Back to School and a SALE!

Whew!  It has been a very busy week this past week!  We start school here on Tuesday, so I spent all of last week fixing up my classroom and getting ready for school!  I DO NOT feel ready to start.  It's so surreal.  I feel like I have all this extra time, when in reality, I don't.  And I have SO MUCH to do!  I don't even know where to start sometimes.  So I'm sorry, neighbors, my grass may not be mowed for a few more days.

I am sure you have all heard about the big Teachers Pay Teachers Back to School Sale!  I know I have already filled up my cart with some great products, and I'm currently trying to guilt myself into hitting the "purchase" button!  Luckily I still have all day today and tomorrow to do it!

Since this is my first Back to School Sale, I decided to do something special to celebrate!  I am having a Buy 2, Get 1 Free sale in my TPT store.  So on top of the 28% off you're already getting (don't forget that promo code- I did once!), you can get an item from my store totally FREE!

All you need to do is:
1.  Purchase 2 items from my store.  
2.  Do NOT put the 3rd item in your cart!  
3.  Email me your username and your choice of a free item to butler . erica @ gmail . com.  
4.  I will email you a link to your free item!

***The free item choice needs to be of equal or lesser value of the regular price.  So for example, you choose my "Talk Derby to Me!" unit for $6 (on sale for $4.80) and my "Investigating Arctic Animals unit" for $5 (on sale for $4), then you can choose an item that is $5 or less for FREE!***

I have been working on something new to put in my store for a very, very long time now, and I am so glad they are finished!  I loved the Beanie Baby Word Attack Strategies that you see all over the internet, so I connected many of the Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension strategies to a different Beanie Baby, and created cards for them.  Now I have decided to create posters for each individual Reading Buddy.  I have been working on creating the buddies for over a year now- matching each Beanie Baby I own (which is a LOT!) with a strategy for teaching comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, and decoding!

For today ONLY, they are 50% off- regular price is $6.00, and they are on sale for $3.00, plus the extra 10% you can get by using the BTS13 code. They also qualify as one of your Buy 2, Get 1 free items because I am feeling super generous today!  Click on the picture to check them out!

I also purchased some of those wooden animal pieces from Hobby Lobby and some other craft stores, and I intend to attach them to dowel rods or popsicle sticks as Reading Buddies the kids can use while they are reading.  I found a lot of them, but there are some more I need, so I may just need to create them from clip art and attach them to foam core or posterboard or something.  I'll definitely share when I get them finished!  

Some of my favorites that are on sale this weekend include:
This is a great unit for back to school!  This is something you can start the first or second week of school if you wish, and the prep is super easy!  I wrote about how I use Family Journals in this post, if you didn't catch it and are interested in learning more.  Family Journals are one of the best things I implemented in my class last year.  

If you haven't started school yet, you may want to consider purchasing my Back to School Postcards.  There are 7 different themes, so hopefully one of them is bound to match your classroom theme or your tastes!  I use mine to welcome my students back to school and remind them about our Back to School Social.  I love it when they come to the social all excited because they got mail from their teacher! 

Some of my other favorites are my Investigating Writing Packs.  I loved teaching informational writing last year using my Arctic Animals pack.  This year, with the new Next Gen Science Standards, I will probably be using my Animal Life Cycles pack as my focus as I think it will go well with what we're going to be doing in my district.  My students did an amazing job of creating informational posters and writing their own informational books complete with a Table of Contents and a Glossary.  I almost cried, I was so proud of them.

And if you really want to get thinking ahead and start prepping for fall activities, I have my Trick or Treat Math Centers.  These centers have some fun ways of practicing math, including a Halloween Themed Yahtzee game, a "Cooking Up Some Magic" board game, and a "Slide to 120" game that is similar to Chutes and Ladders.  

Happy Shopping!  And please don't forget to leave feedback!  It's so easy- go to your Purchases, and click on the flashing "Leave Feedback" button!  Plus, you can redownload updated purchases as well.  When you leave feedback, you receive credit towards your new purchases, and you get $$$ off!  It's awesome!  

Getting to Know Your Students

I have been sharing some posts about how to get to know your students and their families.  I think that learning about our students and their families is an important part of our jobs, and one that will make our jobs easier.  There are some simple things you can do to engage your families and connect with them, and these will help you have a successful school year!

One of the most simple ways I get to know my students is by sending home a survey at the beginning of the year.  I send mine home on the first day of school with the rest of their Back to School paperwork.  I call mine "Getting to Know Your Child" and I really love reading the responses on these.  I ask questions about their families, what they like to do, and what they think of school.  

These surveys are a very simple way to get to know your students.  You can place them in a binder, or in a file folder for each student, or whatever works for you.  Then you can reference them whenever you need more information about a student.  I like to read each one of them and then I can use this information to make connections with my students.  

Click on the picture above to get the freebie! 

Do you have a back to school survey you send home at the beginning of the year?  What are some other ways you get to know your students?

For more posts on connecting with your students, you can check these out: 

Family Visits

Thank you for checking out my posts on Engaging and Connecting with Families!  It is so important to begin the school year on the right foot by building relationships with families!  Today, I am going to share with you some tips for using Family Visits in your classroom.  

Have you heard of Family Visits?  I know several schools require Home Visits, but Family Visits are something different!  Family Visits are a great way to connect with your students and their families, and establish a positive relationship from the very beginning.  I know many people have not heard about Family Visits- myself included- or are just really scared of the idea.  But I promise you, Family Visits are not scary, and they will give you some great insight into your students and valuable information about their families.

If you have never done a Family Visit, then the idea seems daunting, especially if you teach in a low income area, Title 1 school, or your students live in a dangerous area.  The first time I did Family Visits is when I did my student teaching.  It seemed scary to me when and I wasn't sure what to expect.  However, I really enjoyed them and have done them in my own classroom.

Tips for Successful Family Visits:

1.  Choose when you want to do your Family Visits.  You can do them before school begins or after school starts, depending on what works best for you, your school, and your students.  I choose to do mine after school begins, because sometimes a child on my roster may not end up in my classroom.  This way, any children who are added at the last minute still get the opportunity to have a family visit.  I usually do 3 visits a day and choose 2-3 days a week to carve out time to go.

2.  Send a letter home, explaining Family Visits.  I sent my letter home a few weeks after school began and we got into a classroom routine.  I chose a few dates that worked for me, and gave parents options of times to choose from.  You could also send home a postcard before school begins, greeting the students and welcoming them to the class.  You could assign a time and date for the Family Visit on the postcard, or just invite their students and families to schedule a visit before school begins.  I personally prefer to allow the families to choose a time that works for them.   

3. Make your Family Visits non-threatening!  Explain in the letter that you just want to get to know the students and their families better!  This is NOT a visit to check out their homes or judge the families.  It is not a parent-teacher conference!  I make it clear in my letter that I want to get to know them better and they will get to learn more about me too!

4.  Offer alternatives to visiting the home.  This also helps make the Family Visits non-threatening.  Some families are homeless, or live in shelters, or with other family members.  Some families are embarrassed to have their child's teacher visit the home.  So you can offer them the option to meet elsewhere instead.  I always suggest something like a local park or a restaurant like McDonalds.  This allows all families to participate, regardless of their living situation!

5.  Keep it short!  My visits are less than 20 minutes long.  In just a 20 minute visit, you can meet the family members, talk to the parents about what they expect from their child this school year, and answer any questions they have.  If the students want to, and the family is OK with it, they will often show you around their house- their rooms, toys, favorite books, pets, etc...  

6.  Bring a Friend.  I've been on Family Visits by myself, and I've also brought along a coworker.  You need to find out what the guidelines are for your school and follow those.  But you need to do what makes you feel comfortable!  If you are worried about going alone, you can ask a teacher friend, a grade-level colleague, a counselor, or your Principal to go with you.  Safety first!

7.  Take a Picture!  During the visit, I always take a picture of myself with one of my students.  The student gets to choose where the picture is taken.  I get the pictures printed up and create a "Family Visit" book.  The students can write a bit about their visit with their teacher in their home.  This helps each student to feel special, and also helps drum up interest from the other students when they see that another child had their teacher visit their house.

Here is another great resource online with some more information about Family Visits!   

I have also created an example letter you can send home to your students.  This one has my name and information on it, but if you click on the picture, it will take you to my Dropbox, where I have an editable PDF freebie for you.  I hope you will consider downloading the letter and going to visit your students in their homes!

So would you consider doing Family Visits?  Does the idea scare you?  Have you done them before?  Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking!

For more great posts about Engaging Families and building positive relationships, check out these posts!