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    tips for Fast Start
    By AddieJ

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    I really enjoy this book! I used it last year to replace my old homework program (one sheet a night from either our reading or math curriculum.) I use BEE binders and I would copy the poem and parent sheet and place them in the right section so the families would have a collection of appropriate poems & activities to do with their kids anytime.

    I sent the new sheets home on Monday and told them to do Looking at Words & Letters on Mondays, the second part Playing with Sounds on Tuesdays & Wednesdays, and the third part Beginning to Read on Thursdays and Fridays.
    On Fridays I would check the sheets in the BEE binder & if parents had signed the bottom saying they had done the activities during the week, I allowed the children to pick a prize from the treasure box.

    In the classroom I wrote the weekly poem out on chart paper & we read through it together on Mondays and did a few extension activities throughout the week (different activities than what the parents were to do.) I made a Fast Start center (for during other literacy center time) where the students put the poem back together in the pocket chart, picked out focus words & sounds, illustrated it, etc.
    I always encouraged parents to read their Fast Start poems in my weekly newsletter and encouraged them to share their questions & feedback with me. The parent surveys in the book were really great too.

    I also encouraged the families to make a word bank using index cards & the small boxes with their kids. I think that idea is mentioned in the beg of the book. I put suggested weekly words (from the poems) in my newsletter but I told families their children could also pick words from the poems for their own word bank (& illustrate when appropriate.) As a tip, I told parents to put the number of the poem on the index cards for future reference, if desired.

    At the beg of the year, I made magnets for the kids using the stickers in the front of the book (attached to cardboard & hot glued to a clothespin & then I attached a magnet to that.) My goal was to send home reminder slips to attach to the clothespin but I couldn't get that organized well so I told parents to attach other school work to the clothespin & the magnet itself would be the reminder ;)

    Of the families that said they faithfully read the poems & did the activities, all said it was a very worthwhile time to spend with their child. Since it was first year with the program, some parents weren't used to the idea of not doing a paper/pencil homework assignment and it took a long time to grab onto the overall picture. That's why the weekly encouragement and tips was so very helpful for my families.

    As for doing the poems in the order of the book, that made sense to me because the activities gradually became more difficult but I found I was already doing the poems in class & the timing didn't always match up. Trial & error and I'm still looking for the best way to make everything fit! I guess the review is good - either we do it in class first & later it goes home for homework or vice versa or I always make it line up...I feel like I'm rambling now - Sorry!

    Good luck with it & if you have other questions, please ask!

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