Parent Communication!

Happy Wednesday friends!

I have been attending a reading conference all week and have gotten so many new ideas that I can’t wait to use next year in the classroom. I have also learned that I probably need to buy stock in the post- it brand company. haha

This post is going to be all about communicating with parents and opening up a positive line of communication with your parents. I would love feedback on this post to hear how you do this.  I know teaching in a school with high poverty most of my parents are working so hard to make ends meet which makes them unavailable a lot.  Many outsiders might assume that they don’t want to help/ care about what is happening in the classroom and that couldn’t be further from the truth from my experience.  They want to help and we have to tell them how they can do that.

All parents care about their kids and our job as teachers is to reach out to them and welcome them into our school community, because the students success very much needs to be a team effort y’all. No matter what training we have and how good we are at our job, our kiddos LOVE their parents and love us. We need to work together to give them the best experience possible.

How do I do this? Honestly I always said for years and years I would never do this.  But a new coworker who has turned into a good friend of mine (shout out to Erinn Woolard :)) told me about her success with starting a class Facebook page. I was skeptical, I thought ALL parents were going to be looking at my personal page, or asking to be my friend.  I do like to keep some desperation between my personal life and school life, because i live there enough as it is haha but I went ahead and gave the class Facebook page a try, despite my reservations.

Y’all (excuse my southern language) this method of parent communication was seriously a game changer.  I have had more parent involvement over the last two years than ever before! I try to post pictures a few times a week and post all news as soon as I know about it.  I have had more parents volunteer for field trips,  send supplies for parties,  ask me to help in the classroom, and help out at school events than ever before.  I also have parents call me when there is an emergency, or a new baby is born into their family,  ask for help or if their child is struggling, etc.

Why do I think this works? Well, look at all of us, we communicate with strangers over social media all the time and feel so comfortable doing so.  My parents that speak another language don’t have to worry about their grammar, and use translate to help them ask me questions.  It is immediate and they can message me from work or any time during the day that works for them, not just during school hours.  I can also share news with divorced parents easily this way without sending home two copies of everything. Convenience is key and we are living in a digital age.

Does everyone join? absolutely not. This year I had about 20/25 parents in my Facebook group.  Some parents simple don’t like or don’t care to join Facebook, and that is absolutely their preference.  I still send home all important notes via paper, and translate them as much as possible.  But the majority of my parents love it and if they don’t have it they have bigger kids that do and can update them on what is happening in our classroom.

Privacy concerns? It is a closed Facebook group that I have to approve anyone who joins.  I verify everyone who joins and make sure they are on their enrollment card. If there is a tricky custody issue i always check with the custodial parent before accepting another family member. I post pictures only with the parents consent. All posts parents make must be approved by me as well.  I am the only admin on the group.  At the end of every year I give parents a few weeks and a few warnings to save any pictures they want and I remove all pictures and all members to get it ready for the next year.  If a student moves during the year I also remove that parent from the group.

Parent communication should always be a goal of ours to improve. How are you going to improve this line of communication next year? What are some other great ways YOU communicate with parents? I would love to hear from you!

Thanks for sticking with me and reading this post!

Kat Scantlin

Tinkering- is it just another word for play?

Hello again! I am trying to get in the habit of posting multiple times here at the beginning, maybe daily, so in August hopefully I can actually stick with the whole blogging thing 🙂 So I am sorry ahead of time for the overload of posts but I truly hope you can find something meaningful to implement into your classroom.

Some questions I hope to answer today- what is tinkering? What is the buzz about it? When can I fit it in my already busy day?

Tinkering is definitely a buzz word in the educational setting these days.  What is it you ask? According to dictionary.com the official answer when using tinkering as a verb is “to busy oneself with a thing without a useful result” I think that this is a great representation of what tinkering is but often in the classroom setting, students can actually discover something that indeed is useful to them.  So my own definition is “to busy oneself with a task to discover something unknown” Tinkering is largely another term for letting students PLAY and EXPLORE using a variety of objects available to them.

Let me tell you, it is SO fun! If you don’t already have tinkering tools, PLEASE start investing in some. The whole idea of it is centered around exploration,  this concept is nothing new to the classroom but with strict schedules and standards many have moved away from the concept of free exploration.  I can tell you from first hand experience that you can learn so much about your kids during this time.  You will see amazing team building,  creative thinking,  ability to follow directions,  problem solving, and so many more.  Guys, these are life skills,  you can let your students have fun, all while they are using life skills to solve problems.

When do I implement tinkering? Morning work tubs, when some of my kids don’t eat breakfast at school, this is a great time to let them tinker. Indoor recess is another awesome time,  the kids don’t know the difference between these tools and regular  recess board games, they just know they are having fun! Math stations, if you use math stations put out a few tinkering toys and allow them to use task card {check my TPT store for some building task cards-*kattasticteaching*} as a station.  They will love you for it and stay so engaged during your station time.

Quick story about tinkering- this school year I had a student who struggles in ALL areas, has a very difficult time making sense of numbers, and an even harder time reading, by 1st grade we will know the content continues to get harder.  I knew this students was what we would call “low” right off the bat from his kinder file as well as from the beginning of year assessments.  The first week of school I put out my tinkering tools.  What did I learn? This student can look at any picture and build the image without the use of the step by step directions.  Immediately the kids in the class thought he was “so cool” and were asking him how he did that.  The confidence in him grew and grew.  Throughout the year he continued to impress his friends whenever we tinkered, he would teach others how to build objects.  He also started to show more confidence in the core areas as well, we would work in order to have building time.  This was a huge motivator for him because he was good at it.  He started using the ships he built during during as a writing point and his writing improved.  When he started the year he only wrote letters smushed together and by the end of the year was writing 3 page books!

Where do you start?

Tinkering would be a great donors choose project, keep your eyes peeled at yard sales and thrift stores, look through your own kids discarded games.  Try implementing it during a time you are comfortable with. Just give it a try.  I really think you will love it!

below check out the links to amazon for some of the tinkering tools I have in my classroom.  These are by far not all of the things you can use, the opportunities are endless!   Also, check out the adorable pictures of my students working together and having fun! If you can

Thanks for tuning in again!

Kat Scantlin

{Kat-Tastic Teaching}

brain flakes!

marble run

straw builders

 

Alternative Seating! Don’t be afraid!

This post is to answer everything I know about alternative seating and what I have learned through a year of implementation!

Don’t be afraid! 

This is my first piece of advice. As scary and out of control as it might seem, if you have been on the fence about trying it, just do it. Let me first break down how I decided to do alternative seating and how I made it fit my teaching style and my students needs.

During the 16-17 school year I decided to try out my first donors choose project and ask for some different types of seats.  Knowing our district was going to implement the readers workshop model I knew I needed some variety when it came to choosing a comfy spot to read.  Much to my surprise my project got funded before school was out.  {will create another post about creating donors choose projects later} I decided to go ahead and let the students test out the new seats.  They of course loved them, however I didn’t have enough for everyone so I had to use them sparingly and during very specific times. After seeing how much they loved them I knew my summer goal would be to gather enough to go all in during the fall of 2017.

I gathered many seats. My goal was to not spend more than 10 dollars on any 1 seat because if there is one thing that all teachers know is we are working on a tight summer budget.  By August I had gathered enough seats to start the year! YAY!

On day one I decided to just go all in, their eyes were as big as saucers when they saw the desks on the ground or raised up etc.  Now let me be clear, I kept all desks to allow all students to have their own space if need be.  We all came to the carpet first thing to discuss rules for choosing seats.  My rules were, you must always walk to a seat, you do not have to stay at that seat all day so there will be plenty of chances to try EVERY seat, if you fight over a seat you will get a regular chair until I decide you can get along.  I reviewed how to sit in each seat and how to keep our classroom safe.  Reminder: these are 6 and 7 year olds, and y’all, they truly blew my mind.  They were so overjoyed with having freedom and choice.  I also have enough random seats around the room they can use clipboards so they have a  hard surface to work on from anywhere!

what about if you switch classes? We do, all the time actually in first grade. The students who come into my classroom for other subjects or for flexible grouping got the same speech as my homeroom, and again never had a problem.  I think over the course of this year i had 2 students loose their privilege of choosing their seat.  But, only for a day and the next day they earned it back.  I also would quietly tap students on the shoulder and ask them to move if they were being too chatty. I myself am not the type of teacher to require silence unless it is during testing or something but usually the students choose wisely who they sit by, but did have a few occasions I had to ask them to move.

another perk! GOODBYE seating charts.  Blah! seating charts were something I dreaded every month. You have so many factors, do they need to be close to the board, do they have other special needs, boys/girls evenly spaced, range of ELL’s {English Language Learners}, do they have at least one friend by them  and the list goes on.  Creating  new and fun seating charts was daunting and frankly took a lot of time I could be otherwise spending on curriculum planning.

Organization. As I said above I did keep student desks.  I love seeing classrooms that have different types of tables and such but it just isn’t for me.  I like the clean look of desks and I like the storage underneath, which I used for clipboards and whiteboards.  I also used canvas tote bags for students folders with students numbers on them.

Letting go.  Something else that all teachers can agree on is that we are used to being in control of EVERYTHING. With alternative seating you have to let go and really let your students figure out how to make wise choices, and believe me, I think they will surprise you!

Testing.  testing was awesome! This year we tested completely on iPads and they did great. They were all so comfortable sitting around the room in their own quiet place to work that many of the distractions that I typically see during testing weren’t visible. I also didn’t see as many wondering eyes.  Kids were more likely to take their time and weren’t able to see that their peers were already finished.

Browse the pictures attached and as always feel free to email me if you have more questions 🙂

 

Kat Scantlin

{kattasticteaching}