Creating a Giving Tree for Classroom Donations

An easy and fun way to ask for classroom donations!
Back to School time is here, and if you are anything like me this time of year you are a little stressed about all the items that your classroom needs. As teachers we do everything we can to make sure that ALL of our students have everything they need to be successful all year long.

Supplies can be expensive, and school budgets are lacking, so it is great when a parent asks if we need anything else. In order to capitalize on this at the beginning of the year, and throughout the year, I used this Giving Tree. It is a great little display for Back to School Night, Meet the Teacher, and Parent Conferences.

I have done this Giving Tree in a couple of different ways. You can download this FREE template here if it works for you, and I have to admit it is way cuter. BUT sometimes I ran out of time setting up my room and getting ready to meet students, and this cute version just didn't happen.

These, slightly more manic, years I would sketch a little tree on our whiteboard and then use these leaf sticky notes (affiliate link) to write the wish items on.

Either way you choose to do it, families can choose a leaf to take home with them for an item they wish to donate. Families love to help, and this is an easy way of reminding them that their student's classroom is in need.

An easy and fun way to ask for classroom donations!
Tips for a Giving Tree that Rocks:

Have it ready for any event where families will be in the classroom.
Make it easy for families to take a leaf.
Include a variety of items with different price points.
Include none physical items such as volunteers to read with students, make copies, or cut laminate.
Include a section in your newsletter that has items from the Giving Tree.
Write simple thank you notes when a family donates an item or time.

Get your FREE GIVING TREE set up here!

Using Google Forms with Task Cards

Have you ever tried using Google forms in your classroom? This step by step guide to creating a form to go with task card sets will change your life!
In the education world, as a whole, we are working on making the move to be more digital. This means going paperless. As a teacher, I love the concept of being paperless, but the actuality of it didn't always work for me. BUT I do have one strategy that I used with task cards over and over again that rocked!

In order to minimize, while still not completely eliminating, paper in the classroom we used Google forms as answer documents instead of paper recording sheets. This meant that while I was still printing and laminating the task cards, which is a task I only do once, I could use them over and over again, year after year all with the same Google form which greatly minimized the copying I had to do. Sounds a little bit like a dream doesn't it? AND it is SO EASY!
Have you ever tried using Google forms in your classroom? This step by step guide to creating a form to go with task card sets will change your life!

To create a Google Form:
1. Go to www.google.com/forms
2. Click the big purple +


Have you ever tried using Google forms in your classroom? This step by step guide to creating a form to go with task card sets will change your life!
It will bring you to a page that looks like this. From here, you can make your form be exactly what you want, which is pretty amazing.

Have you ever tried using Google forms in your classroom? This step by step guide to creating a form to go with task card sets will change your life!
I title the form with the name of the set of task cards that we are using, it only makes sense. In the description I write the student directions for that set. While I am here I also take the opportunity to make the first question ask for the student's name. For this questions I change the type of question to short answer, but the form's default is multiple choice. 

Have you ever tried using Google forms in your classroom? This step by step guide to creating a form to go with task card sets will change your life!
Next, add you question. If you really wanted to you could retype each task card, but who really has time for that? Plus, I will show you a trick that makes this system unbelievably easy to use over and over again. So instead I just put "Card 1" as the question. If I am using multiple choice task cards I use the multiple choice default and put the options for ABCD. As you type each one another will option will appear below, and you can have as many answer choices as you would like. 

I have also used this strategy with open ended task cards, particularly math word problems, and just use the short answer option for all of the questions instead of multiple choice. 

A tip for this step is to turn on the "Required" option with the purple toggle in the bottom right corner of the form. This makes sure that students answer all the questions before submitting their responses. 
**Make sure that you also do this for the "Name" questions with the short answer response, if you think you have a hard time with no name papers, just try to figure out a no name form. 

When you get the question looking how you want just click the icon that looks like two pieces of stacked paper next to the trash can. This will make a copy of your question. If you are using multiple choice task cards all you have to do is change the number of the card as the question and keep on copying until you have the set number of questions. Talk about easy peasy. 

Have you ever tried using Google forms in your classroom? This step by step guide to creating a form to go with task card sets will change your life!
Next you are ready to to share the form with your students, and there is a variety of options for doing this as well. To share the form click on "Send Form" at the top of the page. The first option is gives you is to email the form. If you are in a Google classroom where students have their own email addresses this is a great way to get them the form. 

I did not have this option, so I would click on the link icon next to the email icon (looks like two chain links.) This gives you a link, that I would then either create a bit.ly link or QR code that students could scan in order to get to the form.  

Have you ever tried using Google forms in your classroom? This step by step guide to creating a form to go with task card sets will change your life!
Then students used their device to complete the task cards ad the form. Students can use just about any device to complete a Google form as long as it connects to the internet. 

One of the reasons that I LOVE using Google forms is that students can complete the assignment over a period of time whether it be in stations, in small groups, independently, or just about any other way you can think of. Instead of trying to keep track of recording sheets over a week or longer, Google forms keeps the information nice and tidy in one location waiting for me. 
Have you ever tried using Google forms in your classroom? This step by step guide to creating a form to go with task card sets will change your life!
Once you are ready to look at responses there are a few options for that too! From the top of your form (if you don't remember, you can find it by going to google.com/form you just click on that form instead of the + to add a new form) click on the tab for responses instead of questions. The default is to show you the summary of responses. This will list the student names that have completed the form since it was your first question, and then give you a pie graph (for multiple choice questions) of how student responses were chosen. I absolutely love this view, because it is so obvious what the whole class needs a reteach on, and what items need a more specific reteach with just a few students. 

The next option is to view individual responses. This view basically shows you the form again, but with the student responses completed. 

Now to my favorite! If you click on the option to create a spreadsheet it does just that. I love spreadsheets, and I am fairly certain you will like this one too! 

Have you ever tried using Google forms in your classroom? This step by step guide to creating a form to go with task card sets will change your life!
Go ahead and click new spreadsheet, and voila! You get a spreadsheet like the one below. 
Have you ever tried using Google forms in your classroom? This step by step guide to creating a form to go with task card sets will change your life!
Are you seeing this amazingness? The spreadsheet gives you the date and time completed, the student name, and their response to each question. This is my above and beyond favorite, because it is soooooo easy to read and grade for individual students.
Have you ever tried using Google forms in your classroom? This step by step guide to creating a form to go with task card sets will change your life!
All of this seems pretty great right? Well, I have to say, it gets even better because once you have created your first form all you have to do is copy it by clicking on the three dots in the upper right hand corner and selecting the first option which is, "Make a Copy." This will copy your form so that all you have to do is change the title, the description/student directions, and possibly the number of questions you have for that set of task cards. AAANNNNDDDD, say you created a form for each set of task cards this year, next year you can just make a copy, change nothing, and you are ready to go! 

Have you ever tried using Google forms in your classroom? This step by step guide to creating a form to go with task card sets will change your life!

Are you ready to try it out?

Here are some great sets of task cards to get you going:

Multiple Choice:

Open Ended:

Setting Up Your Classroom

Time to think about what you want your classroom to look like this year. Every year setting up my classroom was one of my favorite times, and I had it down to quite the science too. Setting up your classroom can be fun and exciting if you plan a bit before you start, otherwise it can turn into a stressful mess. Here is my general plan for a smooth classroom setup that will make a difference all year long. 

On that note... it is never too late to reorganize your classroom. If you are mid-year, two weeks in, or a month form the end of school and something isn't working, change it! 
Things to keep in mind while setting up your classroom at the beginning of the year. Great ideas!

 Clean

After your classroom has sat empty for the summer, or there were people using your classroom, it is going to need a good scrub down. I usually spent the first morning in my classroom just cleaning. Clorox wipes were by best friend on this day. I would sometimes don a mask, because the dust can get a little out of hand and the cleaning process was really slowed down by all the sneezing. I always started at the top of the cabinets and worked my way down pushing all the dust and grime onto the floor and sanitizing all the things. When I finish wiping down every last surface I give the floor a good sweeping. For this, I usually try to find one of the janitorial dust mops, because those things rock, and can cover the classroom quite quickly. After this, I sit and marvel at my clean and sanitized classroom for a moment, knowing that it won't ever be this clean or germ free again for the school year. 
**A note on dusting mops. Seriously, they rock. I have one at home, and even gave one to my friend as a wedding gift. If you have pretty much anything other than carpet for flooring at home or school they can be your best friend. I have a long haired dog, and it works miracles my friend, miracles I tell you. This is the one I have and have given as a gift but I have never met one I didn't like.  

Student Seating

This is the task that always takes me the longest, because I truly believe it is the most important. I want my students to feel at home in the classroom and know that it is their space, not just mine. After moving things around a million times, of course lifting them as to not scratch the new floor wax, I usually settled with table groups and a few alternative seating options scattered around the room. If you would like to read more about how what your student seating arrangement is telling your students check out this post

It is during this time that I also set up "special areas" around the classroom. These areas include our classroom library, carpet for whole group learning, a reading nook, a writing table, and countless other little areas for working. This is where my alternative seating options come into play. 

I choose to use many, many rugs to differentiate these areas around the classroom. I have found that the best rugs come from IKEA. They are inexpensive and hold up to the test of time. I have also purchased a few rugs from Target when they are on clearance with all the dorm items after the school year starts. Either way I do two thing to help the longevity of the carpet. 
1. I buy a can of ScotchGard and go to town. This stuff is easy to apply and makes it so much easier to clean up those little oopses that are bound to happen. 
2. I duct tape the edges of the carpet to the tile floor. This serves two purposes. The first is to keep anyone from tripping. The second is to keep the rug from curling up or moving. I match the color of the duct tape to the carpet and call it a day. 

For alternative seating I use basically anything I can find. I have a collection of about fifteen pillows that I bought at Goodwill and made new covers for that matched our decor. I also have some outdoor furniture cushions to sit on along with a couple of different chairs and a bean bag. I purchased some stools from IKEA at the same time as the rugs that are great for tucking under tables. I also lowered a few tables so that it is easier to sit on the floor or a cushion and reach. 

In my dream world I would have these Hokki Stools available, but they are a bit pricey. Instead I opt for balance balls. I kept about five of them in the classroom and they would rotate through the students. To keep them from rolling around I used dollar store frisbees turned upside down. They were truly lifesavers, otherwise I may have gone nuts watching them roll off every time a student got up. 

Your Desk

The first question I wan to ask is, "Do you need a desk?" For many years I did not use a traditional teacher desk, but instead used our large blue kidney table instead. For storage I used a bookcase and a couple of these storage containers. The reason for this was that teacher desks are big, and they take away valuable space that could be used for students IMHO. 
Things to keep in mind while setting up your classroom at the beginning of the year. Great ideas!
The last couple of years our school was crowded and we had no where to put the teacher desks, so we had to have one. I chose to take advantage of the space actually on and below the desk to make the most of it. In addition to the computer, I placed a small bookcase on top of it and rolling storage below it. I shoved it in a corner basically. My students used the desk as much as I did and it came to be used as just another workspace for all of us. 

All the Stuff

After you have set up spaces for your students and your space, this is when it comes time for all the stuff. I never opened a single box until all the spaces were identified. This was my least favorite part of setting up my room. I don't know how in the world I acquired so much stuff, but I did. Fortunately everything had a place, it was just a matter of getting it there. 
Things to keep in mind while setting up your classroom at the beginning of the year. Great ideas!
On this note, don't be afraid to purge. I never was. Honestly I get rid of things with reckless abandon, because I have this fear of becoming a hoarder. It is deep seeded and dark. 

Organization

All the stuff has to go somewhere doesn't it? I have a small obsession with containers of all sorts, as many teachers do. Most of my containers come from the Target Dollar Spot, IKEA, and Dollar Tree. Occasionally, if I find something just right, I will splurge elsewhere. I have found that Hobby Lobby has amazing storage containers for scrapbooking that fit many classroom needs. I bought these containers one at a time using my trusty smart phone 40% off coupon. It was a little painful, but I made it through. 

I am a hug fan of my "teacher toolbox" that I created a few years ago. I used Avery labels and this set of drawers to create it. There are lots of super cute tutorials out there for the inserts, but the labels and washi tape was much for my style. 
Things to keep in mind while setting up your classroom at the beginning of the year. Great ideas!

Decor

I have the firm belief that when it comes to decor in the classroom less is more. I always had a racing theme, but that basically meant that I had black and white checkered fabric with splashes of red, yellow, and green. I never took it further than just the color scheme. 

To me, the classroom is a place to show off student work, not a designer's dream palette. With that being said, I have seen impeccably decorated classrooms that are completely functional, and maybe I am just jealous of those teachers' design asthetic. 

Things to keep in mind while setting up your classroom at the beginning of the year. Great ideas!Basically, form should follow function when it comes to a classroom. Your decor should not take away from learning or take the spotlight off of your students. I will get off my soap box now...

Planning Ahead

The absolute most important part of setting up your classroom is to not get stuck in how it looks, and remember that the vital part is how it performs. How will your setup help students to achieve their goals this year. What systems have you set in place to make them all successful? 

Plan time to really dive into your standards and curriculum. Push yourself to find something that will hook your students and drive engagement from the very beginning! You are a teacher, a magician, and a performer. You are awesome! 


Want to Know More?

These are some of my favorite books for classroom inspiration. These links, as well as others in this post, are Amazon affiliate links which means that if you click and buy something Amazon pays me a little bit for the referral, however your cost does not change. 





Supporting the New Teacher on Your Team

Actionable strategies for ensuring that the new teacher on your team feels welcome, comfortable, and prepared.
We have all been there. You have just been hired for your first teaching job. You may have met your team during the interview process, but odds are that you haven't, not all of them at least. The wheels in your head can't stop spinning with all the fresh and new ways that you are going to change the world and impact your students for the better. You are ready to take the world by storm, but first, you are a little nervous about meeting your team.

Do you remember it? I do clear as day. I had an awesome team, with a great mentor, but still there are a few things that I wished they would have told me or done when I first got started to make the transition just a little bit smoother.

Make First Contact

I was super nervous about meeting my team, as I was hired by admin only. I really wish that someone would have reached out to me as soon as they knew I was their new teammate. Instead, I was greeted by an, "Oh, are you Alyssa?" the first day I as in my classroom setting up. 

Don't be that teammate. Instead, reach out with a simple text, email, or phone call just to say welcome. It would be even better if you are able to set up a meet up before school gets started, but any type of contact is appreciated. 

Ask If They Have Any Questions

I had a boat load of questions about how the school worked when I first started, but  never really felt like it was the right time to ask. I wish that someone would have offered up the time. Really, if I am going for a perfect situation, I wish someone would have asked me about once a day for the entirety of the pre-planning week if I had any questions, because something was always coming up. 

A related topic is to ask what their goals are. I know that as a first year teacher I was really confident in teaching ELA, but worried about math. If someone would have asked me about this in the beginning it would have saved a lot of heartache on my part, and I would have gotten the assistance I needed right away instead of after my first observation. 

Make a List of "Just Knowns" for Your School

Actionable strategies for ensuring that the new teacher on your team feels welcome, comfortable, and prepared. You know what I am talking about, the stuff that no one things about, because that's just the way it is. For example, at my school it was unspoken rules that every Wednesday after school was saved for school wide meetings, you always chip in for a baby shower, and sunshine dues were collected at the beginning of each semester. 

None of these things were earth shattering, but they would have been nice to know from the beginning instead of finding out along the way. 

Go Out of Your Way to Be Inclusive

Going to happy hour? Invite them! Heard about a new training that you are interested in? Tell them about it! Getting together to plan ahead? Make sure to include them. 

Moral of the story, while you may think that they know they are invited, they may not want to feel like they are inviting themselves. 

Be Supportive

Teaching can really suck at times, and not everyone knows it going in. Be there for them with a Dr. Pepper and a chocolate bar, a pat on the back, or a note with encouraging words. Just knowing that you are there and have been through it and survived can mean the world! 

Working with Different Generations

Tips for making the most of your multi-generational team! The last tip is what it's all about!
Let me set the scene. You have just been hired to a new team, or you have new hires on your team, and you are so excited about the new, fresh ideas that will come with it. Then it happens. You have your first new team meeting, and you just aren't meshing with your colleagues. There are multiple issues, but one of the overwhelming issues seems to be the generational differences among the team. This is leading to communication issues, and the tension is building. Before you lock yourself in a your room and eat multiple king sized candy bars, take a moment to consider the following. It might be a life saver!

Old v. New

A lot of the time there is a split in teams between the veterans and the novices. Teaching is a unique field in that it requires a first year teacher to achieve the same goals as the veteran next door to them, sometimes with little to no support. It is hard to remind yourself though that we were all the novice at one point, and how the veterans supported you is often how you will turn around and treat the novice on your team. 

It used to be that veteran v. new was a much more simple divide, because you had the veteran traditionalists who were life long teachers. They knew what worked. Didn't really want to stray from what they knew, and were nearing retirement. On the other side of this are the fresh to the field teachers that were looking for guidance, while still maintaining the inspiration for teaching that they got from the new ideas they learned and were excited to implement. 

Today though, the generational differences are a lot muddier. In the classroom we still have the tried and true traditionalists, but we also have four more generations along with them. This leads to new challenges, but can also open the door to fantastic collaboration! 

Generational Identities

Each generation is influenced by the world around them and the events that took place during their life, especially during their adolescence. 

Traditionals were born prior to World War II and are often known as Depression Babies. They often have excellent communication skills, are thrifty, stubborn, have an excellent work ethic, are respectful of authority, and are very loyal to their friends and family. 

The Baby Boomers were born post World War II through the mid-sixties. They are greatly influenced by events like Woodstock, the Vietnam War, and the Civil Rights Movement. Baby Boomer's traits include working well as a team, questioning authority, are well-educated, and work well under a deadline.

Next comes Generation X who were born from the mid-sixties to the early eighties. Generation X was the first generation to commonly live in a home with two working parents or with a single, divorced parent. They are generally very independent, hard-working, have a social conscience, make time for family, and hate red tape. 

Generation Y'ers that were born from the mid-eighties to mid-nineties have come to be known as the entitled generation. They support the swing back to family centered life and were among the first to have "helicopter" parents. They are generally very socialized, socially responsible, value relationships, seek a work/life balance, loyal, and savvy with new technology. 

The final generation, that are starting to enter to workforce are Millennials who were born from the mid-nineties onward. Social media plays a large role in their lives. Their traits include being dependent on technology and well as their families, socially liberal and welcoming, and environmentally friendly. 

Working Together

Now that we have defined the different generations you may come across, here are some tips for working together cohesively for the betterment of all our students. 

Consider the Generation

Each generation is working with a different set of values, and it can cause a lot of tension when these values come into conflict with one another. For example, Traditionals and Baby Boomers would prefer to work together to make all decisions, while Generation X'ers want to make a decision and move on. This shouldn't be viewed as an inability to work with a team, but a reflection of their dislike for red tape. They believe in the principle of work smarter, not harder. 

Find Commonality

For all of the differences in generational values and traits there are a lot more things they have in common, especially as teachers. You can find commonalities in any generation, but there are some more surprising ones if you look. 

Traditionals and Generation Y'ers both value stability and security. They crave an environment where they can be themselves and excel. 

Tips for making the most of your multi-generational team! The last tip is what it's all about! Baby Boomers and Millennials both show more comfort with diversity and social change. They tend to be more accepting and welcoming of outsiders then other generations.  

There are many more examples, but these should get you thinking. 

Work Style Makes a Difference

While the earlier generations prefer to be more independence in their work space, the later generations desire specific feedback. Have an honest conversation with your team as to how they feel about this. What seems like constructive feedback to one can feel like micromanagement to another. This is an important balance to strike. 

Share Your Thoughts and Feelings

One of the most important elements to working with different generations is to share your feelings, instead of bottling them up. This is a hard balance to strike though, because while you want to make sure that your feelings are heard, you don't want to be overly vocal and come off as demanding or whiny. By being open from the beginning, you can avoid misunderstandings in the future. 

Use Each Other as a Resource

Each person, and each generation has valuable life experience and ideas that can lead to your best school year yet! Don't be afraid to ask questions, try something new, and dip your toe outside of your comfort zone. Everyone can be better by pooling your resources and keeping your common goals in mind. Each generation's traits should be kept in mind, and given leadership roles that fit their personalities. 

What Now?

Want to know more? Check out these books with more information about how generational differences can be an asset. 
(affiliate links)



What Your Seating Arrangement Tells Your Students

A look at what different seating arrangements tell your students about the classroom.

There are many ways to set up your classroom, and the possibilities can be a bit mind boggling. Do you choose rows, tables, a horseshoe formation? All of these options tell your students something different, but do you know what it is?

A Horseshoe

A horseshoe formation out of desks that forms a "U" lets your students know that there will be a lot of class discussions to be had. It also lets students know that you are planning to lead the discussions, and have the focus on you. By having students all face inward toward one another you are promoting a healthy socratic style classroom, but still asserting that you are the leader. 

Rows

When you set up desks linked in rows all facing the front of the classroom you are showing students that you, as the teacher, will show them what to do and lead all classroom activities. By linking the desks in the rows you also give students a hint that they may work together, but not necessarily. 

Desks Alone

A look at what different seating arrangements tell your students about the classroom. By placing desks alone and spread apart you are telling students that the teacher is in charge, will tell you exactly what to do, and they probably won't be working together. 

Table Groups

By grouping desks together into tables you are letting students know that while the teacher facilitates the day, they are in charge. Table groups also show that students will be working collaboratively to complete tasks, and not as soloists. 

Flexible Seating

By allowing students to choose their seating option at not only just desks, but tables, couches, floor cushions, stools, and anything else you can imagine you are telling your students that they are the main event in the classroom. You are also telling them that there will be choices every day in the classroom that students are responsible for making. You, as the teacher, will be there to guide and facilitate lessons, but students are the leaders. 

What Do You Think?

Do you agree with this assessment of what classroom seating tells your students? Is there a seating arrangement I missed?

Want to Know More?

I love to reread these books when I am getting ready to set up a classroom. They always give me such inspiration, not just with seating arrangements, but in all areas of the classroom.  (affiliate links)


Perfect Parent Conferences

An actionable plan for your best parent conference yet.
I still remember it like yesterday. I stood by my door, sweating profusely, waiting for someone to emerge at the top of the stairs. This was me waiting for my very first parent conference my first year teaching. Luckily for me, this parent was sweet as could be, and they had an awesome student, but not all conferences go off without a hitch. In order to be better prepared I developed a system over the years that led to absolutely awesome conferences with each and every parent that I met with.


Prepare with Evidence

It doesn't matter if you are meeting on the best student that has ever come through your class or a student that is struggling, all families would like to know specifics about their student in particular. I don't know about you, but even though I know a whole lot about each of my students it sometimes become difficult to think of specifics on the spot. Instead, I like to have a portfolio of student work, journals, assessments, and anecdotal notes ready to share with parents. 

This works both ways. Sometimes I use this evidence to show parents how well their student is doing in an area that I know they are struggling with to prove how hard their students are working. Other times I can show parents that students are not putting forth all their effort. Either way, the goal of evidence is to help the family understand their student at school, the good the bad, and the ugly. 

Use the Sandwich Method

The sandwich method is my favorite way to share information with just about anyone, and it couldn't be easier. The idea is to sandwich an area of growth within two areas that the student is doing well. It might sound a little something like this:
"Hannah is the kindest student I have come across. She works really hard to make sure that everyone feels included in class. Right now she and I are working on her organizational skills. She works really hard to get her work done, but sometimes struggles to find her materials, because of her untidyness. She is such a hard worker that I know she will find a system that works for her!"

Some might call this sugar coating, but it really is the BEST way to communicate with just about anyone, not just in parent conferences. The key to this method is to make sure that you hit on each of the points, and don't let the growth areas get lost. 

Stay Goal Oriented

It is easy to get caught up the negatives when speaking about a student that is struggling whether it be socially, emotionally, behaviorally, or academically. The key is to remain goal oriented and strive to work together with parents to find a solution. This positivity will help parents to recognize that you are a team and in search of the absolute best for your student. 

An actionable plan for your best parent conference yet. This can be especially tough when parents are struggling with not knowing what to do with their student and can sometimes feel like throwing things at a wall until something sticks, but that my friends is what I like to call brainstorming, and parents should be a part of it. 

Learn From the Family

When I first started teaching I thought that I was supposed to be the authority and have an answer to everything, but oh how wrong I was. I have since learned that parents and families are our greatest allies, and know our students so much better than we do. I like to just come out and ask parents for their ideas, and more often than not they know just what to do. 

Families are able to offer a great insight into what makes students tick and how to make them tick to a different rhythm. 

Show That You Care

Again, parents are our greatest allies, and when the going gets tough it is hard to remember that we are all on the same side. It is easy to come off as a bit icy when it comes to dealing with a difficult student, but it is vital for students to know that you care and are working in their student's best interest. 

This can be accomplished quite simply. The best way that I have found to show that you care is by listening, really truly listening, to what parents have to say. I like to start conferences by having asking parents their thoughts and concerns on the school year. I have gained so much insight from this practice. 

End With a Thank You

Taking time to come in for a parent conference is hard. You have to arrange child care, take time from work, and remember that it is scheduled. As teachers we often forget that parents don't have a day scheduled off already to come and see us. I always tried to remind myself that parents were putting in the effort and I wanted them to know that I valued their time. In order to show them this I would write a thank you note to each family to send home the day after our meeting. In the note I would include a thank you, a recap of our goals, and end with another thank you. These notes were always very well received. 

Want to Know More?

These are my favorite books to help out with conferences. 
(affiliate links)

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