Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Conference Tips For Teachers

 This week we have parent teacher conferences.  This is the first year that I am sitting on both sides of the table for the SAME conference.  Luke is in my class this year, so I really have a different perspective of what I would like to see in a conference as a parent.  Here are a few of the things that I prepared this week along with a few helpful tips that may help you get through your own conferences.

Let's face it, we all have busy lives and tend to forget things.  I send a notice home to let them know when their conference is scheduled, and then a second follow up reminder. These are the ones I sent home this year:


I found this AMAZING freebie from Jodi Southard from Fun-in First on TpT that had everything I needed already done for me!  Did I mention that it was FREE?  The best part?  Not only is it Free, but it is customizable!

Parent Teacher Conference Forms {FREEBIE} 

Sometimes parent teacher conferences can be just as nerve wrecking (or even more) than our teacher evaluations!  I know that I am sometimes nervous to meet with parents (especially if there have been any issues with their child).  One way to ease those nerves is to remember that the parents are truly your partners.  They have their child's best interest at heart and most likely want to help you to help their child be successful in school.

The best way to open a conference is by sharing an anecdote about the child.  Parents appreciate the fact that you have taken the time to know their child.  A brief story about a comment made during a read aloud, an entry in their writer's notebook, or a compliment about their social interactions on the playground really personalizes the conference and makes it more satisfying for the parents.

If you have pictures to share - they will love them!

                                                       Yep!  That's my Luke's sweet face!

                                                                I love the look on her face!

Next, have the parent share their impressions of how school is going for their child.  Ask them to share what is going well for their child and what they think their child might be struggling with.  Ask them if they have any specific questions they would like to have answered during the conference.

Draw on their expertise when it comes to their child.  If you are having a problem with their child finishing work, you might ask, "Is this a problem at home?  What things seem to help the situation?"

Last year I had a student who had a hard time following directions.  At his parent teacher conference his mom suggested that sometimes he needed extra time to process and think about what you said.  She suggested giving a direction, waiting a minute or two, and then asking him if he remembered what he needed to do.  Once he verbally repeated what my directions were, he would get started.  It was almost like a miracle! 

Don't make snap judgements about parents or their parenting styles even if you have heard rumors from previous teachers.  Face each parent as if they are your ally in working with your student.  Remember, no one is a perfect parent, we each are trying to do the best we can with what we have. I hope I don't judge myself to harshly! :D

If you can, provide parents with resources to help their child including: internet sites, educational apps, and even extra worksheets.  Be creative in coming up with solutions and ways parents can help.

Don't forget to share reading resources as well.  As teachers we tend to throw around reading levels (Fountas & Pinnell, DRA, AR) but forget that this means nothing to the parent.  Have a few books available at the child's independent level to show the parent what it looks like.

 Go into each conference knowing exactly what you want to tell each parent.  I put together a folder of all the important data and work samples that I want to share. I put sticky notes to remind me of places I need to highlight or things I want to remember to tell them about.

Some things I include:

*Report cards
* DRA scores
*MAPS scores
*AR and AM results for the quarter
*Writing samples from the beginning of the year and now
*Student self assessments

I always ask my students to rate how they feel about their performance in school.  They are almost always completely honest, and in some cases even harsher critics than I am!  Jodi has included this form in the freebie as well, and I have shared a few of my student's responses.

What's your best parent-teacher conference or tip?  Tell me about it in the comments below.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Five for Friday - October 17, 2014

After a VERY long week, today is finally Friday!  I truthfully could not be any happier!  It seems like a great time to link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday!

Although it was a long week, we had quite a few successes.  I am SO PROUD of this kiddo!

At the beginning of the year when we started Writer's Workshop he HATED writing and only wrote a sentence or two at a time.  Now he's writing like a mad man!

He's proud of himself too!

Look at that smile!  Amazing what the power of choice can do for a writer!

He's letting me know that he wrote 2 chapters!
I am also super proud of our first "belt" winner for our Kicking It Math.  It's the system I use in my classroom for my students to master their math facts.  They LOVE it!

We also had a blast building roller coasters with our STEM kit we received from Donors Choose.

My "other job" is as a city councilman, and in honor of National Boss Day, our City Attorney sent these beautiful flowers to my school yesterday.

It was a great surprise, especially after a morning of spilled Starbucks (all over my desk and papers - grrr!) and a long collaboration meeting.


Last but not least, Tales From A Very Busy Teacher has recently gotten a makeover and is celebrating her new blog design with a giveaway!  I have donated a winner's choice item and there are tons of other prizes to win as well!  Head over to enter!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Halloween Bash Blog Hop

I am joining up with The Teaching 2 Step and over 40 bloggers for a Halloween Bash Blog Hop! The prize I have donated is my Ghoulish Math product which features lessons, games, centers and activities for learning about factors and multiples.

The pictures are of my 4th graders from last year and they loved the activities - especially using my iphone to check the QR codes!  If you don't win, or you can't wait, you can get it on sale for 20% off in my TpT store here.

I also have a special freebie for you to download as well!  
Pumpkin Relating Addition to Multiplication Freebie 

As part of the Blog Hop, we were asked to share a Halloween memory and our favorite candy.  My favorite Halloween costume was when I went as a 1950's roller waitress.  I got to be on roller skates the whole time and even won a prize for best costume!  I unfortunately couldn't find any pictures of it to share :(

My favorite candy is Mike & Ikes.  Not just because of Halloween, but because one little candy (and yes I mean just one) can be so motivating.  When I have a few kiddos that are not working as hard as I would like them to be, I find a kiddo who IS working and place one Mike and Ike in front of them.  Just like magic, everyone at the table becomes more on task and focused.

And now... for the contests!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you for joining The Teaching 2 Step Halloween Hop. I hope you enjoyed our post, did you know you can follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter?

Hop through more Halloween Bash Bloggers below.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Together Teacher Chapter 12 - Deal With Your Paper and Stuff - Giveaway!

It is time for another chapter of "The Together Teacher" in our book study. Today it is time for chapter 12 which is all about dealing with your paper and stuff.  Our hostess this week is  Amy of The Core of Grade Four!

If you have missed my previous posts from this book study you can find them below:

                                                                             Chapter 11
                                                                             Chapter 10
                                                                             Chapter 9  
                                                                             Chapter 8
                                                                             Chapter 6
                                                                             Chapter 5
                                                                             Chapter 4
                                                                             Chapter 3
                                                                             Chapter 2
                                                                             Chapter 1

I have LOVED the accountability of blogging as I am re-reading this book because I have actually had to implement the strategies - not just read the book!  I am really starting to feel like a more Together Teacher!  Last week we had a professional development session and the facilitator asked us to plan our small group writing lessons for the next week.  One of the teachers across from me said, "As if we all have our class lists and their writing levels with us?"  I was able to say, "Actually I do!" I pulled out my flexi and there under my school binder was everything I needed.  I DID let her know that it was all because of this book study.  Last year I would have been in the same boat as her!

So let's dive into this last chapter, and be sure to read on down to the bottom because we have a great giveaway for you!

What to Carry When You Are On The Move:  Your Together Teacher System And A Teacher Clipboard

A Teacher Clipboard

 Many  of us already carry a teacher clipboard, but Maia points out the problem with it is that we carry EVERYTHING with us on the clipboard.  From late slips to lesson plans, it often becomes a jumble of mess and you can't find what you need easily.  She gives some suggestions about what should be on there and how it should be arranged.  She suggests using your Together Teacher System for maintaining your time, your to-dos, your thoughts, and your notes.  Your clipboard should hold your lesson plans, behavior/homework trackers, and mastery trackers.   If your Together Teacher System is easy to hold, you could also keep these things there as well.

Academic Observation Charts

As a teacher you NEED a handy place to capture and record valuable data about your students to inform you instruction and planning.  When Maia was teaching, she says that she would make a chart each week with the students' names on the vertical axis and the learning objectives for the week across the horizontal axis.  During each part of her lesson - (warm-up, guided practice, or independent work) she would circulate around the room noting who had mastered or showed partial mastery of the objective.  She would also make notes of students who were struggling to remind herself to return to the students for extra help later during the day or week.
Behavioral Data Logs

Just like academic data, you may want to keep track of behavior as well.  Who is participating and who is not?  Are certain students having difficulty staying on task during a certain subject? 

A Writing Tool

You can't keep this data if you don't have a pen or pencil to write it down!  I have been so guilty of racing around my classroom in search of a writing tool.  Maia suggests keeping it with you at all times whether in your pocket, attached to your lanyard, or clipped onto a clipboard.
Use Your Desk For Something Other Than Storage

Establish and In-Box
Maia suggests setting up a stackable file bin with the following labels:

  • Action
  • Grade
  • Return
  • Office
  • Copy 
  • File  

Portable In-Box

Maia suggests keeping a place in your Together Teacher system to hold the papers that come your way when you are out and about.  Just make sure you go through that in-box as part of your daily routine.
My Portable In-Box

Transporting Your Materials

It seems like taking work home is just part of the teaching territory.  Maia suggests using a five or seven pocket accordion file that matches your in-box file on your desk.  I use my 31 bag with dividers in it as well.


Although this is the last chapter, there are a ton of other resources including books, blogs, apps, and more.  Maia has included a CD for you to access the items she refers to in the book for creating your own Together Teacher system.

Now... time for the giveaway!

Every month I give away a $25 TpT gift Card.

This month I also have donations from the hostesses of this book study as well! And... I am also throwing in an item of your choice from my store, along with a copy of The Together Teacher!

Kovescence of the Mind

Sarah is donating an item of your choice from her TpT Store.

 Middle School Math Moments

Ellie from Middle School Math Moments is donating her Footloose Comparing and Ordering Fractions.

Comparing and Ordering Fractions Footloose-Task Card Activ

 Laura from Luv My Kinders is donating her Spider Math and Literacy Activities K-1 packet.

Kathleen from A+ Kids is donating an item of your choice from her TpT Store.

Enter below
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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