Creating a classroom community where students feel loved and safe is crucial for student success in any learning environment. For many students, your classroom is their first time in school, away from their families. It can be a hard transition filled with many big emotions for both the child and family. Family necklaces are a way for students to have their families close to their hearts all day long while they are at school! Students can wear them anytime they miss their family, feel sad or lonely, or have anxiety. Plus they double as a name tag when you have a guest or substitute in the classroom. I am so excited to share with you how I make them and get the photos for them!
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I have made family necklaces for every class I have ever had! I started making family necklaces during the first year that I was teaching, and I have made them every year after.
Pick a wall or bulletin board at the student level because they will be the ones getting them and putting them away when they need them. Students decide when they want them and when they want to put them away. Some students use them all the time, all year long and other students barely use them at all. But there are there if, or when, they choose to use them.
I had a weird, tiny wall in my classroom, and it was the perfect place. I stapled the fabric to the wall and put a double border around it. Then I made the sign at the top with extra bulletin board pieces, a piece of white cardstock, and letter stickers.
Now I know you are thinking, it looks like I have a small class and when I taught a half-day session, I did. When I taught full day I could have up to 25 kids on my roster. During those years, I absolutely had a bigger bulletin board with the family necklaces. They get tangled sometimes but not very much if you use plastic lacing string. They are ready for students on the first day of school, and they always stay at school.
Pocket Time! I laminated the library pockets and cut the slit open using an expo knife. Lastly, I attached them to the bulletin board with a staple at the top and bottom of each pocket. I put a student name sticker at the bottom of each pocket. These are super easy to make on Avery address labels. Check out all the ways I use name stickers in my classroom HERE. Here’s a trick to share too: if a pocket tears down the side, just use clear tape to reinforce it.
Here are some of the necklaces. I took this picture about halfway through the year, and you can see they are loved! Now for the family picture, which can be tricky. At open house, I put on my open house scavenger hunt for families to have their picture taken by me. For the families that didn’t come, I just have them text or email a family photo to me. If a family is divorced, I put one family on each side.
To make the necklaces, I cut cardstock to fit inside the pockets. I make the necklace card a bit skinnier, so there is some wiggle room to make it easy for students to get them in and out of the pocket. Then I grab some student name stickers and place a name sticker at the bottom of the card. It’s important to print the family photos smaller, so they fit. Print them wallet size or 9 to a page, and they should fit perfectly. Glue the photos to each one, laminate, and cut out each one. Make a hole at the top, cut the string to the desired length, string it through, and knot the end. Make sure you use plastic lacing string to avoid tangles. I like to use clear with glitter lacing string, but you can use just clear lacing string too.
Color Code all the things! In my classroom, most new students can not recognize their names in print yet, so I color code everything I can. This way, they can begin to find their name independently. For example, Austin would look for the yellow pocket with the letter A. I try to make nearly everything color-coded so the kids can more easily identify what is theirs: cubby name tags, question of the day stars, writing journal, fine motor journal, job chart clothespin, name mat, and anything else I can think of!
If you want Family themed activities to build a caring classroom community, check out my All About my Family Unit! All About my Family is loaded with fun, family-themed activities to help your students get to know each other and their families. Discuss and create a family anchor chart about where families can live, who can be in a family, and what families like to do together. Make family graphs, class books, mini-books, collages, and family portraits. These exciting activities will help you build a caring classroom community of learners who will support each other all year long!
Each activity has a page of teacher tips to help you create the activity easily and ensure it will go smoothly. You can use these activities as arrival activities, center activities, small group instruction, and share during circle. These activities are designed for preschool, pre-k, or kindergarten. Grab the All About my Family Unit HERE!
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