Getting to the Core
How do you get your students attention so they can line up and then stay quiet while they’re in line?
This month on my mail ring I’ve heard all sorts of complaints about students transitioning, particularly their behavior or lack of it, in the hallway. They seem to be lost in the Twilight Zone doing everything from pushing and shoving to talking non-stop!  What’s a teacher to do?  Here are some possible super-duper-shutter-uppers for those days when you’re ready, as one teacher put it, to “rip-your- hair-out!”

transitioning children, tips for transitioning kids, transition songsSetting the stage is crucial:

  • When you want to get your students’ attention to transition you must already have done a few things.
  • I explain the rules for transitions and we have practiced them from day one. My students know what is expected of them.
  • I have a designated signal to gently warn them 5 minutes before a transition, that their current activity will be ending soon.  I ring a lovely sounding chime.  If a bell being rung for Pavlov’s dogs successfully worked for him, I figured a chime would work for me, and it does.
  • Then, 5 minutes later, a timer rings signaling that activity is done. Children know that they are to clean up and that they will be transitioning to another activity. They also know that they have 5 minutes to do so. A second timer rings to let them know that their 5 minutes of clean up time is over. If things weren’t cleaned up, they have a consequence. i.e., toys not put away they don’t get to play with.  This teaches them responsibility. I use encouraging words as they clean up. “I like how Kelli is helping.” “Two minutes to go. Good job.”
  • The activity that they are in is posted as an icon on the board. That icon is then taken down and put in a basket. Visually seeing this lets children know what they were doing and that it is now over.
  • I also have a play clock on the board that I can move the hands to the time this activity will be over.   I announce to the children that this activity will be over when our real clock looks like our play clock.  It gets them used to telling time, and associating their activities to a time frame.
  • I play up-beat music while they are cleaning. It gets them going. We also sing a clean up song before I put the music on. I challenge them to finish cleaning up before the music stops, which is before the timer rings.
  • I make it a competition, and post their previous clean up time, challenging them to beat it.  They are very competitive and desire to beat their last time.
  • Make clean up a game. Children can become vacuum cleaners or scrap monsters. See who can pick up the most toys, garbage whatever, and then get to wear the king and queen clean up crowns for that hour.
  • For variety, on some days make their movement part of the fun.  Fly like a bird to put away toys, walk like an elephant to put away supplies, buzz like a bee to throw away garbage.
  • When time is getting close, to speed things up I might say: "I'm closing my eyes! Let me know when I can peek." "Can I peek yet? Are you all cleaned up? " "Hurry! I need to peek. I can't wait any longer."
  • Many of us now have 20+ children in the class. One line is no longer feasible. So I suggest dividing your class into two groups and having two lines. Put those two lines on two different sides of the hallway so that they are on separate walls. Things will be quieter. You may also want to rethink bathroom time and not send children all at once. It is still a good idea to have an adult monitoring the hallway. I never leave a group of children unsupervised.
  • Make sure you are giving clear, concise, and do-able directions.  Instead of telling children to “line-up”, “clean-up,” or “get ready for gym class,”  say exactly what you want them to do, i.e.,,  “put your papers in your locker,” “put the puzzles away.”
  • Be sure you pay attention to your vocabulary as you tell students where to go and what to do.  Do they know what the “reading center” is, or what “make a circle” means?  Using appropriate vocabulary that your students understand will help reduce confusion during transition time.
  • Give your students behavioral expectations. “We are going to go to computers. We’ll need to walk quietly in the hallway, so let me know with a thumbs up or high five that you are ready to go.”
  • Use lining up as an opportunity to practice listening skills and basic report card standards. Be creative; think of new ways to line your students up so things don’t get boring and you have a variety that keeps their attention. i.e., Line up if your name begins with K, if you’re wearing purple, if you’re birthday is this month.   Children are listening, concepts are reinforced, and not everyone is rushing to the door.  You can vary this by putting various themed-concepts in a basket.  Pass the basket around and have each child choose a card or piece. Then say: “All the number 1’s line up (numbers) or all the triangles line up (shapes) or all the red balls line up (colors) or all the vowels line up.” etc.transitions for children, tips for transitions, transition songs
  • Don’t let a few spoil it for the rest of the group. Pull those students out that are being obnoxious and make them practice lining up and staying quiet while you send the rest on to special, lunch, recess etc. If you’re not lucky enough to have a room helper that day, snag an adult in the hallway or haul everyone back to the room and call the special teacher and see if they can come get your class, or grab an older student loitering in the hallway, or call the office for an aid etc. I find that the unruly munchkins settle right down when they’re singled out and are missing lunch/recess etc. It’s also easier working with a smaller group.
  • Don’t give in or lower your expectations. If you expect absolute quiet you WILL get it. Be consistent and follow through.
  • Don’t go faster than your students can keep up either.  I notice that some teachers have noisy lines because they are walking at such a fast pace their little ones can’t keep up without running. This causes lots of commotion.
  • Daily routines and transitions are an important part of classrooms and your sanity.  By implementing songs, chants, routines and transitions, you are providing students with constant reminders of your behavior expectations in a fun way!  We all need a bottomless bag of tricks to add to our classroom management repertoires, so here’s a list of some tried and true methods to help you sing, cheer, chant and tip toe your way to a happier and better run classroom and line in the hallway!  Click on the link to view/print this helpful list of ideas.  Transition Tips
  • I've also made up a transitions in the Classroom Checklist. How are you doing? Click on the link to view/print a copy of that. It might help you fine-tune those center chaotic moments.
  • Click on this link to view/print the Entire Article with Transition Tips and Classroom Checklist

The Tip List has 74 tips. I'd love to make it all the way to 100 giving teachers more fuel to put out those "rip-your-hair-out" fires! So take a moment and send me what works for you! Thanks in advance and have a great day getting the ants out of your students' pants!


Here's Some Ideas!    

     October is Fire Safety Month and what a great idea to plug that in to your fall activities! Just last year one of our kindergartners saved the day when his family’s trailer caught fire and he was the one who ran next door and dialed 911 because of what he had learned two months before! Wow! Really makes you stop and say “That lesson was time well spent!” when life gives you a reality check!

 Here are some things that I do:fire safety lessons and art projects for kindergarten and first grade

  • I collect cell phones and other real phones that my family gives me and that I find at garage sales. When people realize that I’m getting them for my students to practice dialing 911 they sometimes give them to me free! I keep them in a big tub and my students “play” all year long with them. I have them sit in a circle and we practice passing one phone around so I can watch the numbers that they dial and make sure that they are pressing a 9 and not a 6. We really work on those 2 numbers all month long. I make sure that they know only to dial this number in an emergency.  The fire fighters who come share with us that they get a few calls from children in October “practicing” their new-found skills to see if that number really works!
  • This month’s FREEBIE is a darling little booklet entitled: The Flame On My Candle. It’s the perfect tie-in for explaining the importance of not playing with matches.  Click on the link to print a free copy.
  • I take a picture of each one of my students wearing the firefighter costume. I bought this after Halloween and keep it in our dress up box.  We have an Ellison puzzle die cut. Putting a puzzle together is one of our Y5 report card standards so I trace the pieces to make a template and run these off on white paper so each child has one to lay their photo pieces on. Then I put their photo under the Ellison press and it cuts it into puzzle pieces. I put the 4x6 white template and their photo puzzle pieces in an envelope with a sticker on the front that says: Who ‘Ya Gonna Call? They are so surprised when they put it together and discover that the fire fighter that they call is themselves! It’s a wonderful keepsake for them.
  • Our Kent City Fire Department is great at coming out and showing all of the children the truck, what’s on it and dressing up in all of their gear and showing them how they look sort of scary because they have to bundle up so they can fight the fire, but to not be afraid of them and to never run and hide. I take all sorts of pictures and we make a book and bulletin board display. For the b. board I simply make a big flame and collage all of the fire pictures hither and yon and have black die-cut letters at the top warning them NEVER to play with fire.
  • Because they saw so many things on the fire truck we sing The Wheels On The Fire Truck Go Round & Round instead of The Wheels on the Bus. The children give me things that they remember seeing and we make up the song as we go, such as the hose on the truck goes squirt, squirt, squirt; the ladder on the truck goes up, up, up, the ax on the truck goes chop, chop, chop etc.  Click on the link for a copy. Songfire safety lessons and art projects for kindergarten and first grade
  • This would make a great class book to make with your students.  Each child could choose one item to draw.  You could incorporate your real photographs if your fire department also came to visit.
  • I enlarge the picture of the fire truck that I take with my students standing in front of it. I cut out laminated construction paper circle tires and attach them with brass brads. I choose a quiet child to hold it up and spin them while we sing our song.
  • For some gross motor movement, I have my students STOP-DROP and ROLL.  I cut red, yellow and orange felt to look like flames. It sticks to a child’s clothes. I put the pieces on a student’s back and have them roll around ‘til the flames fall off (they put the fire out.)
  • I put 4 chairs in a square and then put a gray sheet over the chairs. I tell my students that this is smoke and ask them what they should do if there is smoke in the room. They tell me they need to crawl UNDER it. But wait! We need to test the door to see if it’s hot. No, it’s not! Ready-set-go! Crawl under the smoke. Stay low and go! Get out and stay out!
  • I tell my Y5’s that in the olden days they had “bucket brigades”. People got in lines and passed pails of water to the fire. We have a relay race with two lines and two garbage cans. I gently crush up red, yellow and orange tissue paper so that my garbage cans look like they are on fire.  I have the children pass a bucket of “water” that is not filled with any water.  They start at the end of the line and pass the bucket to the front of the line.  That person throws the “water” on the fire and then they go to the end of the line carrying the pail with them and then the bucket starts up the line again.  The team that puts out the fire first (the one that gets through all of their people) is the winner.
  • fire safety art projects and lessons for kindergarten and first gradeFor a fine motor skill, I have children put the tiny Popsicle sticks on the rungs of the ladder on the side of a fire truck that I copy and laminate. It has 10 rungs. I have them choose two colors and show me an ABAB pattern. They do this activity on their tummies. Click on the link to print a copy. Fire Truck with Popsicle stick patterning ladder.
  • I make my students PROMISE me they will never play with matches, lighters, or fire. We have a little I promise-pledge ceremony and they sign a skill sheet contract and then I give them a certificate. We celebrate and I give them a treat and we watch several 5 minute fire safety videos.  Click on the link to make copies.  Fire Safety Promise Contract / Skill Sheet + Certificate
  • I also send a note home to parents telling them to please have a fire safety plan established with their family which includes an escape route as well as a safety checklist of things, like do they have smoke detectors and do the batteries work?  These were given to me by a fire safety service and are copyrighted so I can't post them, but I'm sure you can find some free stuff online or simply make up your own. It's great to have the parents on board.
      Here are some great Fire Safety Sites for your computer center:

  • Click on Smokey's Kids and tool around his cabin.
  • Play Smoke Jumper and River Rage


  • Click on the story and listen to the firefighter talk about HER job!
  • Answer the questions and print out the junior fire fighter badge
  • Play Escape From the Fire, Hazard House and the Matching Game
  • Become a Junior Fire Marshall and print out a certificate

  • Play fun with fire trucks.
  • Play Sparky’s Closet.
  • Play Hot Diggity Dalmatians
  • Play Dalmatianize

  • Watch the “Where’s The Fire?” video
  • Play are you Fire Smart?
  • Play Get Fire Fighter Frank Ready For Action
  • Play How Fast Can You Spot Trouble?

      Well that’s just a few of the things I do to prepare my students and their families. I’d love to hear from you and what you’re doing in your classroom. So feel free to comment and share ideas with us! Wouldn’t it be great if like the little boy above you saved a life by posting an art project or idea that helped a little one remember the numbers 911 or an aspect of fire safety? All I can say is WOW!

Happy Fire Safety Month!










Do You need some Sight Word help for your kindergarten kids?  I've got some great ideas for you!  How about 72 pages of Sight Word Skill Sheets with my kid-tested, teacher approved system?  Students TRACE the word, WRITE the word, COLOR the word and then become ABCDe-tectives and "unjumble" the word, by CUTTING out the letters in their easy-snip rectangular boxes, ARRANGING them in correctly -spelled order, then GLUING them to their matching boxes on the skill sheet, where they can then READ the page! Students enjoy figuring out these simple puzzles and being detectives!

kindergarten sight words, word wall words for kindergartenDo one sheet each day, or choose whatever words you want from a 52 alphabetical sight word listing and make a booklet for your class to work on. AND for this week only 'til the 14th of October, I'm offering this outstanding 72 page book FREE! 

It may sound silly, but I'm giving you the Sight Word Book FREE in celebration of my successful cataract surgery! So enjoy. Just click on the link and print which ever sight words that you use in your class, or print the entire thing.  After the 17th of October the book will sell for only $1.99. There's a two-page tip sheet that lists other things you can do with the cards as well.

Besides the Skill Sheet Book I've also made Mini Flashcards perfect for little hands!  I'm sure you can think up all sorts of fun things to do with them.  A pack of 52 is only .99 cents!  Click on the link to check it out. 

Here’s Some Other Things You Can Do With The Flashcards:

  • Use the Mini Flashcards for games, pocket cards.
  • Run them off on different colors of construction paper and laminate them.
  • Rubber band them and make them into concentration-match games, and file folder games.
  • Stick a magnet or piece of Velcro on the back and use them on a flannel or magnet board.
  • Have children make sentences with them.
  • Punch a hole in the corner and put them on a split ring. Keep the ring of cards by your Story Time chair.  Play “Flash!”
  • "Flash” the card quickly and see who can “Flash” their hand up the fastest to identify what the word is. Give that child the card off the split ring to hold. whoever has the most cards at the end of a round of "Flash" is the winner.
  • Have a room helper make these cards up for you
  • Make non-laminated sets and send them home in a baggie for parents to help work on a word-a-week with their child. Have them post a card on the fridge.
  • Put them up on the wall as your word wall words. kindergarten sight words, word wall words for kindergarten
  • Use a flash light to spy them in the dark. Paint them with glow paint and they will glow in the dark.
  • I bought a big plastic laser during Halloween time and my students love using that to point to the words.
  • I have them play ABCDe-tective and I toss the words all over the room and they run around and find them. We sit in a circle and they have to identify the ones they found. If they can’t they hold it up and the first one to spy it correctly gets that card.
  • You can run them off on copy paper and glue them to seasonal die-cut shapes for each month. i.e., apples for September, pumpkins for October, leaves or acorns for November etc. and then display them in your room like that or decorate a tree that stays up on your bulletin board or wall all year.
  • Have your students sit in a circle. Put them in a brown lunch bag or lunch box. Tell your students you are going to Munch some words for lunch. (Crunch-munch a bunch of sight words for lunch!)  and pass the bag/box. Let the children pick one out and read it.  If they read it correctly they get a sticker or an “I’m a Sight Word Smartie!" (These are Smartie candies. Sometimes I give my students a Super Sight Word  “Kiddle” and I give them a Skittle!
  • Play a version of Musical Chairs. When the music stops they have to read the sight word on their chair, if they can’t they’re out.
  • Play “Hot Sight Word!” Children sit in a circle. Pass around 2 or 3 sight words. When the music stops the children holding the sight words have to read them and are out.
  • Play “What’s Missing?” Put a laminated circle in the middle of your circle. Put 3 sight words on the circle to start. Have the children close their eyes. Take one sight word away. Have them open their eyes and the first one to tell you which sight word is missing gets a sticker. Add another sight word to the circle and continue the game ‘til you have 10 sight words on your circle mat.
  • Pass out envelopes of your sight words to each of your tables. Ask each child at the table to hold up their sight word and identify it.  If a child cannot identify their sight word, move on to the next table. The table that identifies all of their sight words gets stickers. After all the tables have been given a try, have the children put the sight words back in their envelopes and exchange table envelopes, then play again.
  • Make some sentence strips up with the sight words and put those sight words in an envelope with the sentence strip. Have the children make the sentence with the words and then have them trace and write the sentence on a separate sheet of paper, or on a paper they can  eraser that you’ve laminated and also included in the envelope.
  • If you think of some other things, please share and I’ll add them to our list. Thanks in advance.
  • The possibilities of activities are endless. As always, I’d love hearing how you use them with your students and any way I can improve them or anything else you’re looking for. It’s truly my desire to help.

Finally, besides the  Sight Word Skill Sheets and Mini-Flashcards, I made two Easy Reader Sight Word Booklets. Your students will enjoy completing their booklet and then taking it home to share with their families! You can imagine how excited they'll feel when they can read it all by themselves!. My I CAN Booklet uses 10 sight words; My LOOK Book incorporates 20 sight words! They also use the READ, TRACE and WRITE formular to really get those sight words in their heads in a fun way.  I post new things EVERY day so please pop by often. It's my goal to write 8 more booklets. Click on the links to check them out. A little more advanced booklet incorporates shape, color and number words + 19 sight words. It's called My Look and See Shape Booklet.  I include traceable flashcards and 5 skillsheets for practice so that your students will be reading the booklet in no time.  It also include an ABCDe-tective progress-praise certificate.  Click on the link to check out this booklet that packs in lots of skills and standards in a super-fun way!

If you're looking for a Dolch Word List for Kindergarten, click on the link. I also have a Pre-Primer Dolch Word List that I also use for my Y5's. Click on the link for that if interested. If you teach 1st grade I've also compiled a Dolch Word List for first grade as well. Click on that link for a copy. Dolch Word List for 1st Grade.

The biggest bonanza is over 300 traceable flashcards and all the Dolch Word Lists all the way up to a 3rd grade Dolch word list in a book I call Dolch Word Help. Click on the link to view/print a copy.  I've included a Dolch noun list as well as Dolch noun flashcards and their Dolch Noun matching picture cards + a tip list of how you can use all of this! I even found a fairy tale online that includes all 220 Dolch words from ALL of the Dolch lists! WOW! Click on the link for this wonderfulf reebie!  FREE DOLCH WORD HELP BOOK

If you're looking for a fun read aloud to go with your kindergarten Dolch Word list I have just the thing.  When I was working on my Masters in Elementary Education one of my reading class assignments was to write something creative for a kindergarten class using the Dolch Word List.  I chose to write an ABC book.  I really challenged myself because I wanted to see if I could incorporate the entire Dolch Word list, not just the kindergarten Dolch word list but the first grade Dolch Word List AND the second grade Dolch Word List !!!  I also wanted it to rhyme and include all the vowel sounds.  I'm a big fan of Dr. Seuss so I wanted it to be a silly sort of book using his format that my students would enjoy hearing.  Wow!  What a job!  But so fun to create and my students LOVE LOVE LOVE this booklet.  Lots of giggle time.  So check it out by clicking on the link.  It's entitled Awake To Zleep and is a real tongue twister so prepare to have fun!

I've also compiled a list of consonant blends, digraphs, and long and short vowel words. They are in alphabetical order for easy reference with some tips of what to do with the word list, a song to help teach your students vowels, an art activity to help them sort consonants and vowels and finally, a movement-chant activity to help them conquer the concept of blends in a fun way!  Click on the link for a copy. WORD LIST

Letters make up words and words make up sentences and they all make up an Itty Bitty Alpha-bit Book that's fun for your students to make and collect!  What a great way to build a child's self-esteem on their road to reading bit-by-bit!  Click on the link to learn how. You will LOVE the versatility of teaching with these mini flashcard sets!  Learn number words with Numbits, and have a blast making Itty Bitty Number and skip counting books! Click on the link to see how you can join the fun!!

I hope these new sight words for kindergarten activities, and the Dolch word information, will help you and yours.  I designed them to be time savers for you as well as great fun and good self-esteem builders. Hopefully they will help promote literacy in your classrooms.

Happy Fall Reading!



How will you be celebrating Columbus Day with your students?

Columbus Day is celebrated in Spain and America. We celebrate on the 2nd Monday in October.

Columbus_pixA bit of history you may not know:

Columbus was turned down many times before receiving a thumbs up for his trip from Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. They promised much-- including land,  10% of all the revenues from the new lands, and he was to be dubbed “Admiral of the Seas” and would receive a portion of the profits, to name a few things in a very generous contract.   They didn’t really expect him to return.  Perhaps this is why they didn't really honor the contract.  Instead,  he was later arrested in 1500! After Columbus died, his sons Fernando and Diego took legal action. They battled through 1511! Court disputes continued ‘til 1790, almost 300 years from the time Columbus first set sail!

Between 1492 and 1503, Columbus completed four round-trip voyages between Spain and the Americas, all of them under the sponsorship of Isabella. These voyages marked the beginning of European Exploration and the colonization of our American continents.  Columbus, however, always insisted, even though there was a great deal of evidence proving him wrong,  that the lands he visited were part of Asia.  His refusal to see otherwise, might be the reason that America was named after the explorer Amerigo Vespucci and not Christopher Columbus.


if you're wondering what to do with your students,  I’ve made up a few songs you can sing. You can also try, 3 Columbus Day Art Activities + an Easy Reader that’s sure to be a hit.  If you need to add a little geography to the day you'll want to print off  my Columbus Day Geography Book.  It's a Trace, Write, Cut and Glue activity.  Use it in class or send it home.  If you're looking for some table top skill sheets   to round out your morning routine, I've got just the thing!  A  maze, word find, an ABC skill builder sheet, a dot-to-dot (you choose how to count), a trace-to-pre-write, a pinch & poke, a match the columns, 2 dice games, and a ship spelling sheet!  To praise your students' efforts I also have a certificate.  Click on the link to check out this  42-page packet  Columbus Packet. This packet is free through July 2011 and then goes in the shopping cart for only .99 cents.

I save toilet paper, and paper towel tubes all year and have it on my "Save for me!" recycling list that I give to parents the first day of school, so when October arrives I have enough to make telescopes for Columbus Day. The children simply glue a pre-cut piece of brown paper on their paper towel tube.  We sit on our Circle of Friends carpet and look through our telescope and share what we think Columbus might have seen on the Ocean, and on land.  How was it different from what we see today. I bring in a real telescope for them to look in. 

Get Ready, Get Set, Read!

The_Ships_of_cBesides reading a few stories about Columbus (I have several selections from Scholastic) I show them books about astronomy and tell them that captains of ships used the stars to tell where they were going.  Two books I also show pictures from are The Ships of Christopher Columbus by Xavier Pastor. It gives lots of details about the ships and includes some good pictures to share with your students. How We Learned The Earth Was Round by Patricia Lauber.How_we_learned_the_earth_was_round It's also a great back ground book.  The author explains how people viewed the shape of the earth in early times, and describes the reasoning that led the Greeks to the conclusion that the earth was round.


I show my students a globe and pass around objects that are sphreres.  I explain to them that a lot of people didn't think that the earth was round.  They thought it was flat, and that if you sailed far enough you would fall off and die!  It was a very scary time when  people didn't know that others lived far away.  We take turns tossing a beach ball globe and sharing something that we are afraid of.   

Snack Time:

A fun snack if you have a parent who wants to fuss a bit, is to buy pears or peach halves.  Insert a tooth pick in a marshmallow and then into the pear or peach and you have a yummy fruit boat.

More Ideas:

To make a cute Nina, Pinta, or Santa Maria ship, Click on the link. Ships

To read a great synopsis of Columbus and view a neat slide show click on the link. This would be a wonderful computer center for the day.

To make a cool Spanish Ship click on the link.

For some outstanding Columbus Day coloring pages click on the link.  You can print them off and use them for your class or have students go to the site as a computer center and color them online!  My favorite is Columbus holding a scroll. I use it for name writing practice!   

So set sail today on your ocean of blue

and have fun making a voyage in 1492.



 Conferences are coming up soon,

so I thought I'd share some things that I do, that might be helpful to you.

  • parent teacher conferences, conference tips I keep all of my conference things in a box labeled “Conference Stuff” so I’m not searching for things.
  • I type up “conference signs” and laminate them and use them each year.  They go in the box.
  • To make things a bit more festive, I put a table cloth on a long table that I set up in the hallway.
  • I tie a medium size basket with fall-colored curling ribbon and crumble up some yellow tissue paper and put it in the bottom of the basket. Sam’s Club sells bulk dinner mints for $5 and I fill the basket with those. I put a sign on a Popsicle stick that says: “My Y5 Family’s are worth a mint! Enjoy one while you wait!” and stick it in the basket.
  • I display the laminated class books that the children have made as a group.
  • I display our class photo album that includes pictures of our daily activities as well as our fall fieldtrip to the apple orchard and pumpkin patch.
  • I have a poster that tells them to check the 2 hallways for their child’s artwork and our science, geography and computer wall displays.
  • If you are computer savvy this is a great time to set up a power point slide show and have it playing.
  • I set up 4 chairs for people to sit on if they want.
  • I have a sign that says: “Thank you for coming. Please sign in.” This is on a clip board with a pen TIED to it.  I also squish a pumpkin ornament on the pen and glue it on. People are less likely to take your pens.
  • I send a letter home that tells parents to CALL the office for an appointment. Our school does it this way. At the end of conference appointment calling, if a child’s parents haven’t called, I assign them an appointment with a note that says if this doesn’t work for them to please call and arrange another time.  I send reminder notes home the night before of their date and time. The note also says to jot down questions they might have, and to remind them to arrive promptly as conferences are booked back-to-back and are only 15 minutes long. If they are late their conference will be shortened.
  • I send a "Head's Up" note home to parents letting them know that I wll be assessing their child on report card standards and tips of how they can help their child review concepts at home. Click on the link for a copy of that letter which includes three helpful attachments: An "I love you gram" that helps their child practice writing their name in a fun way, a shape practice template, and a discipline tip sheet that I give to parents at conferences who have a child that's having problems.
  • I have a Form for my parents to fill out of how their child likes school thus far and any concerns they may have. Click on the link for a copy.
  • I also have an “I love you, and am proud of you.”  Happy Gram that they fill out for their child and take home. Click on the link for a copy.
  • I make the easy pre-made dough sugar cookies that you just slice off.  Sometimes they have a seasonal pattern in them like a pumpkin or leaf.   I put two in a baggie and tie them with orange and yellow curling ribbon.  I punch a hole in my poem, fold it and attach it to the baggie.  I put these in another fall basket and give these to parents as a thank you for coming and working with me as a team.  I have a poster in my room that uses team as an acronym: Together Everyone Achieves More.  Click on the link for a copy of the Poem. cookies
  • I have a laundry basket of toys on my Circle of Friends carpet as well as a basket of books that it is OK to play with if parents bring their child or younger siblings.
  • I also put up a tee pee tent in the fall and a princess tent in the spring. This keeps children occupied and contained.  I tell my student to keep an eye on younger siblings as they know the rules, and that these are the ONLY options to play with.  It’s amazing how some parents will let their children run amuck in your classroom and you’ll be left with either a very chaotic conference or a destroyed classroom that you’ll have to clean up later when you’re exhausted. Having these areas and things has really helped.
  • I keep a pleasant sounding timer at my table. As soon as a parent walks in I start it. It goes off one minute before they are due to leave so that I can tie things up.  I explain to them the necessity of the timer and that if they still have questions after the conference I will be glad to discuss things further on the phone or after or before school. I do this because it’s easy for me to lose track of time with some parents and 15 minutes goes so fast.
  • If you have a difficult child that you know you might need more time with, schedule a double conference for them, or schedule someone after or before them that you know will be a much shorter conference time.
  • I’m always prepared with a high school translator for my Hispanic parents.
  • I keep a week’s worth of papers that the children have done in class the week of conference time so I have examples of children’s in-class work.
  • I put papers, assessments, art work  and report card etc. in a file folder for each child and have the folder on my conference table.
  • My conference table also has a table cloth on it. I want my parents to feel comfortable so I don't sit at my desk, and we all sit in adult chairs.
  • Make sure that you figure in at least a 15 minute snack/supper/bathroom break into your conference time.
  • I see parents from 2:45-7:30 for 2 days.
  • I keep a bottle of water under the table along with those cheese and cracker snacks for a quick pick-me-up.
  • I keep another sign in sheet at my table in case they forgot to sign in on the outside table.
  • I make sure that I do the same format for each child so that I don’t forget what I have said, or miss something.  I have this set up in their folder so that I start and end in the same place. I have this in a check list that I keep next to me so that I don’t forget anything. This also keeps me within the 15 minute time frame.
  • Carefully think how you will relay negative comments; do so in a constructive, not critical manner. Give the parents tips of what they can do to help, and don't relate information to them in "teacher jargon."
  • I always end with the positive. Find at least 3 positive things to say about their child no matter how difficult they are. All children have strengths and abilities; parents need these encouraging words. Many of them seek your approval and worry that you might feel that they are bad parents or have poor parenting skills so reassure them.
  • I end with “Do you have any questions or concerns?” and thank them for coming.
  • turkey_birdI make little turkeys for my students that say: “My teacher thinks I’m Turkey-riffic!”  I give these to the parents for them to give to their child. This is for fall conferences. I make kites for spring: “I’m flying high with great work!”  “If parents don’t bring their child, most children ask them when they get home:  “What did my teacher say about me?”   This is another opportunity for me to build their self esteem. 
  • I make the turkeys on an Ellison die cut machine and attach a label.  Click on the link for the Turkey Labels.  I’ve also made a little Turkey Note for you in case you don’t have an Ellison. Here's a turkey certicate too.
  • Make sure you get a good night’s sleep the day before your conferences.
  • I try to plan the day time activities with my students to be filled with lessons that are less hectic for me.  I’m not introducing new concepts and standards that require a lot of work; and I try to have a room helper with me so that I’m not quite as exhausted at the end of the day as I am when I’m working alone. 
  • I tell my students that the work that they are doing that week is extra special in that I will be keeping it and showing it to their parents.  As always I want them to give me their “best effort”.  I think when I tell them this they do try a little bit harder. 
  • I notice that they are neater and that their coloring and writing samples are not as “scribbly.”
  • I also ask my students to pitch in and tidy our room up doing some extra cleaning and straightening at the end of the day, ensuring that everything looks extra nice for conferences.
  • I bring a change of clothes that are a bit dressier for conferences than my regular, more comfortable teaching outfit. Putting on a “fresh” more feminine outfit makes me feel better and more energized too.  My grandmother always said to splash on some perfume to give yourself a burst of energy.  It helps me; perhaps it will help you too.
  • Whatever you do, relax, smile, and realize that you have done your best.
  • If you have any conference tips I’d love to hear from you.
  • For another article with some great tips check out this link How To Ace Parent Teacher Conferences.
  • If you have ESL students that speak Spanish and parents that read Spanish better than English, they will appreciate important notes home written in Spanish. Click on the link for a site that offers 12 templates of important notes home. You fill out your information and click translate.  You can also print out an English version as well.  Included in the templates are a Parent-Teacher conference note, Homework note and a Progress Report. Casa Notes.


Page 150 of 152