As a teacher, parent communication is key. I’ve come to realize that open and requent communication not only informs parents, it brings them to your side of the court. I’ve found the more I communicate, the more parents have my back and support my and the class. Here are 3 keys and corresponding tech that I have found critical in this goal.
1: Share Student Work
I love the app Seesaw for sharing student work with parents. Seesaw was developed with the focus on being an online digital portfolio, but teachers are finding many more uses for it, making it a sort of Learning Management System (LMS). Students can upload a myriad of data types including photo’s, video’s documents and can add addtional types on top of any of these such as voice and drawing. There’s an easy to navigate app parents can download right on their phone and connect to view only their own child’s uploads. Check out the Seesaw PD site here, just scroll down to see a menu of previously recorded webcasts. You can sign up for free and play around with the site here. Here’s an example of what I did on the first day of school last year. Students were excited to go home and tell their parents to get the app so they could see what they had done. After that first day of school, I had 90% of parents linked to their child’s portfolio. Here’s another example of how students used Seesaw to share a project they did to learn about the people in our school community. This is our instructional coach. Students interviewed adults in our school and created a Chatterpix with what they learned.
Throughout the year, I uploaded weekly newsletters to Seesaw and students shared their work on a daily basis. Parent’s loved knowing the quality and type of work their child was doing and what content they were learning. Parents and students could also make comments back and forth. Parents were pretty good about keeping it positive and encouraging. Here’s a short intro to Seesaw.
2: Weekly Email
I kept a word doc with the outline of my weekly informaton for parents. I just changed at the end of the day every Friday and sent it off. This year I used our school gradebook which has the option to send emails to the group of parents in my classroom. There was a drawback to this in that this system didn’t allow me to send attachments. In previous years and what I plan to do next year, is a parents first homework. I ask parents to include their current contact information, including email, and create a google group with them so I can easily email the group. This way, I have the most up to date informaton directly from parents and have more options for attachments and links.
Here’s an outline of the newsletter I sent each week. At the beginning of the year, I did include links to our spelling lists. But I didn’t require spelling and after doing a quick parent survey, most parents were not using it, so I stopped including it. But you can add or delete anything here or completely make your own template. The nice thing about a template is its ease to change. I’ve left in my text so you can see that I erred on the side of giving more info. My parents appreciated feeling like they really knew what was going on.
And here’s a copy of the parent’s first homework note that I send. I started using a Google Form to collect the information so it was very quick and easy to copy and paste to where I needed it or look it up quickly. It’s also quick to have parents just send an email so I can quickly add it to the group and I know there won’t be any typo’s on anyone’s part in writing/typing the address.
3. Text Reminders and Info.
There are times when you need parents to know something quickly. Sometimes, parents don’t check email for a few days, so a way to communicate in a very timely way is important. I have used Remind in the past to send text message reminders or information when more immediacy is needed. Reminders of field trips or changes in schedules or events are great times to use this. Reminders for assignments or events is also helpful. Here’s a short intro to Remind.
Another more recent app that has some different features with the same idea to send text messages to groups is Bloomz. I have not used this application, but will be comparing and researching both Remind and Bloomz to choose which will be the best choice for me this coming year. Here’s an article comparing the two. And a simple Gooogle search will bring you much more information as well. If you’ve used Bloomz, we’d love to hear about it in the comments. Here’s short intro video to Bloomz.
A final option for these quick communications is setting up Gooogle Voice. This service allows you to choose a ghost phone number that conncects to your phone number. You can text and call with this ghost number and parents can text and call the ghost number, but don’t find out your real number. There are options to set the voice number to not distrub as well. I’m going to be trying this out. I have given my number out to parents on field trips or who want daily updates/texts about their child for my own ease and conveneicne, but I’m not a fan of families having my personal number. So, Google Voice might be a great work around for this. Here’s an intro video to Google Voice.
Try out some of these communication methods this school year and see how it changes your relationship with parents. My experience has been very positive in opening up and communicating more. We’d love to hear how you communicate with parents. Share your ideas and experiences in the comments.