There are so many ways to keep your families informed about class events. The class blog and class newsletter are two of the most popular and simple ways to communicate with parents. On this page, I’ll share those options and several others, along with the tools you need to get started with each.
Which format will be most useful for YOUR families?
This is the most important consideration. If you want a class blog and most of your parents don’t have computer access or can’t read your blog’s language, your efforts will probably be wasted. Similarly, creating a beautiful and lengthy paper newsletter isn’t worthwhile if most of your parents never check their kids’ backpacks. Know your families! And if you don’t, feel free to ask them. A quick poll at Open House or in your welcome letter can give you excellent feedback and what parents would like.
This is my personal favorite because it’s the easiest for me to create and almost fail-proof in terms of making sure parents receive it. I include a section in my parent contract or welcome letter that requests email addresses of any adult family members that would like to receive occasional emails about class events. The majority of parents provide at least one email address, and I enter them into my work email as a group so I can send mass emails to them without revealing all the addresses to everyone on the list.
My email newsletter was typically very informal: usually I sent emails only when there was an important reminder. I had the children make a note in their agendas when emails were sent so parents knew to check for them. Also, I printed a copy of the email for the handful of parents who chose not to provide email addresses and sent the hard copies home with those students. The email newsletter worked extremely well with busy families and my own hectic schedule.
A static class website (meaning a site that doesn’t have posts like a blog) can be a good reference tool for parents. If you have signed permission forms, you can post photos, scanned copies of class work, etc. You can create a free class website using sites like Google Sites, Scholastic, and School Notes. Although I used a class website from 2003-2006, I came to prefer using a blog because it’s easier to update and customize and makes parent interaction/feedback much easier.
Having a class blog is a great way to share not only important reminders, but photos, video, student work, and more. You will need to obtain some sort of media release from parents if you’re going to have students contribute to the blog or if you’re going to share photos. I would recommend password-protecting your blog so that only family members can view it. At the bottom of this page, I share some examples of excellent class blogs to provide you with some inspiration.
While Twitter only gives you 140 characters and can’t really take the place of class newsletter, I’ve seen many teachers use Twitter to communicate with their students and families. It’s a great tool for middle and high school teachers (whose students are more likely to have Twitter accounts) and can be used to remind followers about upcoming tests, important dates, homework assignments, and more. Check the bottom of the page for examples of teachers who have used Twitter successfully in this way. Here area few blog posts to get you started: 100 Ideas for Using Twitter in the Classroom, How Teachers Can Use Twitter to Share Information and Fun Moments,
You could also create a public Facebook page (formerly called fan pages) for your class. While there are a number of privacy considerations, some teachers have found that Facebook is the perfect way to keep parents updated because it’s a social media site that they already use. If you’re curious, check out this blog post and Prezi about how a first grade teacher used Facebookto communicate with parents. You can also view Mrs. Jackson’s Facebook page and read 100 Ways You Should Be Using Facebook in Your Classroom.
Teacher-created paper newsletters
One year, I combined a classroom newsletter with academic and behavioral reports. I used this method to keep parents updated about what we were studying in class AND to let them know how well their children were mastering the skills being taught. I explain this procedure in-depth in The Cornerstone book, but you can download a blank copy, a sample completed form, and instructions here: weekly academic/behavioral report form combining class newsletter, report, reflection. You can also check out the Daily/Weekly Reports page to find out other ways I’ve kept parents informed about student behavior and academics.
Class-created paper newsletters
One of the best ways to ensure parents actually read the newsletters you send home is to have their children help write the content! The first year I tried this (with third graders), I kept it very simple. I used a format I called Ask me about…, which I designed as a springboard to help parents talk with their children about what’s happening in school. You could type in the information (which would be helpful in creating future newsletters), but I chose to hand write the content because I liked the personal touch. This took less than 10 minutes each week. There was also a section written by the Guest Columnist of the week–students took turns writing about their favorite thing they learned that week. Parents loved that feature and often saved the newsletter that their child helped write.
If you teach older students, you could gradually release take the entire newsletter creation into their hands. Play around with different newsletter creation tools and templates. My “Ask Me About…” newsletter was created as a Word document because there weren’t a whole lot of options in 2002, but now, there are lots of free solutions to help you create really attractive newsletters. There are links to several free classroom newsletter templates for teacher here and below in the Recommended Resources.