11 Easy Tips to Keep Parents Involved




Tired of the same ol' tips and tricks for encouraging parent involvement?  Whether you are looking to freshen things up a bit before the end of the year, or you are setting plans in motion for next year's class, here are 11 tips for welcoming parents into your "home away from home".

1. Create a Class Blog
On my class blog, parents can find class updates, access to newsletters, suggested websites for students to gain extra practice at home, and pictures of our learning.  You can easily create a free blog via Blogger, snag one of their templates, and be up and running within minutes!

2. Send updates using Remind
I love this website because it allows parents to sign up to receive text or email alerts from teachers. Parents choose which way they want content delivered.  Download the app right onto your Smartphone, or control alerts from their website.

3. Create a newsletter
Keep your parents up to date about weekly or monthly happenings via a newsletter.  You can send a hard copy home with the students, or go green by emailing a digital copy.

4. Ask for parent volunteers
Even if your parents do not have easy access to the school, many parents may be willing to volunteer from afar.  Whether they organize a supply donation for the classroom or send their child off to school with a neat book to share, don't assume that guardians do not want to be involved just because distance is a challenge.

5. Provide a list of online websites
In my experience, parents love when they know of a few educational, interactive websites or apps for download in which children can reinforce skills learned in school while at home.  I use SymbalooEDU to congregate all my favorite sites.

6.  Give online access - ClassDojo.com
ClassDojo is just one of a few websites that track student progress.  You can even give parents their own login information to check the status of their child whenever they want.


7. Send home personalized notes
I try to send home positive, personal notes about students at least once a month.  I rotate each week between students to lessen the load.  I love this strategy the most because it helps to build a more positive, trusting relationships with parents and students.

8. Create a classroom Instagram Account
You may need to run this one past your Administrator, but I started a class Instagram this year and we LOVE it!  The students get super excited to be "featured" (I blur out faces for privacy concerns), and parents love getting a "live" peek into our classroom as we progress through our day.

9. Skype
Sometimes in-person interactions just aren't possible.  Offer to conference in with a parent face-to-face via Skype.  This feels more personal than a phone call.  In June, I am offering an end of year Skype workshop for my parents on how they can extend learning into the summer.

10. Make phone calls
Similar to the personalized notes mentioned above, be sure to call parents from time to time.  It doesn't have to be anything lengthy, just a quick update on how little John or Jane is doing.  This tip is especially helpful when I need to contact home about something more serious.  Because parents are more used to hearing from me, they are more receptive to the conversation.

11. Get a translator
If possible, have someone translate any verbal or written communication for parents that may not speak English.

Have any other suggestions for keeping parents involved?  Leave your comments below!

Keeping Your Students Current on Current Events



I had sort of an "a ha" moment the other morning.  My students do not know about current events in our world.

A classroom discussion during snack lead me to the startling truth that:

  • 75% of my students could not tell me one current event happening in the world right now.
  • 40% do not have a favorite sports team.
  • 100% of my students have never read a newspaper or could even tell me the different sections within the newspaper.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Now, those of you who follow my blog regularly know that I do teach a special needs population.  However, I truly believe that even my general education teachers can relate to this rapid decline of current event knowledge within their classrooms.

After some digging around, I came up with a short list of excellent resources to help our kids stay on top of current events and social topics happening in our world today.

These great resources can easily be added to your already jam-packed school day by discussing articles during snack, watching videos as part of your morning meeting.  Or, maybe adding a current event article as part of your ELA curriculum.  Take a peek:

DogoNews
I love this website because not only does it have engaging, up-to-date news articles for kids, but at the end of every article, there are comprehension questions for the students. Kids can scroll through book and movie reviews...written by other kids.  There is also a CCSS tab that gives teachers helpful suggestions for meeting academic standards.

TeachingKidsNews
News designed with the kids in mind.  Love it.  These articles are geared for students in grades 2-8.  At the end of the article, they have writing and discussion prompts at both junior and intermediate level.

Time for Kids
Sign up for a membership and receive extra access to videos and lesson ideas.  Time for Kids is available in both hard and digital copy.  I display these magazines in my library, and the kids really enjoy thumbing through them during free reading time.

CNN Student News
Geared toward middle and high school students, these quick, 10 minute videos cover major, daily news stories happening across the globe.  Great to play each morning or afternoon as the start or end to a day.

Smithsonian TweenTribune  
Interesting articles mainly covering scientific topics.  You have the ability to choose articles based on grade level interest and reading levels.

I made these little current event quick write slips to be used as exit tickets in my classroom.  Click on the image below to grab this free resource, and assess how your students are understanding and interacting with non-fiction text.


What are You Reading Linky




This month I am reading Strategies that Work by Stephanie Harvey and Ann Goudvis.  This little suggestion came from Melissa (Got to Teach) on Elementary Snapshots last month.

The book covers 6 easy strategies that will help improve students' reading comprehension.  It offers lots of suggestions on shared reading and how to model the 6 strategies for your students.

In her post, Melissa was also kind enough to offer some FREE strategy posters for your classroom that directily align with this text.  Click on the picture below to grab the free posters.
Photo Credit: Melissa, Got to Teach
Click on the book image to shop this read on Amazon.


Finally, click on the Focused on Fifth button to check out what other upper elementary teachers are reading this month.

Products for Pay Day

I am a few days late for our Products for Pay Day linky...but better late than never, right?

Every year, without fail, I notice that my students struggle with the concept of equivalent fractions.  In both my general ed and special ed classrooms, this concept poses as a real challenge for my students.

This year, I am using some fun, interactive centers as spiral review and to keep the concept fresh.



I LOVE Pick, Flip, and Check because it teachers the students about independence and self-monitoring.  On one side of the card, the students must solve to find the equivalent fractions for the fraction in the middle.   Then, they clip their answers and flip the card to see if they are correct.

Students can play this independently, or with a friend to see who can collect the most correct cards.



The second center I am rotating is my equivalent fractions flower puzzles and spinner games.


I love this product because it allows for lots of differentiation when printing in either color or black and white on colored paper.

I also love that the spinner game can be used for either single or multi-player use.



To purchase my Pick, Flip, and Check game click here and to download my Equivalent Fractions Spring Centers click here.

Also, before you leave, be sure to download my St. Patrick's Day clip art freebie to get your materials ready for this month's upcoming holiday!


To stock your shopping cart with more great products, hop on over to Focused on Fifth to see what other teacher bloggers are talking about.





February What are you Reading Linky


For those of you who follow this lil' blog, you know I teach a special needs population.  This year, my students' reading levels range from first grade to sixth grade.  Yikes. A pretty large span.

Because of my students' learning and behavioral struggles, reading is a daunting task.  Many of their disabilities prevent them from experiencing the wonders of a great book.  

Leaving for winter break, I was determined to find a solution.  I wanted my students to experience the joys of literature...the fun that comes along with tracking plot structure, analyzing themes, discussing how characters can grow and change, etc...

Enter, The Hunger Games.


I ordered a class set of books through Scholastic, along with the audio CD.  I didn't want my students stressing over reading this book themselves.  I simply wanted them to relax and enjoy the captivating story. 

Well, let me tell you, it was the best decision I made all year.  The kids are LOVING the book and ask all the time for us to listen.

To get the kids pumped for the novel, I had our door decorated and The Hunger Games soundtrack playing when they arrived to class.





We also watched the trailer to give a little visual background of the story.



Tracking Plot Structure




I found these fun plot structure labels from The Primary Girl.  As we progress through the story, the kiddos move the main characters across the plot structure diagram.  This is an excellent visual to help my students grasp the idea of plot.

Making Connections and Comparing and Contrasting using Different forms of Media
I love that The Hunger Games movie so closely depicts the novel and that we are able to use the movie as an extra resource for making connections.  We discuss the similarities and differences between the book and movie and the reasoning behind the differences (i.e., how the movie needs to show character thought differently than the book).

Rather then waiting until the end of the book to watch the movie, we watch a little bit at a time.  I find this keeps the kiddos really engaged and motivated to continue reading.  They love seeing the story come to life.

Tracking Themes and Citing Textual Evidence
To assess that my students are comprehending and tracking themes properly throughout the novel, I have them jot down one or two examples of themes throughout the book/movie as an exit ticket each day after class. I love how simple, yet effective these interactive theme charts are.

To check out what others are reading in their upper elementary classrooms, click on the Focused on Fifth button below!

Simple Organization Hacks that you will Actually Use


How many times have you searched through Pinterest for awesome organization tips?  You gather up some ideas with the very best intentions for using these tricks in your home or classroom, yet...they just don't pan out??  Guilty.

As a busy, first time mom, easy-to-use classroom organization is a must.

For this upcoming year, I am looking for organization systems that are easily maintained and will actually be useful beyond just one week after putting them in place.  Here are some ideas I am loving.


Chalkpaint File Cabinet by Design Improvised
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What a simple, cheap way to stay on top of your to do's! Pick up a can of chalkboard paint and go to town on your file cabinets.  Don't have a file cabinet in your classroom?  I am thinking the side of your teacher desk is another easy area to do this little project.

Clean and Comfortable Drawer Organizer by Tales of a Tenacious Teacher
Kelli always has the greatest ideas.  She is one of my top go-to teachers for fun, yet practical strategies for your classroom.  I love this little "keep me together" drawer she made for her classroom.  This bad boy holds all her grooming essentials to keep her feeling fresh all day.

Receipt Organization by I Heart Planners
Receipt Organization 12
How many times have you needed to go back for that receipt and you just couldn't find it?  This little hack is super useful for my personal life, but I am also loving this idea as a way to keep my school purchase orders in check as well.  You simply label the inside tabs by month and file the receipts into their correct slot.

Clothespin Reminders by Decorating your Small Space
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I am always jotting little reminders on stickies.  Yet, there is major danger that those little stickies will get lost.  With this clothespin hack, simply string a wire or attach magnets to the back of the clothes pins to stick them on a metal surface.  Voila!  Now you can jot down your easy-to-forget notes and pop them on a clothespin until you can mark the reminder on your calendar.

What are some quick organization tips you are loving right now?  I would love to read your comments below.

December - What are you Reading Linky

Happy Monday, my teacher friends.  I am excited about this month's linky since it comes right before our winter break, and I have my book ordered and ready for me to dive into.

We are (hopefully) getting Chromebooks for our classrooms soon...and I want to be fully prepared for making the most use out of those bad boys.

So, I just ordered Using Google Docs in the Classroom to better familiarize myself with the many possibilities Google Docs can offer my students.

I ordered the book for grades 4-5, but you can also order this book for grades 6-8.

To check out what the other bloggers at Focused on Fifth are reading this month, head on over to the blog by clicking the button below. 
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