As with any job interview or introduction, making a good first impression is critical, and that is exactly what the communication at the beginning of the school year should create!
So, how can you as a teacher put your best foot forward? Here is a sample checklist of what to include in your students’ folders. Also included are some ideas for behavior management and a first week’s homework assignment to ease your students into the best school year ever.
Select sturdy plastic folders for primary grades. I love using printed labels (hand labeling takes a lot of time and effort). Indicate that one pocket is for papers to be returned and the other is for papers to be left at home: “Bring Back” and “Keep at Home.”
On the “Keep at Home” side, you could include (with a large headline at the top of each page to make things very clear):
- Letter to Parents: Make it warm and positive! It doesn’t have to be long—the more concise the better. Briefly introduce yourself, your background, your philosophy of creating a family atmosphere in your classroom, best ways to communicate with you (with a vow to return all calls and emails within 24 hours), date and time of upcoming Back to School Night…and that is it!
- Homework Instructions and Expectations
- Classroom Daily Schedule
- Wish List: Gift cards to Target, Walmart, Lakeshore, grocery stores, etc.
- Discipline Plan: See this sample “Behavior Calendar” that the students complete. See the corresponding “Card System”/note to parents that worked amazingly well in my second-grade classroom but could be adapted for higher or lower grades.
- Parent of the Year Qualifiers: Create a bulleted list of the most vital things parents can do to help their child succeed. For example:
- Overseeing homework completion and on-time return
- Packing healthy snacks
- Calling the school if child is going to be absent
- Getting child to school on time every day (explain why this is critical)
- Checking backpacks/folders daily for flyers, behavior calendars, and making sure that no trinkets/toys/ “distractors” have been slipped into the bags
- Also include items such as: reading with your child every day; sharing concerns with the teacher immediately, as you are a team and you want to make things better for the child to optimize learning; joining the PTO or PTA; being on time to pick child up after school, making their child’s safety a top priority; etc.
- Field Trip Schedule
- Common Core Standards Information: This could be a simple announcement that it will be discussed at Back to School Night.
- Recommended Websites and Book List
- Book Order Instructions
On the “Bring Back” side, you could include:
- School Office Forms That Need to be Returned
- Parent Information Sheet: You could also include your own parent permission photo/video form. The school office will no doubt provide a form, too, but having your own will provide added security and enable you to get some fun photos up and running on your classroom website or in your classroom.
- Parent Volunteer Checklist: Don’t forget to have lines for child’s name and parent’s name. Last names can be different.
- First Week’s Homework Assignment: To ease students back to school, I provided a fun project. See the “Ancestor Child” assignment and sample pattern. (My first homework packet was usually sent home on the first Friday of school.)
- Behavior Calendar: It is taken home each day in the folder and returned the next day in the same folder.
There is no better time than now to get going on this checklist of items. You may want to have someone proofread your items. Making an outstanding first impression is every teacher’s goal!
Alice Evans is a forty-year veteran National Board Certified elementary classroom teacher and is a published author. She recently retired from the San Diego Unified School District.