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Calendar Overview: October, November & December

October

November

December

During the month of


October, I will write a short,
positive feedback or glow
to each family in the form of
a handwritten card in an
envelope.

Students will take home


their pizza box portfolios
that they started in the
beginning of the year;
showcasing the work they
are most proud of from our
first nine weeks together.
Both parents and the
student will fill out forms
about the contents of the
box.

Regular in-school
conferences will be held
with parents to meet
regarding the goals we set
in the beginning of the year
and the progress towards
these goals. At this
conference, we will agree to
continue work towards
these goals or set new
goals.

My grade level team and I


will collaboratively organize
and participate in a family
literacy night.

We will have author shares


every Wednesday in
November, where students
are scheduled to share
writing and parents are
invited to the classroom to
listen.

Every Tuesday that we have


school in December, I will
have a parent come in
during lunchtime to share
about their career. Students
will have a picnic-style lunch
in my classroom while they
listen to the parent and ask
questions about their
career.

Positive Note Home


As an educator, I believe it is immensely important to make small gestures to families
letting them know that you care about their student. In October, I will handwrite my first card to
families making a positive statement about how their child is doing in school. I am choosing to
do this in order to make a positive contact with each of my students families. By making positive
contacts, I am putting drops in a bucket toward a positive relationship with the families in my
classroom. I will buy a pack of cards that are blank on the inside so that I can continue to send
them throughout the year. I will make it my goal to send three positive cards home to each
family over the course of our nine months together. I will keep a sheet with student names on it,
dating this sheet each time I send a card so that I can keep track of this particular interaction
with families (Davis & Yang, 2009). This act shows teacher appreciation of the child and their
accomplishments (Davis & Yang, 2005). My purpose in handwriting a card is to extend a
personal, positive piece of information about their child to the family that they can keep.

Examples of what I may write inside these cards are endless. I will focus on something
that I know is a point of parent interest based on a clue they have given me before. This clue
may have been a concern they mentioned during a conversation at a conference, a piece of
information they wrote on the survey about their child in the beginning of the year, or a focus of
their pre-conference hopes and dreams card. I will consider these clues before writing my card.
For example, if a parent mentioned they are nervous about a lack of focus in their child, I may
share with that family a moment during that day that their child did an exceptional job paying
attention and participating appropriately. If a parent is concerned about their student making
connections with others, I may write home when a child plays with a new friend at recess. By
choosing to write about something that I know is a point of parent interest or concern, I will let
my students family know that I care about what they want for their student and that I have been
carefully listening and paying attention to their wishes in this regard. This will strengthen their
trust in me and improve our relationship. In addition, this will let the parent know that their child
is making progress at school (even if it is just a small step), and it will give them a glimpse into
their daily life at school. By sharing this little anecdote with the family, I am sharing with them
something about their child as a learner (Allen, 2007).
If instructors contact families only when negative things are happening, this creates a
negative connotation in the teacher-parent relationship. By reaching out in this positive manner,
I am putting positive energy into each relationship with each family. By keeping in touch about
positive things we notice as educators, we benefit ourselves as well as the families of our
students. This particular communication provides snapshots for the family that shows what the
child is accomplishing in school (Davis & Yang, 2005). Parents have voiced that they want to
hear about positive examples of interactions at school and I believe this is a quick and personal
way to share these interactions with them (What parents want teachers to know, n.d.).
When it comes to families that are non-English speakers, I will first use Google translate
to attempt to write a draft of my message. At the school I am student teaching in, Google
translate has been a huge help for some of the teachers working with foreign families! After that,
I will have a native language speaker or a translator that I have used in the past with this family
review my comments for any mistakes. I will research what connotations handwritten letters
may have in other cultures before sending this note home to any families from another culture.
Family Literacy Night
To engage families in their students literacy education, I will lead my grade level team in
organizing a family literacy night. The purpose of this literacy night will be to enlighten and
inform parents about the ways their children are being taught literacy in school and how they
can work with their students to extend this practice at home (Davis & Yang, 2005). The choice to
have a family literacy night allows me to spend time with my students and their families and also
provides an opportunity for families to spend time at school and to see a little bit of what their
child experiences each day. This also gives me a chance to share some knowledge about
literacy education with the families of my students and gives them the power to apply that in
their homes. To spread news about this literacy night, we will promote it with flyers sent home to
families, it will be announced on the morning announcements in the week leading up to it, I will
put it in my newsletter, and also send out an email blast to parents in my classroom. I will have
this form translated into other languages for families that do not speak English at home. By

sending so many reminders in so many different forms, hopefully we will reach every student
and parent to let them know that that literacy night is happening and that they are welcome!
My hope is that this family literacy night strengthens the relationship between me, the
families of my students and my students. This is an opportunity for my students to show their
families what we do at school. Also, the families of my students will be coming to school and be
able to see the environment that their child is a part of every day. Teachers will benefit because
they will be able to pass on literacy strategies to parents, while parents will be able to gain
insight into how they can help their child at home with reading (McGahey, 2005). By holding this
literacy night, we are providing different information and creative ideas to families with how to
help students at home with an important aspect of their learning, literacy (Epstein, 2009).
Hopefully, this will result in benefit for parents, teachers and students alike. The student will
have help at home and may begin to see connections between teachers and parents that make
them feel like they have an academic support system both at school and at home. The parent
will feel like they have resources to help their child. The instructor will feel more trust that the
parent is equipped to help the student at home.
During this literacy night, my team members and I will open three of our classrooms and
use them as stations to showcase things that we do during our literacy block. The literacy night
will begin unofficially at 5:30 pm on a weekday night at school. We will have all families meet in
the activity room and provide pizza in the first half an hour before we get started with literacy
activities. I will attempt to have this pizza donated by a local shop that is connected with a family
at the school, and if this is not possible I will seek donations from the PTA or the school itself. I
believe that providing pizza will encourage families to come, eat and enjoy. This will also create
a relaxed environment and make the parents feel comfortable before we get started with our
literacy activities (Davis & Yang, 2005). At this time, I will be able to get some face-to-face
interaction with the families of my students and once again have a chance for those important
positive exchanges. If parents have concerns or issues that they attempt to voice at this time, I
can let them know that I would be glad to set up a separate meeting with them since our focus
at this time is literacy night. This way, I will be able to let parents know that I care enough to set
up a separate meeting with them and still be able to focus on literacy for the night.
Once the half an hour of eating is up, we will begin our stations. The goal is that each
station will run for a half an hour. The first classroom will be a writing station. In fifth grade,
writing is a large focus. We will have writing samples from each student out for parents to look
at and then we will do a writing activity altogether. Each family group will receive a picture and
will be asked to write a paragraph together about the picture, using descriptive language. The
last several minutes of this activity will be dedicated to students sharing what they wrote with
their families. In another classroom, we will have a reading station. Students will show parents
their reading logs as well as do a quick author share for their families about the book they have
been reading in school. Then, an instructor in this classroom will read a book aloud to all the
students and parents. Even in the upper elementary grades, read alouds are still important and
can be done together as a family or in the classroom with more advanced picture books. The
final classroom station will be situated for literacy games that we play in school. These games
include Bananagrams (similar to Scrabble, but more freeform and quick to play), teachercreated word sorts of our word study words, and vocabulary Bingo. These are just a few games
that families could play together at home to encourage literacy with their children. We will have

a list of resources to other games parents can print out from the Internet for free as well as
games they can purchase to play.
With this literacy night, I will take into consideration my families that have a hard time
getting to school. By this point in the year, I will have identified these families. I will take extra
time to reach out to them personally via phone and encourage them to come to the literacy
night. I will also consider the families that dont speak English, and will have translated forms
available at all stations for them and will also try to obtain a personal translator when I learn if
they are coming to the event. Although I know some families work at night and may not be able
to come to the event, I will let these families know that I would be happy to provide the literacy
resources to them at a separate time if they would like them.
Pizza Box Portfolios
On the very first day of school, I will have given my students a pizza box to decorate. I
will explain to them at this time that these pizza boxes will become portfolios that will showcase
the work that they are most proud of and that they feel tells about them as a student. This
portfolio will create a long-term big picture of student work and progress (Davis & Yang, 2005).
We will begin decorating the outside of these boxes on the first day and will also fill out a paper
to keep inside that will tell about who each student is at the beginning of the year, including what
they feel are their academic strengths and weaknesses and how they wish to grow. This paper
will stay in the box all year long so that the student can look at it at the end of the year and see
how far they have come. Throughout the year the students will be able to decide what work
goes in their pizza box and continue to decorate the box and add to it weekly. This work will
include but will not be limited to photographs, daily work, projects, writing, and tests. At the end
of each quarter, around the time of their report cards, students will have an opportunity to share
these pizza boxes both with their classmates and their families.
At the end of the first nine weeks, we will all sit down together as a class and discuss
what the portfolios mean. I will have the students choose the work that they wish to remain in
their portfolio, and fill out a form describing the work they have decided to include. The form will
ask them to describe the work, what it means to them, and what they think it says about them as
a student. Then, the students will have an opportunity to share the portfolio with both their
classmates and their families. This process will repeat, with changes made by me, each nine
weeks. I will inform parents of the purpose of our portfolios in a parent letter and will leave
reminders of the portfolio progress in my newsletter. The dates of when the students will be
sharing their portfolios with their peers and families in our newsletter and via email.
When the students share with their classmates, we will set the classroom up to be a type
of museum. Each pizza box portfolio will be set out, with their work surrounding it. The students
can choose to show the other students whatever pieces they want. I will provide the students
with post it notes and they will each start at a different pizza box. They will rotate around the
room, spending a few minutes at each box. They will be able to leave positive notes for each
other at their boxes with the post it notes, telling what they admire about each others portfolios.
This will create positive classroom interaction.
When the students take the boxes home to their families, I will give them a form for their
families to fill out. For those families that may not speak English at home, I will have the forms
translated so that the parents will still understand the purpose of the box and why the student

has it. These forms will be a discussion point for the student and their families. The main reason
I have chosen to have my students create portfolios is because they create a new line of
communication for students and their families (Allen, 2007). By having the student and their
family both fill out forms, I can monitor that it has been shared but I can also guarantee that
students are talking to their families about their schoolwork and how they feel about it. By letting
the student choose the work that goes inside of the portfolio, I can predict that they will be more
likely to be excited to share the box with their families. If I was to tell students what to put in the
box, it may not be work that they enjoyed doing or are proud of. The students will have a week
to keep their portfolios at home. This way, parents with busy work schedules should be able to
have the time on one of these days to sit down and really have time to discuss the portfolio with
their student. By sending these pizza boxes home on a regular basis, every nine weeks, this is
creating a regular but informal contact between the parent and I that includes the student. Lindle
suggests that parents prefer this sort of contact because it is less time-consuming than
meetings or conferences (1989).
Another key purpose of the pizza box portfolios will be to use them as a discussion point
during meetings with parents as well as conferences. I will be able to pull work students have
selected to give the families a glimpse of what the work they think is best looks like. Providing
this concrete evidence of student progress and how they work in school helps parents to have a
visual for what happens in the classroom. I believe that by sharing these pieces of work, I am
showing the families of my students work that tells about the type of learner they are (Allen,
2007). These pieces of work should be especially powerful discussion points with all families
because the work I am sharing is not selected by me, but by their student.
When considering the implications of this project, my biggest concern is students with
low self-esteem. I can easily see students saying that they are not proud of any of their work
and that they do not want to put anything in their portfolio. These students I will have to work
closely with, pointing out the work that I saw them work the hardest on, or the work that I saw
them make great progress in. These students often need a little extra attention and
encouragement when it comes to being proud of them.
Author Share Wednesdays
Every Wednesday that school is held in November, my class will invite parents to come
in for author shares. Parents want to come into classrooms and see their students working, and
this will be a great opportunity for that (Davis & Yang, 2005). Because of the Thanksgiving
holiday break, this will be limited to only three Wednesdays. Assuming that I will most likely
have almost thirty students, these author shares will need to accommodate six to ten students
each day that they are held. I will reserve an hour and a half for each author share Wednesday.
I have considered that many parents may not be able to come in for author shares since
they work during the day. In order to get as many parents into the classroom as we can, I will
inform parents of author shares a month before they begin. I will send a letter home informing
parents about author shares, put the dates in my newsletter, and send an email with a link to a
Google document where parents can sign up for the Wednesday in November that best fits their
busy schedule. I will provide these documents translated for families that do not speak English
at home if necessary. In these documents, I will make sure that I will be clear about the parents
role while they are in the classroom (Davis & Yang, 2005). In this case, their role is to be an

observer. For those parents that cannot make it to any author share Wednesdays, I will record
their students author share on a video camera and find the best way to share it with them (Davis
& Yang, 2005). I will call this parent with a report on how their students author share went, and
then I will ask the best way for me to share this video with them. By following up with this
personal communication after sending letters and emails, I am making sure to communicate
about this event clearly and effectively (Virginia Department of Education, n.d.)
By November, my students will have several pieces of writing to share. I will ask
students to choose the writing that they are most proud of. They will fill out a short form that
says what they wrote about, why they chose that specific topic, and why they are most proud of
this piece of writing. This will be their introduction to their writing, and then they will read an
excerpt. I will provide time in class for students to practice before performing in front of parents.
The author share will occur in the morning, around snack time. I will provide the snack
for that day, most likely some juice, cheese and crackers, and grapes. The adults will come into
the classroom and I will greet them at the door with a smile and thank them for coming to the
classroom. We will gather with the students in my reading corner. The student who is sharing
will sit in the reading chair and share. We will rotate through each student in a timely manner, as
we wont have much time to waste. The parent role will be that of an observer, which they enjoy
because they get to see what our classroom dynamic is like and they get to hear what about
their work their student is proud of (Davis & Yang, 2005). After all the author shares are over, I
will make sure my students and I thank parents for coming and applaud them as well.
Choosing to do author shares allows me to do many things. I like that it invites parents to
come into the school during the regular scheduled school day to see an active learning
environment. I also enjoy that the students will get to share their work with each other and their
families. Students will be excited to share their work with parents, and this will bring energy to
the classroom (Davis & Yang, 2005). This serves the purpose of allowing the parent to feel
welcome in our room and allowing them to see how their student works in school. By inviting the
families of my students into our regularly scheduled day for author shares, I am creating an
activity at school that they can be involved in and promoting partnership (Lindle, 1989).
Students need for their work to be seen and appreciated by not just their primary instructor, but
also other adults that can validate their hard work. Also, this gives parents a chance to see the
day-to-day interactions that I have with their students. They will be able to see the connections
that I am building with each of their children first hand. This is important across the spectrum.
In-School Conferences
This conference will be my second conference with the families of my students. The
purpose of this conference is to meet and discuss the childs progress as we approach the
midpoint of the year. The family of the student and I will also decide together if we would like to
set new goals for the student or continue with the previous goals. I will pull concrete evidence
for these conferences that show the difference in the childs work from the beginning of the year
to now. In order to reference the specific elements of progress we are looking for, I will have the
file that I have been keeping holding the hopes and dreams pre-conference sheet that the family
filled out and the documents I have been collecting that suggests progress towards these goals.
I will also have the childs pizza box portfolio readily available. I will have the childs test scores
that indicate reading level and also examples of books the child has been reading so that we

may discuss it. Although all of this is a lot to cover, I believe it is all important information in
painting a picture of what the child has been accomplishing academically so far this year.
This conference will be held in December in school. I will make myself available from
seven in the morning until eight oclock at night on the day of conferences in hopes that I can
reach all parents. I will send out information about conferences a month beforehand and provide
a Google document for parents to sign up for. If in the first week I do not hear from the parent
about conferences, I will reach out via phone call to check in with them and encourage them to
schedule a meeting with me. If a parent has a particular issue with the day of conferences, I will
offer those parents times before and after school during the same week. If all of those times do
not work for that family, I will offer to meet on the weekends. By having all of these options,
hopefully I can reach every parent. The conferences will be twenty minutes long, but I will allow
a ten minute bumper time in between each conference to allow for someone who may be late, a
conference that may run long, or other unexpected inconveniences (Seplocha, 2004).
When it comes time for conferences, I will make sure that my classroom is looking its
best. I will make sure to have student work hung in the classroom that the students have chosen
and I will also make sure the room is neat. The conference area will be in our reading corner, a
comfortable, open space where we can all sit and there will be no physical barriers (Seplocha,
2004). I will have my materials ready for discussion points. I will have some notes prepared for
each conference so that I am sure I will not forget what I would like to discuss with each family. I
will begin by letting parents know that their child is an asset to my classroom and that I care
greatly about their child (Davis & Yang, 2005). By having a short something to say about the
childs positive traits, I start the conference off on a positive note. I will then access our preconference form from the hopes and dreams conference and discussing the goals we had set
for the child before. I will pull examples that show growth and provide anecdotes about the child
that support that the child is growing. These anecdotes will especially come in handy when
addressing the social goal that we had set for the child, since there may not be as much
concrete evidence to support that. I will also ask the parents questions about what they are
seeing in their student (Davis & Yang, 2005). By asking questions, I am building our relationship
by showing them that I value their opinion about their child. After discussing the goals, I will
provide information as to how the child is doing in each subject. Towards the end of the
conference, I will wrap up the conversation by discussing if the parent would like us to progress
with these goals or if there are any new goals we would like to set. When the conference is over,
I will walk the parents to the door and thank them for coming. I will take any extra time before
the next conference to take some notes about how this conference went.
For this conference, I need to consider what I already know about each family. I must
carefully think about the interactions I have previously had with the family and how I can
improve or continue the relationship that we have. I must consider the preconceived notions that
parents may come in with without even realizing they are feeling a certain way (Allen, 2007).
Parents may feel nervous because of negative interactions with other teachers, whether it be
their own teachers or the teachers of their children. They may feel uncomfortable talking to
someone of a different race. There is no way to know for sure what parents bring with them to
conferences in terms of thoughts and feelings. In order to do my best to make parents feel
comfortable, I must communicate that I have things to learn from them about their student and
that we are a team that can work together to do what is best for the student (Allen, 2007). I can

do this by asking them questions about their child rather than only communicating what I notice,
and by using the word we instead of I. It is also important for me to show empathy for parents
during conferences. To accomplish this, I can use language like I understand and restating
what they say and reassuring them of their techniques (Davis & Yang, 2005).
In order to accommodate all the different types of families in my classroom and engage
them all in productive discussion about their student, there are several things that I must do. I
must consider those families that are divorced and do not get along enough to come to the
same conference. In this case, I may have to schedule two conferences in order to
communicate the childs academic progress to both parents. For those families that may not be
proficient in English, I will search for a translator. When a translator is obtained and the familys
conference is scheduled, I will reach out to other staff members, asking if they may need a
translator for the same language in order to make the best use of this resource. I will keep an
open mind to all different types of families during this conference, keeping an open mind and
remaining neutral and non-judgmental towards those that may have different ideals than mine
(Seplocha, 2004).
Monday Career Cafe Lunches
Every Monday in the month of December, I will be organizing a career cafe lunch for
my students. I chose to include a career cafe lunch because this invites the parent to come into
the classroom and be the speaker about their career while the students listen. This benefits the
student because it connects them to the outside world and will make them think about careers
they may want to consider as they get older. This benefits the parent because it allows them to
come into the classroom and be the main speaker, making them feel wanted in the school and
important. This career cafe will encourage parents to become a part of the school community by
asking them to be speakers (Virginia Department of Education, n.d.).
The purpose of career cafe is primarily to extend an invitation for the parent to come into
the school and to teach the children something. By talking about their career, the parent is
sharing something they are an expert on. This will make the parent feel important, and the
children will certainly gain something from listening to them (Davis & Yang, 2005). This may
make the parent feel more comfortable in the school as well. Even though not every parent may
come in for career cafe, it is my hope that the parents will feel comfort in knowing that they have
been invited to the classroom and are welcome to come to school. This also gives me an
opportunity to better get to know the parents that come in and build a positive relationship with
them.
These career cafe lunches will be held every Monday in the month of December. If I
have more parents that want to sign up, I can carry on career cafe lunches after the holiday
break in the New Year. These lunches could carry on once a week or every other week until we
have no parents that would like to participate. I will send out the information about the career
cafe lunches in the end of October, giving parents plenty of time to respond. I will also send an
email and put reminders in my newsletter about these events. The career cafe lunches will be
first come, first serve. Once all of the Mondays in December fill up, I will discuss with any other
parents who wish to do career cafe lunches when would be best for them. Once the parents
sign up, we will have a phone conversation or a meeting to outline what they would like to talk
about and if there is anything they will need to bring. I will provide helpful tips to the parent

about talking to children, such as providing things they could say to reinforce positive behavior
during their talk (Davis & Yang, 2005). The career cafe lunch will be organized with five minutes
allowed for the students to go get their lunch from the cafeteria and get back to the classroom.
The speaker will have fifteen minutes to talk about their career. There will be five minutes
allowed for questions, and then five minutes allowed for clean up and returning trays to the
cafeteria. After each career cafe, I will ask the participating parent to write an email to the
parents telling about what he or she talked about in class. This way, all parents will be informed
on what happened at the career cafe that day, and it will promote classroom connectedness
among the parents.
Participation in these events will be parent choice. Parents appreciate the activities that
schools provide for them to participate in, and this information leads me to believe that many
parents will want to participate (Lindle, 1989). It is important to extend the invitation to all
families no matter what they do for a living. By extending the invitation to all families, I am
creating a community of inclusion in my classroom. I will make sure to communicate in the initial
letter about career cafe that if more parents sign up than dates available that more dates will be
added. Any parent that wants to participate in career cafe will have a chance to do so and this
will be made clear in the materials that go out to parents. By inviting all parents into the
classroom, I communicate that all parents have something to share with the class (Davis &
Yang, 2005). There are several benefits for parents to volunteering. By experiencing this
volunteer opportunity, the parent may experience increased self-confidence when it comes to
working with children or just being in the school and will feel welcome in the school (Epstein,
2009). These feelings will create positive feelings toward the instructor who organized them,
building a positive relationship.

References

Allen, J. (2007). Inviting dialogue at the conference table In Creating welcoming schools: A
practical guide to home-school partnerships with diverse families (pp. 82-92).
International Reading Association.
Davis, C., & Yang, A. (2005). Parents & teachers working together. Turners Falls, MA:
Northeast Foundation for Children.
Epstein, J. (2009). Epsteins framework of six types of involvement (Including: Sample
practices,
challenges, redefinitions, and expected results). Baltimore, MD: Center for the
Social
Organization of Schools.
Lindle, J. C. (1989). What do parents want from principals and teachers. Educational
Leadership, 47(2), 12-14.
McGahey, M. (2005). Hosting a family literacy night at your school. Teacher Librarian, 32(5), 28.

Robertson, K. (n.d.). Tips for successful parent-teacher conferences with bilingual families.
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Seplocha, H. (2004). Partnerships for learning: Conferencing with families. YC Young Children,
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/10/03/gIQAzwVKYL_story.html
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