Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Beginning Of Year Parent Letter {Downloadable}

I like to send home a letter at the beginning of each school year to give parents highlights of what to expect in my classroom. I outline my behavior plan, grading/school work/class work, class rules, etc. This helps parents remember highlights from open house night. It's also helpful if the student will have more than one teacher (departmentalized elementary school, or middle/high school) or if the parents have more than one child attending the school--it's hard to remember which teacher does what!

The screen shots below show what information I included in my letter from a few years ago. As you can see, it was written for a sixth grade class. To make things easier for you, I included a link to my Google Docs version of this letter so you can download it and format it for your classroom.

Click here to access the Parent Letter file!

I think it's important to keep this letter short and to the point. This letter is a little less than two pages. I have done a longer one, but longer doesn't always equal better.

Great Teaching Binder

Jenn at Beyond the Grades has a really great teaching binder that puts a lot of essential paperwork that we need to access every day in one binder. Her binder makes it super easy to grab one item for conferences, parent phone calls, grading, team meetings, faculty meetings, etc.

In this binder she has a calendar in the front pocket, an EZ Grader in the back pocket, and divider tabs for each section. The sections she includes are:

  • Important Information: schedules, class lists, transportation info. This can easily be removed to place in a sub folder for the days you are out.
  • Student Data: Important assessment scores (MAP scores, etc.), contact information, conference sheets, etc. 
  • Curriculum Calendar: Curriculum and testing calendars
  • Grading: She keeps 9 week grades in spreadsheet format here. Again, very easy to refer to during team meetings, conferences, etc.
  • Lesson Plan Ideas
  • Team Meeting Notes
  • Faculty Meeting Notes
  • PLC Meeting Notes
I like how easy it to manage all the paperwork you get during meetings: simply place it in the appropriate tabs. You could include one of those small 3-hole punches that fit in a 3-ring binder so paper gets filed immediately. Great ideas Jenn!

Click here for access to Jenn's post

A Cute Behavior Management Tool

The teachers over at Primary Possibilities have a cute idea for managing student behavior. 

At the beginning of the day, she writes a student's name on a certificate that looks like this (it's free to download on the site linked above):

Then she places it in the magnetic container shown above. If students are getting chatty or off-task she will comment "I need to check on my secret student" and this reminds an off-task student that the secret student could very well be him/her!

At the end of the day, she pulls out the certificate. If the student had a good day, they get to take it home. If not, she quietly puts it in her pocket and says, "My secret student didn't make very good choices today. I hope it's better tomorrow." I love that she doesn't tell students who it is if the behavior wasn't up to par. This provides motivation to try harder tomorrow. While this isn't a replacement for a whole class management system by any means, it's a fun little surprise for students, a motivator to make good choices, and also a good way to keep students' attention at the end of the day when everyone is a little wiggly :)

Utilizing Your iPad

I found a great infographic from Tony at LearningHand.com that shows various ways to use your iPad for showing your iPad screen to the whole class, managing the classroom, assessment, interacting with students, accessing your files, creating instructional media, and learning new things. Here's a screen shot of the beginning of the infographic:

Click Here to see the full infographic

This infographic shares a ton of great apps to try for the classroom (and indicates if they are free or paid apps). One I'd really like to check out is Three Ring where you can digitize student work. This would be great to avoid losing papers, but also for creating portfolios, tracking student progress. You could also use it during parent/teacher conferences or you can even be shared with parents. Pretty cool!

Explain Everything is an app that records your voice as your draw on a whiteboard. I could see this being great for homework help. For example, you're teaching how to add fractions and send home some homework. Mom is trying to help her child, but can't remember if the denominator needs to be the same before adding the numerators. Include a link at the bottom of the homework sheet or post the video to the class website and mom has a tool to help her child succeed! Excellent idea.

These are just two apps that look very promising. Check them out!

Monday, April 29, 2013

My Philosophy of Education

Education is a wide, deep field with room to try new ideas and get creative. The core of education is the students. The decisions a teacher makes should benefit students and their learning. Teaching should be research-based and data-driven, but should take advantage of teachable moments and emphasize relationships with students. All students can learn and the core of teaching is to instill a love of learning and help students become the best version of themselves as possible.