My First "Back to School" Purchases for My New First Graders!

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Welcome! I hope to use this blog to share some of the amazing things my class and school does to make learning fun! I have been teaching for 15 years already! I started teaching 3rd grade in a Parochial School, then I was hired to teach 1st grade for three years, was moved to 5th grade for 2 years, and then came back to 1st grade in the district where I attended school. I love that I'm able to give back the the school district that guided me to become the teacher I am today! I have a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, certified 1-8; a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction; and my Administrator License Pre-K-12.

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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Open House...Departmentalization Style!

Hello Friends!

Anyone else thankful for this 3-day weekend like me?  This was our first week...first FULL week, as in 5 full days of school!  It was hot, humid, and sticky...and therefore, a little long, but we made it!

In case you didn't know, there are three of us who departmentalize in first grade at our building.  I am responsible for English Language Arts, another teacher is responsible for Math, and another is responsible for the Science and Social Studies standards.  In one of my past posts, I shared that our district was on the ballot to pass a levy and if it didn't pass, our building would lose art, music, and gym instruction for our children.  The levy failed, I accepted that I would be teaching art, music and gym...and then those specials appeared on our schedules.  So our children now receive art, music, and gym instruction but it made the schedule a bit of a nightmare on our end because we weren't sure if we were going to be able departmentalize.  Thankfully, our teacher who is responsible for math saw through the schedule and she figured out a way where we can still switch for 80 minute blocks throughout the day.

So...I thought I'd share how we structured our Open House today!

We sent home a summer letter welcoming our students and families to first grade and included our supply lists so that they could take advantage of those back-to-school sales.  We also enclosed an invitation to our Open House.
Click here to see it up close and personal.
Our grade level has their Open House at 4:45 but because we wanted the opportunity to meet all of our children and their families, we chose to schedule ours so that all three teachers would present to each group.  It was great, because we did get to meet everyone and it wasn't congested with 65 or so children and their families all at once.  We also have a family with twins in first grade, so they were able to attend one Open House at the regular first grade time, and then they attended one of our sessions.  There was a little bit of confusion amongst some of our families.  They thought they had to come for 3 full hours of Open House and were grateful once we clarified that they only were being asked to come for one hour.  Next year we'll be even more explicit!  :)

During each session, we did a little powerpoint presentation all about how we departmentalize and shared a few of the fun things we have planned for the near future.  Here's a few of our handouts...

We send home a Classroom Directory/Non-Custodial Parent note as well as a Technology Note.  We use our Classroom Directory note as a courtesy for our families.  If they would like to have their name and home addresses or email included in a directory to schedule play-dates or to send birthday invites throughout the year, we put a little directory together for them.  It's completely optional and only shared with those who share their information.  At the bottom of this note is a small section where the families can give me names and addresses of non-custodial parents who want to keep informed of their child's progress in first grade.  We could probably hunt through the school records for this information, but it's so much easier to just ask our families for the information.  We also send home a Tech Note asking permission to take pictures of the children and publish them on our websites and blogs.  The district has a section on the back of our Emergecy Medical Authorization form requesting this type of permission, but we want something in addition to that, just to cover ourselves!  I've linked both of these handouts so that you can view them and/or tweak them for yourselves.

Classroom Directory/Non-Custodial Parent
Tech Note

We also are going to send home a quarterly newsletter called, "The Proud Pirate" that gives our families information on what we're working on in the classroom.  We provide them with the actual standards that we'll be covering during that quarter.  Although sharing the exact standards with the families might be a little overwhelming for them, we felt the need to do so since there's such a push for these standards and First Grade is SO different from Kindergarten.  We also explained to our families that a lot of these standards will be built upon as the year continues...and no one can say that they don't know what their child is learning in first grade!
Click here to see our First Edition!

In our summer welcome letters, we asked the children to write us a letter about their summer, but at Open House, we gave our parents a homework assignment.  We asked them to write a note about their child!  Here's the handout we provided...
Parent Homework Assignment
We also decided that we needed to reach out to our families a little more. Actually, I feel that our district as a whole needs to do a better job of inviting our families into our buildings so that they can see what our children have been learning.  I think the junior high and high school are filled families for their athletic events, but I often feel that the primary buildings are neglected a bit in showing off their efforts....and let's be honest...there's some pretty amazing things happening in our buildings too!  Our building does an amazing job of displaying student can't help but smile as you walk through our building!  I feel that our community should be invited to visit and see what our little friends are learning.  Due to this, we decided to start "After Hours Social Hour" this year.  Each month our families will be invited into our classrooms to see what we've been doing.  Our first event will have a "Superhero" theme.  We're tying in community helpers with super heroes.  I've been searching Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, and blogs to get my ideas flowing.  I also purchased a few books and will be reading them this weekend and creating some fun to go along with them!  Here's the Save the Date we sent home at our Open House:
I'll be sharing more about our Superhero night and what we're planning as they develop!  :)

We also tied balloons onto our classroom doors so that our families would know which three rooms their children would be traveling to and from throughout the day.  
After our presentation, we invited our families to visit all three classrooms and meet us personally if they chose to do so!

I think that covers everything we did during Open House!  OH SHOOT!  One more the beginning of every session, we called all of our new Firsties to the carpet and read this book to them:
It's a cute story...about how a child wonders if his teacher will be an alligator, a kangaroo, a boa constrictor, etc.  In the end his teacher is a real live person!  We packaged animal crackers as our welcome back treat for our students.  Starting our sessions with a story for our kiddos was the perfect way to settle everyone down so that they would listen to our presentation too!  :) I think I've shared everything!  Sorry about the long post!
Hope everyone is off to a great start with their year!

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