Conversation Starter

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  1. Let’s get right down to business! For my first idea to share, I’m going to start out with something super simple. I’ve found that my favorite teaching ideas are often the least complicated.

This one’s called “Ask Me About Stickers.” After school, it’s not uncommon for kid/parent interaction to play out something like this:

Parent: “How was school today?”
Kid: “Good.”
Parent: “What did you learn about?”
Kid: “Nothing.”

Nothing, kid?? Did you not SEE the overflowing rigor and engagement in my Irregular Plurals lesson? So to help kids elaborate about their incredibly awesome, life-changing day at school…Voilà! Ask Me About Stickers.

I first got the idea for these when choosing to adopt a no homework policy. I didn’t want parents to feel like they were being left in the dark about what their child was learning just because they weren’t helping with homework every night.

Now I know we teachers find all sorts of amazing ways to communicate to parents what’s happening in the classroom. Class websites, newsletters, communication folders, the list goes on. But I thought, wouldn’t it be even more amazing if I put more of that responsibility on the kids themselves? Yes. Yes it would.

Here’s how they work. Every student has a sheet of these mailing labels in one of their desk folders (I call the labels “stickers.” Why? Because I work with seven-year-olds). No frills, just the words “Ask Me About” and a fill-in-the-blank line.

At the end of the day, they take out their sticker sheet and I have them write something important we learned about in the blank on one of the labels. Here was one we did for math:

The kids peel the sticker off the sheet and put it on their shirt. Then I send them on their way and when their parents see it after school, they do what the sticker says and ask their child about even and odd numbers. The kids get to practice their academic conversation skills (hashtag commoncore, hashtag speakingandlisteningstandards) AND review what we learned at school. It’s a win-win.

At conferences, an overwhelming number of parents told me how much they love these little stickers. A dad said that his daughter makes sure to keep it on until dinnertime when he gets home from work and is excited to show it to him. After an “Ask Me About: Growth Mindset” sticker, a mom told me that now their whole family practices having a Growth Mindset at home. This is the stuff teacher dreams are made of, folks.

Now I know you might be thinking, but what about those certain kids? The ones who will probably say “I don’t know…” or despite our magnificent teaching, show that they didn’t quite get it (“1 and 3 are even numbers”). At Back to School Night and through a parent letter, I let parents know that this is a clue that their child probably needs more support in that area. It’s a direct way of informing parents that they could help their child with understanding even and odd numbers at home. Here’s the parent letter:

If you didn’t happen to read through the whole letter above just now (you’re a teacher, you’re busy!) I’ll go ahead and mention that my parents know not to expect the stickers on a daily basis. For me, it’s not meant to be a chore that I feel pressured to always remember to do. When time permits, I probably have the kids do it about once or twice a week.

Now for you over-achievers, here are a couple of extra ways to use the stickers:

1. Sometimes we will do a little role-playing in class before they go home. I have a couple different kids come up in front of the class and I pretend to be Mom (which they get a kick out of). I’ll ask them about the sticker and they’ll share their responses. I find this worthwhile because not only does it help model for the kids what the conversation could look like with their parents, but it’s also a quick and effective whole group review of what we learned earlier that day.

2. Occasionally I’ll take a picture of something we did in class that can help give parents a reference. Then I post the picture with a short explanation on ClassDojo (if you don’t use ClassDojo, email or a class website would also work). Giving parents a visual can help them be better equipped to have a good discussion with their child (especially if it’s something they might be unfamiliar with, like “Open Number Line” or “Break Apart to Add”). Math just ain’t what it used to be when they were kids!

If you’d like to try these stickers out in your class, you can easily make your own or just click here to get the free template and parent letter.

I bought a huge box of labels here on Amazon (sorry, this part’s not free, but it’s much cheaper in the long run to purchase them in bulk). To me, Amazon Prime is one of those simple little pleasures in life- right up there with ice cream and golden retriever puppies. Anyway, it’s a box of 7500 sheets so you could split them with co-workers or just stock up for your own class.

For more teaching ideas and freebies, join my newsletter to subscribe to my blog! I’ll be back next week to share another idea- you know where to find me 🙂

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