Sunday, November 22, 2015

Parent Communication Tools

If you ask a teacher what their favorite part of teaching is, they would most likely say teaching! Sounds a little silly, but it's true! A teacher's job description includes many more jobs including: planning, grading, team collaboration, bus duty, data collection, test administration, copy room tech… and many, many more! It's all these extra tasks that combine together to make the job of teacher extremely difficult. Teaching is the easy part! It's all the other hats a teacher must wear that make teaching (in my opinion) one of the hardest professions out there! 

One job that is often times quite difficult is communicating with parents. Today I'd like to share with you some ideas on how we can make the job of communicating with parents easier.

Parent Communication Log: It's very important to document phone conversations with parents. Detailed records of past phone conversations with parents could come in handy down the road if you were ever to encounter any problems.

I always used to keep a spiral bound notebook by my telephone to jot down phone conversations quickly, but I recently made this binder cover and communication log that is much cuter! Simply make copies of the log sheet and put them in a 3 ring binder. It's an easy way to document your phone calls with parents. (You could also print off emails and collect any hand-written notes as well.) 

Dial My Calls: Dial my Calls is a great website that allows you to communicate with your parents via phone message or text message. It's easy to sign up and get started. My school uses a voice mail system and, as a parent, I love it! It's a great way to keep parents updated with important things going on in the classroom!

Here's a list of ways you could use Dial My Calls for your classroom:
  • Remind parents about an important assignment or project.
  • Message parents about a special events like a field trip or canned food drive.
  • Text parents a friendly message to let them know about exciting activities happening in your classroom.
  • Need parent volunteers? Quickly put out a request for parents to help or donate items to your classroom.
  • Snow day or holiday break? Simply send out a quick alert to let parents know that school will not be in session.
Honestly, there are so many ways you could use Dial My Calls in your classroom! Click the icons below to find out more about this great teaching tool.


Do you have any advice  for communicating with parents?
Please leave a comment are share your ideas!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Computer Class!

I thought it was time to give ya'll a little update about how my computer teaching job is going. In a nutshell, I love it! I still really miss being in a regular classroom with my very own group of students to love, but teaching every kid in the whole school definitely has it's perks. If I ever walk into the lunch room while the kids are eating, I feel like a celebrity with everyone yelling my name and waving to me. Same goes when I pass classes walking down the hall. Overall, I love my job in the computer lab!

So, what have we been doing in computers? A whole lot of keyboarding techniques, internet safety lessons, Google Apps, and some fun writing projects. Today I'm going to share 3 things I've found great success with.

1. Power Position

One of my pet peeves is when I have kids sitting in their computer chairs incorrectly. I see them come in, kneel up on their chairs, sit with their chairs crooked or tangled with their neighbor's chair, etc… and it drives me bonkers! It's my job to teach them correct posture and somedays it's like they walk in and forget the correct way to sit in their chairs.

This year I finally started something that has made all the difference! It's called "Power Position" and we do this little cheer when my students come in and sit down in their chairs at the very beginning of class. Anytime I see anyone sitting with their feet up on the chairs or have their chairs scooted back, I just yell out, "Power Position" and they all straighten! Sometimes I can just privately walk up to individual students and remind them politely to sit in "Power Position!" It's worked wonders in my classroom!!

Here's how it goes:

(For younger kids, I usually just yell out the first three lines and stop there. I use all 5 lines with my 3rd-6th graders.)

Download the free printable HERE!

2. Home Row Chant

I'm trying to drill the importance of keeping your fingers on home row, but my kids have some really bad habits. It seems like whenever I turn my head, I see a handful of students picking at their keyboards again. 

I started using this chant with my students every day before we start typing as a reminder to keep their fingers on home row. I yell each line really loudly like an army cadence and then the students repeat each line after me.

(Sometimes I actually make my students type the letters as we say them, other times they just place their fingers over each letter. When we do the space bar, I have them click it twice with their thumbs on the "bump, bump" part.)

Download the free printable HERE!

3. Writing Projects

In October I had my group of students do a fun Halloween writing assignment. The project was adapted from one of my activities in my Halloween Writing Project book called Create-A-Story


I did this project with my 1st and 2nd graders and they turned out SO cute! First they brainstormed, then they typed, then they got to draw a picture on the bottom of their page. The kids were so proud of their work when they were done! As you can see from the picture above, I spiral-bound the pages together to make a book and gave it to their classroom teacher to keep in their class library for the students to read.

Now that it's November and I have a new batch of students, I am doing a Thankful Book. This one is based off of a product in my store called My Thankful Book.


I'm adapting this project so that my students are typing in PowerPoint. Each topic will be a new page. When they're done we'll have about an 8 page story that we can staple down the sides and they can take the books home to share with their families at Thanksgiving. 

Projects like these usually take 4 or 5 thirty minute class periods to complete. I'll introduce the project the first day and model how to get started, then they write for 2-3 days, and then the last day they finish, print, and can illustrate if they have time. I love doing these types of writing projects because not only are the students getting to practice their typing skills, but I'm also helping their classroom teachers with meeting some important writing standards! Win-win!

Does anyone have any specific questions about the way I run my computer lab? Would you be interested in the websites I use for Kindergarten or the Typing websites I use with my 3rd-6th graders? Do you have any questions about using Google Docs, Google Slides, or Google Classroom? Let me know in the comments what information you'd be interested in and I will try to answer them in future blog posts.

As always, thanks for reading and stopping by our blog! 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Addition/Subtraction Fact Families with Big Daddy!

I laugh every time I have my students say "Big Daddy".  Well, duh. Don't you know who he is? He is the biggest number in our fact family! We named all three numbers in my classroom and it helped my students understand the relationship between addition and subtraction SO WELL!

I'm not going to lie... I used to HATE teaching fact families (as in a few short weeks ago).  See?

But, I figured if I was going to dislike it, I might as well try to make it a little more fun for next year!

So... this came about!

In this pack you will find:

Fact Family Explanation Poster
Big Daddy Poster
Middle Momma Poster
Tiny Tot Poster
Find My Home {Game with playing cards}
Fact Family Photo Album Activity
Fact Family House Practice Page
Triangle Trivia Fact Families Practice Page
Fact Family Dice Practice Page
Snowman Fact Family Practice Page

Use this pack to introduce your students to the relationship between addition and subtraction!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What the Teacher Wants...PENCIL Shoes!

I mean, come on! How fun are these? My favorite part is the No. 2 painted on the side (you can't see it in this picture because it's on the other side).  The attention to detail is so fun and cute! These are my new go-to shoe on Fridays.

All the teachers wanted to snatch these pencil shoes off my feet and my students were OBSESSED!  The only problem is I had to stop them from trying to touch my feet while they were at the carpet. HA!

Kick your feet up in style!

They are hand painted and come in different styles and colors.  Check them out at Ms. Head of the Class's Etsy Shop!

This sure beats the teacher-sweater, doesn't it?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Sunshine Committee Ideas

Does your school have a Sunshine Committee? Or another way to help spread happiness to your staff throughout the year? I have always loved the Sunshine Committee at my school and have always appreciated and enjoyed the little ways they try to boost morale in our school. 

I did not exactly volunteer to be in charge of the committee this year, but I was somehow made co-chair. It's a big job and so I was a little scared at first, but then I realized how much fun this would be and I've enjoyed helping to lead this committee so far.

Some of you might be wondering what a Sunshine Committee really is so I thought I'd explain it a little bit.

We all know about "Teacher Burnout" and we all know how hard it can sometimes be to make it through the entire school year. I usually start out the year with a lot of passion and enthusiasm in August, then after Christmas break, usually January to March, I start feeling worn-out and over-worked. Know the feeling? Well, the Sunshine Committee is just a little way to help teachers stay happy and positive throughout the year. We plan socials, organize treat days, and give little appreciation gifts throughout the school year. Over the years, this committee has definitely helped me feel appreciated and loved throughout the year. 

Here's a list of ideas of fun things you could do. We don't use all of these ideas; I just wanted to provide you with a list of possible ideas for the entire school year. 

This printable is available in my Sunshine Committee Ideas pack for FREE! Download it from my TPT Store

Here's how it works at my school:

At the beginning of the year, teachers are asked to give a $35 "donation" to the committee. This donation gives us the budget that we need to do kind deeds throughout the year. 

We buy gifts for all bridal showers, baby showers, and when people experience the death of a close loved one. 

We do meals for the staff twice a year. We usually provide the main dish and paper products for the Christmas Party (the side dishes are usually potluck style) and we always do a full catered meal at the end of year banquet. We usually organize some sort of Thanksgiving meal too. I think last year we did potluck soups and our committee provided the paper products.

We usually try to find little times throughout the year to put treats in the faculty room. It could be doughnuts the day after parent teacher conferences or themed treats for a holiday. I think this year I want to do a soda party with a variety of flavored syrups just for fun on a Friday afternoon when everyone could use a little pick-me-up.

As a way to say thank you to everyone for paying their Sunshine dues, I made these little bags of  sunshine. We did Worthers (although any gold/yellow item would work), and included a coupon for an extra 30 min of prep. All teachers have to do is take the coupon to the office and schedule a time when an administrator can take the class for 30 minutes. That gives our principal and vice principal an opportunity to go into the classrooms and work directly with a group of students. They'll just take their favorite read aloud story with them and read, which means that the teachers won't have to provide sub plans. 

Want a copy of all my Sunshine Committee printables?! 
Grab them for FREE from my TPT Store

This week, our committee is putting on a Pumpkin Party. (I got this idea from one of our Facebook followers who commented on my Facebook post a few weeks back.) Just to celebrate fall, we've asked everyone to bring (if they want) some kind of food item that has pumpkin as an ingredient. It could also be anything that looks like a pumpkin or really anything that is orange. I'm excited to see what everyone will come up with. I will purchase pumpkin plates and we'll decorate the teacher's lounge orange and black and leave the decorations up until after Halloween. 

In the past our school's Sunshine Committee has done some sort of Biggest Loser Competition for anyone who wants to participate. We usually ask people to donate $5 to a pot, then we commit to certain goals, and have daily points for exercising, drinking water, avoiding soda, etc. At the end of the competition the money goes to people who met their goal. I'm not sure how the competition will look this year, but we'll probably start something up in January to encourage teachers to be healthy for the new year. 

I think I'll end this post here and maybe continue with some more ideas another day. As you can see, having a Sunshine Committee could be a huge benefit to any school. Teaching is a wonderful and rewarding job, but sometimes it's the little things can help us have more fun in the workplace.

 I would LOVE to hear any other great ideas that you have! 
Please leave a comment and let me know if your school has a Sunshine Committee and what you do to help boost morale at your school. For those of you who don't already have something like this, would you consider starting one at your school? 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Predicting Introduction Kinder and 1st

As we work on more comprehension strategies in my classroom, I've noticed that many of my students don't know what the word "prediction" means!  So, I hurried and created a mini-lesson to help!

First, you introduce what predicting means {guessing is what I compare it to} and use these cards to hang on the board:

Then, you tell them that when they predict what is going to happen in a story, they can say one of the following:

We then read the book, Do you Want to Be My Friend? By Eric Carle.

This is a perfect book to predict! The mouse is looking for a friend. On each page it gives a hint as to what animal he will ask to be his friend {it shows their tail}.  I have my kiddos raise their hand if they can predict what animal it might be. They will say:

I predict...
I bet...
I think...

After that, we practice our predicting skills!  I use these animal posters and cover up most of the picture and have them predict what animal it is. {so when you download this mini-lesson, you'll have to cut out your pictures and find a piece of paper to cover up most of the picture}

They record each animal on their recording sheet. Afterward, we go through to see if their predictions were correct.

Click {HERE} to download the predicting mini-lesson!

Clipart/Fonts copyright Dianne J. Hook

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Computer Project: Thought Bubble Introduction

Well, hello! I thought I'd take a minute to show you the first computer project I'm going with my students this year. I teach K-6 computers and all the students in the school rotate to me over the course of 6 weeks. I emphasize keyboarding skills, but I love doing fun, technology based projects with my students! I always like to start the year off with a fun and easy get-to-know type project.

This year, I came up with the Thought Bubble Introduction project. It's really pretty simple! Here in my cutie son, Camden, demonstating what the finished project will look like.

Here's how we do it:

- I demonstrate how to open PowerPoint, clear the two text boxes, use the shape tool to make a thought bubble. (For this project, the bubble should only take up about 1/4 of the page.) The bubble comes up shaded in blue, so I model how to change the inside to white/clear and how to change the outside line to black. I show students how to create a new text box and how to move it to the center of their thought bubble. From there, they can change the font choice and also increase the font size. (I tell them not to go bigger than size 28.)

- Inside the thought bubble they type out their introduction. I basically want students to type 5 or more sentences. They should start with their name, give a detail about themselves, and then list 3 things they like. Of course they are free to type whatever they want here, but some students get stuck so I like to have a certain format the students can follow if needed. 

-Using photo booth, each student needs to have their picture taken. My lab does not have built in web cameras, so I use my Hue HD Doc Camera and take and print them all for them just using the school printer. You could get fancy and use a digital camera dn send them to a printshop, but I am all about quick, easy, and inexpensive. One interesting note… I have to model for my students how to smile for a camera. I noticed with my first few classes that they would just give me a little half smile. Even if I told them to smile bigger, I would get the same little closed-mouth smile. So I started modeling how not to smile (closed-mouth) and how to smile big (wide eyes, showing teeth). It made a huge difference in the quality of their smiles!

-Students take their bubbles and their pictures and cut out along the outside edge. Make sure when cutting out their pictures that they cut around their shoulders, hair, and ears! I've had kids cut of their ears or hair and it looks a little funny. Ha. Next, have them glue their cutouts to a colored piece of construction/cardstock paper. In our school we have divided into different houses (similar to how the Ron Clark Academy sorts their students into different houses) so I had my students choose their house color, but you could let them choose their favorite color, or you could assign a certain color. 

-Once all students have finished, I will hang ALL the student introduction pages in the hallway near the lunchroom. Students will love walking to lunch, seeing their own picture, and also "meeting" all the other students in the school! Our principal loves seeing student work hanging in the halls so I know she will love this project when it's all done. I also think parents will be excited to see their child's picture hanging on the walls when they come to parent teacher conferences next month.

Overall, this is super fun and really easy project for students to do! Obviously, I have to differentiate this project for different grade levels. my 1st and 2nd grade students only type their sentences and they use their scissors to cut out their words in the shape of a bubble. My 6th graders love writing about themselves so they end up with really great, detailed paragraphs instead of just 5 sentences. I always encourage creativity so sometimes my older students will play around with formatting their shapes and words. It's fun to see how this one, simple project turns out so differently.

I hope this will inspire some of you out there to do this project with your students or will spark ideas of similar projects you can do in the future. If you like this project idea, leave me comment and let me know what you think! I'd love to hear your ideas and feedback!

Have a great rest of the week!

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