At our school we meet our new class on the last day of school. Two weeks ago 29 students finished their last minutes with their fifth grade teachers and came to meet me. I love this because they are not just a "list" of kids now; they have faces, personalities, likes, dislikes, needs, and families!
Though I don't know much about them yet, I do know this group of awesome kids from West Valley City, Utah, have a desire to learn and want to feel successful.
I know I can enhance their school experience when I increase positive involvement from parents and bring school and family together. These kids live in a community where adults want to support their children, but are busy surviving and may need support in how to help their child's academic endeavors.
In twenty-three years of teaching I have found that relationships matter. My relationships with my students and their families matter. The relationships between my students matter. Last year I started a kindness campaign with my class to combat the issues associated with "bullying" and unkindness. Kelly Livingstone's project inspired me to continue the kindness campaign, but to include families. She and I agree that positive involvement from parents increases students' engagement and achievement.
Students will read books (novels and picture books) with their family and our classroom family with the themes of kindness, empathy, and friendship; then families will decide how they can spread the message of kindness and report back to the class what they did.
As a class we will start the year with Wonder as a read aloud. Students will take two copies home and read with their family what we read in class (multiple readings increases fluency). During the first few weeks of school picture books will be read to the class; students will be invited to take them home and share with their parents. The class set of Pay it Forward will be used as a book that goes home with students to read with their family. Parents, siblings, and students will be invited to participate in a book club night complete with a viewing of the movie after the discussion. Parents, students, and families will then be challenged to do random acts of kindness and record these on a classroom bulletin board. Throughout the year students can take home pairs of kindness novels to read with their family. At the end of the year we will have another family event where we will gather to watch the movie, Wonder. At this event families will share their kindness campaign presentations in their choice of format.
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