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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Every Minute Counts

Do you believe that every minute counts?  I have found some of the best ways to enhance instruction that anyone can do.  All of the resources I will talk about in this post, you already have or can be made with common items found in your classroom.  And... Time is not a factor.  Do you want in on my little secret?  (I am sure most of you already do this anyway.)
Begin your school day by welcoming students at your door.  I always greet my students with interesting words to increase their vocabulary and introduce them to new words.  For example, if a student is smiling I may say, "You look very delightful today."  If a student has on new shoes I may say, "Your new shoes look very comfortable."  Not only do students need the initial positive communication, but children are being exposed to interesting vocabulary.  You do not need any resources for vocabulary exposure.  However, you may start your morning meeting by revisiting some of the words.  I like to use large chart paper for my morning message.  I often include interesting words in my morning message.

I have an Enfamil can from several years ago that I use when we travel to and from special classes.  I have skills that need to be reviewed.  I call my review can "Locked Out".  I tell my students that we are "locked out" and can't move on until we answer correctly.  Sometimes I do it whole group and other times I do them individually.  Currently, there are math facts that my kindergarten students review.  I just pull a card and students tell me the answer.  Math facts, sight words, and nonsense words are the most frequently reviewed skills that I use.  So don't throw away that empty can or basket.  Use it to review skills at bathroom breaks, standing in lunch line, and even lining up for dismissal.
Right next to my teacher chair, I have several "go to" books.  Students need to be read to.  I read many 'just because' read alouds to my students.  I read just so my students can hear what reading sounds like.  I read to model fluency.  I read to emphasize voice.  I read just because!
The fourth way to enhance instruction in your classroom is to communicate with students and parents.  Do you have a classroom newsletter?  Do you send home updated word wall sheets, behavior sheets, or family projects.  I have sent almost each monthly project this school year.  The projects increase parent involvement and are often used as part of our reading block.  It is just one more way to enhance academics and increase communication.  I purchased the packet called

Kindergarten Monthly Family Projects by Erin Eberhart Lynch.

Transitions are one of the easiest was to increase academics in the classroom.  At the beginning of the school year, we would walk from the rug to our seats counting by ones.  Now, I dismiss students from the rug to their seats by asking:
for words that rhyme,
the answer to a math fact,
what number is one more,
how many syllables are in a word,
and what they plan on writing about.
When we line up for dismissal I use rhymes.  I say the beginning of the rhyme and students give me a "thumb kiss" with the response.  I use Cara Carroll's Goodbye Rhymes.

These are not new ideas.  They are simple ideas that any teacher at any grade level can use to enhance every minute of the school day.  What do you do to enhance instruction?  Can you use any of these ideas in your classroom?  No matter what you do or what resources you use, make every minute count!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Classroom Newsletter

Classroom communication has been on my mind lately.  I have very supportive parents who take interest in their child's education.  I feel that it is important to communicate with parents on a weekly basis.  I send home a weekly classroom newsletter to strengthen the relationship between school and home.  I also use the newsletter as a positive communication tool to inform parents of upcoming events, important calendar reminders, and to celebrate class successes.  One of the best ways to create a school and home bond is to be personal.  As teachers, we must have effective communication.  In this post, I will focus on how frequently teachers communicate, newsletter requirements, types of newsletters, accountability, and durability.
As I wrote above, I send home my classroom newsletter weekly.  I ONLY send them home on Mondays.  I started this years ago because a mentor teacher, Sherri Caballero from Second Thoughts, managed her take-home folders on Monday.  This was over 12 years ago and I still send them home on Mondays.  I tell parents on the first day of school the importance of the Monday folder.  Along with the newsletter is graded work from the past week.  This is the ONLY day I send home graded work.  It looks different than the daily folder.  Each student has the same folder.  Parents know that Mondays are the most important day to check backpacks and to review the previous week's work.

I send home folders containing student work from the previous week.  Parents look over this work with their child.  A signature page is also attached to sign each Monday.  The newsletter is included each week to keep families informed of classroom news and updates.
Our school district does not require teachers to send home a weekly or monthly newsletter.  However, our teacher evaluation model includes "contribute to school culture, advocate for student success, and engage families in student learning".  What better way to engage families in student learning...  a classroom newsletter.
I created my own template that I use each week.  Below are some pictures of what I use in my kindergarten classroom.  I always include upcoming events and calendar events.  I usually print it on colored paper, but not always.  However, I have my newsletter on top.  It is the first paper I want families to see.
I like to include student birthdays, special events and fundraiser information.  Sight words, word families, and curriculum is always highlighted throughout the newsletter.
A few of my colleagues include a behavior tracking sheet for parents to sign in their folders.  There are also teachers in my building that use a homework sheet with their classroom newsletter that is required to be signed daily.  Personally, I prefer the Monday folder.  However, I do include a signature sheet for parents to sign and return to school.  The signature sheet is an accountability measure that I use in the classroom.  The top of my signature page reads...
"After reviewing your child’s work collection with your child, please keep completed work at home and return any information that needs to be returned in the “return” section of the folder.  I am confident that going through this work with your child each week will allow you to see the tremendous growth your child is making, as well as help in any areas he/she is struggling in.  If you have any questions regarding your child’s work, please contact your child’s teacher.  Sign and date the form and return to school the next school day."
I purchase my folders from Extra Packaging.  I purchase them over the summer and they last the entire school year.  Each student has the same cover.
I have the cover available as a free download here.

There are many templates available on Teachers Pay Teachers.  If you don't send one home, now is the time to start that parent communication folder or binder and increase school-home communication.

We would love to hear from you.  What do you do for a classroom newsletter?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Five for Friday {February 12}

 We are linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for another Five For Friday!

Ahhhh...relaxation!! Today starts a 4 day weekend. Of course I have so many things planned for this weekend, but in reality this will happen:

This year we had to make my daughter's Valentine Box at home. She LOVES Shopkins, so we recreated Cheeky Chocolate in box form! Here is the aftermath of making this small shoebox:

Stephanie made these adorable valentine's for her kiddos. This is a great idea! Tape a card to a pack of baseball or football cards.

No snow days this week (YEAH!) but it did snow on Tuesday. The flakes were like large snowballs falling from the sky. Teaching when it is snowing is difficult, but this was 10 times worse! We gave up and took the kids outside. Stephany's class had a blast outside!

Do you ever look at your old products and literally cringe? Stephany and I decided it was time to give our Math Assessments a re-do. As you can was much needed! They will all be redone soon, so stay tuned ;)

Friday, February 5, 2016

Five for Friday { February 5 }

 We are linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for another Five For Friday!

 Stephanie's class learned about Flamingos this week.  They had all sorts of fun!

They also dived into Non-Fiction texts this week! 

Kindergarten does boxes instead of bags for Valentine's Day.  These are just some of the creative boxes that came in this week!

The Target Dollar Spot has some really cute Valentine's Day stuff out this week.  I was able to snag up these cute containers that are great for sorting during stations.

Don't forget to enter the great giveaway that The Elementary Entourage is having right now!  You can enter over at the blog...

Have a great weekend!