Parent Teacher Conference - Stress Tips

Let's face it!  Parent-teacher conferences are stressful. It doesn't matter which side of the table you are sitting on, there is stress.  In fact, after I had my daughter, I decided that I prefer to sit on the teacher side of the table.

You can help your stress level, a little, if you prepare a stress kit.  Everyone reacts to stress a differently.  Many people, will tighten neck and shoulder muscles when stressed which leads to headaches.  My absolute favorite "go to" solution for this type of headache is the microwave heat pack that is pictured at the bottom of the picture.  Some are filled with rice or beans.  I heat mine in the microwave for 1 minute 45 seconds and wrap it around my shoulders.  My students quickly learned that when they saw that on my shoulders it was "speak quietly like a mouse" time.  It is a great visual cue for your class.  I kept one at school and one at home.  If that didn't do the trick, I used Tylenol. 

My stress kit includes:
  • Microwave heat pack: great for headaches
  • Tylenol: stress can lead to aches and pains
  • Hall Breezers throat drops: helps with throat irritation from the extra talking that you will do during conference time
  • Chapstick: Keep your lips moist with all of the talking
  • Chocolate:  Everyone has their favorite treat that gives them a little pick-me-up.  If Godiva is a special treat for you.  Pick up a little bag like the one in the picture and have a little treat between every few conferences.
  • The big bag of Epsom Salt is from Calgon. At the end of the day, let Calgon take you away!
If you are on the Sunshine or Social Committee, you could organize a couple of stress kits.  These would be great door prizes at faculty meetings.  Fun morale boosters during a hectic time of the year.  Need more Sunshine Committee ideas?  Click HERE.


Patterns, Word Chunks, Making Words, and More!

Patterns are everywhere or so it seems. Patterns was one of my favorite lessons because I would often see my students making patterns in other creative ways. I've had students arrange their crayons in patterns before they would begin working on an assignment.  Another student arranged magnetic letters on a board in a pattern.  He told another student it was an eye test and he was the eye doctor.  He told his friend he needed to stand a little bit away from him and read the letters. Great way to practice letter identification and patterns at the same time!

Patterns in words, word families or chunks, are an important part of reading.  Students love of patterns make this an effective reading strategy.  I was always looking for some new idea or activity to use.  The picture at the top was one my students enjoyed.  It is opened-ended which I liked.  I cut fabric in 6" X 6" squares.  You can find remnants of fabric at Wal-Mart or fabric stores for a few dollars. Or you can ask your parents for donations.  I cut white construction paper 12" X 6" and folded it in half.  Students would choose a fabric square and clip it to the left side of the construction paper (opened up).  They would repeat the pattern on fabric on the right half of the paper.  Unclip the fabric and fold the paper in half.  The colorful half is the cover of the card/assignment, open and write _____ (open-ended assignment).  Sometimes I had them write words from the word family that we were studying.  Other times I had them look in a book to see how many words that included our word family that they could find.  They wrote those in this.

During small group, magnetic letters are a great way to demonstrate word families. The only issue I had with this was a lack of supplies at some of my schools.

This was my solution to not having enough magnetic letters.  I don't know its official name.  My students called it "the hotdog game" because when you picked it up and turned it upside down it looked like a hotdog bun.

  • I was comfortable sending it home for homework for additional practice.  
  • I cut out different colors for vowels than consonants.  Many times magnetic letters come in a variety of colors.  

These are a little time consuming to make.  I would recommend finding a parent volunteer to make a class set if that is your plan.  If you only need enough for a small group lesson then you can easily do those.

You can either use file folders or cardstock.  I cut my cardstock in half.  Two hotdog games per sheet of cardstock.  Fold it in half.  Fold and staple on the end to make the pocket for the letters.

It helps to give students extra practice after their small group lesson.  The making words assignment in the picture is a perfect activity for this.  After looking for chunks in the word at the bottom of the page, they cut the letters apart. I tell students to separate the vowels and consonants because every word has a vowel.  Then take one vowel and try to make as many words as possible with it.  Later they can put the vowels together.  

The seasonal soundboxes are a freebie.  I found the erasers at Target's Dollar Spot.

There are also other assignments with the making words file that you can use for enrichment or with your early finishers.

Are resources limited at your school? One of my favorite places to find resources are thrift stores.  Many times you can repurpose "treasures" you find there.  The scribbage game in the picture is from 1963.  It cost $1.99.  Scrabble Jr. was $2.99 and the Letter Symbol Tiles was $1.99.  All great deals that have a variety of uses.

Have you found any treasures at a thrift store?

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.

Teacher Tips: Respect, Confidence, Management Idea

Whether you are a first year teacher or an experienced teacher at a new school or on a new team, one thing I think we can all agree on is that anyone in this situation hopes to gain the respect of your colleagues at your new school or team.

Click HERE to listen to Respect by Aretha Franklin

It seems like we need to listen to a little Aretha when reading this post, right? 

When you are new to a school or team, you will often hear offers of "let me know if you have any questions" or "let me know if I can help you".  I think these people are completely sincere in their offers.  

Most teachers - whether first year or experienced teachers who are the "new kids on the block" understand that this is a little like someone saying "how are you doing?" or "how was your weekend?".  When someone ask you one of those questions, they do not want to hear a list of every ailment you ever had or hour-by-hour enactment of your weekend since they last saw you. A general summary will suffice for them.  

The same holds true when it comes to asking questions when you are new to a school or team. Questions that are good to ask are ones that can be answered quickly and can't be answered by Google.  A few suggestions:
  • What are the cafeteria procedures?
  • What after-school commitments should I know about?
  • How do we procure office supplies (staples, tape, etc.)?
These questions are school specific. Some schools have a handbook that answers procedural questions like these, but not all.  You may want to ask if there is a handbook or other source to answer your questions like this in the future.

Of course, you will have questions because it is a new school.  Every school, even in the same district, is run a little different.  Finding the balance in the amount and type of questions plus learning to search out your own sources for the answers is one of the keys to earning respect when you are new.

Are you asking questions that you could find the answer to yourself?
  • Maybe the better way to look at this is to think about your classroom.  Student A and Student B have the same ability, yet Student A frequently comes to your desk to ask questions instead of searching for the answers herself.  Student B follows your policy of "ask 3 before me" and checks other sources before coming to you for help.  Although they both earn similar academic grades, which one will you rate higher for their work habits?  

Goggle is an amazing tool.  I can't stress how valuable it is. There have been times when I am shocked how many people have not discovered the true value of this source. I can tell they don't realize the value of Google when I hear or read (on Facebook) people asking other people questions that could be answered quicker if they just Googled it.

This is a freebie on 

I know I am not the only person who has had the thought.  Have you discovered Kimberly Geswein's fonts yet?  She made the freebie above. If you ever get tired of answering questions that could be answered with a few key strokes, you might want to hang it up.

When I see this happening, I question why are you asking people question(s) because it takes so much longer?  You can do this for yourself and it is QUICKER!  Time is one thing that teachers have very little of, why not use the shortest method possible?

New situations like a new school or team can bring out insecure feelings in the most secure person.  These feelings can make a teacher act like Student A. When you have those thoughts popping up in your head, it is time to take a deep breath and say, "I've got this!"  You would not have been hired if your administrator did not think you were completely capable of doing a wonderful job.  

  • Stop questioning yourself - you are capable
  • Go with your instincts
  • Focus on one or two things at a time - don't get overwhelmed

  • Write down notes or what you need to research later.  I personally love stenographer pads.  I purchase several with different colored covers.  I color code them by topics like:  Lang. Arts, Math, Classroom Management / Behavior, and Team - School. I loved the 2 columns.  I wrote what I wanted to research in the left column and took notes about it in the right column.  I used a rubber band or a little post-it to quickly find my place.  They are small enough to fit in most drawers or small baskets.  The pages rarely fall out which is a definite plus.
I hope you find your inner confidence.  Remember, you were hired for a reason.  Now go out and show your colleagues why you were the best person for the job! 

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.