Parent Conference No-Hassle Notes

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Step 1: Schedule your conferences with a few simple clicks.

Step 2: Print conference letters.

*You can select if you want all letters and notes to be printed in English or Spanish!


Step 3: Print reminder notes.

Do you want to try this time-saving tool 60 days for free? 
Click on the ESGI on my sidebar, or here directly on the words. You will love everything about it! 

Meeting Common Core Standards through Dramatic Play

Kathleen's castle!
Do you have a playhouse or dramatic play center in your room? Many principals, as well as parents and even kindergarten teachers, don’t understand the purpose of a playhouse. They hear the word play and understanding ends there!

The value of a dramatic play center cannot be overstated. In this center, students can take on the role of mom, dad, baby bear, chef, doctor, teacher, or post master. Shy students are often more willing to participate when they can “be” someone else. Students have multiple opportunities to take turns, share, and negotiate as they play together. Language and vocabulary development are increased through speaking and listening in the center, especially if it is changed throughout the year to be a hospital, restaurant, a 3 Bears’ cottage, etc.

Reading and writing skills can be practiced in the playhouse. Students can write restaurant orders, grocery lists, or letters to mail. They can read in a hospital room or a playhouse kitchen. With alphabet or number flashcards Baby bear or Goldilocks as well as students in a school room can review letters, sounds, or numbers. 

In order to capitalize on the benefits of a dramatic play center, include a variety of materials for students to use, change the “scene” occasionally, and determine which standards are best addressed by the activities that you anticipate in the playhouse area. Check out the standards for Speaking and Listening, Reading Literature and/or Informational Text, Reading Foundations, Writing, and Counting and Cardinality. Post some of the specific standards that are being met or include the standards in your lesson plans. In addition, or as an alternate, post an explanation of the learning benefits of the dramatic play center.

Whether you have an actual playhouse or a defined area in your room, students can thrive in a dramatic play center. Deliberately Incorporate this center in your weekly plans to meet learning objectives and state standards.

Here is my learning center poster that is posted by my playhouse.

Television Viewing and Young Children

American children view an average of four to six hours of television daily (which may not even include time spent playing video games). Researchers can now document the effects of extensive television exposure through studies of the human brain.  This Research indicates that TV viewing and Video Gaming are  linked to  a range of negative behaviors: Violence, aggression, obesity, poor academic performance, stubbornness, limited communication skills, and behavior that is not age appropriate.

Each time a child is watching  television or playing video games, time for other activities that are imperative for a child’s natural development are severely limited. Childhood is a period of growth and development; when kids need to play both alone and with peers. Playing is a child’s work! Children also need to talk! Talking with adults as well as other children develops imperative oral language skills.

The amount of violence on television and in video games is increasing and experts agree that this violence is harmful to young children. Children who see violence on TV or in games can become frightened, worried, suspicious, withdrawn, or may develop bullying behaviors. Researchers also have found that children who watch violence on television (including cartoons and gaming) are encouraged that bullying and aggressive behavior is acceptable.

Many research studies indicate that excessive television viewing and video gamin has a detrimental effect on learning and school performance. The hours spent viewing television interfere with homework and with natural learning opportunities. If your child is not performing well academically, ask yourself if your child is watching too much TV or playing excessive and/or  violent video games.

The average child sees 20,000 commercials a year. That means 700 million dollars are being spent introducing your child to heavily sugared products. This gives your child a distorted picture of how they ought to eat and causes unhealthy eating habits.

Television is a fabulous invention with numerous educational and entertaining programs. However, when it comes to young children, it must be used wisely. Set limits! Replace that extra time with alternate activities such as sports, games, play, chores, reading conversation, homework,  or hobbies.

Handwriting in Kindergarten

Why teach handwriting in kindergarten? Research indicates that structured handwriting lessons lead to improved writing performance, increased letter identification, and academic success. MRI scans done before and after letter instruction even found that when children practiced printing by hand, their neural activity was greater than those who had simply looked at their letters.

While teaching handwriting in kindergarten is necessary and beneficial, it is also important to keep instruction developmental.  What steps can we take to meet this goal? Try the following:
  1. Encourage your students to pick up small items - legos, buttons, beans, counting chips, etc.
  2. Provide opportunities for your students to play outside - monkey bars are great for strengthening upper body as well as finger and hand muscles.
  3. Teach capital letters first, then lowercase letters. Students are more familiar with capital letters and they have an easier time forming them; furthermore, capital letters all start at the top and they are distinctly different from each other.
  4. Instead of following an A to Z order for handwriting, present easier letters (such as F) first.
  5. Provide tactile opportunities for students to form letters with playdough, wood pieces, wikki stix, pipe cleaners, etc.
  6. If possible use a developmentally appropriate handwriting program such as Handwriting Without Tears.

Handwriting instruction can be completed in a short time - just 10 to 15 minutes each day. With a developmentally appropriate approach, you can not only help your students improve in handwriting, but you can also enhance their learning and performance in language arts and math.

To compliment your handwriting program, we offer several products:

Using Thematic Units

Taking a thematic approach to the teaching of young children allows students to be more confident, better motivated, and more anxiously engaged. Above all, it allows instruction to be more natural, less fragmented, child centered, and academic skills developed more quickly as they are connected to topics.

Some of our Thematic Unit offerings

Today we were talking about spiders. After reading a spider book and taking some key ideas from the book and writing them on stickies for our big idea chart, one of my students said “I think we should make a spider using paper. We will need to make two body parts and eight legs. Then I am going to put 8 eyes, but everyone can choose their own number for eyes like 0,2,4 or 6. You can get black paper, but we will need other colors too.”

Now, little did he know, that particular activity was exactly what I had planned for center time. But, what a great opportunity to make the students active participants in their own learning. “Great idea!” I said. Let’s make a list of supplies that I can gather at recess. So together, the students and I listed the supplies. The activity was now theirs and they were excited to do it.

This is but one example of how thematic instruction benefits young learners. If you are are looking for some great thematic units, that are a perfect fit for developmentally appropriate teaching, you will want to check out our thematic unit packets. Each unit is packed with activities and learning. Here is an example of the Spider Unit.

Shared Reading Activities
I’M A SPIDER: Building Metacognition Skills

Scripted Literacy Activities:
Spider Soup: Identifying Alphabet Letters
The Sneaky Spider: Producing Rhyming Words
Home Sweet Web: Matching Alphabet Letters
Spider Walk: Beginning Sounds
Web Treasures: Sorting Objects into Categories

Independent Language Arts Activities
Category Sort: Identifying Word Meanings & Nuances
Spin a Web: ABC Order

Scripted Math Activities:
The Hungry Spiders: Identifying Numbers
Spider Shapes: Identifying Shapes

Independent Math Activities
Spider Frames: Counting and Cardinality
Spider Legs: Decomposing Numbers
Fill The Web: Ten Frame Hunt

Writing Prompts/Word Wall
Spider Word Wall
Writing Prompts:
Eensy Wensy Spider
Do I Like Spiders?

Guided Reading Books
Are You a Spider? Level A
Are You a Spider? Level C

Spider Cookie

The Arachnid (Science Journal Labels)
Spider Facts
Sticky Spiders

Art Projects
Glitter Spider Web
Spider Construct
Spider Hat

Spin, Spin, Spin a Web
A Spider Song

Ten Little Spiders

Teaching Kindergarteners to Tell Time.

Kindergartners are always asking when certain things are going to happen:
"When are we going to eat lunch?"
"When is recess?"
"When is center time?"
And of course, kindergartners don't have an accurate grasp on the concept of increments of time. Days, months, hours, and minutes are all very fuzzy concepts to them. So to help Ks start to understand how to measure time, I borrowed an idea from mathematics guru John Van de Walle. His brilliant idea is to take the minute hand off of a clock so that children can focus on the hand that gives them the most important information, namely, the hour hand

I had to break the plastic covering to get to the minute hand, but once it was off, it was easy to snip off the minute hand with a pair of scissors. Now that only the hour hand shows, my Ks can begin to conceptualize how long an hour is, and when certain things will happen. If I tell them, "Lunch, will be at 11". They know to watch for when the hour hand is pointing exactly at the 11. And, during that time, can watch the speed at which the hour hand moves from number to number to gain an idea of how long an hour is exactly. We can also use the hour hand to begin to use time vocabulary in a way that makes sense. For example:
"It's almost 9 o'clock" 
"It's just past 12"
"It's half past 1"
"It's exactly 10 o'clock"

I've found that using an "hour hand only" clock has given my students a lot of independence.They can now check it on their own to find out if it's time for certain things to happen that are always at the same time. They can find out if it's lunch time or recess time on their own, which give kindergartners a sense of control over the day.

Setting Kindergarten Procedures

Procedures are as necessary for our students as reading and math. In fact, procedures provide the framework for the curriculum that we teach. Classroom management and beginning teacher books all highlight the importance of incorporating procedures into the classroom. 

Kindergarten  and other early education teachers usually see the importance of procedures. Our students must be taught how to line up, walk down the hall, sit on the carpet in an appropriate way, use a glue bottle or gluestick.....the list goes on and on. 

Because we have so many procedures to teach, it’s tempting to rush the process or even skip a few steps. That’s the opposite of what we should do, however! Your introduction and review should take a month or even six weeks.

When introducing a new procedure, model it if possible. Many management programs suggest modeling the procedure exactly as you want it, modeling it incorrectly, and modeling it almost, but not quite how you want it. Be sure to follow each incorrect or less-than-perfect example with the correct model!

Even when you are well into your school year, remember to review procedures. Choose one or two each day throughout the year to practice or model for a smooth-running class all year long!

Contraction Worksheets

This workbook, Part 10 in a series, provides phonics practice that focuses on contractions. Students have the opportunity to identify, match and write contractions. The pages can be used as an introduction to contractions or as review pages for students familiar with contractions.

R-Controlled "Bossy-R" Worksheets

This workbook, Part 9 in a series, provides phonics practice that focuses on r-controlled vowels. Pages highlight the “bossy-r” combinations ar and or as well as the combinations that make the /er/ sound (spelled er, ir, and ur). Students have the opportunity to identify pictures with the r-controlled vowel sounds and write the letter combinations that make these sounds. Eight review pages complete this unit.

Word Endings Worksheets

This 14 page workbook, Part 8 in a series, provides phonics practice that focuses on word endings. Pages highlight the word endings -ed, -ing, and -s. Students have the opportunity to work on each of the three word endings by circling the word endings, writing the word endings, and identifying the correct word ending.

Phonics: Consonant Blends for Early Readers

Give your early reader important phonics practice by using this 10-part Phonics Prep series based on our best-selling Phonics Books 1, 2, and 3.

This workbook, Part 7 in our "Phonics Prep" series, provides phonics practice that focuses on consonant blends. Pages highlight l-blends (bl, cl, fl, gl, pl, sl), r-blends (br, cr, dr, fr, gr, pr, tr), and  s-blends (sk, sm, sn, sp, st, sw).  Following the pages that feature the individual blends, students have the opportunity to work on each of the three groups of blends by sorting pictures, matching blending sounds with their letters, writing blends to complete word spellings, and circling  words with the correct blend.

Other products in the series: