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Preparing for the First Day of School

Your first contact with parents and guardians sets the stage for communication the rest of the year. We know that kids do better in school when parents are involved in their children's school. We also know that parents' influence on their teens is far greater than they think.

What do you want parents to know about you, the course you're teaching, your expectations for yourself and your students? It's likely that you won't see parents at a school open house until several weeks into the school year. Take advantage of "back-to-school" anticipation and anxiety by communicating to parents during the first week of school.

Write a letter to parents or guardians

  • This letter can go home at the beginning of each new quarter, providing a snapshot of each quarter's highlights and a preview of what's coming up. These quarterly communications can also provide the opportunity for students to share their own reflections, self-assessment, and goal-setting as part of letters that are sent home.
  • Send the letter home on the first day of school. It's one way to let parents know that their support and encouragement is important to you.
  • Give two copies to each student so parents and guardians can keep one copy and sign the other letter for students to return to you.
  • Make your letter one page. This is an introduction and you can always communicate more details later.
  • Choose two to three things that you want to emphasize.
  • If some of your students live in families whose parents' or guardians primary language is not English see if someone from your Bilingual or English as a Second Language Department can help you translate your letter.
  • If you have students whose families speak a variety of languages, you might invite your students and an English as a Second Language teacher to come in at lunch to work on writing translations of important points in your letter to be sent home with the letter you wrote in English.

Parent Letter Ideas

  • Describe what your course is about including requirements, goals, and key learning experiences.
  • Describe your hopes and expectations for students.
  • Share what might be challenging for students in this class. Have a sense of humor – tell parents if they hear their kids sighing and moaning, it's probably because...
  • Let parents know what steps students can take if they're having difficulty meeting class requirements.
  • Let parents know how they can communicate with you if they have questions or concerns. Give them the school number.
  • Let parents know what kinds of homework assignments students can expect. Suggest specific ways that they can support and encourage their child's success in the classroom.
  • Emphasize how much effort, attitude, and participation count in your classroom. Identify some of the social skills that you hope will help create a respectful, responsible, and caring classroom.

Other Ways to Introduce Yourself

  • If you feel comfortable doing so, introduce yourself by video. Create a 5 to 10 minute recording where you introduce yourself and highlight a few important things that you want parents to know. If you'd rather not be on camera, you can share the same information in a Slideshare.

Highlights

Back to School Headquarters
August is Back to School Month and many of you will be returning to the classroom very soon. Feeling unprepared? We have you covered! Check out our very best resources and advice for New Teachers (applicable for the new and experienced), as well as Bulletin Board ideas, Icebreakers, Open House materials, and general Classroom Management tips for a successful new school year.

Special Offers for Teachers Newsletter
Do you receive our Special Offers for Teachers newsletter? Each month, we send out FREE resources to all of our subscribers. Our next issue (August 12) features a collection of our best Back-to-School materials—that's right, sign up now and get them for free!

Discounts for Teachers
Start the new school year with cash in your pocket! We have some great ways to save money on the supplies that keep your classroom running: Money-Saving Tips for Teachers and Free & Cheap Rewards for Students. Plus, check out our Discounts for Teachers so you can save on office supplies, clothing, books, crafts and fabric, travel, and more!

August Calendar of Events
August is full events that you can incorporate into your standard curriculum. Our Educators' Calendar outlines activities for each event, including: Friendship Day (8/2), President Obama's Birthday (8/4/1961), Astronaut Neil Armstrong's Birthday (8/5/1930), International Art Appreciation Day (8/9), International Youth Day (8/12), Aviation Day (8/19), Tooth Fairy Day (8/22), International Day for Remembrance of Slave Trade & Its Abolition (8/23), and Women's Equality Day (8/26). Plus, celebrate Back to School Month and Get Ready for Kindergarten Month all August long!

Poptropica Teaching Guides
Poptropica is one of the Internet's most popular sites for kids—and now it's available as an app for the iPad! It's not just a place to play games; each of the islands featured on the site provides a learning opportunity. Check out our teaching guides to four of Poptropica's islands: 24 Carrot Island, Time Tangled Island, Mystery Train Island, and Mythology Island.


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