How to Have a Difficult Conversation with a Parent

How to Have a Difficult Conversation with a Parent

Do you have a student that is struggling with their learning or their behaviour?

It might be time to have a difficult conversation with a parent now! Parents hate surprises on report cards (your admin will hate it more), and if you haven’t already had the chat you need to have, don’t leave it too late.

How to have a difficult conversation with a parent:

📆 Make a date.

Don’t spring the difficult conversation on them when they are unprepared. For some parents, knowing that you want to talk about their child’s achievement or behaviour will begin the dialogue in their head, which is generally a good think as it helps them to reflect and rationalise. Give them the option of in-person or phone.

📈Begin with the positives, and what their child has done well.

First, show examples where their child demonstrated skills and if possible have some examples of growth (handwriting is a good one for this). Having some positives to talk about can show that you care, have identified their child’s strengths, and really know their child. Parents just want to feel that their children are seen.

📉Explain the problem.

Once you have covered introductions and some positives, explain the problem or the reason for the meeting. If it is an academic problem, explain the curriculum expectations and how their child isn’t meeting the expectations. Don’t compare their child to the rest of the class. If it is a behavioural problem, talk the parents through the school behaviour plan, so they know how their child has not met expectations.

SHOW EVIDENCE.

Always have evidence to show the parent. For academics include examples of writing or written maths, where you can demonstrate how the child has not quite demonstrated the skill needed. Explain how the topic has been taught and why you think this learning gap is an issue.

For behaviour, make sure you have kept records, preferably a daily behaviour tracker alongside anecdotal records, and also evidence such as reflection sheets written by the child.

Expect push-back but don’t be defensive. If you’re not sure of an answer, say “I’m not sure, can I get back to you on that?”

Most importantly, explain what you and the school are doing to help.

After detailing the problem, have some solutions! Ensure you detail differentiation and modifications made to accommodate their child. You can also propose a plan to address the issue. For behaviour issues, detail specific behaviours, triggers, consequences and outcomes already identified and used. 

If you think the student needs to see a professional, talk to your admin team about having that conversation with the parent, or supporting you in that conversation.

Ask for parental support if needed.

It’s ok to ask a parent to complete extra activities at home. You can ask a parent to work with you on a behaviour plan (poor behaviour = no pizza on family pizza night). Also, don’t be afraid to ask the parent to try new things, like dropping their child at the gate instead of fussing over their child while you are trying to begin your first lesson. 

You are a teaching and learning team. You may not always be on the same page, but you can always ask.

Finally, in a difficult conversation with a parent, never gloss over and don’t make promises you can’t keep.

Don’t promise above and beyond what you can physically, mentally and emotionally give for a child. Having this conversation doesn’t mean that you will be able to fix all of the problems yourself. As you know, if their child has learning difficulties it can take years for these to be diagnosed and corrected.

Difficult conversations are difficult. Really, truly, as much as we would like to avoid them, as a teacher we can’t. We need to have an open dialogue with our parents, and most importantly,  it is worth having these conversations early.

One very last tip (to cover yourself!) – document this meeting and share a copy with the parent. Add actionable tasks into you calendar and file the document in a safe place. Try a template like our free Parent Teacher Interview Template

Look, Cover, Say, Write, Check Spelling Strategy

Look, Cover, Say, Write, Check Spelling Strategy

Look, Cover, Say, Write, Check has had a bad rap over the past few years, but it is mainly due to the implementation of the strategy, rather than the strategy itself.

Over time, the strategy has been reduced to its simplest form: the idea that students learn words by memorising. Well, we know that children just don’t learn how to read that way!

Students learn to read through a combination of metalinguistics (what a sound, letter, word and sentence actually are); and phonemic awareness (the ability to discriminate initial, medial and final sounds in words; and then the ability to segment and blend those sounds). Students also need the ability to learn the letters that represent the sounds and recall them easily.

Over time, LSCWC has been misrepresented as an independent activity that students can complete on their own, with self-checking. ‘Give a students a list of words and they can learn them with this strategy’, but it just isn’t the case. Spelling needs to be explicitly taught, then supported with a range of activities.

How it use Look, Say, Cover Write, Check effectively

So let’s break down LOOK, SAY, COVER, WRITE, CHECK to see what the best-practise use of this exercise is!

  1. LOOK: Don’t just LOOK at the word. What do you SEE? Think orthographic, morphemic, structural features of the word. These need to be explicitly taught, and students may need help identifying them. Does the students know what the word means? Does it look like any other words they know?

2. SAY: This is NOT saying the word. It is SOUNDING OUT the spelling-sound correspondences in the word. You could use Elkonin boxes for phonemes. Once blended, does the word sound like a word the student knows? You can then listen for syllables. Again, this will need to be modelled and students may need help/corrections as they sound out.

(Why Elokin boxes for phonemes and then syllables? – think of the word ‘little’. Individual sounds of the word are ‘l/i/tt/le but the syllables are lit/tle – we don’t say the /t/ sound twice!) Students need training in phonemic awareness until they can do this on their own automatically.

3. COVER: Cover the word and visualise it. (This can be tricky for student with working – memory problems. You can just skip this step!)

4. WRITE: Write the word.

5. CHECK: Check the word; review the word with an adult for corrections. Having the opportunity to correct errors as they are made is super important. Remember ‘practise doesn’t make perfect; practise makes PERMANENT’.

Sadly, over time, teachers have been taught that Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check is an independent activity, and there’s no surprise that they have noticed that as an independent activity it DOESN’T WORK. It also doesn’t work as the ONLY spelling activity that is used to learn words.

What next?

As a supported activity completed within a spelling program that covers the four spelling knowledges (visual, phonological, morphemic, etymological), Look, Say, Cover Write Check can be an effective part of your teaching toolbox.

Teachie Tings Spelling and More

If you are looking for a range of spelling activities that can be completed with your spelling words, try Teachie Tings Spelling and More.

This collection of spelling activities aims to improve student success in spelling by using several spelling strategies:✿ VISUAL✿ PHONOLOGICAL✿ MORPHEMIC✿ ETYMOLOGICAL

four spelling knowledges

Self-care for Teachers

Self-care for Teachers

My top three tips for teacher self care, and a free tool to help you.

Self-Care for Teachers

 

Self care should be at the top of the to-do list for teachers. It is so easy to burn out from the workload, continuous exposure to stressful situations and lack of work/life balance.

My top three teacher self care tips are:

 

1. Firstly, take time for self care. If you don’t schedule it in, your body or mind will eventually take it from you. That’s the truth.

2. Secondly, focus on the big rocks at school. Have you heard the story about the jar that was filled with pebbles and there was no room for the big rocks, but when the rocks were put in first, the pebbles fit around the edges? Get the important things done first and the rest will take care of itself (or it never mattered in the first place).

3. Finally, make sure you use your time productively. To do this, you need to know what you value. Do you love spending time in your classroom in the afternoon, and you’re ok with staying back? Or would you rather be exercising or spending time with family and friends?

I know which one I would rather be doing, and so I plan my school day accordingly.

How do I plan with my self care in mind?

 

I use a simple tool that takes care of all three teacher self care tips!

I call it a small break planner. I’m not talking about a mini-vacay – I’m talking about using your school time productively – even if it’s just 5 minutes.

Think about it – even if you find just FIVE MINUTES a day to complete an important task, that’s almost half an hour that you don’t have to spend after school.

What is this a small break planner?

 

The small break planner is like a to-do list, but it is separated into time increments.

  • When I have a task that needs completing, I add it to my planner under the amount of time it will take me to complete. My planner has increments for 5 min, 10 min, 15 min and 20min+.
  • I normally complete my list at the beginning of the week, and keep it on my desk, ready to add to, work from and mark off!
  • I write in the most important things that I need to complete while I am at school, AND I include self care. Even if it’s just 5 minutes to have a coffee or tea, or 10 minutes to complete a meditation while my class is at lunch.
  • Throughout the week, when I find 5 minutes, I go straight to my list and check one off.

 

When can you grab 5 mins during class time?

 

  • Stamina reading
  • Classroom clean up
  • Coming in from the bell
  • Before lunch duty
  • During timed activities
  • Watching an online video

You can also find blocks of time in your lunch break, however I do think you should socialise with your colleagues at least once during the week, so make sure you book a visit to the staffroom in.

So there you have it – its my next-level to-do list that will help you to put self care first.

Freebie to manage self-care for teachers

 

I have created a template that includes ideas for self care and teacher tasks that you can complete in different time increments.

You can download it for FREE in my shop.

small break planner
Developing narrative writing structure using Five Sentence Stories

Developing narrative writing structure using Five Sentence Stories

Teach Narrative Text Structure using Five Sentence Stories

One of the biggest barriers I see to students success in narrative writing is really nailing the text structure of a narrative.

This can show itself in a few different ways:

Students may:

  • Have a boring story starter (One day…)
  • Detail facts as though they are writing a recount (and then, and then, and then…)
  • Write a long and detailed orientation, only to run out of puff when it comes to actually telling the story
  • Forget to pace their story (resolving in a quick sentence at the end)
  • Start writing without a complication or resolution in mind

So what is the problem here?

The BIG problem is lack of planning. As teachers, it’s our job to help students to plan out their narrative before they begin writing.  It’s also our job to ensure they understand the value and importance of proper planning.

Real-life authors research, map out their story, brainstorm ideas, and know the complication and ending well before they begin their narrative writing.

Real-life authors focus on the CREATIVITY of the story in the PLANNING phase and focus on the CRAFT of writing in the WRITING phase. Tristan Bancks has a great article on Storyboarding that is worth a read!

As I say to my students – your story is only as good as your planning.

We want our students to spend as much time planning as possible.

How can we make planning as important as the writing?

There are multiple processes we can take to help students to carefully plan their writing:

  • Character profiles
  • Setting descriptions with the five senses
  • Narrative planning templates
  • Word banks
  • Understanding themes

narrative writing planner

My favourite tool to help students nail their story structure is the Five Sentence Story.

It is a handy tool that helps students to write just five sentences – one for each part of their story.

The scaffold includes opener/hook, orientation, complication, solution & resolution. It’s so simple that it can be used in conjunction with other planning, or on its own for a quick writing task.

five sentence story

How do I teach this method?

I use a gradual release of responsibility to teach narrative writing with this scaffold.

First, I begin by modelling the scaffold with the students. I use my Five Sentence Story Powerpoint to do this on the whiteboard.

I often choose a familiar character or student in our class to write about – students love this and it gets them really engaged. Then, I model the process, thinking aloud, so that students get my tips and tricks along the way.

Next,  we move onto co-constructing Five Sentence Stories, brainstorming complications that our characters encounter, and voting on our favourite.

Students need a bank of ideas – even creativity needs to be modelled.

When we brainstorm story elements (openings, complications, resolutions) we write them on paper or print them from the whiteboard, and put them on our Learning Wall to refer to later. We don’t leave good ideas behind – we keep them for later!

Finally, students ‘have a go’ on their own, using some of our co-constructed ideas. They need to write five great sentences that tell the entire story. I like them to practice this up to ten times.

I like to use a Learning Wall with all elements on display, or a flipbook like this one, that prompts students to focus on the important elements of narrative writing.

narrative flipbook

You could incorporate Five Sentence Stories into:

  • Morning Work
  • Writing Stations
  • English rotations
  • Fast Finishers

How can you develop this idea?

Once students have nailed writing five sentences, they can extend the sentences to become topic sentences for paragraphs. I like to tell my students they now have to write two sentences, then three etc.

Before you (or they) know it, they have written a complete story!

Finally, all of my students edit for language features, structure, grammar, punctuation and spelling.

This is when they check they have included direct speech, descriptive language, figurative language and more, depending on their age.

I have used Five Sentence Stories (and the planning and brainstorming processes) to ‘bump up’ my students to the next level -there is nothing better that reading complete and detailed stories!

I hope that I have shared  a few things you can do to help your students to write complete stories, most importantly, helping them to understand that planning is an important and productive part of the writing process, having a bank of ideas through brainstorming and planning, and then mapping out the story using a scaffold such as Five Sentence Stories.

Happy Writing!

narrative planning bundle

You can find my Narrative Planning Bundle, incorporating a Narrative Learning Wall Kit, planning sheet, Powerpoint, and flipbook, all incorporating Five Sentence Stories to help develop your young writers.

I also have Five Sentence Opinions for developing the persuasive structure.

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