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Depending on your district’s policies and the demographic of the parents, you may want to consider letting parents know about your last minute needs. Some parents enjoying donating items to their child’s classroom. In my school, we have a Curriculum Night one evening during the first full week of school. It’s a great time to delineate expectations and establish lines of communication. In a prominent place, I display sticky notes, each labeled with a classroom need (zippered plastic bags, more index cards, etc.). Anything you know you’ll run out of before year’s end can be on this wish list. When you do your class presentation, you can explain what needs the sticky notes represent, along with your reassurance that it’s fine if they don’t take one.

Given the amount of money you’ve probably already spent on your classroom, this can idea keep you from spending even more.

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Looking for a way to keep track of your grades, without the drudgery of figuring all of the percentages yourself? Check out this terrific Excel gradebook from Microsoft. It’s easy to use, and it’s free!
http://blogs.office.com/b/office-education/archive/2011/07/26/free-excel-2010-gradebook-template.aspx

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Back After Break

Break’s over!  I’m not ready to go back.  Inevitably, my To Do list still has unchecked items.  Perhaps it’s because I was unrealistic when creating it.  Or, maybe it’s because I opted to spend time with family instead of tackling projects.  Either way, I wish I had a few more days of “home time”.  If I, a teacher who loves my craft and my students, is not quite ready to go back, my students probably aren’t either.  What can I do to help them quickly ramp up to their normal productive speed?

Identifying and acknowledging their feelings is a good place to start.  Some students feel unsettled the first day back but don’t know why.  Talking about your own hesitancy about returning lets them know that their emotions are normal.  When you give your best effort despite your feelings, they have a living example of principle-based living instead of living by emotion.

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Books to Consider

Long breaks can be a good time to catch up on some reading and jump start your motivation for the second half of the school year.  If you are looking for something to give you new ideas or give you insights, here are some books to consider:

The ADD & ADHD Answer Book: Professional Answers to 275 of the Top Questions Parents Ask by Susan Ashley PhD

The Teaching Gap: Best Ideas from the World’s Teachers for Improving Education in the Classroom by James W. Stigler and James Hiebert (Jun 16, 2009)

Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning: Insights from a Neurologist and Classroom Teacher by Judy Willis (Aug 30, 2006)

So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids by Jean Kilbourne

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Teachers spend on average about $395 out of pocket annually, with first-year teachers spending an average of $770, according to a study by Perry Research Professional.  During the holiday season, when all of our budgets are straining, newspapers can be an inexpensive resource.  Most students love the novelty of the format.  Let’s take a couple days and consider the possibilities: 

Language Arts:

Separate articles from the headlines.  Students see if they can correctly match them. 

Cut off the headlines and have students create them, then compare with a classmate.

Find all of the nouns (or verbs, or adjectives, etc.) in an article.

Cut out letters to make this week’s spelling words.

Highlight words that begin with a certain sound.

Write captions for photographs.

Study the Want Ads.  Create one for a designated item in the room.

Compare and contrast articles written for two different sections of the newspaper.

List the main idea and supporting details from an article.

Start your own classroom newspaper.

Tomorrow we’ll look at ways to support math concepts with a newspaper.

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Staying Relevant

To enhance the students’ understanding of prepositions, I had them sketch a picture of a house.  Then I gave specific directions, such as “Draw an evergreen against the house.”  “Draw a bird flying over the chimney.”  When I said, “Draw an antenna on the roof.”, there was a unified turning of heads as they all chimed “What’s an antenna?”  I smiled.  “You can draw a satellite dish.”  

I forgot that no one has antennas anymore (unless you are a butterfly and then it serves a different function).  How silly of me!  But, it reminded me that I have to stay in touch with the lives of my students or I will quickly become irrelevant.  In a world that changes at the speed of light, I sometimes wonder how I can keep up.  Some ideas:

–          Read, read, read!  Just like I tell my students, I can keep learning by reading.

–          Watch the news.  Trends will impact my kids, even when things impact their parents and not them directly.

–          Wander through the toy department.  I may not have children of my own that age, but it’s good to know what’s on my students’ wish lists.

–          Eat lunch with the students and listen for their favorites.

–          Ask questions – of everyone.

 If you are over 30, how do you stay relevant?

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With 54 gifted students, scheduling conferences has certainly been interesting this year!   I have about 40 slots available during the days set aside on the school calendar.  Those filled first, so the remaining meetings will have to take place either at lunch or after school.  Four phone conferences have relieved some of the time pressure, but I will miss the personal interaction of a face-to-face meeting. 

In addition to work samples, I plan to provide each parent with strategies to encourage more critical thinking.  I’d also like to find something for the parents of fifth graders about how to smooth the transition into middle school.  Giving them information is nice, but the opportunity to connect with parents gives me more insight into each of my students.  I’m thankful for the time they take to meet at school.

There are only a few parents who have declined a conference.  They either have no concerns to discuss, or the timing just doesn’t work.  To me, that is their prerogative.  It’s a good thing we don’t live in Detroit, though.  It might not be quite so easy to skip a conference.  🙂

http://abcnews.go.com/WN/detroit-prosecutor-threatens-jail-parents-skip-school-conferences/story?id=11925244

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