I know that school has probably started for most of you (we started back on the 8th), but I wanted to talk about a super important topic today that is especially pertinent to the beginning of the school year - parent communication. Obviously, it is essential that teachers of all grades communicate with their students' parents, but I believe that this communication is especially precious and especially important in maternelle. Parents of kindergarten students are unique - for many, it is their first time having a school-aged child. For others, even those whose siblings you have previously taught, things may have changed significantly since their older children started school. At this age, you cannot count on your students to inform their parents of goings-ons or of your expectations, so it is important that you communicate clearly. New school-aged parents are often nervous, have no idea what to expect, and may not know about things that are "obvious" to teachers and parents who have had children at the school for a few years - through no fault of their own. Parents are like students - they can't be expected to know things that they haven't yet been taught!
Parent communication is so key, because it is how you can ensure that your classroom parents are aware of your expectations for them and for their child. It is also a way for you to make sure that they know what the school expects of them. I pride myself on being a good communicator, and have had many thanks and expressions of gratitude from my classroom parents in the past. Read on for some tips and ideas of how I communicate in my class!
BEGINNING OF THE YEAR
The beginning of the year is information overload for most parents. They are bombarded with forms, notices, reminders, and procedure information. It is essential that you have an organizational system in place for all of this info - you do not want to be sending home a form or two each day, only to have them lose the forms or forget to return them. You also want to be sure that you set a clear date for when you want that information read by, and forms returned by.
It is likely going to be overwhelming for parents to receive all this information at once no matter what you do. Here is what I do to make it as simple as possible!
I stuff a large, brown envelope with all of the forms and notices I can think of and send it home on the first day (generally a Wednesday or a Thursday). I seal the envelope with a typed label asking parents to please read all notices and return all forms by the following Wednesday. This gives parents the weekend to sit down and go through everything if they are too busy on a week night. I can also remind them again in my weekly notice on Monday. The envelope provides them with a place to keep everything together at home until everything is completed, and a vehicle through which to return all completed forms. Here are some of the notes I include in this envelope. If you click on any of the following images, you will be taken to a pdf version of the whole notice. They are not editable, and just meant to give you an idea of what you could say - I know sometimes the hardest thing about writing these notices is just knowing where to start! However, I think that it is important to add your own voice to your notices, and make your communication personal to your class (which is why I have decided not to provide editable versions at this time).
Also note that my board requires all communication to be sent home in French. The most important information that I send home I try to also translate to English (for example, my welcome notice), or summarize in brief, point form in English on the back (like my homework notice) - but overall, everything I send home is in French.
This is my "Welcome" notice (again, click the images to see the whole thing):
|Click here for the English version|
|Click here for the French version|
I also send a letter explaining my daily helper routine with a calendar of my daily helpers on the back.
I use this form that I created to acquire permission to use photos of students/student work in a variety of situations:
I forgot to add a space for the child's name on this one - OOPS! If you send this home, I suggest adding it ;) Even if you do not have a blog, I recommend sending home a form like this. My school sends home a media release form as well, but I like how this one has specific examples of what you may use the photos for. Again - communication is key! Some parents may not be comfortable with pictures of their child going home to other families in classroom books, for example. It is best to be safe rather than sorry, and it is important to know if a parent does not want their child's photo (or photos of their work) online - parents often post photos of Christmas concerts, class trips, etc. on Facebook or other social media, and you may have to request that they do not if you have a child whose photos cannot be put on the internet.
This is the final form I send on the first day:
This is my favourite form to get back! I made it a long time ago, so it may not be as "cute" as some of my other forms. But that's not what really matters ;) I love reading about my students and getting to know them a bit better before the year really gets started. Parents love knowing that you want to know their child, and this is a great place for them to share any worries or concerns for their child's first school year, as well as their expectations. Parent teacher for us isn't until the end of November - a long time away! This form is ready to print and does not include any details specific to me, so feel free to print it out and use it if you like.
You could also send home a list of things you are looking to collect for your classroom that parents may have on hand (empty applesauce containers make great paint cups, for example) - lots of parents love helping out and may have the supplies that you need already on hand! This can also be a good time to send home your behaviour management plan/behaviour expectations, your school calendar, a copy of the cafeteria menu, bus notes, etc.
Some teachers prefer to send out monthly notices, and others send them out weekly. I like to send mine out weekly, because I enjoy the opportunity to touch base with parents on a more frequent basis. Also, things often change multiple times throughout the course of a month!
Here is an example of my weekly newsletter - this is the exact newsletter that I will be sending home tomorrow. I like it because it has a mini calendar in the corner. I keep the same template all year long, and send it home each Monday. The template I purchased here on TPT - it is English but completely editable. Another template I have used in the past that is seasonal can be found here.
I print it in greyscale, and it still looks great!
You may sometimes have school events or things to share that are too long to share on the weekly notice, or sometimes things may come up later in the week, after you have already sent it home. I haven't yet made a list of all of the supplies I am looking for (slacking, I know!!), so I will send that home probably next week. Scholastic usually provides a parent letter on their website as well, so if you do Scholastic orders, you can send that home on its own, along with your book recommendations. I find that parents may be more inclined to order books from you if they know that by doing so, you can earn money back to purchase books for your classroom.
Here is what I send home when we start "homework":
(You can find the alphabet flash cards that I send home for practice on TPT here. I send the image + letter version.)
And a long one specifically about reading at home, when my students first get their reading bags (clicking the image will take you to the entire notice in both English and French):
We will be starting our brag tags soon, once we are settled into our routine. I will just be adding a little blurb to our weekly notice that says something like this:
We will be starting brag tags (billets de fierté) this week! Students can earn tags for showing great behaviour, working hard, speaking in French, and being kind to others. They will be collecting these tags all year long. If they collect 25+ tags throughout the year, they will earn a special lunch with me from the cafeteria! If your child comes home excited because they earned a tag that day, please congratulate them and encourage them to keep earning more!PARENT REPS
The Home & School Association at my school does something awesome - they provide each teacher with a "parent rep". This parent is someone who volunteers to help the teacher communicate anything they need. Many parent reps create a private Facebook group, just for parents of that class, but teachers can opt-out of that if they are uncomfortable with it and ask them to build an email list instead. I have had 2 wonderful parent reps in the past (I have been lucky enough to have taught their children two years in a row each time, and they both did multiple-year duty), and have used them countless times - like at 9pm on a Friday night when I realize I forgot to ask parents for something important for Monday (hey, it happens to us all!). I even used my fabulous last year's rep this summer, when a new teacher realized that she forgot to put something on her class supply list! If your school doesn't currently do this, you should look into it - they are SO, SO helpful and can be absolute life savers!
Orientation Day for new primaries is a loooooong ways away, but I figured I would add in what we send home to parents on Orientation Day just in case it is helpful to you. We like to start our communication as early as possible, and help parents know what to expect, right from the first day they walk through our school doors!
Parent communication is SO important, and I believe that all teachers should make it a priority - but none more than kindergarten teachers. Good communicate ensures that no one gets frustrated or confused, and everyone knows what's happening. Or, if a parent still doesn't know what's happening, you can at least be assured that you have done everything you can to try and keep them in the loop. Take the time to build positive relationships with your classroom parents, just like you do with their children. It will really help you get what you need when you need it, and make sure that everyone is on the same page! Let me know in the comments if you have any other parent communication suggestions :)
All fonts used in my notices are KG Fonts. The borders came from Graphics from the Pond and Creative Clips. Some graphics also came from www.mycutegraphics.com.