Setting the Stage for Exploration and Involvement
A new school year has begun in my classroom, and I feel it is important to make connections with my students as well as my parents as soon as possible. This post is split into two parts: Special Mini-Projects I Give Students in the First Week and Ways I Communicate with Families Immediately.
Special Mini-Projects I Give Students in the First Week
1. Me Bags- Students fill bags with items that mean a great deal to them. They have five minutes to talk about why they chose those particular items. Our class this year has one student who is new to our school, so this gave the class the opportunity to learn more about her interests and family. Here are some items that my students have placed in their "Me Bags"-
- Sports team photos
- Photos of family and friends (older and newer)
- A gift you have received that you have considered to be special
- A reward that was earned (academic, sports, scouting, other)
- Letters that were written to you or cards that were received
- Baseball with autographs from a team
- Historical memoirs
- Books or special yearbooks
2. How Your Family Uses Math at Home-
Students write about how their families use math at home. They must write ten sentences or more.
Questions to guide thinking-
-Does anyone in your family use math in their job?
-When your family goes grocery shopping, how is math used?
-When you cook dinner, how is math used?
-What does your family do when they budget their money?
Students are encouraged to think in a creative manner and come up with original ideas.
3. What's in a name? I encourage my students to ask their parents about the origin of their first names (and middle names, if possible). Here are some questions-
-Were you named after someone?
-What is the origin of your name?
-What names did your parents consider before choosing your name?
-Why did they choose your name?
-What is your name's country of origin?
-What is your nickname? How did you get that nickname?
-If you could change your name, what would you name yourself?
After answering those questions, the students can write their name in a creative way at the bottom of their sheet (fancy writing, swirls, block letters, in a pattern). Additionally, they attach a small picture of themselves from when they were very young.
Additionally, I give two surveys over the course of the week (one that focuses around general interests/favorites) and one that particularly focuses on reading interests.
Ways I Communicate with Families Immediately
1. Students keep an organizational binder called the jPod (Jasztalville is Prepared and Organized Daily).
The jPod binder consists of these sections-
-Folder for notes and handouts from the school, to sign and return or to keep at home
-Heavy-duty poly folder that holds homework assignments that are being assigned and returned
-Plastic zipper pouch to hold incentive money (a system we use school-wide)
The binder helps with organization (which at this age, is critical) and parental involvement because all papers that go home are able to be located easily. I encourage families to look at the binder every night and sign their child's agenda.
2. Additionally, I give families a survey asking how I can best teach their child. It addresses strengths, areas in which their child needs assistance, interests, and activities in which their children are involved outside of school. Immediately, I tell families that they have several opportunities in which they can volunteer in our classroom (from science experiments to celebrations), and I ask what they are willing to do either from home or in our classroom to assist.
More ideas may be posted over time, but this is what I have done this week to let families know I value their thoughts/suggestions and encouraged students to find creative ways to "explore" themselves.