Create a Classroom Welcome Packet
Although some teachers start with just a classroom welcome letter, I personally recommend beginning the school year by preparing a whole written informational packet about your classroom and teaching philosophy. Include contact information, web page, and best time to reach you. For an added bonus, have the informational packet available on your classroom web page.
The informational packet that I prepare (and update each year) is several pages long and includes the following welcome information:
- a meet the teacher page (including teacher contact information, website, philosophy, best time to reach you and so on),
- a class schedule (this is important for gym days when students need to be prepared),
- a behavioral policy (include a reward policy),
- a homework policy (when and how do you assign homework),
- a copy of the classroom rules,
- a detailed summary of each curriculum area (see below), and,
- expectations for academic success.
- An optional idea is to include a poem at the end about the grade you teach.
On the summary page for each curriculum area, provide a detailed description of each subject area and what your expectations are for the student both at home and at school in that area. For example, when informing the parents about the reading curriculum, include the name of the reading program, phonics program and site word program. Also, include a list or detailed description of the curriculum, including your expectations for learning in word work (for example, how many sight words are the students accountable to know at the end of the school year?). Do this for each curriculum area.
Parents will appreciate that you are forthcoming about your expectations and it begins to build trust. At the end of one school year, I had parents come to me, packet in hand, delighted that I wrote that their Kindergartener would read independently at the end of the school year and that indeed she was reading independently. Not only that, when your expectations are clear from the beginning of the school year it serves as a guide for you, the students and the parents. When you are forthcoming about your expectations with the parents, then they can set goals for the child at home and reinforce what you are doing in the classroom. I have even had parents adapt my classroom behavior and reward policy at home to help keep consistent expectations between school and home.
Although the informational packet becomes quite lengthy by preparing it in this manner, the rewards are well worth the time invested to prepare it. Also, once it is done, all you have to do is update it each year.
During the school year, keep parents informed of which unit of study you are in for each subject area by weekly or monthly newsletters. In each newsletter, give them ideas on how to reinforce the subject matter at home.