Monday, July 24, 2017

Tips for welcoming new families

Whether you work for a year-round program or a program that follows a traditional school calendar there is a good chance that you will be welcoming some families that are new to your program in the fall. I am a huge believer in the importance of building relationships with parents, and those relationships start with first impressions.  There are a few simple things that you can do to welcome families and make a positive impression that will lead to stronger relationships.

  • Share information about yourself.  It is common practice to share info about your program and classroom practices, but parents really want to know who you are. Consider sending home an "All About Me" info sheet (like this freebie) - and send a blank one that parents can help their child complete and return.  You could also create a bulletin board or scrapbook page about yourself to display.  This information will help parents see you as a person with hobbies, interests, and a family, in addition to your job as a teacher.  Knowing these things about you can help parents connect with you as a person.
  • Take an interest in them.  Do you send home family surveys? If you do, take the time to read them.  Try to remember at least one thing about each family that you want to talk to them or ask them about.  It can be something as simple as "What kind of dog is Buddy?" or "My kids play soccer too, what team are you on?" These conversations will show that you actually took the time to read the information they've shared and that you want to know more.  It will help them understand that the paperwork you send home is valuable. 
  • Be available.  Share your contact information and be available to parents when they attempt to use it. If you can only talk to them on the phone at certain times of the day, let them know this.  If you tell them that email is the best way to reach you, then make sure to respond to their emails in a timely fashion.  The way that you communicate with families at the beginning of the year will set the tone for the rest of the year.
  • Involve them.  Share various opportunities for families to participate in classroom activities - everything from donating materials or expertise to chaperoning field trips and organizing class parties.  Make it clear that there are ways for all families to be involved and that you really want them to participate. 
For more family engagement ideas, check out these posts!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday Freebie - Teacher Planning Pages

Happy Friday! This summer has flown by!

This week is a double freebie week.  On Tuesday I shared an awesome list of ideas for your monthly newsletters (download that here) and today I have a freebie for those of you who have started thinking about next year - or for those of you who know you probably should, and will eventually! I love, love, love these teacher planning pages.  They have helped me stay organized for years and include 6 different idea trackers and lists to keep you on your toes.  Go download your set and have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ideas for sharing newsletters

It's a fairly common problem, you print a copy of the classroom newsletter for each child and stick it in their mailbox, and then at the end of the year you clean out their mailboxes only to find all of those newsletters still in there.  It's no wonder the parents had no idea what was happening all year long! This frustrating problem is made even worse by knowing just how much time you spent writing each of those newsletters!

I've sen this scenario play out time and time again - in my own classroom, and with a number of teachers that I work with, so unfortunately you are not alone.  On Tuesday I shared an amazing list of topics that you can include in your newsletters, so how can you guarantee that parents will actually read them?

My solution to this problem has two answers;

  1. Share your newsletter in every way that you possibly can
  2. Figure out which way of sharing it is most likely to actually get it in front of your parents' faces. 
I know, it's easier said than done, but every family is different so if you really want them to see your important information it has to be shared in a way that is easy for them to consume.  Here are some ideas for different ways of sharing your newsletters:
  • Hard copy - keep printing out that paper version, chances are someone is taking it home, reading it, and sticking it on the fridge just like you intended, and you don't want to take that away if someone is actually using it that way. 
  • Post it in the classroom - do you have a family message center or a location in your classroom where parents tend to congregate during drop off and pick up? Put a copy of your newsletter their, it just might catch their eye and throughout the course of the month they might actually read the entire thing in small bits and pieces. 
  • Email it - save your finished newsletter as a PDF and send it as an email attachment. Many parents are just more likely to read something if it is always with them, on their phone. Maybe they catch up on their email while their child is at soccer practice, or in the doctor's office waiting room (I know I do), if they have easy access to the newsletter, and they are bored enough, they just might read it.
  • Share your newsletter on social media - Does your program have an active facebook group? Upload the newsletter as a photo and parents can read it that way. Do you use instagram? Take photos of the different sections of your newsletter and share them this way.  Get creative and capture the parent's attention where they're already interacting with you
  • Have a contest - Post a question about your newsletter each month, a question that families will only know the answer to if they read the newsletter. Have a box where they can put their answer and draw a winner at the end of the month. 
Do you do anything that really encourages families to read your newsletter? I'd love to hear what works for you!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Newsletter ideas!

I spend way too much time putting together monthly newsletters - partly because I enjoy designing something new each month, and partly because I can't ever think of what I want to say.  And it never fails, the day after I send home the newsletter, I think of something that I really should have included.

I know there are a ton of newsletter templates available, but that's not really what I've always needed - I need the actual content. So I put together a great big list of potential newsletter topics, this way I can scan my list and choose a few that seem especially relevant and timely.  I've organized the list into 4 different categories:

  1. Seasonal Activities/Ideas/Information
  2. Health and Wellness Topics
  3. Community Events and Family Engagement Activities
  4. Child Development Information
I also try to mix up the categories that I share from so that throughout the year families are getting just a little info from each topic.  Not only has this list made it so much easier for me to write my newsletters, but it has made the newsletters themselves more valuable to my families.  It is more than just a list of important dates and reminders of upcoming fundraisers.  Now my newsletters include topics that are meaningful and helpful to the parents of children in my class.  While I can't guarantee that they read them every single month, I know that I've done my part to make them more interesting and helpful!

Here is the list of topics that I choose from, you can download a copy of the list to have on hand when you sit down to write your own newsletter!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Ways to make lesson planning easier!

I'm one of those weird teachers - you know, the ones who love lesson planning.  I love every part of it - analyzing what my student needs, finding new ideas, writing the plans, prepping materials - I love it! I've also come up with a number of ways to make lesson planning easier.  Since many of you have probably begin to think about your first few weeks of the school year, and the rest of you are probably preparing to do things a little differently in the fall, I want to share my tips with you.

The one thing that has been the biggest help is also the most simple tip - I keep a notebook handy AT ALL TIMES.  This way, when I notice that there is something my students need to work on, or when a new activity idea pops into my head, I always have somewhere to write it down.  Another great way to keep track of this kind of information (especially if you aren't the type of person who generally keeps notes throughout the day) is to use my teacher reflection checklist.  It's FREE and you can print out as many as you need!

Tip number two seems like a no brainer - I use Pinterest.  But I promise there is more to this tip than that.  I'm very strategic about how I use Pinterest. I've organized my boards so that there is one for each subject or domain included on my lesson plan.  This way, when I'm pinning I can save new ideas based on domain, and then when I'm planning it is easy to find the idea that I'm looking for.  If you want a detailed explanation of how I've organized my boards, check out this post!

My final tip is to keep favorite recipes close so that when I put them on my lesson plan I don't have to look up the recipe every time.  This is especially true for when I make things like play dough, flubber, and different types of paints.  Since I use these recipes so often, and modify them for different holidays and seasons, I put together a recipe book to keep in the classroom.  This helps me make sure that I have all the supplies I need before I get started.  It also helps when I can't think of something to add to my lesson plan, I just flip through the book and decide how I want to modify a recipe for whatever topic we're currently working on!

I hope that my tips help you gear up for fall lesson planning, take a couple of minutes to check out each link for the resources that I've described!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday Freebie - Beach Counting

Happy Friday! I hope that you are enjoying these summer weeks, I still haven't figured out why they seem to fly by so much faster than the rest of the weeks during the year.

Today's freebie is perfect for summer, or for your beach theme.  These play dough counting mats from Over the MoonBow encourage children to practice math skills while being creative.  Go download your set and have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Books about the Beach

I feel like summer themed books don't always get the attention that they deserve because there are so many things to do in the summer besides read.  There are a ton of beach books that will add new elements to your discussions about the beach.  Here are a few of my favorites (all links are Amazon affiliates):

Check these out and be sure to take some time examining the pictures, which might help you add to your list of dramatic play props to add to your own beach play!