4 Ways to Increase Parent Involvement

4-Waysto-IncreaseParent-Involvement

I’m excited to have an article on the Teach for America Blog, Teacher Pop.  Here is a sneak peek at the article.

Depending on where you teach, parent involvement can be a tricky issue to tackle. I’ve worked at schools with tremendous parent involvement—even to the point of over-involvement—and others where parents rarely stepped in the building. In order to create a continuous environment of learning and success for children, it’s important for parents and teachers to partner and collaborate. So, how can you build parent involvement in your school?

Click on the image below to keep reading.

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Show and Tell Tuesday

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I’m excited to be linking with Forever in Fifth Grade for another Show and Tell Tuesday.  I’m a little late this month since we have been wrapping up before Spring Break.  I want to show a couple of projects I have been working on for the past month.

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We hosted the first ever Special Education Parent Resource Night with the theme of “Putting the Pieces Together” at the end of last month, and it was a great success!!  We had 19 families attend and gave away a lot of resources for parents to use with their children at home.  We were very lucky to have received donations from a couple of companies and the PTO, so the event cost very little money.

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show and tell tuesday 2

Our house sold and we are busy packing and giving away our things.  I have been using a simple organizational method of a “Keep/Boat” box, “Sell” box, and “Giveaway” box.  Plus, I have had many trash bags full of things that need to be thrown away!!  It feels so rewarding to de-clutter everything!

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I currently have a giveaway going on that you can enter to win a set of magnetic letters/numbers.  We gave away 11 sets of these at our Special Education Parent Night thanks to a generous donation from Educational Insights.  You can do so many different learning activities with these letters!

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Enter below to win this set of Magnetic Letters from Educational Insights (a 24.99 value).

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Hosting a Special Education Parent Resource Night

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This year we hosted the first ever Special Education Parent Resource Night at our school.  It ended up being a great success with many resources given to parents to help their children at home.  The theme of the event was “Putting the Pieces Together” with emphasize on how it takes a team of people to help a child achieve their best.

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The evening was structured around mini-sessions and parent could pick the three sessions they would like to attend.  The mini-sessions were conducted by myself, our special education teachers, paraprofessionals, Occupational Therapist, Speech Therapist, and Counselor.  The card below was sent to each parent, along with an invitation, for them to use to RSVP to the event.

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Each parent was also sent a reminder in the mail, as well as a reminder phone call.

The purpose of each session was to give parents take home resources they could use with their children immediately.  Depending on the session we provided a number of different learning tools.  For example, in the session titled “Making Math Fun”, we provided foam dice, cards, and dominoes and then handouts of different games parents can play with their child that practice various math skills.  We had a wonderful donation from Educational Insights of magnetic letters that paired with the session “Building Young Readers”.  Parents were given the letters, a baking sheet, and different activities that can be used on the baking sheet to learn letters and make words.

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As parents checked in, they were given a schedule of the sessions they would attend with a bag that contained the following:

  • Special Education Parent Binder
  • A book on their child’s current independent reading level with a card of Lexile and Fountas and Pinnell levels
  • Magnet of all their child’s passwords for different computer enrichment programs
  • Dry erase board and marker and a pen

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They were also given a schedule of the different mini-sessions they would be attending.

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After they received their bag and schedule, they had a chance to pick out two books for their child and one book for themselves.  This way we were able to promote a “family” of readers.  I also provided information on our ongoing “Reading is Sweet” incentive program.

I was pretty excited when I found puzzle piece ribbon at Walmart and knew I needed to find a why to use it.  So, I attached the balloon to an anchor and hung a sign to label each area of the table.

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We provided light refreshments from Chik-Fil-A and a couple of veggie trays.  When all parents had a chance to get a bite to eat, I reviewed the contents of the notebooks.  Anyone who has experience with special education, knows how much paperwork is given to parents.  I wanted to provide them an organized notebook to store all the paperwork they collect over the years. Dividers were labeled as follows: Current IEP, Progress Reports, Evaluation Reports, Past IEP’s, and Notes.  They were also given a pre-meeting and meeting notes templates to use.

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After we reviewed the notebooks, parents split up to begin their mini-sessions.  Each session had between 2 to 7 parents at one time, which created a nice intimate setting that made parents comfortable to ask questions. We had a total of 19 families attend and provided childcare for the children.

I loved the feeling of teamwork that was accomplished by the end of the night between parents and the school.  My goal has always been to create a special education program that is collaborative in nature and hosting a special education parent resource night is definitely something I would continue to do in the future to continue positive relationships with parents that ultimately benefits the students.

As I mentioned above, Educational Insights graciously donated boxes of magnetic letters to our event.  Enter below to win a FREE set of Magnetic Letters from Educational Insights (a 24.99 value).

letters

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Springing into Learning

Spring Blog Hop Header

I’m excited to be teaming up with some other great bloggers for a Springing into Learning Blog Hop!  Thanks to Kim at Elementary Antics for organizing this fabulous Hop!

I would like to share a fun craft I recently made for St. Patrick’s Day which is right around the corner!  With some old pots we had in the yard, I created “Pots of Gold” to take to both my school and the girl’s school.  This is a simple, yet thoughtful way let others know you are “lucky” to have them either teaching with you or teaching your kids!

All you need to make these pots are black paint, gold glitter, decoupage, outdoor pots, shamrock stencil and Rolos!  The pictures below walk you through the different steps.

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Now for the fun FREEBIE!!!  We have been working on numbers lately at the house , so I have made my starfish numbers 1-9 free for the next three days.  This set includes numbers 1-9.  It is a great way to introduce and practice numbers as Spring time begins!

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I am also currently have a giveaway going on for a set of 12 Kwik Stix for the next 12 hours.  You can read my review here of these fun, vibrate, no mess paints.  Enter the raffle below to win your own set!

Kwik Stix 12 pack

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Make sure you check out all the other blogs for more great Springtime ideas!!


Take Home Math Kits

coverIt seems there is typically a larger focus on literacy skills than math skills, so I wanted to make sure to give both of these skills their equal share of practice with our students.  We sent home take home literacy kits earlier this school year, so now we will be sending home take home math kits.  With the help of Oriental Trading, we were able to make five different kits that target specific skills and are engaging for parents to do at home with their children.

Kit #1

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The target skill for this kit is one digit addition and subtraction.  Included in the kit are Counting Monkeys and Flashcards.  Parents can quiz their children with the flash cards and use the counting monkey for manipulates.  Once students have mastered this skill, I plan on adding sand timers, so they can work on fluency.

Kit #2

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This kit is for students who are still learning numbers and number sense.  Student count the number of objects on the sheet and place the correct magnetic number on the tray.   Included in this kit is a Cookie Tray, Counting mat, and Magnetic Numbers.

Kit #3

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The focus of this kit is Number Bonds.  Children fill in the blank circle with the correct number to complete the “bond”.  Each tote includes a set of 15 Number Bonds, dry erase marker and eraser.

Kit #4

red2For this kit, I made an activity sheet so students can create equations with the numbers they roll.  Each kit includes a blue and a red number cube, as well as an operations cube.  Students role the cubes, fill the numbers into the corresponding color box and then complete the equations.  The contents of the tote include a dry erase marker, activity sheet, and Math Connecting Blocks.

Kit #5

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The final kit focuses on place value.  Each kit includes 15 Place Value Puzzles which consists three separate pieces.  Parents can build the puzzles with their children and practice math at the same time!

Students have enjoyed receiving their colorful tote bags to take home to use with their parents.  And parents have appreciated  the engaging and hands on activities to do at home with their kids, which is a welcomed alternative to worksheets or other homework!

This review is based strictly on my opinion. I was provided the sample free of charge by the company to provide my honest review. No other type of compensation was received. All ideas and opinions are my own.

Kwik Stixs: Review and Giveaway!

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I was excited when The Pencil Grip Company asked me to review their product, Kwik Stix.  My girls love arts and crafts, so this product was lots of fun to try out!  Kwik Stix are tempera paints that dry in 90 seconds and create very little mess.  They are also easy for little hands to use.  We used the paints to free draw and the girls had a great time.  In my oldest daughter’s (4 years old) words, “These are cool!  I want to use these all the time!”  I was also impressed with them for 3 main reasons.

Vibrant Colors

We had 12 different colors to use and they were so bright and vibrant.  Compared to typical paints and crayons that we usually use, the Kwik Stik’s were much brighter, even with just one stroke. The girls enjoyed using them all and blending them together.

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Texture

Kwik Stix are very easy to use and create a smooth texture on the paper.   They create the perfect cross between crayon and paint.   Even when lots of pressure is placed on them, they stay smooth.

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Little Mess

My daughters are very messy and these were the perfect alternative to using paint which usually gets all over the place and takes a while to dry.  These paints dry so fast….I really could not believe how fast they dried.  The girls went past the page and accidentally drew on the table.  They wiped right off with just a cloth and water.

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We will definitely be hanging on to these paints and as my daughter quoted “use them all the time!”  Lucky for you, there is a chance to win a 12 color set of Kwik Stix to add to your art collection.

Kwik Stix 12 pack

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Getting Ready for our next book exchange

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We have been doing book exchanges for the past few months and we are all really enjoying it.   The girls constantly ask to do “book projects”.  This month we chose the book, Rain Drop Plop by Wendy Cheyette Lewison.  I really love this book and all the different things you can do with it, especially with numbers and talking about weather.

My favorite activity we did with the book, was creating question cards that went along with each page of the book.  These questions helped the girls with positional words, as well as answering basic “who, what, when, where” questions.

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We also matched lowercase and uppercase letters using umbrella tops and bottoms and matched numbers with the correct number of raindrops.  I created a an umbrella pattern sheet, so the girls could start working on simple patterns and we made a cute raindrop that we named and played with.  When we made the rain drop, I asked the girls to follow certain directions, such as put the blue gems on the shoes.  Finally, we got some paint chips and put letters on them and then matched letters with clothes pins.

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The timing of this book exchange was perfect since it was actually rather rainy throughout the week.  For a snack, I added some white chocolate pretzels, since pretzels is what the little girl eats for a snack.

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It has been fun to see the changes in each of my daughter’s drawings over the past couple months, especially my oldest.  This time she drew her family under an umbrella.  Each month, I see more and more detail in her drawings and now she is writing too!

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We will be starting up a new exchange in March if you would like to join, just comment below and I will send you all the details!!

Show and Tell Tuesday

show and tell tuesday

I’m excited to be linking up again with Stephanie at Forever in 5th grade for another Tuesday of “Show and Tell”.  I have been working on a lot of different projects since last month!

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Special Education Parent Resource Night

We will be hosting our first ever Special Education Parent Resource Night in a couple of weeks and I have been busily planning the night’s activities.  Parents can choose from 12 different mini-sessions that will be provided by special education teachers, OT, Speech Pathologist, Counselor, or myself to attend.  Each session will have “Make and Take” materials, so parents can begin working with students at home immediately with different tips and material.  I’m really looking forward to this night and will write an article about it after it takes place detailing all the different components and ideas!!

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show and tell tuesday 2

Valentines Day

We had a lot of fun with making Valentines this year…..we actually made almost 100 Valentines between a staff of teachers, 2 preschool classrooms and teachers, and coworkers.  Here is a little sample of all of the different Valentines we made…..”Superhero lollipops”, “Shooting for Brownie Points”, “Thanks for putting your heart into teaching”.  I have to admit, I am pretty obsessed with Pinterest and all the amazing ideas you can find, so I can’t take credit for any of these as original ideas!

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Book Buddies

This month we have picked the book Raindrop Plop for our book buddy.  We are still working on all the different activities, but the picture below is a sampling of what we have done so far.  The girls LOVE creating book projects each month. We would love to expand this “project/idea”, so if you have a child between the ages of 2-4 and would like to join in the fun, let me know and I can send you all the details!

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 show and tell tuesday 4

Giving Parent Positive Feedback

I just finished a product, that gives parent very specific, positive feedback regarding behavior.  So often, parents of challenging students only hear the negative comments and feedback, the purpose of this product is to send home a quick, simple note that gives very specific behavior feedback.  These notes partner with Behavior Badges and can be used in conjunction with them!

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Head over to Forever in Fifth Grade to check out all the other fabulous posts!

Valentines Fun

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We have been busily having fun making Valentines this week.  Between the girl’s friends and teachers and my coworkers, I think we made close to 100 valentines.

For the girl’s friends at preschool, we made superhero lollipops.  We made them out of dum-dums and red felt.  I found the cute superhero printables from Less Ordinary Designs and glued them to the felt capes and then tied a ribbon around the stick and added the mask.

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For the girl’s teachers at preschool we gave them brownies with a cute little phrase I found over at The Gaines Gang blog.  This was so simple and quick to make!

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For my coworkers which consists of around 40 teachers,  I bought some treat bags at the Dollar Tree and added some chocolate candies.  I found this gift tag at Eighteen25 and added a heart sticker to the center to give it a little more color!

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And finally, I made some no sew shirts out of different size hearts to make a fish.  The girls were excited to wear their matching shirts to their Valentines Day Party!

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And give out their superhero Valentines to their friends!

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Learning to Use Positive Reinforcement

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I observe over and over again in classrooms how quickly teachers are to redirect and correct behavior and how little positive reinforcement is used on a consistent basis. I can barely blame teachers in most cases, as a catch myself doing the same thing with my own children. Is it easier to correct and/or punish negative behavior than it is to praise positive behavior?

Ultimately, I think there must be a healthy balance between the two. In order for students and children to learn the appropriate behaviors, they need to be redirected or corrected when misbehaving, but positive reinforcement must be done at a more frequent rate to really change the behaviors. I have read different ratios over the years of positive vs. negative comments. The quote below is from Boy’s Town and seems like a good place to start.

positive vs. negative

So, what are some different ways to use positive reinforcement?  Reinforcement does not need to be something that is tangible and it does not have to be something that costs money.  Simply writing a note on a students desk can be incentive to keep up the good work.

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Tokens of some kind can also be reinforcing and can have the added bonus of working towards a higher goal.  The pom-pom method is one such token economy where students earn pom-poms in a jar and when the jar is full, then they earn a larger reward.  This larger reward could be something that is provided at home such as going out for an ice cream treat or movie.  The tokens could also equal minutes on either the TV or a video game at home.  For example, if a child earns 12 tokens during the day, then they get 12 minutes to play their favorite game.  Here is a list of some other easy ideas.

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Creating a connection between home and school ensures the most success for any kind of reinforcement system.  This connection is often hard to make since parents of children who typically need positive and frequent reinforcement are already accustomed to the type of behaviors their child exhibits.  Most times these parents are at a loss for what to do at home as well, so hearing that their child is once again misbehaving at school is “old” news and unintentionally ignored.  One of the most effective uses of positive reinforcement I have seen the past 10 years is positive notes or positive phone calls home.  Not only is the child’s behavior being reinforced, the parents are also being reinforced and finally receiving something positive about their child which is refreshing and can suddenly create the missing home-school link.

Using a reward menu and putting the option of either a positive note home or positive phone call home where the student makes the phone call during the day to “brag” about their good behavior can be the first step in introducing this technique.  Positive notes home such as the one below can give specific praise to behaviors.

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The next time you correct student behavior, remember also to praise their positive behavior, however small it may be, and you will start to see little changes in behavior.  I have seen the positive results in my school with teachers who do this and at home when I do this same technique with my own children who are 2 and 3 years old.  It also helps to think about how it makes you feel when you receive a positive compliment at work regarding your job performance.

If you want to check out a copy of some positive parent notes home with the most common behaviors seen in schools, you can check them out here.