Saturday, September 13, 2014

Eyes in my Classroom

My classroom door is always open and I welcome everybody who comes in to see all the learning that is occurring inside. I have nothing to hide. I work hard. My students work hard. We love to share the fruits of our labor!

I also feel that the more transparent I am, the more trusting my families are with their most prized possession...their child! 

At the beginning of the year, I send home a parent survey to see which communication methods will reach the majority. I then try to use a variety of communication tools in my room.

My favorite way of communicating is with my classroom facebook page. Last year was the first year I was able to use the page and I received so much positive feedback from my families. I use it to share tidbits of our learning, pictures, news, ways families can be involved at home, and anything that will connect home and school. This seems to be the best tool to allow parents to "see" into our classroom as 21 out of 24 of my parents are on Facebook. I like that Facebook also allows the two way communication as parents can comment and ask questions.

I use Twitter for both myself and my class. After surveying my class last year I found only two of my 22 parents were on Twitter. I decided not to use it as a communication tool, but the exciting part was after our class began using Twitter then a few parents began using it to follow us. This year 5 out of my 24 parents are on Twitter so I still don't think I will use it to disseminate information to parents, but more for my own learning. I do connect our class Twitter to our class facebook page so parents can choose to follow us on Twitter or check out what their child is saying on Facebook.

Each week, I also send home the Tuttle Times with a celebration section, calendar of events, a note from me, and then information about what was taught during the week and where our learning would be going the following week. By sending home this paper, I know that EVERY parent will receive classroom information. While it is only a one way communication tool, it at least provides connection between home and school.

Of course email and phone calls are utilized too!

What is your favorite form of parent communication?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Tracking Silent Reading Time

This year it seems like I have a class of reluctant readers. Being the reader that I am, this makes me sad so I'm determined to turn it around by the end of the year. The first thing I need to tackle though is getting them to read.

During our first week of school, I noticed many students choosing inappropriate books for their reading level and then flipping through the books, skipping pages, reading a page and going to my library to switch the book (then spending all their reading time there), and doing anything to pretty much avoid reading.

By the end of the week, we had completed a reading assessment so I had a pretty good idea of a reading range for each student. My library books are AR colored coded from a previous school where I taught that used AR, so I assigned a color to each student. They were then told to pick a chapter book that they were going to read from beginning to end. Friday, we were definitely progressing as they all had a book in their reading level and had stopped running to the classroom library every two minutes.

This week my goal is to hold them accountable for reading. I created a reading log where students can track their book, pages read, and note if they finished it or not. I also added a place for my initials to hold me accountable for checking in on them!

My first thought was to have them complete a reading response page where they respond to reading, but as reluctant readers I worry that may turn them off of reading more if they feel they need to respond in writing to everything they read. I'm going to keep this idea in the back of my head and perhaps incorporate some way in the future.

My next step is looking for reading incentives for my class. I like these brag tags and the way Confessions of a Homeschool used them. I was thinking perhaps I could have different prizes (stickers, pencils, certificates, candy) based on the number of books read, but then I have a range of reading levels in my classroom so one could be reading Harry Potter that is going to take much longer than another reading Junie B. Jones. I know many track minutes, but every student would be reading pretty much the same minutes in the classroom as we all have silent reading time at the same time. Another idea was to perhaps "catch them reading" and they receive something then. Things to ponder!

Do you have independent reading time in your classroom? If so, do you have students track their reading? Do you use a reading incentive program?