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Prep Like a Pro! 5 Tips for the Best Parent Conferences Yet

Planning for parent conferences? This post includes 5 tips for preparing + two free parent conference forms you can use to make parent conference prep as painless as possible.

Are you in the throes of Halloween, centers, and parent conference chaos? In October everything seems to come together like a perfect storm that can turn your classroom and personal life into crazytown. 'Tis the season!  If you're hoping to check parent conference prep off your never ending to do list, here are a few tips and resources you can use to make that parent conference planning as painless as possible.

Tip #1 

Send Home a Parent Conference Preview

At least a week before conferences, send home a Parent Conference Preview that asks parents to circle from a list of ideas what they most want to talk with you about during your conference, as well as how long they want their child to attend. The information you get from these forms can be super helpful in your conference planning and can give you some extra time to prepare for any unexpected questions, so you can have materials or samples of student work ready to go. These are also helpful in letting you know what parents really want to know most about. It's always enlightening to see who cares more about test scores and who wants to know more about their child's behavior. Want a copy? Sign up at the bottom of this post and an editable template will be sent to your email! 

Tip #2 

Create Student Progress Notes for Parents to Take Home

These can take on a variety of forms, but I always like to have something parents can take with them to sum up their child's progress. That way if we don't have time to talk about a certain academic or behavioral area, or a parent is unable to make the conference, everything is on the info page they take home. My reporting page of choice is personalized for each student in the areas of reading, writing, math, and behavior. If you want to use the same Conference Notes page that I do, there is an editable copy available at the end of this post. Once you edit the Conference Notes template you can copy and paste one page to fill out for every student. Yes it takes time to create one for every student, but once you do you have EVERYTHING you need in front of you, plus it will be on your computer and you can copy and paste for upcoming conferences. Work up front will save you so much time and stress later!

Tip #3 

Have Something Outside your Classroom for Parents to do

Have you recently taught your students a math game or read a super fun mentor text?  Have these items outside your classroom so students can play with or show their parents.  Having files of student work or a box of student writing from your latest Author's Chair for parents to look at while they wait is also a nice touch, but can raise your stress level if these aren't already organized. You can also put out volunteer projects like lamination cutting or stapling papers if you have something self explanatory. Pentominoes (affiliate link) and student writing are my top 2 go to PTC "while you wait" items. You can read more about pentominoes at this blog post HERE.    

Tip #4 

Make it Comfortable

Simple touches like having a lamp on your table, finding a round table so everyone feels on equal footing, having a bowl of candy, or simply making sure you have chairs large enough for all the adults who will be present (it's always awkward when step-dad gets the kindergarten chair) are all part of the details that make a difference. Plus, if you're going to be sitting for 9+ hours it's always nice to feel cozy.

Tip #5 

Take Care of YOU

Don't overdo it! Don't have time to create personalized notes for every student or buy a bowl of candy because you need to eat and sleep? Everyone will live! Just do what you can and keep some healthy snacks nearby so you don't keel over from exhaustion (maybe try to sneak your favorite coffee drink during your planning time too). The #1 thing parents want to see is that you know and care about their kid, and you do. So, keep on keeping on Super Teacher! You've got this!

If you would like an EDITABLE copy of the parent conference forms from Tips #1 and #2 you can get the FREE exclusive parent conference pages which include editable copies of the Parent Conference Preview and Conference Notes sent right to your inbox.  Just sign up below and check your email.  

*Already an email subscriber?  Check your email Super Teacher!  This freebie was sent to you on October 13th.  Hooray!* 

Do you have any other tips for making parent conferences go as smoothly as possible?  I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

Halloween Math Challenge: A Frighteningly Good Freebie

Are you a 2nd or 3rd grade teacher looking for a FREE Halloween math activity? Try this October math challenge. It includes a math challenge focused on place value and logical thinking, a lined page for students to write about how they solved the problem, and an answer key {so you don't have to think too hard about it}. Just print and go!

A FREE math activity for Halloween. Just print and go! This October Math Challenge is perfect for advanced 2nd and 3rd graders! Use for math centers, homework, problem of the week, small groups, or to get a breather during a holiday parth. Fun for kids and NO PREP for teachers! Click for the free download.

This Halloween Math Challenge is perfect for advanced 2nd and 3rd graders! You can use this printable for math centers, homework, problem of the week, small groups, or to get a breather during a holiday party. Fun for kids and NO PREP for teachers! 

Download the free October Math Challenge HERE. (or by clicking on the picture above)

If you would like more information about how to use math challenges for your advanced 2nd and 3rd grade mathematicians you can learn about SUPER simple differentiation using math contracts HERE.

Print & go math activities for Halloween!  These October Math Challenges are perfect for advanced 2nd and 3rd graders! Includes 26 challenge and brain teaser activities ready to go for centers, homework, problem of the week, or small group learning. Fun for kids and NO PREP for teachers! Click for details.

Need more Halloween math challenges and brainteasers to engage your little ghouls and goblins all month long? You can purchase 26 additional October math printables with Halloween themes HERE. {The printables pictured above are just a few from the October Math Challenge & Brainteaser pack}

Happy Halloween Super Teacher,
These free math challenge and brain teaser activities for elementary students can be used for centers, weekly challenges, small groups, or whole class problem solving. Fun for kids and easy for teachers! Perfect for 2nd and 3rd grade.
If you would like to have a set of 5 EXCLUSIVE math challenges + Super Teacher ideas delivered right to your inbox, please sign up for my newsletter to get exclusive freebies & super classroom tips to save you time and make learning fun!  

10 Quick & Easy Writing Activities for Successful Centers

Need ideas + a freebie for getting writing centers started in your classroom? This post includes 10 simple writing activities you can add to your writing center, Daily 5 time, or literacy station. Perfect for 2nd and 3rd grade kids and teachers. #3 is my fave!

If you're thinking about simple ideas for centers, this post is for you!  Here are 10 writing activities you can use for centers, Daily 5, or literacy stations that require very minimal prep.  Although we might not want to accept it, it's now prime time to start training students to get them ready for independent work.

If you're still in "squashing spitting at the urinals" mode, no worries.  Training those little pups takes a whole lotta time!  However, you can still take baby steps by deciding on a few activities you want to teach whole class that you will turn into centers/independent work when bathroom break training takes up less than 80% of your day.  :)

Remember: Students don't even have to know these writing activities might be centers later on, but the more they practice now, the easier your life will be later.

Here are 10 activities you can add to your writing center files that require very minimal prep.
Pick and choose, mix and match, and may the odds be ever in your favor!

1. Personal Journaling - Let students write about what they did yesterday, their plans for the weekend, how they feel about school, things that are going on at home, or make to do lists.  You decide whether students should include these entries in their writer's notebooks or if you want them to have separate personal journals.  I vote putting them in writer's notebooks for one stop shopping.  Although I have pretty strict rules for what goes in the writer's notebook (you can read more about those HERE), personal journaling is a rule breaking type of writing.  No line skipping needed.
2. Compliments - This is a great activity for the beginning of the year (and beyond) as the purpose of compliments is for students to build relationships with classmates by looking for positive classroom behaviors.  You can keep a compliment bag or jar in the classroom and share these out at class meetings or let students take home compliments from their classmates at the end of the week.  Compliments have a clear audience (a classmate) and purpose (to say something kind) for writing.  When students know a classmate will be reading them, there is much greater attention to detail and conventions!  I recommend keeping track of how many compliments students receive (parent volunteer job!) so no one is feeling left out and blue.  {Printables for this activity are included in the exclusive email freebie you can sign up for the the end of this post!}

3. River Revisions & Stories - If you haven't already had your students make rivers, you can learn more HERE.  Rivers are tools you can have students revisit over and over again!  They can either add more stones to their river, choose 1 stone and create a mind map of possible stories they have to write about that person, place, thing, or event, or start planning for and writing a story about the subject of one of their stones.  Possibilities abound with rivers!  

4. Modeling a Mentor Text - Choose one book a month that you want to serve as an example of great writing.  My personal fave for the beginning of the year is Lois Lowry's memoir, Looking Back {affiliate link}.  The chapter about how she chose her dog is always a highlight that 99% of students relate to (it's about animals!).  As a center, your students' job is to brainstorm ideas for writing that were inspired by this text, or to start planning and writing a piece like the mentor text. You can read more about some of my favorite mentor texts and a mentor text activity for brainstorming HERE.  

5. Letter Writing - Create a classroom mailbox and let students write letters to classmates.  Another writing activity with clear audience and purpose!  Looking over student letters to make sure they have all 5 parts of a friendly letter and then delivering letters to student mailboxes is a great parent volunteer job!  Simple, self explanatory, and never ending - the trifecta for perfect parent volunteer tasks! {Printables for this activity are included in the exclusive email freebie!}

6. Would You Rathers - Would you rather be a teacher or a principal?  Would you rather live in California or New York?  Would you rather sit in a 3-hour long meeting doing teambuilding exercises or gouge out your own eyes? {Confession: that last one might have just been for me.}  Would you rathers are super easy to come up with and the kids love them! 

 7. Question of the Day - What is your favorite . . . ?  What is your family like . . . ?  If you could create one law what would it be and why?  The sky is the limit with questions of the day.  As long as it ends with a question mark you can use it.

8. Elaboration "Super" Sentences - Start with a simple sentence like "Mrs. Smith watched."  Then have students add adjectives, adverbs, appositives, and descriptive words to create a more engaging and detailed sentence that answers the question(s): who, what, when, where, why

Mrs. Smith, my amazing teacher, watched her students as they worked quietly.
Mrs. Smith watched the clock with joy as the seconds ticked down to the end of the school day.
Mrs. Smith watched in disbelief as she realized it was time (in May!) to train her students to walk down the hallway.

9. Story Starters - Choose a book you love and copy the first sentence or two on the board or on sentence strips. Have students write these in their writer's notebooks and then continue the story. Easy!

10. Art Inspiration - Find pictures in magazines, and have students describe what is happening in the picture or use a character from the picture as a main character in a narrative. 

Whatever activities you add to your writing center, I highly recommend typing up student friendly STEP-BY-STEP directions for every center activity you have in your classroom.  It doesn't need to take extra time.  Just create these with your students as you teach the activity to the whole class.  If you have detailed instruction pages (like the one shown above) for students to reference, it will save you tons of time once you start students on the long winding road to independence.

Are you in need of some free writing center materials?  You can get the exclusive VIP writing center freebie which includes compliment and letter writing activities (with student friendly instruction pages) sent right to your inbox.  Just sign up below and check your email.  

*Already an email subscriber?  Check your email Super Teacher!  This freebie was sent to you on September 15th.  Hooray!*
Need more NO PREP writing centers?  Check out the Writing Center Pack at my TpT store.  It includes print and go writing centers (including many from the list in this post) along with student-friendly direction pages and supplementary printables for every activity.  Just PRINT & GO!

Have a fab day Super Teacher,

Engage Your Highest Mathematicians NOW with this Simple Strategy

Need an easy way to start challenging those advanced math kids NOW? Try math contracts! A simple strategy for elementary classroom teachers to differentiate for advanced math students.

Do you have a few kiddos who seem to know everything in math before you teach it, and might even be starting to look a little bored when math time rolls around?

You want to meet the needs of all your learners (absolutely!), but you also need something quick and easy because you have five million other things to do and that data wall ain't gonna update itself!

Math workshop time is awesome, but what are you going to do with those advanced kidlets while you're training, training, training and talking about place value basics before workshop begins?!

The answer is . . . Math Contracts!  Math contracts are my favorite (SUPER Simple) way to start differentiating for advanced mathematicians.

Need an easy way to start challenging those advanced math kids NOW? Try math contracts! A simple strategy for elementary classroom teachers to differentiate for advanced math students.

Math contracts are an easy way to keep your gifted mathematicians on their toes, that won't make you go insane.  Just get contracts started and your kids can work away whenever they need.

Differentiation Complete!

Easy Art Project for Year Long Bulletin Boards - Bubble Letter Name Art + Freebie

Looking for a simple back to school art project and year long bulletin board solution? Try this bubble letter name art idea! Super easy to prep and makes for darling year long bulletin boards for 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms. Love the mentor texts too!
Here's an idea for a simple art activity you can use when you need at least 15-20 minutes of students working/you can rest your voice time.  This project in one for the Back to School Art, Year Long Bulletin Boards, or Staying Sane file.

Not only does this art project give you a little time to catch your breath (and maybe, just maybe, run to the bathroom), the name tags the kids make during this activity can be used to create a variety of year long bulletin boards that you don't have to take down until May (or June if you're a late starting Michigander like myself).

Bubble Letter Name Art Instructions

>> Introduce with a book - The Name Jar is a great one to talk about the meaning & importance of names and The Big Orange Splot is my personal fave to talk about individuality/favorites/hopes and dreams (affiliate links).  If you don't have time for a mentor text, just tell students you want to get to know them better, not only as learners, but as people too + you'd like something special for every student to show off on your walls and/or bulletin boards.
Looking for a simple back to school art project and year long bulletin board solution? Try this bubble letter name art idea! Super easy to prep and makes for darling year long bulletin boards for 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms. Love the mentor texts too!