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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Fostering the Home-School Connection Through Friday Letters

Teachers everywhere embrace the importance of
a solid connection between home and school and
strive to build positive and respectful parent partnerships.
All teachers understand the value of volunteers
and the need for parent involvement and support,
but not all parents can spend time in our classrooms.

Fostering the home-school connection through Friday Letters. Tips for using this simple, yet powerful tool with your students -plus a free letter writing starter kit with parent  note to get you started.

Connect Parents to Your Classroom
Every parent wants to know what their child is learning
and how they are doing in school. One fun and informative
way to keep your parents connected to your classroom
is through Friday letters. Every Friday my students 
write a letter home telling their parents and families all
about their week at school. 

Fostering the home-school connection through Friday Letters. Tips for using this simple, yet powerful tool with your students -plus a free letter writing starter kit with parent  note to get you started.

Parents respond by writing a letter back to their child on 
the reverse-side of the page.

Fostering the home-school connection through Friday Letters. Tips for using this simple, yet powerful tool with your students -plus a free letter writing starter kit with parent  note to get you started.

Students return the letters to school where we file
and save them.  At the end of the year, I bind all
of their letters into keepsake books for students to
take home.  

Fostering the home-school connection through Friday Letters. Tips for using this simple, yet powerful tool with your students -plus a free letter writing starter kit with parent  note to get you started. 

A Simple, Yet Powerful Tool
Friday Letters.  Writing a letter every Friday to
Mom and Dad. It's such a simple little thing,
but a powerful one. Besides cultivating a
consistent connection between my students' homes
and my classroom, I learn a lot from these letters.
They give me weekly insight into my students' thoughts and feelings, excitements and anxieties,
about school, their friends, what happens at home,
and even how they feel about the food in the cafeteria. 

Friday letters give me a window into things that my
students may not tell me, but tell their parents.
They afford me opportunities to see where I can
quietly intervene or partner with parents to help
a child socially, support them more emotionally,
or even to celebrate accomplishments outside
of school that I may not otherwise know about.

Skills At A Glance
Academically speaking, I can see at a glance who
is mastering and applying a variety of skills:
  • writing conventions
  • grammar
  • capitalization 
  • correct use of punctuation
  • complete sentences
  • writing the date
  • use of transition words
  • compound sentences
  • vocabulary knowledge
Review The Format Of A Friendly Letter 
At the beginning of the year, we review the format of,
and how to write, a friendly letter.  This is something our
first graders learn, but I always spend time reteaching
the purpose, the parts and the punctuation of a friendly
letter. My goal is to get them started towards writing
these letters independently.

What Can I Write About?
At the beginning of the year when I introduce our writing 
journal routines, one of the first mini-lessons we do is 
"What Can I Write About?"  We make a list on the first page 
of the journals of all the things they can write about.
These come in handy on Fridays, too.



For the first few weeks, we brainstorm whole group
and list on the board all of the things we learned and
did during the week they could write about in their
letters. Sometimes we make a big bubble 
map and sometimes we make a list. Sometimes
we even make a tree map with the days of the week
as the categories.  These are quick teachable moments
to talk about the purpose of different graphic organizers
and how they can help us plan our writing.
Later, they will do this on their own in their writing journals. 
The one thing we always do the same 
every.single.week is to end our letters with a question.
This gives the recipient a start to writing back.

Make It Manage Itself
This routine will manage itself after a few weeks
of practicing the procedure. I train my class to file 
their letters all going the same way, behind their 
previous letter.  They can do this when they first 
arrive or at the end of the day. I found this filing cart 
at a garage sale years ago and it's been perfect for storing 
and saving students' writing portfolios.   A crate would 
work well also.  

Friday Letters manage themselves once you train your students.

Each hanging file has a student number and a file folder 
(their writing portfolio) inside.  The Friday letters go 
behind the file folder. At the end of the year I even have 
my students go through their own letters to make sure 
they're set and organized before binding.

Managing Friday Letters and writing portfolios.

If you don't have access to a comb binder a heavy duty
stapler works great too.

But the Year Has Already Started
It's easy to get started writing Friday letters
with your class.  You don't have to start at
the beginning of the year, you can start
anytime.  Just send home this parent letter
explaining how it works and start writing!

Fostering the home-school connection through Friday Letters. Tips for using this simple, yet powerful tool with your students -plus a free letter writing starter kit with parent  note to get you started.


Download this Free Friday Letters Starter Kit
to save you time and get you going. This editable
file includes the parent letter and book cover
that I use plus some back-to-school stationery
to get you started. Download it now or pin this for later.

Fostering the home-school connection through Friday Letters. Tips for using this simple, yet powerful tool with your students -plus a free letter writing starter kit with parent  note to get you started.

For the rest of the year, I use lined stationery from
a combination of these Scholastic books.
You can use my affiliate links to purchase the
same books from Amazon.   These come in really
handy and my class loves all the different themes!


I hope this post has been helpful as you consider ways
you can continue to foster your home-school connections
and parent partnerships!

Fostering the home-school connection through Friday Letters. Tips for using this simple, yet powerful tool with your students -plus a free letter writing starter kit with parent  note to get you started.

For more ideas and resources on this topic follow my
Home/School Connection board on Pinterest!

Be sure to follow by email by signing up below and
get all new posts sent directly to your inbox!

Happy teaching!

Monday, August 1, 2016

5 Fun Favorite Activites for the First Week of School

As back to school season draws near, I know you're already 
thinking about your first week of school.  What can I do
to make my new class comfortable?  How can we all get 
to know each other? Where can I snag a snapshot of 
everybody's ability level?
But the biggest question is 
How can I make our first week FUN?

Are you looking for a fun and full first week back to school? Click to visit this post and see 5 of my favorite first week activities, games, and crafts that will have your kids laughing, learning, and getting to know all about you and each other!

Here are 5 of my favorites to make sure you
have a FULL first week of FUN!

Break the Ice With 
You're Finally Here!

Lots of back to school activities for kids with the best first week of school book ever, You're Finally Here! We started with this hilarious anchor chart and did lots of activities all week!

Break the ice by making them laugh
with the MOST perfect first day book ever, You're Finally Here!
by Melanie Watt.  Set the premise that you've been waiting 
and waiting and waiting for them to arrive!

We made these adorable character writing crafts to go with the best back to school book for kids ever, You're Finally Here!

Hilarious activities, games, crafts, roam the rooms 
and writing opportunities will have your kids giggling and 
laughing to break the ice in no time! 

The best back to school book and first week activities pack ever! My class LOVED You're Finally Here!


Check out last year's post to see our first week of school 
with  You're Finally Here!

Purchase the book from IndigoBooks 


Getting to Know You With Math
Send home a math autobiography the first day of school
so parents can help their student gather math related
information about themselves!

Math About Me math autobiography page for students to use to describe themselves using math! Available in a Math About Me  set on TPT

Students then use their math information to write math
related sentences, word problems, and drawings to describe
themselves using math!

Math About Me math craft- Such a fun getting to know you, all about me activity where kids describe themselves using math!


Math About Me math craft- Such a fun getting to know you, all about me activity where kids describe themselves using math!

These make a really fun (and standards based!) display for
your Back to School Night or beginning of the year open house!

Math About Me math craft- Such a fun getting to know you, all about me activity where kids describe themselves using math!

Find the Math About Me resource I used.


Set Goals for the New School Year
Another of my favorite first week activities are these little 
goal setting guys and gals. 

Are you looking for a fun and full first week back to school? Click to visit this post and see 5 of my favorite and most fun activities, games, and crafts that will have your kids laughing, learning, and getting to know all about you and each other!

We make these Go for the Goal sort-of-self-portraits 
and display them all year. 
This year they're wearing Olympic medals 
that say Go for the Goal!

Favorite first week of school activities for kids. Have your students set back to school goals inside this Olympics themed craft!


We make these goal setting crafts the first week of school and display them all year. Such a fun back to school activity for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade!

This one looks EXACTLY like the child who made it.
And I love her goal for the year!

We make these goal setting crafts the first week of school and display them all year. Such a fun back to school activity for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade!

This one is my all-time favorite!


"My goal is to skip 2 grades so I can be a fourth grader."

My students make these selfie style goal setting crafts the first week of school.  I dsiplay them all year and the kids revisit their goals at the end of the year!


Set Up A First Day Photo Booth

First Day Photo Booth bulletin board set for PreK-5th grade from Simply Kinder

Capture memories on the first day of school with a first day 
photo booth!  This adorable chalkboard photo booth
from Simply Kinder an be used for PreK-5th grade!

Fun first day (or last day) photo booth with a Superhero theme! The set also includes an editable card.  My parents will treasure these!

If Superheroes are your style, check out this fun  
Superhero themed photo booth set with signs to use 
on the first AND/OR last day! 

Fun first day (or last day) photo booth with a Superhero theme! The set also includes an editable card.  My parents will treasure these!

Use the editable card template included to send home 
a first day picture and message that your parents will treasure!

Play A Get To Know Your 
Teacher Game 

Editable all About My Teacher first week of school roam the room from Angie Neal on TPT- Fall Into First
Help your new class get to know you by posting 
answers about yourselfall around the room. 
 The questions are on the students' answer sheet!
I've done this really fun All About My Teacher roam the room 
from Angie Neal at Fall Into First for a several years now
 and my class always loves it! Angie's bee theme
 and her brand new firsties are adorable!

Editable all About My Teacher first week of school roam the room from Angie Neal on TPT

The file is completely editable so you can make up 
your own questions on the student page and make 
answer cards to post around the room.


Editable all About My Teacher first week of school roam the room from Angie Neal on TPT

Get them up and moving as they roam the room trying to
find and match the questions to the answers on their page!

Editable all About My Teacher first week of school roam the room from Angie Neal on TPT

You can have a lot of fun with this! 
(I've been 29 for several years now ha! ha!) 

Love the calm and clean look of this blue classroom decor. The labels give it a clean and consistent look. I really like the use of space with baskets inside a desk!
And of course, in case they couldn't already tell, 
by our blue classroom decor my favorite color is blue!

Those are my top 5 favorite first week of school activities!

Are you looking for a fun and full first week back to school? Click to visit this post and see 5 of my favorite and most fun activities, games, and crafts that will have your kids laughing, learning, and getting to know all about you and each other!

I hope you've found something you can use to
save you some time and plan a full week of fun!

For even more ideas head over to my
Back To School board on Pinterest.

Find @aroundthekampfire on Instagram and follow along!



Friday, June 3, 2016

Superhero Kindness Activity: Fill A Friend's City With Kind Words Of Kryptonite!

Last year I started a new end of the year tradition in my classroom.
I wanted to make our last week as memorable, meaningful, and as
much FUN I could!  I decided to give my second graders a 
blowout celebration they would never forget! You can read all about 
share something I added THIS year to our last week of school celebration. 

An end of the school year activity: Superhero Kindness Activity~Fill a friend's city with kind words of Kryptonite!

My class FU-LIPPED last year over our superhero themed
celebration! This year, I wanted to include a new tradition. 
I added a superhero kindness activity to give them a
 yearbook of sorts.  I wanted them to have something with 
sweet messages from their classmates they could look back 
on and treasure. Something to remember each other by.

Now, every superhero knows that kindness is stronger 
than kryptonite, so I decided that this would be our theme.

Superhero Kindness Activity~Fill a friend's city with kind words of Kryptonite!

First, we put on our capes. (I used plastic table cloths from 
Dollar Tree.) Then, we made superhero city mailboxes to 
hold kind words of Kryptonite from all of their classmates. 

Think bucket fillers + superheroes and 
you've got it!

After we made our mailboxes everybody got busy! 

Superhero Kindness Activity~Students fill a friend's city with kind words of Kryptonite!

To save time and manage it more smoothly, I passed out
copies of our class roster and had students write each
name on a card, before signing their own.

Superhero Kindness Activity~Fill a friend's mailbox with kind words of Kryptonite!

That way we knew everybody was included and if we 
were interrupted (I was half expecting our last fire drill 
of the year any second ha!) they wouldn't lose track 
of who they had already written to.

Superhero Kindness Activity~Fill a friend's city with kind words of Kryptonite!

My class is so trained to make sure everything their 
table turns in is facing up and going the same direction that
they automatically organized all their Kryptonite cards!

Once everybody was ready, my caped crusaders 
sat so very patiently as they waited for me to say.... 

Superhero Kindness Activity~Fill a friend's city with kind words of Kryptonite!

"Superheroes, deliver your Kryptonite!" And they were off!

Superhero Kindness Activity~Fill a friend's mailbox with kind words of Kryptonite!

One of the many reasons why I love these kids so much?
The first thing they asked is "Where's your mailbox, Mrs. Kamp?"
so I quickly wrote my name on the example and 
hung it on the board.

Superhero Kindness Activity~Fill a friend's city with kind words of Kryptonite!

Students bopped around the room delivering their cards

Superhero Kindness Activity~Fill a friend's city with kind words of Kryptonite!

and filling their friends' cities with kind
words of Kyptonite!

Superhero Kindness Activity~Fill a friend's city with kind words of Kryptonite!

The smiles were priceless and the room filled with giggles
as they read the messages from all of their classmates!

Superhero Kindness Activity~Fill a friend's city with kind words of Kryptonite!




















If you love this idea, do it with your class! You can
find the superhero kindness activity pack in my shop!

Superhero Kindness Activity~Fill a friend's city with kind words of Kryptonite!

To see our awards ceremony, photo booth, and the end of year
gifts I gave my class, be sure to check out this post,
10 Ways To Give Your Students a Superhero-Send-Off!

Find more ideas for a Superhero Classroom by
visiting my board on Pinterest! Follow me there as I collect
classroom ideas, teaching tips, management strategies and more!

Happy teaching!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

EOS Lip Balm FREE Printable Thank You Tags

Every teacher knows they wouldn't make it a minute without 
the help and support of office staff, aides, teammates, 
and ESPECIALLY parent volunteers!  I like to find fun ways
to say thank you and tell them they are appreciated
and these Free EOS Lip Balm Thank You Printables 
do just that! 

Bee and Flower EOS Lip Balm FREE Printable Thank You Tags

I love these EOS lip balms, they smell heavenly and their 
shape and bright colors make them easy to find in my 
desk drawer or my purse! 

Always BEE-ing There EOS Lip Balm FREE Printable Thank You Tags

I used Vanilla Mint to make these little bees and this

Always BEE-ing There EOS Lip Balm FREE Printable Thank You Tags
I used the yellow lemon drop lip balm and these
the flower tags.

Flower EOS Lip Balm FREE Printable Thank You Tags

Both sets come 3 to a page and work best printed on 
8.5 x 11 white card stock.
  
Flower EOS Lip Balm FREE Printable Thank You Tags
I used scissors to trim out the middle before removing 
the lid to the lip balm, placing it through the hole, 
and twisting on the lid. You could also use an x-acto knife 
or circular paper cutter if you want to get fancy!

Bee and Flower EOS Lip Balm FREE Printable Thank You Tags

For more gift ideas and free printables, follow my 
board on Pinterest!

Happy gifting!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Butterfly Math and Science Activities

Raising butterflies in our classroom is always one
of the highlights each year.  We wait with baited breath
for our caterpillars to arrive and then we get right to it
because they grow fast! This year I knew I wanted to
incorporate more math into our butterfly life cycle unit

Butterfly math activities~ Graphing the life cycle

and observing the life cycle lends itself so well to 
measurement, calendar skills, and especially data and graphing!

Butterfly math activities~ Graphing the life cycle

I created some butterfly graphing activities so we could
use the data we were collecting in our observation journals to
create different types of graphs.

When our caterpillars arrived, we began keeping 
observation journals, but first we learned how
to handle our caterpillars with care.

Butterfly observation journal


Butterfly observation journal

Students also kept an observation calendar to 
record changes on the dates they occurred so we could
see at a glance the data we were collecting and 
later on, graph.

Recording the changes and collecting data to graph the butterfly life cycle.

While raising our caterpillars, I've learned if I'm not careful
they can be an all-day distraction. To avoid this, I keep each table's
cups in a basket on top of the filing cabinet.  I label each
cup with the student's initials and their table number.

Butterfly life cycle activities


This way it only takes a few seconds to pass them out when
we're ready to observe them and student's know when their
butterfly has emerged by the empty chrysalis on their lid.

Butterfly math~Collecting data and graphing the life cycle


I prepped my charts ahead of time 

Butterfly math~Graphing the life cycle

and as the life cycle progressed, we tallied the data from
our calendars and used it to create these class graphs.

Butterfly math~Graphing the life cycle


Butterfly math~Graphing the life cycle


Butterfly math~Graphing the life cycle

Next, students drew our class charts and did some graph
chatting by answering questions about each chart.

Butterfly math~Graphing activities to do while raising caterpillars to butterflies


Butterfly math graphing activities to do while raising caterpillars to butterflies


Butterfly math activities~Graphing the life cycle

We displayed our graphs for our Spring open house and
my class loved walking their parents through our process
of collecting, organizing, transferring, and analyzing
our butterfly data!

Butterfly math activities~Graphing the life cycle



After our butterflies began to emerge,
I had small groups compare and discuss the data from their 
calendars and observation journals using data discussion cards.

Butterfly math~Discussing the data before graphing the life cycle.

We also incorporated some (teacher guided)
measurement into our science unit by measuring paths
and asking, "How far did the caterpillar crawl?"
This activity is part of my butterfly life cycle unit.

Butterfly math~ Measuring the paths a caterpillar crawled.


















We used PlayDoh to measure and compare caterpillar lengths.

Free printable butterfly measurement activity~Comparing lengths of PlayDoh caterpillars.
Students spin, roll out caterpillars, measure and record.

Free printable butterfly measurement activity~Comparing lengths of PlayDoh caterpillars.

 They spin again, roll the caterpillar some more, then
measure and compare their lengths.



Along the way, we read a lot of informational books. 
I somehow misplaced the snazzy, orange butterfly KWL
chart I made last year, but this quickie did the trick.

Butterfly life cycle KWL chart

We discovered a lot in our learning labs exploring 
pollination, compound eyes, and ways a caterpillar 
and butterfly protect themselves.

Butterfly science activities~Hands-on learning labs

We explored how butterflies help plants 
grow with a pollination simulation using juice boxes 
and macaroni and cheese powder.

Butterfly science activities~Exploring how butterflies help plants grow.

What to do with all that macaroni after we've used all
the cheese powder? Make commas, of course! (You can
download this free butterfly facts commas in a series page

Free printable butterfly facts commas in a series.

We used kaleidoscopes to imagine looking through an
insect's compound eye.

Butterfly science activity~ simulating a compound eye


Butterfly science activity~ simulating a compound eye

Butterfly science activity~ Simulating a compound eye

We learned that being a butterfly isn't all sunshine
and nectar either.  They have their problems too!

Butterfly life cycle problem-solution activity

To incorporate some reading skills we matched these
butterfly problems to their solutions.

Raising butterflies offered so  many opportunities for writing!

Butterfly life cycle mini-books

As we studied the life cycle we wrote about what we learned.
We made small booklets after each of our minilessons
and learning labs with vocabulary, diagrams, and
explanations of the different stages and aspects of
the life cycle. We put it all together
in these butterfly foldable booklets .

Butterfly life cycle foldable booklet~Part of a complete unit.

My class was so proud of our hallway display and really
loved giving their parents a tour of our classroom and our
life cycle themed hallway!!

End of year Life Cycle Garden open house display with plants and butterflies

Butterfly math activities~Graphing the life cycle




You can read all about last year's Life Cycle Garden  in this post.

Butterflies & Frogs Life Cycle Garden open house




I hope you've found some ideas and activities you can use
to incorporate math, reading, and writing into your own classroom
as you raise butterflies!

Be sure to find me and follow on FacebookPinterest, Instagram, or
TeacherspayTeachers for more ideas, free printables, and
classroom resources!