Pontiac Elementary Week of March 9-March 13

Three Ways to Make Meaningful Connections with your Students (Derived from Edutopia)

Too often, I've heard teachers talk about how helpless they feel when it comes to reaching out to their students. The days of being the person whose job it is to exclusively provide students with an education -- and nothing more -- are long over. Honestly, some will say those days never existed. I've never wavered in my belief that teachers are much more than people passing out curriculum. For some students, school is the best part of their day because it offers an escape from their life at home. As teachers, it's important for us to understand that there is so much more to students than the life they lead in class, and it is important to show interest in a student outside of the day's homework. Here are three simple things a teacher can do to connect with students and let them know there is more to school than just a report card.

The First Five Minutes

I have written about the First Five Minutes before, and it is something I strongly believe. The FFM is a simple thing that any teacher can do in his or her class. I always take those first few minutes to engage my students in casual conversation. I ask them about their day and if they have anything exciting going on the rest of the week. We'll talk about gaming, music, television shows, sports, movies, and anything else they want to discuss. Sometimes it's only a couple of minutes with a handful of students or a larger class discussion on something in the news, but this is something I always do in class.

I can learn so much about my students in these few minutes each and every day. I figure out very quickly who has a tough home life based on their answers. If a student talks about babysitting most nights for her siblings, I can guess that the parents work late. If I notice they're always talking about the new books they're reading, I know I can count on them to be leaders in class discussion. I have made some strong connections with students, which has allowed me to help struggling learners and kids with other issues. I could help them because they trusted me, and they trusted me because I listened.

Attending Extra-Curricular Activities

This is something I have dedicated myself to doing since I started teaching -- and it's not easy. In fact, it's only become more difficult with the growth of my family, but I still make an effort to attend the events that my students participate in. It's important to take an interest in the things students love if you want them to take an interest in what you love. I never encountered a student that wasn't happy to see a teacher at one of these events. It's always big smiles and giant waves to get attention. For some of my students, my attending one of their events is more than any of their family members ever attend. It's a simple act to show that the students matter.

Another great reason to attend these events is to connect with family. I love interacting with my students' parents in an informal setting. It's nice way to keep in touch and have conversations about their child. We can share information about class issues and home issues, and then start working together. Parents feel more comfortable talking with teachers they feel are invested in their child's success. Attending a field hockey game at 7:30 on a Wednesday night is one way to show investment. Little acts like appearing at extracurricular events are a sure way to show students and parents that you are involved.

Be Available

Something I started doing more recently has really paid off when it comes to connecting with my students. I hold regular office hours before school starts. I promise all of my students that I will be available from 7:00 AM until the seven-minute bell rings if they want to come and talk, use an iPad to study, or just relax and draw on the desks (which are covered in IdeaPaint, turning them into dry erase surfaces). I tell kids they can email me to schedule an appointment, pop in and schedule one for the next day or just stop by the room. I was surprised at how many students take advantage of the open door. Even better, I have students that I no longer teach stop in and catch up.

My open office hours have turned into a nice place for kids to come before classes start and just talk about what's going on in their lives. Sometimes it's typical high school stuff that can pass in a day or so, but sometimes students express fears about their future, or they're battling depression and fear being medicated for the rest of their lives. The conversations can range from deep and sad to light and goofy. For the students that stop by, I know it means the world to them to have an adult that will listen and be there when they need it. I give up time in the morning, but I gain important connections with my students that allow me to not only help them with their problems, but also engage them in the classroom.

State Farm Grant available

State Farm Neighborhood Assist®

Launching this Monday, March 9th State Farm Neighborhood Assist program connects individuals and communities with local non-profits to build safer, stronger, better educated communities. This innovative program is crowd-sourced and consumer driven, a great opportunity for your agency to connect personally with your customers. The program invites individuals and organizations to submit a community cause via the Facebook App which they’re passionate about and can rally behind for a chance to win a $25,000 grant.

Submission causes must fall into one of three categories of safety, education or community development. Past winning submissions have included improving a local ball field, packing food for low-income youth, and horses used as therapy for individuals with disabilities. As you can see, opportunities are full of variety and are meeting unique needs. There are four phases to State Farm Neighborhood Assist:

Phase & Dates:

Submission Phase : March 9 – March 29*

Anyone in the US with a Facebook account, can download the free State Farm Neighborhood Assist app and submit their cause. It’s best for organizations to submit early, only a maximum of 4,000 will be accepted. The applications are easy… only three questions are asked of cause submitters.

Vetting Phase: Between March 9 – May 13

The State Farm Youth Advisory Board will review all submissions and narrow down to 200 finalists. If the cause submitted is not tied to a nonprofit org, they will be matched up with an organization to implement a plan.

Voting Phase: May 14 – June 3

Any Facebook user with the State Farm Neighborhood Assist Facebook app can vote up to ten times a day for any of the 200 finalist causes. The organizations will receive a unique URL to share with their followers prior to the voting.

Winners Announced: June 16

The 40 causes with the most votes will each receive a $25,000 grant to implement their programs.

State Farm Youth Advisory Board Service Learning Grants

The 2015 The State Farm® Youth Advisory Board (YAB) service learning grant is available now through Friday May 1. Four million dollars throughout the United States will be granted to qualified, youth-led service learning initiatives to qualifying organizations.

Grants can range from $25,000 to $100,000 to create sustainable change in local communities across the United States and Request for Proposals (RFP) must be submitted online by Friday, May 1. Public K-12, charter, higher education institutions, and non-profit organizations are eligible if they are able to demonstrate how they plan to use service learning to make an impact in student achievement within the public K-12 curriculum. All applicants must have a youth contact and adult administrator, as the programs must be youth-driven and youth-led.

Complete details, applications and resources are available at the State Farm Youth Advisory Board Website.

Each grant request must focus in one of these issue areas, chosen by the Board.

  • Community Safety and Justice
  • Access to Higher Education/Closing the Achievement Gap
  • Economic Empowerment and Financial literacy
  • Environmental Responsibility
  • Health and Wellness
  • Arts and Culture

Share this program with your community contacts, schools and nonprofits. All potential grantees can find resources and details explanation of the program at

A Look at our Week Ahead:

Monday: C Day

ALERT field study

3:30pm Staff meeting "Action for a Cleaner Tomorrow"

Tuesday: D Day

Lower Montessori field study to Brattonsville

Carol Jackson's PK class: Field study to CiCi's

3:30pm Pontiac Academy

Wednesday: E Day

3:30pm Professional Development with Reading Coach: What the Research Says

3:30pm Stars and Stripes

Thursday: F Day

No schoolwide events scheduled

Friday: A Day

Digital Learning Day

Soc.St. planning with Angel Brown (Grades K, 1, and 3)

Tech Tip from Turner

Make a Quiz Show using Flippity

Want to Make Your Own Quiz Show? This is soooo easy and quick!

Step 1: Modify the Google Spreadsheet Template

Make a copy of this template. (You'll need to sign-in with your Google account.)

Edit all the categories, questions, and answers.

Step 2: Publish Your Spreadsheet

Go to File, Publish to the Web…, then click Publish.

Copy the link under the Link tab.

Step 3: Get Your Link

Click on the Get the Link Here tab of the template (at the bottom).

Paste the link in the light blue cell to get the link to your Flippity Quiz Show.

Step 4: Click, Bookmark, and Share

Click on the link to test out your game.

Make a shortcut or bookmark to get back to the game whenever you want to play.

Here is the link to my example: Multiplication