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Keeping Parents Looped In to the Classroom

Back to School, Conferences
Blog header for Keeping Parents Looped In to the Classroom blog post.

As we know education has changed a lot since we were kids and it continues to change every day. It can be hard as educators to keep up with all of the changes, but it can be even more difficult for parents. Parents want to be involved and help their child with school, but sometimes it can be tough for them. The way we teach has changed and they’re not always sure what to do or how to help without reverting back to how they learned.

As teachers there are ways that we can help educate parents so that they are able to help their children. We are all a team in this – teacher, parents, and students. It’s important for parents to feel informed and valued so that they can be more engaged in their child’s education. Below are three ideas for keeping parents engaged and helping them help their kids.

Idea #1 – Keep Parents Updated

One way teachers can help educate parents is by keeping them updated on what is happening in the classroom. The more informed parents are the better prepared they’ll feel to help their child. One way I do this is by sending out weekly newsletters. In my weekly newsletter I include important announcements and I also include what content we are covering the following week. By doing this parents are in the loop and know what specific topics their kids will be learning about. This gives them a chance to ask their kids specific questions and have an idea of what might be coming up with homework and tests.

Picture example of a class newsletter
Example of a Class Newsletter

Idea #2 – Provide Resources

As I mentioned at the top of this post, education has changed a lot. Students right now in 2019 are not learning how their parents did and this will always be changing. I especially find this to be true in math. Math strategies have changed greatly over the years. Gone are the days of using the one standard algorithm and everyone doing it the same way. Now students are able to try and are exposed to multiple strategies. Most parents have never seen these strategies and it can make it difficult for them to help their child with homework and math practice.

I provide my parents with resources to help make this easier. I will often take pictures of the anchor charts we create in class for different math skills and post them on our class website under Homework Resources. This way parents can see the way we are covering the material in class so that they are able to continue with those strategies at home. Most parents have found this very helpful and it’s super easy for me to do! I’m already creating the charts with the class so making it accessible to parents is easy!

Picture of addition anchor chart strategies
Addition Anchor Chart that I would share with parents.

Idea #3 – Provide Informational Sessions

One of the schools that I was at had monthly parent information sessions. These sessions took place at night and covered many different topics including: homework help, math strategies, research ideas, AR, writing workshop, and more. The goal of these sessions was to provide parents with information on what and how their child is learning so they can support them at home. In Gerry Brooks’ new book Go See the Principal, he also suggests having informational nights to help teach parents. He also recommends telling parents – “Please understand that your child may learn differently than you did.” I love this! It’s a great way to simply explain that while all parents are very intelligent – learning has changed and it’s ok.

Even if your school does not have informational nights like above you can still squeeze them in to other opportunities. Back to School Night is a great time to share ways and strategies that you are teaching in the classroom. Parent/Teacher Conferences is another opportunity to share with parents on a one-on-one basis ways they can help their child.

Picture of a slide from slideshow about Homework Help for a parent's information session.
Part of my slideshow for Homework Help a parent information session.

I hope you find these tips helpful with keeping your parents plugged in to what is happening at school and how they can help their child!

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5 Tips to Promote Growth Mindset

Back to School
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Please note Amazon affiliate links are included in this post for your convenience.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Growth Mindset is a valuable skill for our students to learn. It is important for kids and adults to know that it’s ok to make mistakes and it’s ok to not do everything perfectly the first time you do it. Below are 5 tips for promoting growth mindset in the classroom.

5 Tips for Growth Mindset

Picture of Growth Mindset books
  • Tip #2 – Class Dojo VideosClass Dojo is great for many things, but one of my favorite parts is their videos. They have a section of SEL videos that are perfect for the classroom. The Growth Mindset videos follow Mojo through a situation where he ends up learning about growth mindset and the power of yet. I love using these in the classroom. It is a great way to introduce and spring board your growth mindset discussion.
Picture of Class Dojo Growth Mindset Video options
  • Tip #3 – Show Kids Your Mistakes – No one is perfect. Teachers and adults are also not perfect. It’s important for kids to see that. We all make mistakes and that is ok. One I way I promote growth mindset in the classroom is by sharing my mistakes with the kids. For example, maybe I spell a word wrong on the board. Once I realize it (lol) or a student tells me, I then point out that I made a mistake and that it’s ok. We can all learn from mistakes. Kids need to see this. They need to see that it is ok and see positive ways to handle mistakes.
  • Tip #4 – Power of Yet – I love the word “yet.” This word is a word that I try to repeat over and over again to the point where the kids know when it’s coming. We’re learning something new – we might not be good at it…yet. This problem is hard – we’re just not there…yet. No one knows how to do everything perfectly the first time, first few times, first million times they try it. It doesn’t mean they will never get it – it just means they don’t get it yet. Teach your students this word and use it with them in the classroom. You’ll see that they’ll pick it up and apply it to their own situations.
  • Tip #5 – Provide Growth Mindset Opportunities – I know this might sound a little out there – but it’s important to give kids challenges where they might struggle and they might even fail. Now do not get me wrong, my goal is for my students to succeed and do well at school, but kids need to have challenges. We don’t want everything to come easy for them because that’s not real life. We want kids to struggle and have to work through things. They need to learn how to handle and work through failing and struggling because both of these situations are real life. It’s important for them to have these challenges with adults around who can help guide them and show them how to handle these situations. I often provide challenges or tricky STEAM type projects. It’s a great way for kids to practice perseverance and that word yet! It’s a great learning experience and tool to help them grow and use growth mindset.
Picture of kids working on a STEM project building a 3D house.

Those are my five favorite ways to promote growth mindset in the classroom. What are some of your favorites? Leave them in the comments below.

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Classroom Reveal 2018

Back to School, Classroom Set-Up

The time has finally come for me to show you my classroom!  This is my first year back in first grade and I have tables again which I love for first graders.  This classroom is definitely smaller than my past one so I had to be creative with the space and try to open it up to make it feel larger.

Without further ado….my classroom for 2018!

Here is the view when you walk in the classroom door.  I have 5 tables and 16 students (yes I know I am very lucky and grateful!).  So there are 3-4 kids at each table.

This is the bulletin area on my back wall. I will have each child’s brag tag necklace hanging on a pin.  I also have our classroom jobs board and will be displaying Writing work and Anchor Charts.  In the bookshelf, I am storing math tools and other tools for the classroom – white boards, clip boards, etc. On top of the bookshelf we have our class iPads and Chrome Books. The black bins on the ground are from Target. I got them many years ago during their college sales and they still sell them now. I use these to collect library books, one is for planners, and one is to hold their take-home folders.

Here is my classroom library. I have a post explaining how I organize that…here… The bulletin board will house our reading and math anchor charts. Since the bulletin boards in the classroom were very large I decided to split them so I could use them for more things!

Here you can see one of the tables for students.  I got these caddies at Lakeshore Learning and I love the bright colors.  Each table also has one of those Target crates.  The table crate will hold their book bags, white boards, privacy folders, workbooks, etc – since we don’t have desks.

Here is the front of my room. I am so excited to have a Smart Board again!

Here is the view from the front corner. You can see I moved all of the large furniture against the walls to open up the space as much as possible.

I am very lucky to have another white board kidney table for small groups. This also serves as my desk. I am working on ways to keep it more organized so I can use it as both easily!

Here are the cubbies for students. Each child has their own cubby and then the share the backpack part. I also store classroom supplies over here and have our turn-in bins.

This area is behind my desk. Again I’m trying to make it as functional as possible since I don’t really have a desk – more of a small group table.  I’m storing my teacher books back here, supplies for small group, curriculum resources, and more.

So that is my new first grade classroom! It has been a lot of work, but so worth it! I am so happy with how it turned out. I think my students have a bright, fun, safe space to learn in!

Classroom Management Tips

Back to School

As we all know, classroom management is such an important part of teaching. Today I’m sharing 5 classroom management tips with you to help start your school year off on the right foot!

  • High Expectations – It’s important for you to set high expectations for your students.  You need a classroom where students are able to learn and for that to happen expectations need to be set in place.
  • Be Consistent – This is huge!  If you say something, you need to follow through with it.  And, more importantly you need to be consistent with each student.
  • Model and Practice – When setting these high expectations it’s important that you model and show the kids what they look like. Kids also need time to practice expectations.  For example, if you want students walking with their hands by their sides and facing forward in the hall – you need to model it and practice it and practice it some more.
  • Build Relationships – Relationships are another important key to classroom management.  Get to know your students and let them get to know you.  When you have strong relationships with your students, you will see less behavior problems.
  • Plan Ahead – This is probably weird to put last, but you want to plan your procedures and expectations before the school year starts.  Think about how you want to handle getting a drink, sharpening pencils, turning work in, walking in the hall, etc.  If you have clear procedures in place, it will be easier to communicate that to your students.

What are you favorite classroom management tips??? Leave a comment…

Meet the Teacher Stations

Back to School

Hey everyone! I’m excited to share with you something new I’m doing this year.  Every school I’ve been at has had Meet the Teacher and as I know I have mentioned on here before it is a great event, but also chaotic. You have many families you are trying to meet and greet and lots of info to get out to them.  So, this year in addition to the PowerPoint I blogged about a few weeks ago I’m using stations during this event. This way parents and students have a few different things to work on which will hopefully make it easier for me to give one-on-one time to each family.

So…here are my stations…

Station #1 -Class Schedule

Parents will pick up our class schedule at this station. I like to provide the schedule right away so parents know when PE, lunch, etc are during our day.

Station #2 – Student Name Tags

Students will be creating their own name tag here. I will laminate them and then put them down where they will be sitting.

Station #3 – Parent Sign-ups

At this station parents can sign up to be a Room Parent or help with the different holiday parties.

Station #4 – All About Me Bag

I haven’t done an All About Me Bag in a few years, but decided to bring it back.  I like this activity because it’s a great way to get to know students. This will be due in a few days and we will have different students share their items throughout the day/week.

Station #5 – Charts

I saw a variation of this on Pinterest, but don’t remember where.  Here I have two charts – one for parents and one for students.  On both they will write things they are hoping to learn or that they hope their child will learn in first grade.

Station #6 – Treat

Who doesn’t love a little treat?  These “smart cookie” tags are a FREEBIE in my TPT store.  I have them for kinder through 5th grade.  Just a little treat for them to enjoy or take with them!

Of course I will be around to meet and greet each family too, but this way they have a few different activities to work on so I can hopefully get to everyone easier!

Team Back to School Gift

Back to School

This year I decided to get my teaching team a little gift for Back to School. I am starting at a new school and am on a team with 4 other first grade teachers.  Target Dollar Spot has so many fun goodies I decided to make them a little treat bag with a few of those items.

The Dollar Spot has cute to-do list paper and binder clips. I love the ones that say – to grade, to file, to send home – so fun!  I also got the bright yellow bags and tissue paper from this area! I picked up some Ink Joy pens (not from the dollar section unfortunately) to share with them too!

So here is the final product! It’s just a little something, but a fun way to start of the school year with your team!

Do you do team gifts? If so, comment below and let me know what you do.

Books for the First Week of School

Back to School, Books

Please note Amazon affiliate links are included in this post for your convenience.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

So, I love picture books and I especially love picture books that serve multiple purposes. Today I’m going to share with you some of my favorite books to use during the first few weeks of school.  These books can also be found on my Amazon List – Back to School Books.

First Day of School Books:

I always start the first day of school every year with the book First Day Jitters.  It’s a cute book that gets some of those nerves and jitters out of the way.  I also like that it shows that teachers are nervous too.

PIctures of Back to School Books - FIrst Day Jitters, The Night Before First Grade, First Grade Jitters, Wemberly Worried, Chrysanthemum

Be Kind Books:

Teaching social skills and life lessons are extremely important during the first week. These books are great for talking about being kind and respectful to one another.

Picture of books - Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun, Peanut Butter & Cupcake, Have You Filled a Bucket Today, Thelma the Unicorn, Hooway for Wodney Wat

Classroom Management:

The first few weeks of school are full of learning about classroom expectations and procedures. I love using the books below to discuss some of those topics.  These books are also good to bring up throughout the school year if an issue arises.

Picture of books - I've Won, Ruthie and the Not So Teeny Tiny Lie, Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen, The Boy Who Wouldn't Share, Tattle Tongue

Growth Mindset:

Growth Mindset is such a valuable skill for kids to learn. I love using these books to talk about it in kid friendly ways.  It’s important for kids to know that it’s ok to make mistakes and that they won’t be perfect at everything on the first go – and these books do a great job of explaining that.

Picture books - The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes, The Most Magnificent Thing, ish

Those are some of my favorites. What are your favorite back to school books? Comment below…

Meet the Teacher Tip

Back to School

Back to School Season is quickly approaching!! Today I wanted to share with you a tip for Meet the Teacher.  Meet the Teacher is an event that takes place before the first day where the kids come in see the classroom and most importantly – meet you! Some schools call it Orientation or Open House – either way this tip will still apply to you!

Meet the Teacher can be a chaotic day.  You have all of your new students and their families coming in and they always seem to come in waves!  And of course they tend to all come at the same time.  I don’t know about you, but I do find it tricky to try to navigate this situation. You want to make sure everyone feels welcome, gets equal time with you, and gets the info they need for the start of the school year. This can be tricky!  It is hard to give everyone equal time when you have multiple families in there at once!  So definitely move around the room and make sure you touch base with everyone.

My tip though is to make sure that everyone gets the info they need for the start of the school year. As I mentioned, your time with each new family goes quickly! Families often want to talk specifically about their child and don’t always get in to the basic school details.  So, I play a PowerPoint during Meet the Teacher. It’s just a few simple slides that play on loop throughout the whole day.  These slides as you’ll see below have the basic info that every parent needs for the first day.  This also saves you from repeating yourself a billion times about some of those details….

Here are the slides I include:

As you can see this PowerPoint isn’t fancy, but it is useful!  Be sure to follow my Instagram and Facebook page for more Back to School ideas!



Friday Favorites – Community Building Activities

Back to School

Every Friday this summer I am sharing some of my favorite things with you! The month of August is focused on back to school.

Check out past Friday Favorites…
PD Books
Read Alouds
Kids’ Favorite Series
Book Studies
Tech Apps

PBL Activities
Teaching Supplies
Back to School Books

I’m excited to share some of my favorite community building activities with you today! Many of these I actually did this past week which was the first week of school. I love team building activities and think it’s important that we really focus on building that community the first few weeks of school because it makes everyone feel more comfortable.

Bucket Filling – Such a great book and a great activity to continue all year long. This book talks about how we all have an invisible bucket above our head. When good things happen, drops go in the bucket and our bucket becomes fuller. When bad things happen or someone says something mean to you, drips go out over you bucket and your bucket starts to empty. It’s a great visual for kids. After reading, I always explain our bucket filling area. The students can write positive bucket filling notes to each other and put them in their buckets (Ziploc bags). Great way to promote positivity and kindness!

Find Someone Who – I don’t have a picture of this one, but there are many versions out there. This is a great first week activity that allows students to get to know one another and find things that they might have in common with others.  For example, find someone who has an older sibling.  Great activity for early in the school year.

Cup Tower Challenge – This activity is all over Pinterest. You give each team the same number of cups, a time limit, and their goal is to build the tallest tower possible with the cups. I love activities like this that focus on the kids working together for a common goal!

Dice Challenge – This is a Minute to Win It Game that I changed up a bit. This activity is again done in teams.  One student holds the craft stick while the other students stack dice on the end.  They have one minute to get as many dice as possible on the craft stick. At the end of the minute, the team with the most dice on the stick win! I will say I tried this out and it is not as easy as it looks! Requires a lot of coordination, but the kids had fun working on it!

Paper Chain Challenge – Another activity I found on Pinterest.  Again, students are in teams so it’s giving them a chance to work together and work on problem solving skills. Each group got one piece of paper, a pair of scissors, and a glue stick. The challenge was to build the longest paper chain using only one piece of paper! I was quite impressed with this group below – they made their chain quite long!!!
Snap Cube Challenge – I found the Snap Cube cards at Keeping My Kiddo’s and Kinder’s Busy… you can find them…here.  Then, I had students work with their team to build all 9 snap cube figures. They then had to take a picture of each creation. The first team finished with all 9 won! 
Thank you for checking out my favorite community building activities. Since Summer is coming to an end so is my Friday Favorite Blog Post Series – but stay tuned for many more blog posts and teaching ideas!

Classroom Reveal 2017

Back to School

I’m excited to share my classroom with you today! Many things are the same as last year, but I have added some things and can’t wait to tell you all about my room!  My room is prime real estate at my school because I have 4 windows! Yes – 4 good sized windows. I love the natural light. In addition to 4 windows, I have a great view of the Las Vegas Strip from one of my windows. I definitely hit the jackpot with classrooms!

Here is the bulletin board I have right outside my classroom. I typically create a simple bulletin like this for Meet the Teacher and the first week of school. Then, I turn it into my student work board. I use ribbon and hang the student work with clothespins. The clothespins make it super easy to change work out.
This is one of my favorite bulletin boards of all time – My Instagram Board.  I have each month of school on the board and then will put pictures from that month under the label.  I love this because it’s a great way to capture memories throughout the year and showcase them in a timeline of sorts.
Here’s the view when you walk in my classroom. As you can see, many windows (and you can only see 2 of them). I love windows because you can see out and don’t feel enclosed, but also because it provides a lot of natural light. In the afternoons, we’re often able to work with the lights off because of how bright it is from the outside light.
Here you can also see my desks. I currently have 15 students, but decided to use 16 desks and put them in groups of 4. I like students to be grouped together because I will often have students work with teams and partners and I want them to be able to collaborate.
I won’t show you the inside of my closet because it’s not pretty lol – but it is better since I cleaned some stuff out last spring. The plastic bags are my “buckets” for bucketfilling. Each child has a bucket that will hold positive notes.
Here is my back wall. Students use the cubbies to hold books, lunches, snacks, etc. They then hang their backpacks on the hooks. As you can see, I have my job chart back here and my Brag Tag display.
Here is my reading area.  From this angle, you can see the picture book section of my library. My bulletin board is blank, but that is on purpose. I use lots of anchor charts so this will become full as I make those with my class.
Here you can see the rest of my library. I have the books in bins divided by catagories – nonfiction, animal, Judy Moody, Cam Jansen, Mystery, etc.
Here is my Writing Bulletin Board. Again it is blank because I like to have the students help me create the anchor charts that will be displayed. I also have a section of this board called “Spotlight On…” This area is to spotlight student writing. I pick a focus area like adding details and then pin up student work that is strong in this area.
I love, love, love, love my white board kidney table. This is my small group area and the white board table makes life much easier!
The white board is where I list our homework. Students have planners that they copy the homework and due dates into.  The cards below are the Literacy Station Task Cards.
So, my desk area is a little messy – and it always is! I have a hard time coming up with a system that keeps it clean, but I always try to figure something out every year.
Behind my desk, I have some great organizational tools. I love using the 3-drawer Sterilite containers for storing my items for the week. It’s super easy and makes life easier when you have a sub. I also love my toolbox! This helps keep everything in it’s place!
I use this table to keep things that I’m working on with the kids that day. This table also holds my JustStand. I use the JustStand to hold my iPad and use my iPad like a document camera!
Here’s my main white board. We also have a projector which makes life easy!  I also have my word wall under the white board. I love that the students have easy access to the words and can take them with them to their desk when they need help with spelling.
I have a second white board table! This is also used for small groups. We are very lucky as we have learning support teachers who come in during small group time. They pull a group at this table, I pull a group at my kidney table, and the rest of the students are working on independent activities.
In this corner you can see my Essential Questions. I have these posted for students to refer to. You can also see the side of my math manipulative storage area.
Here is my math and supply area. Again the bulletin board has a blank space so that I can put anchor charts up.  I have my math manipulatives on one side and supplies (crayons, markers, scissors, etc) on the other. All are stored in containers with labels to make finding things easy.
Here is the last area in my classroom – we kind of made a little circle in this blog tour. I have many different things stored here. The top shelf has math and literacy games stored in bins by topics.  The second and third shelf have books that I use when teaching. These books are organized by topic and teaching area.  The fourth shelf has my writing station materials.  On the ground, which you can’t see, I store my math station bins.
That was a lengthy post, but thank you for staying with me. I hope you enjoyed a peek at my classroom/home away from home!