Holiday Giving: Teaching about Social Activism by Example



It’s December and the holiday season is approaching quickly.  If we calculate (assuming your school closes on Dec 21), then all that is left are 15 school days!  This is a crazy time, but also a fun time.  Most of us will do many activities based on the holidays within our classroom.  But have you considered social activism?  This is a time that students can be easily drawn into the whole commercialization of the holidays.  Students are caught up with what they want to get but we need to help them understand that this is a time for giving and caring as well.  Most of the time, students and their parents are also wondering what they can purchase for you.  You have heard of those AHA moments, and this is one of them!  Students learn by example, and we could be the greatest example during this holiday season.  Have a discussion with them about how important it is for you to help others.  Why not ask them to avoid purchasing something for you (if they intended to) and utilized that money and donate it to help others.  This could be done in many ways.  Here are some suggestions:

1) As a class go to a food bank and volunteer your time.  Students who were planning to purchase something for you can use those funds as donation, or could purchase non perishable items to bring along. This is great for students who would not normally be purchasing anything due to financial constraints or just do not do teacher gifts but still would like to help others.

2)There is an organization that helps with Gifts of Hope.  There are gifts as little as $10 and if that is still too much students can pool their funds together.  Visit the website with your students and show them how something so small can create positive change in the world.

3) Visit a local nursing home and have students prepare songs to perform.  Students can use their funds in order to subsidize transportation

4) Create a Holiday Hamper.  This is a collaborative project where people donate food, clothing and other essential needs to a family in need.  Your school Social Worker, Administration and local church can steer you in the right direction with proper information to ensure items are appropriate but still maintaining the privacy and dignity of the family.

What is important to remember is that all it takes is a small change to make a big difference!  We are including a link to a fantastic video to generate discussion with your students and see that they too can make a difference! Click on the link below for the video.  We would love to read about what you have done for others in your school, community and local areas.  Wishing you a wonderful December! 

School and Home Connection

As I sit and watch my son go through his karate lesson for the day, I think about all the students who cannot participate in such activities.  I asked myself how I, as a mother, would feel if my child could not participate due to lack of access.  Or what about the parents lacking a support system within their family to enable their child to participate in such activities (such as transportation to and from, driving, financial, timing issues).  When I say activities, I don’t specifically mean karate, but any extra specialty program be it art, or dance etc.  I would feel helpless as a mother, knowing that developing my child into a well rounded individual is important, but I couldn’t due to constraints.  I firmly believe that the school should also be a place where this type of access can be provided.

Recently, my son, came home with a registration form for 10 dance classes (covering hip hop, tango, salsa and merengue) which would be offered once per week during school hours.  I was elated because this program (offered through a dance company) would not cut into our already hectic schedule.  I immediately signed him up.

So I started to ask around and found that some schools have started to realize that providing access to outside programs in a school setting are worthwhile and support the families in their communities.   Furthermore, these programs provide specialized instruction in programs that extend beyond our curricular expectations.

Some examples that I have heard are the following:

Karate classes, dance classes, yoga, pilates & fitness classes, art & crafts, cooking classes, babysitting certification and piano instruction.

Every parent I have spoken to are grateful for this opportunity as it supports their endeavours in developing their child(ren) but do not create more stress for the family to make the commitment.

I found that most of these programs are also offered at discounted rates and that schools also receive a percentage from registrations.  What a great fundraising idea!

Are you at a school that has an initiative as such?  Please leave a comment and help us learn more!


Parent Communication: Sharing Good News!

Do you sometimes feel that you only communicate with parents when you need to inform them about a problem with their child?  Teachers communicate with parents on a regular basis regarding areas where students are struggling, incomplete homework, behaviour issues, or simply suggestions for students to improve their study skills. Speaking to students and informing parents about these issues is extremely important in order to ensure that students are successful both academically, behaviourally, and socially.

It’s so important, however, to communicate good news to both students and their parents.  Wouldn’t it be great for students to receive a letter home that lets their parents know that they did a great job working with their group that day, welcoming a new student to the class, or assisting a peer with their studies?  I know my students love to receive praise for actions that they did not think that I had noticed.  Although my sons are still young, I know that I would appreciate their teachers letting me know all the great things they are doing, instead of focusing only on areas for improvement.

Here’s a FREE printable to help you communicate good news home to parents! Just click on the image below:

Don’t forget to keep track of your parent communication by using our handy “Parent Communication Log”!


Parent Night ~ A few tips

As we are well on our way within the school year, it is time to start and to also continue to build a collaborative relationship with the parents, caregivers, and guardians of the students we teach.  These nights are not interviews but a way to build the spirit of community and also a way to open the lines of communication.  Parents need to understand what happens in the classroom and within the school. Furthermore, they do want to hear and understand what their child will be learning in our classrooms.   As teachers we need to be prepared, organized and sometimes advocates for the classroom and school.   How we go about this is dependent on what you feel comfortable with on how to deliver your information.  My first few years, I always chatted with parents and gave them a general overview of the curriculum but found that discussions were not meaningful and we both (parents and I) were going through the motions. Over time I have found that creating a Power Point presentation serves this purpose rather efficiently.  I am one of the fortunate ones where I have a dedicated Smart Board for my classroom.  I truly enjoy using this medium, as it gives parents the opportunity to visually see what and how one is utilized.  When I begin my presentation, I give parents the opportunity to write their names on the Smart Board in an effort to involve them and understand how technology has developed.   Furthermore, this allows me to know who they are (as sometimes we have never met previously).  My presentation lasts about 2-3 minutes but the use of the Smart Board does not end there.  For the rest of the time, I have stations set up where parents can attempt different activities based on the curriculum that students will be delving into throughout the year.  I utilize an already prepared task for parents to work through on the Smart Board (Probability activities and Geometry activities lend themselves well to this type of center).  Other centers include a Language Arts activity, a short Web Quest on the classroom computers (if you have any) which could be Science, Geography or History based, and for Catholic teachers a center at the prayer table.  All the while, the experience is interactive.  Furthermore, when parents are ready to leave, I have a handout where I give them a write up of classroom expectations, a classroom schedule, a list of supplies required for students, an overview for each subject that I teach, any trips/excursions in the works, and my contact information.  I find that providing this type of information as a hard copy allows for them to be fully informed and a quick reference for their personal use at home.  In addition, there is a letter asking for anyone to volunteer in the classroom, or donate materials or books for the classroom.  I know some teachers provide a parting gift, something as simple as a labeled candy (it’s sweet to teach your child) or a water bottle with a label stating (meeting you has been refreshing!).

What have you done or are planning to do?  Please share and comment as together we can prepare fantastic starts to successful years!


Homework Paper, Reflection Paper and Behavior Paper!

Looking for new classroom management ideas? suggestions? tips? techniques? We just posted a few ideas to our store including a Homework Paper, Reflection Paper and Behavior Paper.

Here is a brief description of each:

‘Behavior Paper’ (2 pages) – This is a paper that is to be filled out by your students based on their behavior/attitude. There is a set of questions to be answered such as ‘what happened and where it happened, who was involved, what they will do in the future, etc.’ This is to be completed, sent home, discussed with parent(s)/guardian(s), signed and returned. It is a good idea to file this paper in each student’s personal portfolio, for reference, easy access, etc.
‘Homework Paper’(2 pages) – This is a paper to help your students keep track of homework that needs to be completed. When an assignment is due but not handed in nor completed by students, a homework paper is given with clear outlines as to what work needs to be completed under each specific subject. Letters are sent home and to be discussed and viewed by parent(s)/guardian(s, signed and returned with completed work.

‘Reflection Paper’ (1 page)– This paper is simply an overview of all the classroom rules as outlined, discussed and understood from day one. Each time it is necessary for your students to reflect because of their behavior or attitude or simply something they did or said that is against what was agreed at the beginning of the year, a reflection paper is given. They are to read the paper thoroughly each time, then copy it out word for word on a separate piece of paper and answer questions such as ‘why did you receive this paper? What will you do now? etc.’

For a more detailed description of each, please visit our store and click on each individual file.

Also, please note: each paper is sold separately.  If you only want one of the papers listed, please view each individual file posted on our store. If you like all three, purchase the bundle and SAVE.


Children with Down Syndrome