being a teacher, new teacher, new year, parents, students, survey

3 Beginning of the Year Surveys For Students And Parents

I believe in the power of a  great survey and have been giving them to my students ever since I started teaching.  This year, I am breaking them up for different days and will have students do them in class so I can gather them and mine them for information.  One of these is for my entire team to use as well.  Please feel free to use and adapt to fit your needs.  The three surveys are

Beginning of the Year Survey.  To see this survey, go here.

How are you as writer?  To see this survey, go here.

How are you as a reader?  To see this survey, go here.

To adapt these, simply click the link, go under “file” and then click “Make a copy.”  That way you can edit it and tweak as needed.

To see all of the other forms I use, including technology permission forms, student-led conferences, and other survey tools, go here.

As far as parents go, I have a very simple survey.  I ask them what their hopes and dreams are for their kids and then if there is anything else I should know.

(In the past, I have used a more extensive parent survey, to see that go here).

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

being a teacher, being me, new teacher, new year

Starting Over Again – Some New Teacher Tips From A Not So Veteran Teacher

image from icanread

It never gets easier being the newbie.  You aren’t quite sure where to go.  You aren’t quite sure what that person’s name is.  You aren’t quite sure where to get that thing you need or who to ask that question.  So you improvise, smile at everyone you see, and you try to figure things out.  I thought being a new teacher when you are a veteran would be different.  Lo and behold, I was wrong.  The same anxiety, the same nervousness, the same complete cluelessness has surrounded me since I first set foot at OMS.  And yet, this time I know what to do at least to get more comfortable.  That’s the benefit of having done this before.

  • Reach out.  One of the first things I did when I accepted the job was to reach out to my new team and start asking them questions.  I was even lucky enough to join them for a day, shadowing the person whose job I would fill.  These new connections continue to make the transition so much easier.
  • Ask stupid questions.  To you the question may seem stupid but probably not to those answering it.  I have asked a lot of questions and every single answer has helped me prepare.
  • Explore.  I have wandered thought the school on several occasions, just trying to find my bearings.  I don’t feel quite as lost as I did before.
  • Figure out the alarm.  I had to move my boxes in on a Sunday, which meant I had to conquer the alarm and a huge metal gate.  Sure, it was nerve-wracking but now that I have tried it, I would have no problem doing it again if need be.
  • Write stuff down.  I have been keeping a note of who I am meeting and what they teach, not that I totally expect to remember them all but it is nice to see the list grow and try to make a concerted effort in remembering people’s names.
  • Step up.  I was asked to be a part of the district’s personalized learning committee, and although I at first felt like I would not have the time to do it since I am teaching all new things, I knew how beneficial this will be for me.  So say yes to new opportunities, I cannot wait to help the district continue its vision.
  • Be you.  I know that we end up presenting a polished version of who we are at first, we can’t help it, but it is also okay to start relaxing and letting the every day you shine through.  Yes, you impressed them with your skills and got the job but now it is time for you to let your guard down a bit so they can get to know you, bad sense of humor and everything.
  • Introduce yourself first.  Don’t wait for people to come up to you, go up to them.  They may not realize you are a new staff member, so approach, introduce, and try to remember their names.
  • Be nice.  I cannot stress how far simply being nice will get you.
  • Figure out traditions.  I am so lucky to be a part of a very tight knit team that has a lot of traditions in place, I am not here to change them, I am here to first be a part of them.  You may be asked to do things that don’t quite fit your vision, give it a chance before you decide what works for you and what doesn’t.
  • Listen first but don’t stay silent.  Always be open to new ideas, but do not be afraid to add a few of your own.  Show your worth, but also show that others’ ideas have merit.
  • Work on your classroom but don’t finish it.  I have been busy at work setting everything up and yet the room will be unfinished when we start.  I need the students to put the finishing touches on it to make it our room.
  • Dream big.  I love blogging, but I have never blogged with 138 students.  This year we are trying it, not because they have to but because I am passionate about it and crazy enough to try it.  What’s the worst that can happen?  So dream your big ideas and don’t be afraid to try them even if you are not quite sure how it will fit.
  • Trust yourself.  Yes, you may have all new curriculum or all new everything but it is okay to listen to your inner voice and make all the new work for you.  Don’t try to be someone else, make it your own.
  • Bring you with you.  I brought my rocking chair an elementary style classroom library with me.  Sure, 7th graders may not think that is cool, but it is who I am.  I love reading aloud from that chair so I am staying true to that.  Don’t feel you have to give up who you are just because you are a new teacher.

Finally, don’t be afraid.  I know a new job is terrifying, I am right there in the thick of it, and yet my fear is being replaced with a little bit of thrill, a little bit of giddy, a little bit of excitement.  The dreams I have for my new students are starting to fire me up, the passion I have for teaching is pushing me forward.  A new adventure awaits and I cannot wait to go on it.

I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

advice, being a teacher, being me, Mentor, new teacher

Lessons From My Mentors

image from incanread

I didn’t know how lucky I was in the beginning.  Surrounded by phenomenal teachers that quickly became my mentors, I assumed every teacher had the same experience as me; people reaching out and guiding me whenever I needed it.  Now 6 years into my teaching journey, I see how wrong I was.  Many teachers have few people to reach out to in the beginning, sure they may have a mentor on paper, but that is where the relationship stays, never fully blossoming into what I still have to this day – a true give and take with some incredible teachers, Kathy and Melanie.

So why are mentors so important?  Some of my biggest lessons have come straight from my mentors.

  • Be prepared to eat a little crow.  Meaning be prepared to eat your words and swallow your pride.  I cannot tell you how many times these words have helped me through difficult situations.  Whether I was in the wrong or not, sometimes the best for a heated situation is to simply apologize and look for a solution rather than continue fighting.  It shows grace and humility and can often forge much stronger relationships than existed before.
  • Stay connected.  While my mentors never dreamed I would be connected globally, they both believe in the power of relationship and that being connected can only benefit you in the long run.  So reach out to those around you and believe in the power of team, we are stronger together.
  • You can learn from anyone.  They have modeled this to me through all the years I have known them.  When I walked in through their doors, they both assumed that I had something to offer, not that I was an empty vessel.  This approach not only boosted my esteem but has set the stage for how I treat my students.
  • You can create a relationship with any student.  While we seem to easily connect with some kids, there are others that take hard work.  Tenacity and genuine interest have taken me a long way in figuring out how to connect with all of my kids, not just the easy ones.
  • Those that fight you the hardest are often the ones that need you the most.  Those students that seem hellbent on making our lives miserable are often the ones that need us the most, whether they even know it or not.  So don’t give up on them, don’t fight back in anger, but keep trying.
  • Keep changing and innovating.  You are never done growing as a teacher, so keep changing the way you teach to fit the students in front of you right now, not those you had the year before.
  • Kids can always do more than we think is possible.  The power of expectations and continually pushing students to do more and better is something that inspires my classroom every single day.
  • Start out positive.  There have been many times that I wanted to condemn a new initiative before it has started, but these words have stayed with me.  Give it a chance and withhold judgment until you know more.
  • Be kind.  Nowhere have I seen better modeling of being kind to anyone.  As teachers we spend a lot of time being kind to our students, but what about the adults we encounter every day?  Do you stop and take an extra moment with those that surround you?  Do you take a genuine interest in the people you see?  There is so much power in being a model of kindness, we can make a difference with our actions every day.

I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students” will be released this March from Powerful Learning Press.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

conferences, new teacher, new year, Student-centered

How To Do Student-Led Conferences

Image from icanread

I seem to have written a lot about the why of student-led conferences but then have never given a step by step approach on how to do it.  Fresh in my mind from my webinar for SimpleK12 – here are the steps.  Use them as you wish.

First to the Why:

Let Them Speak – Why Student-Led Conferences Are the Right Choice

Now the How

Before you start:

  • Think about your reasoning; what are you trying to accomplish with them?
  • Determine if you want full or hybrid.  Full meaning all student-led with only a few minutes of teacher talk or hybrid meaning half and half between teacher ad student.  I do a mixture depending on the child and the time of year.
  • The age of the child, the make up of your district, and how crazy of an idea this is can all help you make your decision.

First Week of School:

  • Inform the students that they will be leading their own conferences  and why so that this does not come as a surprise to them later in the year.
  • This is an overall philosophy so make sure you have ways to gather their learning whether in journals, portfolios or some place for them to gather evidence.
  • Student-ownership of learning should be from day one.  A constant question in your classroom should be, “How are you doing and what do you need work on next?”
  • Plant the seeds for student goal setting and help them set goals starting now.  I start this on my beginning of the year student questionnaire.

Two Weeks Prior:

  • Have a classroom discussion to discuss the learning.  What have you explored since we started, what are major themes, where have we been heading?
  • Then discuss assessment.  How do you get assessed?  How do you assess yourself?  What are district assessment tools?  How do you know how you have been doing?
  • Discuss performance – how will the students assess themselves?  This can be daunting for some kids and so a class discussion or small group discussion is often a great way to get started.
  • Student self-reflection time – Students should have plenty of time to continue their reflection of themselves as learners.  This should be a continuation of what you have been doing since the first day.
  • Student preparation sheet – this sheet can be tweaked to fit your needs and I often have students bring this to the conference as a support.  I have a general one and a specific 5th grade spring preparation sheet.  I often project these and ask students for feedback and we tweak the form to fit their needs before I give them copies of this.  And this fall I actually updated my sheet – I like this one a lot better!
  • Start reminding parents that students are leading this and therefore must be present at their conference – I put it in newsletters and in general emails.

One Week Prior:

  • Check in with whole class – are there major questions or confusion that needs to be addressed?
  • Individual check-in with students.  “Walk me through your evidence and what you want to show your parents.”
  • Give them time to gather the evidence that they want to show their parents, make copies, find work etc.  I hand them a folder to keep it all in.
  • Think of ways you can showcase the classroom.  Last year we had QR codes parents could scan that would show off different videos from our classroom.
  • Continue to remind parents that students must be present.

Day Off:

  • Role-play a conference with a student in front of the whole class.  Often students are anxious about the experience, so doing a fishbowl demonstration really helps settle nerves and answer any last minute questions.
  • Have each child check their folders for everything they need.
  • At the end of the day, my students leave their folders and what they may need right on their table.  That way when they come in they can grab it and not waste any time.
  • Have students remind their parents that they must be present.  (It seems like overkill, but every year without fail a parent shows up without their child).


  • Welcome and introduce the concept of student-led conference.
  • Showcase the parent list of questions  (I laminate a copy and leave it on the table) and encourage parents to jump in.
  • Let the student do their thing.

Final minutes:

  • Take the last few minutes to wrap up and address any parent concerns.  Ask if another meeting needs to be scheduled.
  • Hand over student questionnaire and parent questionnaire and ask them to bring it back the next day.
  • Repeat the students goals and make a note of them (I use one of my teacher sheets and always tell parents I will give them a copy of the sheet).
  • Make sure students leave behind their preparation sheets, these are great to pull out for the next round of conferences as they prepare for them and reflect back on the year.

That’s really it for me.  I have all of the forms I use on this page, please feel free to use and adapt to fit your needs.  If you have any questions, just reach out, my email is p (at) globalreadaloud (dot) com

building community, classroom setup, new teacher, new year

Some Ways To Show My Students They Matter

This year we start the first day of school with a first day of school.  And while there will be no orientation day, no meet and greet, I still want them to feel that excitement of a new year, a new room, a new group of kids, and definitely a new teacher.   I want them to know that I am so happy to teach them, because I am!  So I have been thinking of little ways I can show them how much they matter, feel free to add more in the comments.

  • The welcome letter – I spend a lot of time crafting this letter because I want them to get to know me a little bit, get excited about the great things we will explore, and for them to feel welcomed.  I change it every year, but here is last year’s letter as an example.  (Don’t mind the atrocious picture quality, I had to compress the file).
  • The book bins – Every student will have a book bin waiting for them with books carefully selected from last year’s students.  On each book is a post-it note explaining why the book was chosen and how much they loved it.  I hope this makes my new students excited about reading.

    Student created book bins with selected books
    Student created book bins with selected books
  • The letters from former students – each student also has a handwritten letter from my old students giving them tips on 5th grade, insider information about “surviving” their new teacher, and things they can look forward to.  I love the care my old students take to welcome the new students even though they are not at the school anymore.  (And I keep these letters every year after the new students have read them).
  • Pencils with messages – these don’t show up for a few weeks as I get to know them but I love leaving small messages on number 2 pencils.  Why buy them pre-printed when you can write exactly what you want with a sharpie?

    messages on pencils from last year
    messages on pencils from last year
  • Purchasing their favorite picture books – I have been on a picture book binge this summer – they are just so absolutely fantastic.  So what better way than to expand my library then by asking my students what their favorite picture book is and then surprise reading it aloud for them at some point?  I cannot wait to make this a reality, even if it means spending more of my own money on books.
  • The precepts – we finished last year sharing “Wonder” and I asked my students to write precepts for how to love 5th grade.  They did and these will be welcoming my new students in the hallway leading to our room.
  • The family picture – Someone smart (and if it was you please let me know so I can give you credit) wrote about how they would have students bring in a family picture to leave in the classroom all year.  I love this idea!  So I will ask every child to bring in a special picture (or photocopy of one) and then we will make a display out of all of them for the whole year.  I want the students to feel this is is their room as much as mine right from the beginning.

I am sure as summer winds down there will be more ideas, but for now I am excited about these.  What will you be doing?

new teacher, new year, parents

My Beginning of the Year Parent Questionnaire

Two of my three kids; and that's who this is all about
Two of my three kids; and that’s who this is all about

Yesterday I shared my student questionnaire so I find it only apt to share my parent questionnaire as well.  While there are so many things I wanted to ask my parents, I wanted to keep it short and to the point.  As always, feel free to make a copy and make it your own.

Here is a link to the actual form

Here are just the questions on the form:

Tell Me A Little Bit About Your Child

  1. What is the most important thing I should know about your child?

  2. What is your child passionate about?

  1. What would you love your child to get better at?

  1. Overall how does your child feel about school and 5th grade?

  1. My child learns best when the teacher is….

  1. Great friends for my child are ….

  1. My child does not work well with…

  1. What is your child’s favorite book?

  1. What fears does your child have?  (Big or small)

  1. What is the best way to motivate your child?

Tell Me A Little Bit About You and Your Family

  1. What are you looking forward to with 5th grade?

  1. How would you like to be involved with your child’s education?

  1. What is your preferred method of communication (email, phone call, meeting, note…)

  1. Does your family have any special celebrations or traditions you would like to share with the class?

  1. What subject/area did you dislike when you went to school?

  1. What subject/area did you love when you went to school?

  1. I think 5th grade will be….

  1. A typical afternoon after school looks like this in our life…

  1. Who else lives at your house (siblings, pets etc.?)

  1. Anything else you would like to tell me that will help me make this a successful year?