Saturday, June 3, 2017

Using a Classroom Handbook to Communicate Important Policies and Procedures

Do you want to know my number one tip for effectively sharing important classroom policies and  information with students' families?  A classroom handbook.  Just a few pages of key information could save you from floods of inquires on different matters throughout the year.  Now, doesn't that sound nice?

 
At the beginning of every school year, I use a variety of forms to get information from my students' parents. 


But let's be honest, they usually have lots of questions of their own about matters like homework, absences, birthdays, and so forth.  So, I've learned to simply compile that information into a small (easy to read) handbook that they can refer to throughout the year.  This little gem has truly reduced the number of inquiries I get regarding my classroom policies. 


What's Included
I recently shared my handbook on Instagram and received several questions about what I include in the booklet, as well as how I am able to prep it now, with school being 3 months away.  So, I thought I'd share a little bit about my handbook on the blog!

A classroom handbook can include anything you want/need it to include, that's the beauty of this tool!  My handbook includes the following information:
  • Letter to Parents
  • Progress Reports
  • Communication (best way to contact me)
  • Absences
  • Homework
  • Class Rules
  • Behavior Plan
  • Birthdays
  • a copy of our district Wellness and Nutrition Regulation

Here's a look at a few of the pages that I include in my handbook.  I always start it off with a note to the parents.  This letter welcomes families to second grade and gives them a brief overview of what to expect in second grade.


Homework is required in my district, and parents always like to know the expectations associated with this requirement.  Sharing the information up front saves me lots of time in the long run because I usually get very few questions about my expectations and policies once I start sending it home the second week.


I also like to address absences and how they relate to making up missed work/homework. I also include a form they can use when their child is absent. You an sneak a peek at this note by scrolling up to the image of the forms I send home.  It's the blue one.


I like to give families a little bit of information regarding progress reports, as well as the best way to contact me.  I'm terrible with the phone and make every effort to encourage families to either email or send in a note to relay information.


When parents know the classroom rules and corresponding behavior plan, they know exactly how to support their kids in maintaining successful learner behaviors in the classroom.  That's why I always make sure to share this information with them.  It helps them understand how I manage my classroom and they are better able to encourage their kids to work toward meeting these expectations.



Here's one last peek inside.  Birthdays are a big deal, but school is not the place for parties and there are rules about passing out party invitations.  By including this information in my handbook, I usually do not need to address the matter throughout the year (27 times).



I've found that if I stick to the basics, the handbook is more effective.  If it was jam packed with too much information it's both overwhelming and less likely to be read.  And, if it is, the information isn't going to be retained.

Since the information I include is fairly standard and changes very little from year to year, I am able to reuse the content from year to year (with the occasional tweak here and there). A little work up front pays off in the long run.  ;)

When to Send it Home
I usually send my handbook home within the first few days of school. Before sending it home, I like to gauge how much paperwork is being sent from the school/district before adding my own content to the mix.  I don't want it getting lost among the multitude of notes the school and district ask me to pass along.  I'm sure you can relate.  ;)

Encouraging Parents to Read the Handbook
I know we all struggle with sending home notes that are often times not read.  Or, at least that's how it feels.  Parents are busy people. They may not intentionally ignore our notes, but it does happen.  To encourage my students' parents to read through and keep this booklet on hand, I do the following:
  • Make a big deal about it when I pass it out to the students.  And, by that I mean that I explain how it includes important information that moms and dads often wonder/ask about.  I remind them that it's important for their parents to know about our classroom. Then, we take a look at what is included so they can share it with their parents like an expert.
  • Put a bright cover on it. This way, it stands out from all the other paperwork in their child's folder/backpack.
  • Refer to it in the first few newsletters that I send home.  This reminds the parents that the packet includes important information that they should be aware of at all times (and if they haven't read it yet, they should do so now).
  • Go over the content at Back to School Night.  I tell the parents that my presentation will be based on the booklet.  This encourages them to read through it (for the first, second, or third time) so they can decide if they want/need to come to Back to School Night. Sometimes it's hard for parents to attend this night due to child care issues, so this is often helpful for parents that fall into that category.
  • One more suggestion: I don't do this, but if you really want to make sure parents read your handbook, you could include a note that they sign and return stating that they've read over the content.  
Create a Handbook of Your Own
Love the idea of a class handbook but overwhelmed at the thought of creating one from scratch?  Fear not!  You can find this document, as well as a plethora of other useful back to school forms in my Back to School Forms pack on TPT.

My forms pack includes a ready to print PDF version as well as an editable Power Point. So, if the ready to print handbook doesn't exactly meet your needs, you can use the editable version to tailor the text to accurately reflect your policies and procedures.

Click the image below to check it out.  :)

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Back-to-School-Forms-Editable-Version-Included-1871436?aref=77nqi0pq

DON'T FORGET IT, PIN IT!





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