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Making Parent Teacher Conferences Worthwhile


Are You….....
  • Tired of always talking about grades at parent/teacher conferences? 
  • Tired of feeling like nothing is ever accomplished during the allotted time? 
  • Are you having problems with a student, but don’t know how to tell the parents? 
  • Do you want to be specific and to-the-point? 
When I taught middle school and/or high school, these were the items that really discouraged me. I knew I had to come up with a better plan if I wanted parent/teacher conferences to be worthwhile and effective for both the student and the parents. I created a a checklist that I could follow, use during conferences, and then give a copy to the parents at the end of the conference.  It contained nine, brief, succinct checklists which were written as a guide so that during conferences I could have specific items to talk about besides grades. I found it easy to complete and straight forward plus it provided me with a simple outline to use as I talked and shared with parents.

Since other teachers were able to use it successfully, I took that checklist and turned it into a resource called Parent/Teacher Conference Checklist, Based on Student Characteristics and Not Grades. Nine different categories are listed for discussion.  They include:
  1. Study Skills and Organization 
  2. Response to Assignments 
  3. In Class Discussion 
  4. Class Attitude 
  5. Reaction to Setbacks 
  6. Accountability 
  7. Written Work 
  8. Inquiry Skills 
  9. Evidence of Intellectual Ability 
To get ready for conferences, all you have to do is place a check mark by each item within the category that applies to the student. Then circle the word that best describes the student in that category such as "always, usually, seldom". (See example above.)


Finally, make a copy of the checklist so that the parent(s) or the guardian(s) will have something to review with their student when they return home.

Now you are ready for a meaningful and significant conference.




Spiders Are Your Friends - Learning about Spiders

Spiders! We see pretend ones in the store as Halloween decorations (some are pretty terrifying) or real ones outside in a web they have created.  For some reason, these creatures are always something that students want to learn about. How are spiders different than insects? What is an orb web? Are all spiders poisonous? How does the spider not get stuck in her own web? These are questions that students will ask because they are curious and inquisitive.

Did you know spiders are really useful animals and serve mankind well? They eat mosquitoes, grasshoppers, locusts and other insects that are harmful to man. A single spider may kill about two thousand insects in its lifetime. Even though you may be afraid of spiders, very few are dangerous. The black widow and the brown house (recluse) spider do have poisonous bites, but there are no other common house spiders known to be dangerous.

Only $5.25
Spiders are not insects, and insects are not spiders. Spiders are arthropods because they have spinning glands used to create silken threads. Sometimes spiders are called arachnids because of their eight legs. Spiders and insects have different attributes. All insects have six legs, but all spiders have eight legs. An insect has a three-part body, but a spider has only two parts to its body. Insects have antennae or feelers, and spiders do not. Spiders can usually be found in basements, barns, garages, or attics. In warm weather, you can find them under rocks or logs, sitting on fences, or in the grass and flowers. There are about forty thousand different species of spiders.

Interested in learning more?  Check out a ten page short mini reading/science unit  about spiders. First, the students read a short passage about spiders. Then they answer several questions about the reading based on Bloom's Taxonomy, or they do an activity related to the reading passage. Activities include dictionary work, spider math problems, labeling the parts of a spider, and completing a spider web. This mini unit is appropriate for grades 3-5 and will take about five days to complete. An answer key is included.

Want more spider activities? Check out the two word search puzzles and the two crossword puzzles available in time for Halloween! 

A Go Figure Debut for a Board Certified Teacher Who Is New!

Our newest Go Figure Debut teacher is from Arizona. Elizabeth has been in the teaching profession for 12 years, with the last seven being a Master Teacher (teacher coach). In her position, she gets to work with hundreds of different kids and dozens of teachers, and she absolutely LOVES it!

Elizabeth is also a National Board Certified Teacher who loves working with children. Every time she leaves a class, she leaves with a cute or funny story to tell! Building relationships with her students is a vital belief system of hers.

Her personal teaching style might be described as goofy, fun, and entertaining but structured. She loves to joke and have fun with her students, as long as they are behaved and getting their work done. She loves creating resources that bring that love of teaching out in all teachers and students. In addition, she tries to make resources that are colorful, cute and purposeful without being overwhelming.

When Elizabeth is not teaching, she enjoys making all sorts of crafts, spending time with her family and pets, going on camping trips and catching up on movies and TV.

Elizabeth’s TPT store is called “Balke’s Resources”. Currently, her store contains 121 products, 18 of which are free. They vary from back to school activities, positive praise, songs, and get to know you activities. One of her freebies is a Grammar Center Game to practice verb tenses. Included in this printable file are:
  1. The verb cards which are balls of yarn
    Free Resource
  2. A verb sort page
  3.  An instruction sheet with directions written in sequence, using sequencing words 
  4. A special tent CCSS sheet that includes: objective, Common Core Standards and directions to set up at the center
  5.  Two independent student worksheets with the answer sheet 
This free resource is appropriate for students up through the fourth grade.

One of her paid resources is a Hygiene Sequencing Activity Bundle for $4.00. It centers around hygiene, tying reading and science together. This unit is appropriate for Kindergarten through 6th Grade. Included are:
$4.00
  • Objectives for all the activities 
  • Healthy hygiene and poor hygiene cards. 
  • Color coded hygiene cards for easier sorting. 
  • A sorting activity to distinguish healthy hygiene from poor hygiene with directions.
  • An activity to order a morning routine to get ready, with directions on how to sequence. 
  • A transition word poster. 
  • A comic strip for students to draw their morning routine based on their sequenced cards. 
I believe your students will enjoy Elizabeth's fun filled activities because she takes the time to make them simple for you to use. Take a few moments to check out her store. You won't be disappointed!

Using the Periodic Table to Create Bulletin Boards

As many of you know, my husband teachers middle school science.  Together, this is our 86th year of teaching; so, you can tell that we both still love what we do. In fact, we can't imagine doing anything else.

Only $4.00
My husband isn't one to do bulletin boards, never has been and never will be. My daughter (also a teacher) and I usually construct them for him. For many months now, I have been looking for individual tiles of the periodic table.  I saw a bulletin board on Pinterest (one of my favorite places to gather ideas) that I wanted to recreate for my husband's science lab.  I finally turned to Teachers Pay Teachers (where I should have gone in the first place) and asked in the Forum if anyone had such an item. I found that The Triple Point had just what I was looking for. It was a set containing 118 images (png) of Periodic Table tiles, one for each of the 118 elements. Since the resource was only $4.00, I purchased and downloaded it immediately.

After copy the individual tiles onto card stock and laminating them for durability, I laid out the bulletin board (see below). To be honest, my husband did staple everything onto the board as well as arrange the other items. Didn't he do a great job?


In case you can't read the meme in the middle, it says, "That will be $5.00 for the Electrons; the Neutrons are Free of Charge." After all, every classroom needs a bit of humor!

Be-Leaf Me! Fall is Great! Using Leaves in Science Investigations


When Aunt Sue moved to Florida, she would send home some strange requests.  One year, she wanted us to send her a box of fall leaves.  Since Florida lacks deciduous trees, her students were unaware of the gorgeous colors produced by the trees up north.  The only problem with her request was that the leaves we sent would be dry and crumbling by the time she received them. What to do?

I solved the problem by ironing the leaves between two sheets of wax paper.  It was something I had learned in elementary school many, many years ago (back when the earth was cooling).  My granddaughters still collect leaves so we can do the activity together.  Here is how you do it.
  1. Find different sizes and colors of leaves.
  2. Tear off two sheets of waxed paper - about the same size.
  3. Set the iron on "dry".  No water or steam here!
  4. The heat level of the iron should be medium.
  5. Place leaves on one piece of the waxed paper.
  6. Lay the other piece on top.
  7. Iron away!
Up above, on the right, you will see what ours looked like when we were finished.

Only $5.25
You can also use this activity to identify leaves.  According to my husband who knows trees, leaves and birds from his college studies, we "waxed" a maple leaf, sweet gum leaf, elm leaf, cottonwood leaf (the state tree of Kansas - they are everywhere), and two he doesn't recognize because they are some kind of ornamentals. So my suggestion is to get out there and start gathering leaves because your students, children and grandchildren will love it....be-leaf me!

Do you want your students to have fun with leaves? Check out  a six lesson science performance demonstration for the primary grades which utilizes leaves. This inquiry guides the primary student through the scientific method – 1) exploration time, 2) writing a good investigative question, 3) making a prediction, 4) designing a plan, 5) gathering the data, and 6) writing a conclusion based on the data. A preview of the investigation is available. Just click on the title. After all you might have an unbe-leaf-able time!