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Nuts & Bolts: Beginning of Year Letter to Parents

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Beginning of Year Letter to Parents

Russell Yates and Heidi Mattern

2nd/3rd Multiage Classroom

As with most teachers, my teaching partner and I sent out an informational letter to all of our students' parents at the beginning of the school year. Below is a copy of our first letter.


September 18, 1995

Dear Parents/Guardians,

This letter contains information regarding important aspects of our classroom and program. Please read this letter carefully, keep the information you need, and sign and return the slip at the end of the letter.

The First Two Weeks of School

We have been spending the first few days of school helping students get to know one another and become comfortable with various classroom routines. One of our goals is to help students become independent workers, so students are currently learning how to organize work in their 3-ring binders, file papers, and organize their cubbies. These next few weeks students will spend some time each day at various learning stations, working in small groups. During this time we will emphasize the skills of completing work independently, and putting materials away. As students learn to work on their own, this will increase our ability to meet with small groups of students, and to help students progress at their own pace.

Here are some of the other things we've done during the first few weeks: students made a time capsule filled with September work. We placed the time capsule papers in a bucket, and buried the bucket on the edge of the school property. We will unearth our time capsule in June. Mr. Yates has been reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School aloud each afternoon. It's been a popular book. Students have been reading a short chapter book called Catwings, and have been working in a reading packet connected with this book. We've also begun doing some assessments in math and reading, in order to find out where to begin with each student.

Birthdays

It costs money and takes effort to make birthday treats for almost fifty students. If you and your child choose to celebrate their birthday at school, we invite you instead to donate a book to the class on your child's birthday. Please help your child wrap it, and he or she will be able to choose a friend to help open it and present it to the class. Birthday books will be kept together on a special bookshelf. They are a gift that every child in our class can enjoy again and again. You may still choose to send treats for 50 students. We will pass these treats out during lunchtime.

Person of the Week

This year we will celebrate individual students by inviting them to be our special "Person of the Week". We will draw two names randomly each Monday. When your child's name is drawn, we'll send home a notice, and you will have a week to gather photos of family and pets, and other items your child would like to put onto a bulletin board about themselves. They will have time on Monday of that week to share their information with the class.

Absences and Tardies

The state legislature has recently passed tough laws regarding student absences. You will receive more information about this soon, but in the meantime we need to ask you to be SURE to send us a note explaining why your child has been absent. We cannot ignore unexcused absences.

P.E. and Library Days

Your child will be in a permanent group of mixed second and third graders when they attend music, P.E. and library. Please ask your child which group he or she is in. Some children like to wear more comfortable clothes and shoes on P.E. days.
Blue group: P.E. days are Tuesday and Friday. Library day is Thursday.
Green group: P.E.days are Monday and Wednesday. Library day is Friday. If your child needs a new library card, please send 50 cents. Students may keep their cards at school or take them back and forth from school to home. Students need their cards in order to be able to check out books on their library days.

Expectations for Behavior in the Classroom

We will constantly emphasize three expectations in our classroom: be responsible, be respectful, and be curious. In addition to these expectations, we will help students learn to become increasingly independent as the year progresses. Students who show independent work habits will be able to be "teaching assistants" for students in our room and in other classrooms. They will also have opportunities to use special materials, have the privilege of being line leaders, delivering messages to the office, and so on. Our goal is for ALL students to become independent learners. If a student has difficulty with behavior, we will ask them to fill out a problem-solving form to come up with a solution to the problem. Chronic problems, or severe misbehavior will need to be handled with more specific consequences. We will let parents know immediately if a student is having severe problems with behavior at school.

Homework

Beginning today, all students will bring home a yellow home and school (homework) folder. Please check it daily. We will ask students to put parent notices from school into this folder for you to read. Also students will have homework placed in this folder. Please help your child complete the homework, and please also put your initials on the homework so we know you have checked it. Parent involvement is crucial. The more involved you are in your child's learning, the greater success he or she will have in school. We ask that you help your child with two kinds of homework this year. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday they will bring home a short assignment that might be math, reading, writing, art...the emphasis is on learning organizational skills by completing and turning in homework. It is our hope that the variety and brevity of the assignments will help students get into the "homework habit." The other homework will be a daily activity using students' spelling lists. After the first few weeks of spelling, it is our intention to allow students to progress at their own pace in spelling. We'll have different students on different lists of words, so we really need your help with spelling. We won't be doing as many whole-class spelling lessons this year. It will be up to you to help your child learn his or her list of words for the week. Watch for these spelling lists to come home each Monday. Within the next few weeks we will send home a detailed explanation of our spelling program, including a description of our nightly spelling assignments.

We want to be sure there is clear and frequent communication between home and school. To that end we will send home a packet of student work each Monday in your child's home-school folder. At the front of the packet there will be a teacher-parent form, with room for comments, and also a tally of how many homework assignments your child completed the week before. Please sign this form and return it the next day. This form will help us keep track of whether or not you are receiving information about how well your child is doing with homework. The form also allows you to communicate with us without having to call us on the phone. In about a month we will ask you to give us feedback on how homework is going, whether there is too much or two little of it, and so on.

Book Clubs

Please read the attached directions on book clubs, which is stapled to our first book club forms.

Classroom Volunteers

If you are interested in helping out in our classroom, please read and return the attached Parent Volunteer Questionnaire.

Please feel free to call either of us after school hours at home whenever you have questions or concerns. Our home phone numbers are: Heidi - XXX-YYYY, and Russ - XXX-YYYY. Thanks!

Sincerely,

Russ Yates Heidi Mattern

Please sign and return the segment below, indicating you have read this information.
______________________________________________________________________________


Parent confirmation Slip September 18, 1995


I have read the parent information sent home by Russ Yates and Heidi Mattern.


_________________________________
Parent signature and date

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