learning about different insect species. Perhaps you can bring in a bug house to safely observe various insects up close! 

6. Spring Poetry

Creativity soars in the spring. Teach students a couple different types of poetry and provide plenty of examples. Provide time for students to get creative and then have a poetry party to give students a chance to share their work.

7. Gardening with Sustainable Practices

Get hands-on with gardening activities. Your local Home Depot (or similar store) may even help. One year a conversation with the manager led to a whole team from our Home Depot coming to our school to help our 4th graders start a garden. It was so much fun, and they even provided the tools!

These springtime lessons provide opportunities for students to engage with the natural world, develop observation skills, and deepen their understanding of seasonal changes.

With faith and friendship,

April 5, 2024

How to Integrate Music Into Your Math Lessons

Need to capture your students' attention? Try enhancing your lessons with music! Music stimulates various parts of the brain making it a great tool for education.

1. Play Classical Music During Arrival and Dismissal

Create a playlist of classical music as students enter the classroom. Classical music could lead to a calm dismissal too!

2. Make Math Chants

Encourage students to make up rhythmic math chants for multiplication facts. Have them work in small groups and share with the class.

3. Create Word Problems

Using popular songs or artists, have each student create a word problem for classmates to solve. Include guidelines in your directions such as numbers must be 2 or 3 digits, no zeros, etc. Students can write their problems on an index card and trade cards with a partner and solve them.

4. Math Rock Bands

Divide students into groups. Each group creates a song or rap about a math concept. Hold a Math Rock Band concert!

5. Musical Math

Prepare a review worksheet. Place a worksheet on each student's desk. Play some music. While the music plays, students move and dance about the room. Pause the music and students stop and work on the problems at any desk. Start the music back up and students move and dance again. Repeat until the worksheets are complete. Go over the answers.

Try this place value review worksheet for only $1.25:

Integrating music into math lessons can improve engagement and retention!

With faith and friendship,

March 27, 2024

21 Whole-Class Rewards

Your class has just filled the marble jar! Now what?  

Here are 21 ideas for whole-class rewards for elementary school students:

1. Extra Recess Time
2. Movie and Popcorn Party
3. Board Game Day
4. Card Game Day
5. Pizza Party
6. Classroom Picnic
7. Dance Party
8. Stuffed Animal Day
9. Make a Craft
10. Pajama Day
11. Outdoor Scavenger Hunt
12. Talent Show
13. Science Experiment
14. Computer/Tablet Time
15. Class Karaoke
16. Flashlight and Blanket Reading 
17. Cooking Activity
18. Dress Up Day (fancy, superhero, etc.)
19. Mini Field Day
20. Camping Day
21. Teacher - Student Swap Day

These rewards can create a positive class environment, encourage teamwork, and provide opportunities for fun, memorable experiences for students!

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With faith and friendship,

March 13, 2024

2024 Solar Eclipse for Kids

The next solar eclipse will occur in North America on April 8, 2024. This event will surely spark curiosity in your students. Check out a few ways to make the solar eclipse a remarkable learning experience!

1. Safety First

Students must be instructed to not look at the sun even during a solar eclipse. Explain that there are special glasses to be worn (not regular sunglasses.) For the 2017 solar eclipse, our local libraries gave away solar eclipse viewing glasses for free. It may be worth checking out in your area.

2. Model a Solar Eclipse.

Use a flashlight (sun), a globe (earth), and a ball (moon) to demonstrate what happens during a solar eclipse.  Have one student hold the globe. Another student shines the flashlight on the earth. The third student moves the moon in between the globe and the flashlight. The "moon" is blocking the "sun's" light from reaching the earth. This is called a solar eclipse.

3. Invite an Astronomer to Class.

Contact local colleges to see if an astronomy professor would be willing to visit and share some info with the kids. 

4. The Passage and Timing

Check out this page for specific information on the 2024 solar eclipse:

Great American Eclipse

Will you be in school?

5. Visit Nasa's Website.

NASA has a great page for kids.

NASA Space Place

6. Make a Fun Craft.

Your students will love making this solar eclipse craft:

2024  Solar Eclipse Craftivity 

The 2024 Solar Eclipse is a unique opportunity for learning and discovery. You may even spark a lifelong interest in science! 

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 With faith and friendship,