courtesy Stewart Elementary School, WA
The first newspaper was published in America in 1690.* This changed the way information was shared: from tales and gossip to written word. Beginning in 1885, newspapers were delivered daily by train. This brought about a more current sharing of information. Then, by 1954 there were more radios than daily newspapers changing the way information was shared once again. 1995 brought us into the digital era when newspapers began to be printed online providing immediate information around the world. In 2009, printed newspapers had their worst year in decades from an advertising revenue point of view. Today information is instant. We know what is going on in the world as it happens. But what do your classroom families know about your classroom events?
When I started teaching 17 years ago I wrote and printed the monthly newsletter. This parent communication tool provided upcoming important dates, a recap of each major subject area from the month, and a very small collection of student work. In 2000 I started a classroom web site so my families could have a view into our classroom. To submit information, however, I had to go through our technology administrator and information was current, but not always in a timely manner. About five years into my classroom experience, 2001, I started publishing a weekly newsletter. This brought more information into homes with items we could use in the classroom, the spelling list for the week, but it was still greatly a telling of events that had occurred. Then, in 2009 I began my classroom blog. Now families could see into our day and use the resources we were using at school. I still have my blog and I use it to post pictures, links, student work, and Educreations created by students for families to understand the thinking that goes on in our classroom.
Just as the American Newspaper has evolved so has communication in our classrooms. I firmly believe to have parents on your side and to best meet the needs of all students you need to invite families into your learning environment. Yes, many will not come. Some will not respond. But for the families or students you impact it is worth the time and effort. Our world has changed and information is a click away. Here are some resources you can use in your classroom to bring your families through your doors and open the lines of communication.
Blogger—this is a blog site for creating a classroom blog. You can use box.com (or other hosting sites) to embed letters and documents. You can use shutterfly.com (or other photo sites) to link and embed classroom pictures. You can use YouTube to embed video clips your class uses for learning as well as videos of your class in action. www.blogger.com
WordPress–this is a blog site for creating a classroom blog. You can create multiple pages of information to cover various subjects. You can embed photo slide shows. You can upload documents and letters. You can use YouTube to embed video clips your class uses for learning as well as videos of your class in action. http://wordpress.com
Google Calendar–this is an online calendar that can be linked into your blog. You can list important dates from the year for parents to have access to anywhere they have access to the web. Include district dates such as no school days, parent-teacher conferences, and breaks. Include project and test dates. Include picture days and field trips. Use this to help parents keep track of everything going on through the year. www.google.com/calendar
Remind101—the is an online text reminder site. Sign up and you will receive information to share with parents explaining how they can sign up. This provides parents with a code to enter online or text from their phone. You then use the app on your phone or the online site to send out text reminders. I use it for supply needs, test, library book return, picture day, and other reminders that I want parents to remember. No personal information or text numbers are ever seen or shared. https://dashboard.remind101.com/users/sign_up
Edmodo—this is an online social media/classroom site. This is a site for students to find information and links (things you might put on your blog) but they can also answer questions and interact with the information. For a more detailed explanation check out Paula Taylor Glass’ article http://theeducatorsroom.com/2013/09/using-edmodo-in-elementary-classrooms/. https://www.edmodo.com/
Today communicating with parents is an ongoing, up-to-date information exchange. Enabling parents to have access to links, apps, videos, and resources you are using in your classroom will allow for learning at home to continue outside of the school doors. Share with parents your expertise and the questions they should be asking their children. Provide families with information for doing homework and the importance of reading every day. By inviting parents into your classroom with ongoing communication you will set the stage for openness and increase the success each child has in your classroom this year.
For more information about Classroom Communication check out my article “From the Classroom to Home: Communicating with Parents” http://theeducatorsroom.com/2012/11/from-the-classroom-home-communicating-with-parents/ Stop and think about what you want your students to be doing. Providing this information to parents will increase the change that is what happens when they leave. How do you communicate with your classroom families?
*All dates and information in the first paragraph from: Bellis, Mary. “Timeline of the Newspaper Industry.” About.com. n.p., n.d. Web. Sept 8, 2013. <http://inventors.about.com/od/pstartinventions/a/printing.htm>.