Improving Parent-Teacher Communication

Every teacher knows that strong parent-teacher communication is a vital part of a properly managed classroom. It is so important that many schools are placing a higher emphasis on “family engagement.” To help you start the year off on the right foot, we’ve compiled the 4 best ways to improve parent-teacher communication.

Make the effort

While this may seem obvious, learning your parent’s names and a piece of information that is unique to them will make a world of difference. When you remember a parent’s name and how to pronounce it correctly it makes them feel valued. Parents are more likely to be engaged in the conversation when you are using their name and pronouncing it correctly. As Dale Carnegie says in How to Win Friends and Influence People, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

How do you gain respect from parents? You give it. Respect is fundamental in all relationships and is especially important when communicating with parents. How do you show parents you respect them? Treat them as if they are an expert on their child. That is not to say parents are always going to be right, but keep in mind parents have watched their child grow up for several years and may be able to provide you with insight you may not otherwise know.

Frequency Counts

Most parents want to know what their child is doing in your classroom and will appreciate any information you share with them. Don’t assume parents will always reach out to you to initiate a conversation. Many parents are busy, but just because they are busy doesn’t mean they don’t care about what is happening inside the classroom. Frequent communication helps build a strong relationship and ultimately makes it easier to bring up difficult topics when they arise later in the year.

Choose Your Tools

These days there are so many different methods of communication out there, it is nearly impossible not to communicate with parents. You can use traditional methods including phone calls and in person meetings. Or you can opt for more modern methods of communication: text, email, a classroom blog. Know that there isn’t one right way to communicate with parents. Ask parents what method they prefer and utilize it.

Looking for more tools to communicate? Check out this list of free apps for keeping parents and teachers connected.

A Teacher’s Perspective: Implementing Sokikom

By: Rebecca Bautista

My name is Rebecca Bautista and I am a second grade teacher at Rio Del Mar Elementary in Oxnard, California. This is my eighth year in education. I was an intervention teacher for two years and I’ve been in my own classroom for 6 years. This is my third year as a second grade teacher. Our district adopted Sokikom this year. Our district’s  goal is to create 21st Century Learners and I think Sokikom helps the students attain this goal. My favorite aspects of Sokikom were: being able to reassign assignments, multiplayer games and the videos incorporated in the lessons. The incorporated videos have boosted many of the student’s confidence in being able to problem solve on their own throughout the lessons.

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My implementation of the program changed throughout the year.  At first, I used the program as an activity for students to do when they completed their work. I also put together a few lessons using Sokikom as a supplement to our current program. I made use of the addition and subtraction videos and lessons to reinforce the skill. Towards the middle of the year I received further training that taught me many more uses for the program. Such as, how to reassign assignments. This was of great use because many students would rush through their lessons, therefore, causing unsatisfactory work. I would then make use of the reassignment program to ensure students completed the level with their best effort. Towards the end of the year I used Sokikom for individualized learning. I would tell students which area I would want them to go into and they would practice that skill at their own level and pace. When students were working at their own pace it allowed some students to exceed our second grade standards. It was very exciting to watch students grow during this time.

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The students loved the program so much, that most would go home and play with their families. They would constantly ask if they could go on Sokikom after their assignments in other subject areas. Their favorite aspect was the multiplayer games. The experienced a lot of friendly competition during these games. It also motivated some students to work harder on their independent practice to improve their skills for the multiplayer games. They liked the gamification of the program. To many of them it was like they were playing a video game.

Recently, I received my Accelerated Reading Star Math scores and the students did very well. The students average growth was one grade level and one month. I had a lot of students who were having a hard time in math this year. I believe that Sokikom reinforced skills that we had learned and practice during class. I had one student who was scoring low at the beginning of the year on her math tests. She got very involved with Sokikom and raised her scores. She went from being considered below to proficient on her math tests. I had another student who came in my class already scoring very high. Sokikom was a tool to use to challenge her and teach her new concepts as she came across them in Sokikom. Both girls built confidence, were excited about learning and had developed some intrinsic motivation.

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This upcoming school year I plan on using a variety of implementation strategies. To start the school year, I will do lessons with the students on our interactive t.v. to ensure all students know some of the basics. For the most part, students will be using it individually to grow at their own pace. I will assign them lessons of the current standard we are working on to complete individually. The program will be utilized more  for small groups. During this time, I will go through the teaching video, pull up a lesson to do with them and then assign them their own lesson to complete for independent practice. Fridays will become multiplayer game day. This will be very exciting for them. Sokikom is a well rounded program that can be used to advance the student’s academic growth in the classroom.

In all, Sokikom is a great program. A lot of the game usage was taught to me by students and by exploring the program on my own.The program is put together so well that the students are learning every time they are logged on. My advice for getting started is to take your time and focus on the parts you feel most comfortable with. It will all come with time and practice!

4 Ways to Ensure a Successful Start with Sokikom

Happy Back-to-School Season! The start of the school year can be both exciting and overwhelming. We want to make sure you have an easy transition back to the classroom so we’ve come up with the 4 best practices to ensure a successful start with Sokikom.

Computer Check – Test Your Computers

The first step to ensuring a successful year with Sokikom is to test your devices. Over the summer, a lot of devices are reset and updated so it is important to test them and make sure they are Sokikom ready. To test your device, go to the Sokikom homepage. Once there, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click “Test This Computer”. The quick diagnostic test will let you know if you need to make any updates before you are Sokikom ready.

Set Up Your Class

Adding students to your roster is nothing to stress over when it comes to Sokikom. You can either copy and paste your roster or manually add individual students to your Sokikom class list. After your students are added you can choose to have them play Sokikom in English or Spanish. For detailed instructions on adding your students, check out this great resource. If you need to change a student’s username or password, don’t sweat it, just check out these step-by-step instructions.

Use Your Resources

When you log into your teacher account you will have access to Sokikom’s Resources page. Once there, you will find tips for using Sokikom as a Classroom Management tool. You can see how real teachers are implementing Sokikom in their classrooms and how they are using it to manage their classrooms. You will also find information on Sokikom’s math program. You’ll see tips for getting your students started, setting up a multiplayer game, and many more. If you would like to send parents information about Sokikom we have resources for you to send home with your students.

Utilize LearnZillion Videos

Sokikom’s recent partnership with LearnZillion allows you to access thousands of LearnZillion videos for free through your Sokikom account. To access the LearnZillion videos, click on the “Resources” page in your account, then click “Math program” and you’ll see them organized by topic.

Outstanding Educator Claire Ratfield: Creating a 21st Century Classroom through Fundraising

With school budgets becoming increasingly tight many educators have had to think of creative ways to modernize their classrooms. Lincoln Elementary 6th grade teacher, Claire Ratfield, has discovered with creative ways to crowd-fund modern technology in the classroom.

Claire began her career in education at Lincoln Middle School in Corona Del Mar, CA in 1969. In 1998 Johns Hopkins University identified her as an exemplary teacher for gifted students. Just after that she became the first public school National Board Certified teacher in Orange County and then the first double National Board Certified teacher for both elementary and middle childhood education in the nation. This experience encouraged Claire to start a foundation (CITE) to fund costs for teachers to become Nationally Board Certified. This foundation sparked Claire’s interest in fundraising for education.

Claire has always been driven by the power of technology and enjoyed seeing her students spend recess and lunch creating massive structures in Minecraft. She was stunned at the creativity and innovation of the buildings and cities they created. That year, the district invited her to a MinecraftEDU STEAM class offered by the Orange County Department of Education. This experience showed her the power of gamification in engaging students.

The next year, she wrote an engineering grant through Donors Choose and Chevron. Her proposal stated that students would build structures including sustainable houses of the future within different biomes. Through this grant she was awarded 3 state of the art desktop computers. She also reached out to a few parents to donate enough funds for 36 MinecraftEDU licenses and 3 teacher servers.

Although Claire was aware of crowdfunding she decided to do something different and developed the idea of “Claire Funding” within her network of friends. “I created two funding streams: One as a tax write-off through the district that funds technology or arts related to staff development and the other to my DBA, ‘Claire Ratfield Educational Services’ which funds my classroom needs. The near $20,000  I’ve raised is equally divided between my class and my school . This has allowed me to buy my own set of one-on-ones, robotics, and 3 iPads. It also includes 13 computers with a minimum of 4GB of memory dedicated to MinecraftEDU rotation.”

This year, Claire plans to ditch the textbook and run a paperless classroom through Google Classroom. Her fundraising has allowed her to completely modernize her classroom and has allowed her to provide her students with an engaging learning experience.

For teachers that are thinking about getting into fundraising, Claire recommends Donors Choose as one of the best resources for teachers seeking a couple thousand dollars for technology. Other sites teachers should check out include: Indiegogo, Go Fund Me, and Kickstarter. For teachers that are looking to fundraise within their groups of friends, here is a letter Claire has successfully sent out in the past.

If you want to learn more about Claire Ratfield and her classroom fundraising, check out her website. You’ll be able to see a creative Thank You video she made for her donors, resources for teachers looking to integrate technology in the classroom, as well as current projects for which she is seeking funding.

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Using Sokikom as a Classroom Management Tool

If there’s one thing all teachers can agree on it’s the importance of classroom management. Effective teaching cannot take place in a poorly managed classroom. If students are easily distracted, talking, not paying attention and no consequences are given how can learning happen? When teachers struggle to take control in the classroom students aren’t able to flourish. Sokikom’s classroom management tool is a simple and effective solution to maintaining order in the classroom.

How does Sokikom improve classroom management?

If you ask any student what their favorite aspect of Sokikom is, they will undoubtedly say dressing up their avatar. Students love shopping in the Sokikom store and would spend most of their day there if they could. But just like shopping in a real store, students need money to purchase items in the Sokikom store. One way for them to receive money is for you to award them Soki Dollars when you want to reenforce positive behavior. On the other hand, you can also take away Soki Dollars if they are not complying with class rules.

What kinds of things can I reward my students for?

  • Turning in homework
  • Working quietly
  • Asking great questions
  • Being helpful
  • Being kind to their classmates
  • Anything you think deserves a Soki Dollar!

How do I use Sokikom as a classroom management resource?

Check out this video for step by step instructions and tips on rewarding your students!

 

A Teacher’s Perspective: Preparing for SBAC

By: Ashley Martin

My name is Ashley Martin and I’m third grade teacher at Robert Sanders Elementary School in San Jose, CA. This is my fourth year teaching and my first year using Sokikom.

We are currently winding down to the end of the SBAC testing season and I must say that Sokikom has made my students and I feel more confident about this years Math test.

One of the biggest aspects that have kept me engaged with Sokikom is its use of skills needed for the SBAC. Last year, I found it challenging to show my students how to maneuver math tools on a computer in a fun an engaging way. These skills, as most of us know, are essential for students to complete the Math portion of the SBAC. Once we started using Sokikom I immediately saw the use of math tools and how my students were moving blocks, rulers, and fractions on a number line with excitement.

In Rm 12, Sokikom is used as an essential lesson in our current subject of learning. We use Sokikom 1-2 times a week and focus on the area (or “island”) that we are currently learning in class. This allows my students to use the skills learned in class and apply them to a differentiated way of showing understanding. While using Sokikom, we have set times for lessons, rotations, team games, and shopping.

As a teacher, I’m constantly looking for data that helps me determine my student’s areas of need. Sokikom has these tools broken down by standards and students growth. It’s easy to read, is updated with every use, and is parent friendly.

My students absolutely love Sokikom because it feels like a game to them. They enjoy their avatars, the leveled games, the earning of money and the feeling of success after they’ve completed a level. It is always the first thing students show our families and visitors when they come to our class.

After several practice rounds of the SBAC, I can see my students confidence in knowing that they’ve learned the skills needed to be successful for the test.This, along with the abilities to see my students area of need and show their growth are just a few of the reasons why I love Sokikom.

 

 

Using Data to Drive Instruction

There has been a lot of talk lately that we are testing students too much. It’s true, students do undergo more assessments than we did when we were in school. While testing is exhausting and stressful on both teachers and student, we need to find a way to use the data from all of those assessments to effectively improve student learning. But how do we do it, where do we start?

Understand the data you are collecting

Too often do students take standardized assessments and we as teachers have no idea how to understand the results. One way to solve this is to really take the time to sit down and understand what data these assessments are collecting and how they are doing so. If you don’t have time to spend hours scouring state standardized testing sites, you can collect your own data. If you do decide to start collecting your own data, remember these two things: keep it simple and keep it small. You don’t need to create a complex algorithm to measure your students understanding. Keep it simple and don’t try to overcomplicate collecting student data. There are a number of helpful products out there that can aide you in collecting student data. Keep it small: you don’t have to assess your students in every subject that you have taught them at the same time. Keep it small and start with one subject or subtopic you would like to assess. This keeps you from becoming too overwhelmed.

Look for gaps

This might sound obvious but one of the most beneficial things data can provide us with is that it can show us exactly what our students are struggling with. Good data should give you a baseline of how you can tailor instruction specifically to address those gaps. Once you are able to fill in those gaps your students should begin to flourish. Need ideas for Common Core aligned lesson plans? Check out this amazing resource.

Open communication channels

Now that you have collected, understood, and analyzed your data you can use it to start a dialogue with parents. If you have students with large gaps in their understanding you are going to need parent support to really make significant progress in filling them. By talking with parents you will be able to explain to them where the gaps exist and how to best mend them. Parents support will be very helpful when you are trying to give extra homework assignments and when you encourage additional practice to mend the gap.
Want to learn how Sokikom uses data to drive instruction? Contact a member of our School Success team.