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? 

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Ultimate Back-to-School Bundle!

The Back-to-School season is such an exciting (and a bit stressful) time! I am really enjoying my own back-to-school preparations for this year. I finally feel like I have accumulated enough ready-to-use resources that I can pull, tweak as needed, and use right away in my classroom. I have compiled some of my favorites into one back-to-school bundle for this school year! Not only does it feature my best-selling product, the Back-to-School Packet for organizing a meet-the-teacher night, but it also features materials that can be used for instructional purposes throughout the school year as well! 

Check out a preview and description of the contents of the bundle below. You can click the images to access their individual listings in my TPT store, or you can access the full bundle here.

*               *               *

* Back-to-School Packet: Handy Organizational Materials for your Meet-the-Teacher/Back-to-School event

* Reading Response Logs for the Full School Year This packet includes a monthly reading log for a full year of reading instruction (months August through May). Each reading log is designed to accommodate reading assignments for three days each week. On each day, the student will document the date as well as the title/author of text he/she reads. Then the student will complete a reading response exercise. The reading response exercises are designed to best accommodate first grade readers, and the tasks increase in rigor throughout the school year. Each reading log also contains sections for parent initials, thereby making this packet appropriate for reading assignments at home. This packet includes a parent letter template, which explains the purpose for the use of a reading log and encourages parents to take an active part in their child's reading development by monitoring their reading each night. While this packet is intended for use in a first grade classroom, it could also be used in a second grade classroom, or possibly as a model during Kindergarten reading instruction during the spring semester. Each reading log contains a customized header that reflects seasonal attributes for the designated month.

* Back-to-School Syllables: Differentiated Phonemic Awareness Activities3 differentiated activities for building phonemic awareness to jump-start your literacy centers and guided reading groups for the school year. 

* Calendars for the 2016-2017 School Year: Cute printable calendars for the 2016-2017 school year! Festive clip art pictures are included on each calendar to indicate holidays. A color version as well as a black-and-white version is included for each month. Print the version of your choice to use at home, at school, or in take-home folders for your students!

Editable Monthly Newsletters: Monthly newsletter templates that include editable text boxes where you can add relevant information for your classroom. The product features newsletters for a full school year, with one newsletter template for each month (August-May). Each template is created with a black-and-white design, which makes it ink-friendly for printers and copiers. Additionally, each template features seasonal clip-art for each month. These newsletters are great for basic parent-communication on a weekly or monthly basis. 

I hope there's something you can use here! Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. Happy Back-to-School! :)

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Upcoming Blog Topics: August

So it's no big secret that, for most teachers, August is dominated by Back-to-School everything. The to-do lists get astronomically longer, as do the days. Blog topics are no exception this month. Here at The Tally Tales, I will be sharing some details about my back-to-school experiences. I hope you'll stop by from time to time!

Like my calendar? You can get your own set of these calendars for the upcoming school year in the Tally Tales TPT store! I have an editable version available as well!

Happy August!