September is quickly approaching and soon a new group of excited yet anxious children and parents will greet us at the classroom door. I am always looking for new ways to build connections between home and school. As a parent I now appreciate the poignant feeling of someone else spending more time with my children during the course of a day than I do.
Five activities to help parents feel connected to a new classroom
Send home a name chart - It can be challenging for children to learn the names of their new classmates. By sending home a simple name chart parents are able to make an association as their children talk about children with whom they are developing friendships. This is also a great tool for parents to use in helping children learn their classmate's names.
Create a video tour of the classroom - Use voicethread or another online tool to create a tour of your classroom. Children whose parents may not be able to accompany them to the classroom are able to share in the excitement of their child's new environment. I have also had families say that their child loved having grandparents or other relatives view the classroom tour. Here is a sample classroom tour. http://voicethread.com/#u738611.b1304987.i6979519
Post weekly newsletters on your webpage - Not only does posting a newsletter on a website use less paper, it enables parents who are traveling to get access the information in a timely manner. I have learned that even posting a brief newsletter is better than no weekly newsletter. Many grade levels create a joint newsletter, but I believe that there is still value in having an additional segment written by the individual classroom teacher. My biggest peeve...if you are going to have a website keep it up to date. Nothing looks worse than going to a teacher's website only to find a newsletter from 6 months ago and no current information. Not everyone enjoys using current technology -- and that is fine -- but if you choose to use it, keep it up to date.
Send home a quick note telling one specific event that occured in the classroom - It is especially important in the beginning of the year to let parents know that their child is happy and liked by his/her teacher. As a grade level we established 3 common expectations:Be Kind, Be Respectful, and Work Hard We have small slips of paper with these written on them and when we see children engaging in an act that represents one of them we jot a quick note on the paper and send it home with the child. This allows for parents and children to celebrate meaningful success over the first couple of months in their new classroom.
Call each family within the first month of school- A five minute phone call to check in after the first few weeks of school is one of the nicest calls to receive. Yes it takes a substantial amount of time, however it is time well spent. Consider doing a few calls each night. This one call can make a fabulous building block to a year long relationship!