5 Ways to Create Effective School Newsletters in Less Time!

 

image via The Conversation

Newsletters are undoubtedly the most widely used form of School-Home Communication! Parents are kept well informed about their child’s learning moments, upcoming events and monthly highlights etc. However, creating Parent Updates means having to spend countless after-work hours summarizing and manually formatting content. Here are 5 tips that can help you create effective Newsletters with much less effort and time!

image via Sample Templates

1) Newsletter Templates

Eliminate time wasted on petty formatting issues and focus your efforts on adding rich content instead! It is easy to get caught up in sorting out columns, spaces between paragraphs and other aggravating issues to do with manual layouts. Newsletter templates give you designated spaces to arrange your information so you can stop worrying about messy layouts!


Pro tip: There are numerous newsletter printables and digital templates at your disposal-– pick and choose the ones that work best for your weekly/monthly updates!

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2) Photo Archive

A picture is worth a thousand words. Visual updates are more well received by Parents who are looking for quick affirmation about their child’s positive schooling experience! Instead of huge chunks of text, utilize your classroom documentation and insert images with brief and concise captions. Parents are more inclined to engage with visually rich newsletters and your effort put into creating regular updates are not wasted!

Pro tip: Having an organized Classroom Documentation archive is useful for quickly pulling relevant images and using them for newsletters.

image via Sticky Feet

3) What are Parents expecting?

The length of a newsletter does not reflect its effectiveness; the value of the updates included does. Spend more time elaborating on topics that parents are more concerned about and summarize the rest of your updates in bullet points! Additionally, keep track of the information you have already sent out to parents in your daily updates to reduce time spent on repeating them in your Newsletters!

Pro tip: Organize your newsletter by creating sections devoted to a couple of in-depth major updates and a final section named “Additional Updates” to summarize extra information.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 10.20.30 AM (1)4) Consistency is Key

Newsletters are meant to update not overwhelm! Parents have busy schedules and they only have a couple of minutes to read through Newsletters. Keep your layouts clean, your color scheme consistent and your content relevant. If you have been including certain types in your Newsletters, make sure to continue doing so as Parents will grow use to expecting them!

Pro tip: Constantly take note of the tidbits of information you want to include so that when the time comes for creating the newsletter, you know exactly what goes where!

blog image kaymbu5) Go Digital!

Your families are becoming increasingly tech-savvy so why not cater to their digital preferences? It saves you paper and time spent on printing and handing out Newsletters. What’s more, digital updates in email inboxes are more accessible and enables Parents to read them the on-the-go. If parents increasingly engage with and understand your digital content, it saves you the effort of responding to an overwhelming number of questions!

Pro tip: Check out and try School-Home Communication software like Kaymbu that help you create customized Newsletters and easily message families in minutes! Keeping track of email open rates is extremely helpful for gauging how well your updates are being received.

There you have it-– 5 best practices that can help you create School Newsletters that save you time while effectively informing parents. Try implementing these suggestions into your School Communication initiatives to see results. Try the Kaymbu app to easily document classroom moments and create beautiful newsletters!

 

 

 

9 Ways to Ensure Parent Satisfaction at your School!

image via Expect More Arizona

It all boils down to Regular Parent Communication. A School’s number one priority should be to foster reciprocal relationships with each of their families.  Students benefit from a solid School-Home relationship, and Parents learn to value the time that you and your team invest in their children.  When you take a moment to involve the family in decisions, they trust that you really do want what is best for their child.

1) Personally welcome each family and child

This is simple: make a phone call. Send a welcome announcement in the mail, send a welcome letter the first week of school, and post a welcome on your website and any social media that you have.  If you reach out in multiple ways, they will eventually see that you care enough to say “welcome to my school, I am so excited to work with you and your child this year.”  (Other ideas: post a welcome banner, wreath on your door, take a picture with the child your first week of school and send home a note, etc).

image via Kids Allowed

2) Organize a Back to School Night

Back to school nights allow families to get to know the school environment, the classroom, the teacher, and other families. These events help families get the feel of what their child will be doing each day. Most importantly, they realize how happy and safe their child is in your hands. You can have activities for Families to have fun with, snacks to eat, and family pictures up on display.

image via Essential Baby

3) Organize Monthly Parent Parties

Parent Parties help Schools build relationships with families as the year progresses. Teachers can show families how to teach different skills at home, you can invite guest speakers to talk about child development, and allow time for families to talk to them and one another.

image via PBS

4) Plan School-wide adventures
Take families on an adventure of fun and learning. You can do this with families only or invite children and families on interesting trips and just show you care.  You are taking time out of your day to get to know your students and families better – and they will notice.

image via Casy Preschool

5) Open the Door

image via Usable Info

Allow families in your School environment. Model respect and how you want the relationship to grow through not only your speech but also actions. Remember, when Parents are asked about your school, it’s what you did, not what you said that influences their opinion!

6) Interview Families

This can be done through a paper “Get to Know Me” or a face to face conversation.  This can be about anything – work, hobbies, what their children like and are involved in, ways they can help their child, etc. Families appreciate Open Dialogue Schools, so you will have less frazzled and better informed parents.

image via New York Times

7) Classroom Helpers

Give families a project or a purpose.  They can help a group of children, read to children, work one on one with a child, copy papers, cut out projects, decorate bulletin boards, etc. An inclusive environment helps Parents feel like they are not missing out on their Child’s Learning Moments! 

image via The Telegraph

8) Go Digital/Social Media

Build School or classroom websites: Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube Channel, Periscope, blogs, etc.  This is a recent article about Involving Families Through Social Media.  If you follow my classroom website it will link you directly to all other forms of digital presence I use to engage families in my classroom.

image via Seattle Times

9) EdTech Tools

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Parent-Teacher Communication need not be time consuming and overwhelming! Consider using School Communication tools like Kaymbu that are designed to eliminate the rigor & countless hours spent on Parent Updates. From Simple Photo & Video Sharing to Parent Messaging & Newsletter Creation, Schools can send Visual, Customized Updates directly to Parent Emails-– all with little effort.

Regular Parent-Teacher Communication is essential for long-term partnerships between School and Families. Often times, Parents want to know more about their child’s day but don’t necessarily know how to reach out. We must give the families a purpose for coming to the classroom, for calling us, for wanting to help or ask questions.  Keep your environment welcoming, encouraging and most importantly, a place where the school and family are a team. Strengthen relationships with your families, leave no doubt in their minds that your school is the best choice for their child, and Increased Parent Satisfaction will naturally follow!


This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:

Website
Twitter
Pinterest
YouTube

 

How to Plan Effective, Engaging and Appropriate Centers

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When I was in college I heard all about centers and how fun they were.  I observed in classrooms where centers where place throughout the environment. Until I got my own classroom, I never really understood the effect that centers had a on a classroom setting.  I didn’t truly get how centers help children learn skills that I virtually couldn’t teach them.  This article will explain how to effectively plan and implement engaging and developmentally appropriate centers in the early childhood classroom.

1) Planning is the key to building a successful center area. Make a list of centers that you want to include in your classroom. Decide how large of an area you will need and where in the classroom the center area will be placed.

Questions to Ask Yourself:

  1. Is the center developmentally appropriate for the age level of child I am working with?
  2. Why do I want this center in my classroom?
  3. How will children learn in this area?
  4. What will children learn in this area?
  5. Will I want to change this center out throughout the year?
  6. Where will I find the funds to buy materials for each center?
  7. Why am I putting this center here?  Should it be located somewhere else? (sometimes this is trial and error, loud centers vs quiet centers, messy centers located near a sink etc)
  8. What will your rules and expectations be? (structured/unstructured/free-choice/clean up)
    2) Organization
    : you will need to being collecting/buying materials that each center will have in it.  Remember you may change centers out so you will need to have storage for materials that are not being used.  (Storage examples: boxes, plastic tubs, shelves, closets, baskets).  Ensure that you always have an abundance of materials in each center so children do not run out.  You want children to be able to run the center on their own without needing your assistance.

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are the materials developmentally appropriate for the age of child I am working with?
  2. Will children understand how to use the materials in the center area? Remember children will be working alone, usually, or in small group.
  3. Are the materials in the center stored to where children can reach them?
  4. Is it easy for children to clean up the materials in the area?
  5. How many children will be in this center area at one time?  Make sure you have it labeled appropriately with the number, number word, or cut outs of children/stars/hearts (whatever you want to symbolize the number) to show how many students can be in the center at once.  
  6. Will I have enough materials for this amount of students at one time?
  7. Can students move from one center to another? Or do they have to stay and play in the same center?
  8. What will be the procedure for transitioning to a new center if they want to leave the center they are currently in?  (will they need to clean up what they are playing with?  Clean up their area?)

    Feel overwhelmed? Take a step back and Understand Why Centers are Important in the Early Childhood Classroom!

    3) Introduction: this happens after your centers are all set up and ready for children to engage in them.  Introduce 2 centers at a time in the beginning.  Continue to add 2 or so, when you see children are understanding what and how to learn and interact at each center.

In your introduction:

  1. Tell the title of the center, and how many children are allowed in the center at once. (show them the symbol or number that represents the number of students allowed to play)
  2. Go through the rules and expectations (free-choice/structured/non-structured/clean up etc)
  3. Show them how to interact with the materials, show them what the center is about. Keep in mind what you are wanting the students to learn or get out of the center you are introducing.
  4. Teach the procedure of transition:  Play your Clean up song-this should be the same song every day,  and played when you want them to begin cleaning up their center.  

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE: it may feel strange allowing children to play in a center and then practice cleaning up. But, if you do this in the beginning your center time will run more smoothly.  Then after the first week or so, you will be practicing with several centers until you have them all introduced and incorporated into your daily center time.

Next, after you have introduced the center and how to clean up teach the transition to the next activity, such as sit on the carpet criss cross apple sauce until all of our friends have joined us for reading time.

Some of the important things to think about are:

  • Free-Choice/Structured/Un-structured/Teacher Choice
  • What curriculum does each center cover?
  • What skills are they working on?
  • How will you defend your center areas to an administrator or parent that says you are only having children play all day?

Some centers that allow you to teach numerous concepts and allow children to learn through play, role-modeling and trial and error are:

  1. Blocks
  2. Housekeeping
  3. Writing
  4. Art
  5. Math
  6. Literacy
  7. Fine Motor
  8. Gross Motor
  9. Sand and Water Table/beans, packing materials, dirt, worms
  10. Miscellaneous
  11. Library

While children are at centers teachers have several choices. They can monitor the centers, scaffold, question, watch, listen and assess.  Or, you can have small groups of children or one-on-one meetings, where you are working on specific skills and curriculum while assessing and documenting. You can even ask a parent volunteer or if you have a teacher’s aide to come in and have an art center happening where each child is making something special to hang up in the classroom. They can even work on art ideas that go with the curriculum you are teaching.

If you are just throwing around the idea of setting up centers it is a lot of time and work, but it is totally worth your time and your child’s learning if you incorporate them correctly. Make sure you are planning, you are organized and you have an idea of the goal you are reaching for. Good luck!


This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:

Website
Twitter
Pinterest
YouTube

 

Centers: Why are they Important in the Early Childhood Classroom?

12408907_6042882838509_404846143_nWhen I started teaching I knew centers were an important part of an early childhood classroom.  I knew we learned about them in college and I had seen them set up in different environments that I had observed in. I didn’t fully understand centers and why they were important until the second week of school my very first year.

To be honest, the centers in my classroom my first year, that first week were a wreck.  I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea how to implement them, what they should consist of or why I was having students “play” in them.  I learned a lot and I believe I had very engaging, differentiated and effective centers in my classroom.

Centers are an important part of a classroom environment because:

  1. They allow students time to engage in developmentally appropriate practice activities that are well thought-out and planned by the teacher.

  2. They are either structured or non-structured activities that allow students to learn through their preferred learning modality (differentiated by the teacher for each student).

  3. Students have the opportunity to practice skills that are being taught in the classroom.  They get to observe, listen, questions, self-reflect and discover.

  4. All skills are developed: (fine motor, gross motor, cognitive, oral language, sensory-motor, social and higher order thinking, social and emotional intelligence etc).

  5. Students get to role-play different situations.

  6. Trial and error is appropriate in center situations.

  7. Teachers can change the activities and materials when appropriate and necessary depending on the organization and planning.

  8. Centers can be themed and follow thematic units that teachers plan according to what student’s interest are.

  9. Children are self-motivated and are excited about taking on a new challenge that they have chosen for themselves.

  10. Children get to create, build and construct.  They are able to build on previous knowledge and gain confidence in themselves.

  11. Children gain self-esteem and independence.

  12. Centers help teachers re-teach and implement skills mandated by the state and school district.

Most importantly, play is the vehicle in which all children learn.  They get to pretend and try new things and ideas.  Children can make mistakes in an area where they feel comfortable to try again. Each center should include developmentally appropriate materials and ideas that build from what you have previously taught.  Go through this list and see what your centers may be lacking or other things that you are doing differently. Reflect on how to make your centers the best they can be!


This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:

Website
Twitter
Pinterest
YouTube

Simple Strategies : What Can I do to Help My Students?


teacher-helping-four-studentsI think that all teachers have amazing and engaging teaching strategies that we use with the students in our classroom.  It’s almost like we are born with creativity and ways to help children and reach families.  Creativity is a large part of developing engaging teaching strategies.  Having the background of how children grow and develop and what their background knowledge is also important to know and understand before you start introducing and teaching young children.   This article will give you several teaching strategies that are important to use in an early childhood classroom.

  1. Modeling:  Everything you say or do and how you react to situations or handle students is being watched by the children in your classroom.  They will go home and say what you say and they think your way is the only way to do something and they will tell their parent you are right.   So, don’t forget as you are going about your daily schedule that you need to model the correct behaviors, transitions and actions that you except out of your students.  This can be as simple as: role playing situations, correctly sitting at your desk, speaking to other adults, using correct vocabulary, speaking in complete sentences, entering the classroom and greeting each person, etc.

  2. Scaffolding:  As you guide your students in their learning of new and important information and material ask questions, show them how to do until they get the hang of it.

  3. Acknowledge, Encourage, Listen and Ask Questions: When students talk, ask questions and  look them in the eye, acknowledge their conversation and participate with them.  Encourage your students in every aspect of the classroom (curriculum, play, achievements, and even mistakes—children are in your care to learn).  There are always ways to encourage your students and help them feel better about themselves.  Listen to what your students have to say. They have great thoughts and ideas—you may just learn something from them.  Ask your students questions, get them to logically and critically think about different situations and projects.  Students will see that you care if you acknowledge them, encourage them, listen to them and ask them questions.

  4. Show/Demonstrate: give your students examples; show them how to correctly do something or the correct procedures of doing something.  Remember students are in our care to learn, let’s teach them and not just assume or expect them to know something or how to do something.

  5. Repertoire of Ideas: This means using hands-on, engaging, differentiated and developmentally appropriate practices.  Centers, large group, small group, one-on-one instruction, procedures, rules, expectations and effective transitions are just a few.  

When you break the repertoire of ideas down then you can identify, define and differentiate for each student.   If something isn’t working, change it up, or do it differently. This means you can make a change the next year or even the very next day.  Just like no two students are alike, no two classrooms or class rosters are alike.  Many of these things take time and organization, and the title of this article is “What Can I do To Help my Students”, being prepared to teach your students each day is a number one priority.  I challenge you to take one of these ideas and use it today.


This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:

Website
Twitter
Pinterest
YouTube

 

 

Building Classroom Relationships

Building a classroom community and relationships within that community is a vital part of teaching young children.  Building relationships start before the school year even begins.  There are many things you can do to build healthy relationships that are reciprocal, engaging, fair, compassionate and connected.  

Ways to Build Relationships From The Start

  • Welcome Post Cards:  (snail mail) When you reach out to families before school starts they see your commitment and dedication to your profession, your classroom, and to your students.
  • Back to School Night: is for the entire family to engage in the classroom environment, meet the teacher and learn about the school.
    • Parent Parties: when you hold your first Parent Party and the ones thereafter, this helps build the home school connection, builds trust, teaches lessons and allows families to have a choice and make decisions—building a relationship that crosses back over into the classroom environment.
  • All About Me Bag: I learned so much about my students doing an “All About Me Bag”.  They were able to bring what they enjoyed doing at home or what their favorite color etc.
    • Classroom Environment: the environment must be conducive to all students learning and their abilities. All centers, lessons, and activities need to be differentiated for each and every student and set high expectations for every student to achieve.
    • Classroom Jobs: In a community each person contributes in a different way.  Assign each child a different job to perform so they can develop responsibility and a sense of ownership of the classroom and community.
    • OneOn One Lessons Activities: One-on-One time allows you time to really get to know your students.  During this time spend time asking questions (oral language, practice speaking in complete sentences).
    • Centers: Centers that allow children to engage in hand-on lessons allow children to practice skills that are taught.  Children are able to self-reflect, predict, practice in trial and error situations, and role-play. Teachers can assess and work with and or engage with students to further their knowledge.
    • Notes/Catcha Being Good: Positive reinforcement in the classroom helps children understand their successes, and in what areas they can in improve.  
  • Procedures, Routines, Schedules: When teachers model, teach and consistently practice procedures, routines, and schedules students know what to expect and they know what is expect of them. This builds a trusting relationship with the teacher.
  • Be Popular with Your students: possess energy, encourage students, be thoughtful in the way you teach, the things you do and say and always be positive.
  • Extra Curricular Events: visit children’s events outside of school.  Attend a play, birthday party, pageant, show, anything that shows you are involved and you care about what your students are doing outside of the classroom environment.

This article gives only a few ways to connect with your students. I challenge you try some of these with  your students this new year, and involve families on a regular basis.  Make sure building relationships and a classroom community becomes a number one priority.  Take these ideas and make them your own. Have fun doing what you are doing and things will come naturally.


This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:

Website
Twitter
Pinterest
YouTube

Totally Terrific Transitions

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Think about a classroom, any classroom.  When you think of this room, what do you see, what do you hear?  If it is your own classroom you know these sights and sounds by heart, but if you are visiting a new classroom you may have a lot to learn. As children are welcomed into a new classroom they have procedures, routines, expectations and transitions to learn.  As teachers set up their daily schedules they teach and reteach procedures and routines, but how important are transitions?  Are transitions really needed for students to move from one activity to another?

Let’s start by first defining what a transition is.  According to Hemmeter, Ostrosky, Artman and Kinder (2008), “Within early childhood contexts, transitions are the times in the day when children move or change from one activity to another” (pg.1).

Important Things About Transitions:

Transitions help children feel successful because as you teach transitions you are building a trusting relationship with each student. 

When you use transitions children know and understand what is expected of them, and when they are to move or complete a task. 

A transition should be the same every day and consistently used.

A warning may also be given 5 minutes before a transition to allow children time to finish what they are doing.  (Some children may have trouble just stopping a project on the spot to clean up).

When Transitions may be used: (Just a few, you may have other times)

1. Arrival

2. Dismissal

3. Moving from one activity to the next

4. Moving from one center to another

5. Leaving table time

6. Lining up at the door

7. Time to clean up an area

Because transitions give children cues on when to clean up, when to move from one activity to another and when to do certain things, here is a list of transitions to try:

1. Ringing a bell

2. Playing music (play the same thing every time for the same transition).

3. Play a game (if you have pink socks on you may line up at the door)

4. Use animal movements (if you have pink socks on move as slow as a turtle to the center of your choice).

5. Musical instrument (water stick, tambourine, bells, maracas etc).

5. Clapping your hands

6. A word, a saying, or a song that students can join in on.

7. Blow a whistle/musical instrument

8. Use a timer

9. Rainstick

An early childhood schedule is full of times where children move from one activity to another. It is important as you teach procedures and routines that you use transitions and keep them consistent. You have to decide what works best for you and your students and employ them in your environment.  Just as you would teach a procedure and routine you must teach children the transitions and what is expected of them.

References:
Mary Louise Hemmeter, Michaelene M. Ostrosky, Kathleen M. Artman, and Kiersten A. Kinder (2008). Planning transitions to prevent challenging behavior.
Beyond the Journal • Young Children on the Web • May 2008

Other resources:

Songs for Classroom Transitions
http://www.songsforteaching.com/transitions.htm

Transitions Strategies
http://www.utc.edu/school-education/pdfs/reel/ece/transition-strategies.pdf


This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places:

Website
Twitter
Pinterest
YouTube

Turkey Time!

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What are you thankful for? Thanksgiving break is around the corner and we know your classrooms will be bustling with themed activities! To help you out, we have collated some fun activities, books, and recipes on Pinterest to incorporate into classroom time. Even better, capture your students having the best time doing these activities and share those moments with parents– we’re sure they will love it!

Click here to check out some ideas for Thanksgiving activities!

https://www.pinterest.com/kaymbuinc/time-for-thanksgiving/

https://www.pinterest.com/kaymbuinc/time-for-thanksgiving/