3. Bond with students, and help them bond with each other.
At the beginning of each new school year, I do a sit-down conference with each student to learn more about them. I give them an interest and multiple intelligence survey, and we talk about the things they like and how they learn best. This enables me to meet their individual needs throughout the year and make a prescriptive learning plan. We develop lifelong relationships because we bond right off the bat and they know that I truly care.
I also tend to do a lot of icebreakers at the beginning of the year, as well as using music and movement to help students loosen up and have fun in the classroom. I think that our time talking about expectations also bonds us in a more serious way, since it creates a community where students are encouraged to hold each other accountable to the expectations we’ve all agreed on.
4. Get parents involved in the fun.
I recently did a treasure hunt competition with the help of parents. The first 10 students to submit pictures of the three types of angles found at home or in public would receive free homework passes. It was a race to the finish, and since I required the pictures to be submitted through the Bloomz app, it required parents to engage with their children’s learning at home. I also did a similar assignment where students had to find and post pictures of the different types of precipitation. The kids loved these, and so did the parents. Some even posted videos.
I used to have difficulty getting all homework completed by all students. My diligent communication with parents has resolved this problem, because the parents always get the homework post before the kids even get home for the day. There have been a couple of instances where kids have tried to forget their homework at school, but the parents drove them right back to retrieve it.
5. Come up with a strategy for communicating with ELL families.
Non-English-speaking families can feel disconnected to the classroom because they are not able to access information like native English speakers can. As teachers, it’s important that we take steps to reach out to these parents early in the year and help them feel welcome in our classrooms and schools. This is where using Google Translate or a parent-teacher communication app with a translation feature can help tremendously. After all, parents are more apt to engage in the school community when they understand what is going on in the classroom.
During our Meet the Teacher night, I make sure I have all required forms printed in both English and Spanish. After introductions, we create their Bloomz account and I walk them through the steps. I show them the translation setting and help those that need it set it to their native language. This way, they are able to connect to the classroom without having to worry about a language barrier.
The best part of each new school year is connecting with my new students and their families, finding our common interests, and building on them to create lifelong friendships. Together we can show our kiddos that we are a team with a common goal; creating a solid foundation for students to have a successful learning experience all year long.
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