Thursday, June 18, 2015

Facebook for Parents - 5 Ways to Improve Parent Communication

I tested this idea all year and am SO excited to finally blog about it!  I always ask myself how I can use tech to make my life as a teacher easier.  It is my goal and my passion.  This year, I decided to create a Facebook group for my parents.  I announced it at my open house at the beginning of the year.  Parents seemed excited and willing to give it a try.  I made a sign up sheet to get email addresses for everyone interested in joining.  I created a group and made sure it was a closed group.  This keeps it private.  We are just posting info for our class.  We used this group all year and I was amazed how much it helped parent communication.  Here are five ways I used our Facebook group this year.
1) Homework -
Each week, I took pictures of my class newsletter and posted them.  This had all the info about current events and the spelling words for the week.  Parents were able to message me if they did not understand something on the homework.  If they lost their homework packet, they could easily go to our group page to find it.  This made my life easier because normally I have several requests for extra copies of homework that has been misplaced.
2)  Student Recognition -
Parents love to see their kids getting kudos and praise.  Every mama and daddy know that!  It was so easy for me to take pictures of kids with creative art projects or great writing and post them to our group.  I have a star student each week and was able to post their picture with a little blurb about how awesome they are.  Each week, I also have the King or Queen of Handwriting.  I give them a crown to wear for the week and let them start on light blue every day on our behavior chart.  It was so easy to take pictures of these kids and give them a little extra recognition.  My class is subscribed to Raz-Kids.  Each week, I would announce the Raz-Reader of the week.  Once I started announcing this on the group, I noticed a drastic increase in time spent on the site.  I kept a little checklist to make sure all kids were recognized and that I was spreading the love evenly.
3) Coordinating Parties and Donations -
Have you ever had three sets of cupcakes show up for a party?  By posting on our group, parents were able to let each other know what they were bringing to our party.  It really helped prevent the surplus cupcake problem and parents were way more involved.  When I was not getting donations, I just posted a picture of what I had bought and parents quickly chimed in to help out too.
4)  Pictures and Videos -
Parents love, love, love to see pictures of their kids, but some are not comfortable with their child's pictures being posted online.  This is a CLOSED group.  The only ones who can see our posts are other parents.  I posted pictures like CRAZY!  Parents loved being at work and seeing a picture of what was happening in the classroom at that very moment.  In the beginning of the year, we had a really bad storm that caused the power to go out.  Parents were worried and I immediately started getting messages.  I broke out some fun finger flashlights and we were reading with them.  Parents were so relieved to see that their kids were fine and having fun.  That was probably the day that we all loved our little Facebook group the most.  Parents also share videos with me and other parents.  I always send home a stuffed animal with the kids.  I used to send home a disposable camera.  THe problems with this are, they are becoming hard to find these days and often when I got the pictures developed there were like 12 pictures of the ceiling.  (First graders are not the best photographers.)  Now, parents post pictures of the stuffed animal visiting their home.  We get to see them right away - no more waiting for the camera to get full.  I had a parent help at field day, take videos, and post them for all the parents who could not make it.  We hatched butterflies this spring.  Of course they emerged over the weekend.  Don't they always?  I stopped by school to check on them and actually caught one on video.  I posted to our group and the kids saw it on Saturday.  They were so excited and I was happy they didn't miss it.
5)  Keeping Families Informed -
You know when kids go home and parents ask "what did you learn today?" and kids say "nuthin'"?  I would write things like "Today we learned about spiders.  Ask your child about it!" or "Tonight, ask your student to tell you how the water cycle works."  I had a couple grandmas who live out of town in my group.  This was fun because they were able to see pictures of their grandkids' classroom, know what they were learning, and feel more connected to their lives.

I took some screenshots from my group to give you ideas and let you see how I used this with my parents.

I have NEVER had better parent communication than I had this year.  It was AWESOME!!!  I will never teach without a class Facebook group again.   As you plan your new school year, I really encourage you to make a class FB group.  If you have any other ideas or suggestion for using Facebook in the classroom, please share them in the comments.
Until next time,

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

End of the Year

I can't believe the year is over!  I am so bummed about it.  My class this year was absolutely fantastic!  I hate to see them leave me.  We had a really great year together.  I wanted to make the end of the year extra special for this group so we have had a lot of fun over the past couple of weeks.  Here is a little re-cap of how we finished off our year.
Every year, when there are only 10 days of school left, I blow up 10 balloons and put a fun surprise in each balloon.  These surprises are silly and usually things that don't cost money and I don't need to prep for.  Some of the ideas I have used in the past include: sit by a friend day, sit anywhere you want for the rest of the year (this usually gets saved until we only have 4-5 days left), eat lunch in the classroom, board game day, no shoes day, movie party, popcorn while we work, everybody gets to pick out of the treasure box (this ensures that no kid leaves without ever having a chance to pick from the treasure box), popsicles at recess, and free centers.

I love reading end of the year books to my kiddos.  Here are some of my favorites:
No More Pencils, No More Books, No More Teacher's Dirty Looks!The Night Before Summer Vacation        Last Day Blues
I always make an end of the year DVD for my kids with pictures from our year together.  I have used several different brands of slideshow software.  The one that I used the last two years is by Roxio.  I always add a soundtrack with some songs we have had in our Morning Songs.  (Don't know about morning songs?  Click here to read about them!)  We always watch the slideshow on our last day together and then the kids take a copy home with them.  
Did I mention how much I love my kiddos this year?  I wanted to do something a little extra for them so this year I made them some summer swag.  I grabbed almost all of this stuff from the dollar store.  Each kid has a bucket with a note that says "I dug being your teacher", a couple books, reading logs, ideas for parents about preventing summer slide, pencils, bookmarks, bubbles that say "you blew me away", goldfish crackers "It is o-FISH-ally summer", and notepads.

 Here are some freebies and resources to make your own end of the year swag!
I used clip art from Graphics from the Pond to make bookmarks for all my kids.  There is such a variety of images that I was able to find a kid who looked like each one of my students.  I just added their names, laminated, and cut them out.  To download your own bookmarks, click here.
I also made some little printables for the buckets, goldfish, and bubbles.  To download those, click here. 
I found some terrific reading logs on TpT from Casey Hallett.  Click here to visit her store and download them.  (Don't forget to leave feedback!)
Last year, I came across the cutest idea from Read Like a Rock Star.  She had a bingo game with places to read.  I knew I just HAD to go back and find that resource for my buckets.  Click here to visit her blog and grab your own.  It is adorable! P.S. If you are not following this blog, you REALLY should be! She has so many fun ideas!
The last thing I included in my buckets was a letter to parents about preventing summer slide.  I found this letter on the Make, Take, & Teach blog. Click here to download your own letter to parents.
If you are still looking for more ideas for end of the year, check out my pinterest board.

I am still in denial that the year is over.  My kiddos will come in tomorrow morning to pick-up report cards and grab their goodies before they are off to second grade.  I hope they all show up so that I can squeeze them one more time this year.  No more balloons.  No more days.  No more first graders...until August!