Friday, August 26, 2016

Back-to-School: Calendars for Parent Communication

In the back-to-school spirit, I want to showcase my favorite new set of calendars for this year! They're available in black-and-white as well as color formats, so you don't have to use your color cartridges if you're trying to save on ink.

I like to use these to manage parent contact events at school as well as my own personal connections with parents. Home communication can be so overwhelming at times, and I have tried several different methods for managing it. I've discovered that my favorite method is to have one binder, with a calendar included, where I just jot down those daily communications. I put these in a three-ring binder so I can easily insert notes or forms from parents as well each month!

Of course, you don't have to use these for parent communication; they are calendars, after all! I just thought I would share my little idea, but feel free to use these as needed for any type of planning. I also have the same set of calendars available in an editable format, in case you prefer to type in your personal information before printing each month. Check them out in the Tally Tales TPT store!

Happy planning, teacher friends!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Parent Conference Freebie: Sign-In and Sign Up Pages

One of my goals this year has been to begin the year with a day devoted to parent conferences only. I know a lot of school districts mandate this for their teachers as often as once per semester. While our district does not have that policy, our administration is highly supportive of the concept, and I know some of our classroom teachers have managed to organize a day like this within our school. Since I pull students out of their regular classrooms to attend my small-group instructional class, my time at the beginning of the year is a bit more flexible for scheduling purposes. We cannot actually start meeting with our students until all the beginning-of-the year assessments, scoring, and grouping has been completed. For me, this is a great time to meet with parents, because I am in the process of establishing starting points for my students, and I want to communicate that information with parents as well.

Since I've never had a Parent Conference "Day" before, I wanted to make it as organized and as efficient as possible. I tried to create paperwork that would document the information I needed. This is what I came up with...

I started with a letter that not only explains my purpose for the conference, but also provides an option for parents to schedule their conference. I also created a reminder note to send home just a few days prior to the conference.

I made two versions of a sign in sheet: one to sign in and one to sign up for my e-mail mailing list.
If you are interested in using my Sign-In/Sign-Up Pages for parent conferences in your classroom, you can grab those (both color and black-and-white versions) for free here!

Next, I made a note-taking page for myself, where I could document any pertinent information from the conference. I also think a simple follow-up is cordial, so I will send this "Thank you" note home, just to let parents know that I'm grateful for the time they spent meeting with me.

That's it! What do you think? All of these materials are available in both color and black-and-white versions in my Parent Conference Forms & Notes product here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Do It Yourself: Dry-Erase Labels for a Classroom

This post will be pretty basic, and not all that spectacular, but I wanted to share a recent little DIY project for my classroom. If you're like me, you always keep an eye on clearance sections wherever you go, just in case you spot something you could use in your classroom. And if you're like me, every now and then you get lucky and actually use something you have grabbed in a really productive way. This is one of those times!

I really love Paper Source, but I seldom get to actually shop there. However, on a recent visit to Nashville, I stopped by their Green Hills location and found these cute adhesive labels among their clearance items. Truth be told, I picked up a few packages for gift wrapping, but these yellow ones have come in handy in my classroom. I paired them with this red chevron scrapbook paper (found in the clearance section at Hobby Lobby, of course).
I simply attached the labels onto the chevron paper...
Then I cut them apart and laminated them individually. (By the way, if you're a teacher and you don't have your own personal little laminator, it's totally worth the investment!)
I cut apart the laminated labels and attached these perfect little magnetic discs onto the back of each one. 
And that's all! The lamination provides a dry-erase surface, so you can write-and-wipe with ease. I needed these for a word-building station, where my students will use magnetic letters to build words. I made extras, though, so I'm prepared to use them for any labeling needs that may arise! ;) 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Editable Back-to-School Teacher Notes FREEBIE!


I am so excited to give these sweet little "Welcome Back" notes to my students! Since my day revolves around multiple small-group classes, I have students coming to me from other classrooms all over our school. While we establish great relationships within our small groups, I sometimes feel like it takes a while to get to that point; I only see them for 45 minutes each day, and it usually takes a couple of weeks before we start having class consistently, due to initial testing, scoring, and grouping that must take place after school starts. I am hoping these little notes will be a great way to reach out to my students and personalize their experience with me, even before they come to me for their first day of class. 

I think anyone, in any classroom setting, could put these to good use: send them as postcards, use them on the first day of school, or include them in meet-the-teacher night packets! I have created them in an editable format, each with three text boxes that can be adapted to feature any information needed. They're also available in four different color schemes (including a black-and-white version) with three different clipart embellishments on each, providing 12 different note templates in all! The best part is that you can grab them for free in the Tally Tales TPT store! Hop on over, and grab a set. I hope they will be useful for you! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sharing a Love for Reading with Your Classroom Library


I have always made it a priority to have a classroom library, where my students could check out books in addition to those they access in the school media center. I usually keep my library organized by reading levels. Our school uses the Accelerated Reader program, and it has always just made sense to level my books according to that guide, so my students could easily find books on their  reading levels. 

Last year, however, I reconsidered my organizational method here. While I think it is so helpful to have books organized by reading levels, I began to wonder what message I was sending with that arrangement. Where was my emphasis, with books arranged in a way that made it easier for students to find a book on which they could take a test? 

Ultimately, I want to share a love of reading with my students. I want them to read to enjoy books; not read to take tests. I know, I know... taking tests are part of the process and one way we measure comprehension skills. Still, they get those books from the media center; is it necessary for my classroom library to serve that purpose as well? I think not.

So I started thinking more about what it means to love reading and how I choose books to read. I look for topics that interest me. As I read, I may make decisions to discontinue reading if that book is too difficult for me, but chances are likely that I will still stick to a topic of interest when looking for another book to read as well. 

So basically,  reading levels have very little to do with my book selection. I know I'm an adult, but children are more than capable of making decisions about the readability of a text as well, if we teach them how to do so. 

So when considering the way to do this - how to foster a love of reading while teaching children to make responsible decisions about the texts they read - I think it makes more sense to start with the "enjoyment" part than the book "level." I can easily teach a child various ways to determine whether or not a book is on his/her "level" for reading; I want them to start out thinking of books in a much bigger way than reading levels. 

So I decided to reorganize my classroom library by topics, rather than levels. I categorized all of my books into a few common, easy topics that I thought might appeal to my students! As one of the topics, I decided to feature some of my favorite books. Would you believe that this is often the first basket my students dig through?!? They love to find books in my "favorites" basket that they like as well. It helps us connect through books without demanding any extra time or "work" during class. 


The reading level for each book is still written on the inside cover, so my students do still have an easy reference point for the readability of each text before they check it out from my library. Still, the book level comes after the book interest, and I am hoping that sets the appropriate priority for reading in our classroom.

What about you? How do you organize your classroom library for your students?