3 Keys to Parent Communication

communication-1991849_960_720As 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.

Using Google Forms for Parent Communication

Save time and paper this year by using Google Forms as a parent communication tool!

Google Forms is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to gather information. Whether it’s assigning book clubs or collecting mock election nominations, Google Forms gives teachers the ability to sort through large groups of data without having to fumble through pesky paper stacks.

A simple way you can use Google Forms to make your life easier is by collecting information from parents at the beginning of the year.

What’s the best time and method to contact them? How involved are they in their child’s education? What do they want you to know about their child? You can gather all of this information and more, and the results are easily accessible from anywhere at any time.

To create a Google Form, simply go to www.forms.google.com. You can choose a template or start from scratch.

From there, you can create your questions by clicking the little circle with the plus sign to the right.

google form capture 1

Start with the student’s basic information. I like to have a separate question for First Name and Last Name — this makes it easier to sort the Google Sheet alphabetically by last name. If you teach multiple hours, you’ll want to include that as a multiple choice question.

You’ll notice that Google Forms will automatically adjust the answer type depending on the type of question it detects. You can change this by clicking on the drop-down menu.

Next, you can enter the rest of your questions. Here are some questions ideas to get you started:

  • What is the most important thing you want me to know about your child?
  • Has your child had any academic difficulties in the past that you want me to know about?
  • Has your child had any social difficulties in the past that you you want me to know about?
  • How does your child learn best?
  • What is your child passionate about?
  • What is your child’s favorite subject?
  • On a scale of 1-5, how much does your child enjoy reading?

It’s best to include a combination of question types (short answer, multiple choice, linear scale, etc). so you’re not asking parents to write you a novel. You’re more likely to get responses back if your survey looks quick and easy to complete.

To send out your survey, double check the settings (the little gear icon next to SEND). If you’re on a school Google account, sometimes it’ll default to requiring a district sign in to complete the form. Simply uncheck this option so that the survey is accessible to anyone with the link.

Then, share the survey clicking SEND. You have three options: Send via email, via link, or via embedded HTML. If you have a class website, you may want to choose the embedded HTML option to post on your page. If you’re not sure what that means, it’s probably best to choose one of the other options.

Personally, I like to grab the shareable link and send it out in a message through our district’s management system.

Once the responses come in, you can view them from the Responses tab or send them to a Google Sheet by clicking the little green icon on the right.

google form capture 2

And that’s all there is to it. Now you don’t have to worry about sorting, filing, or (gasp!) losing all those paper forms this year. Google Forms for the win!

-Shana, www.helloteacherlady.com

(Psst – if you’re looking for an already completed form, you can grab mine by signing up for my email list here.)


Bring Coding to the Classroom with Emojis

Bring Coding to the Classroom with Emojis

Guest Blog Post by Livio Bolzon

A year ago, Chase Engelbrecht and I came up with the idea for Codemoji.com, a way for students to learn how to code while having  fun with emojis.  As a teacher you might think emojis and the coding curriculum can’t go hand in hand, but our team has found a way.

Codemoji uses emojis as the on ramp to coding. While enjoying the learning process, the codemoji platform is able to give, even the youngest students, a high level of understanding of HTML ,CSS andJavascript.

The relatable emoji commands reduce the need for typing skills, memorizing functions, and clunky syntax. Instead, Codemoji makes HTML, CSS, and JavaScript intuitive for young coders.

What is Codemoji?

With Codemoji, the inner workings of websites are demystified as students get hands-on experience building web pages and animations. The “emoji” part of Codemoji is exactly that: a library of relatable emoticons that represent specific, text-based commands in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (for example, an HTML Head Tag is represented by a panda head emoticon). Emojis are strung together to create lines of code that follow standard coding logic and syntax. Run the Codemoji in the Live Display box to instantly see the webpage or animation in action. The Show Tags tab displays the text version of the code.

Each lesson starts with step-by-step, multimodal instructions: text and a computerized text-to-speech option, followed by drag-and-drop animated instructions showing Codemoji moving from the Emoji Box into the Text Editor (in HTML lessons only). Students can run and get instant feedback on their code and progress at their own speed.

Bring Coding to the Classroom with Emojis

Codemoji offers more advanced Javascript lessons where students learn about functions and much more with the help of step by step instructions.

Bring Coding to the Classroom with Emojis

Codemoji also has a fun way to build animations in the workshop.

Bring Coding to the Classroom with Emojis

Devices That Will Run Codemoji.com

Chromebooks, laptops or desktop computers that are running an updated version of Google Chrome or other supported browsers current version of Chrome is 58 will run codemoji.com.

For younger students such as those in 1st – 2nd grade, headphones are very helpful, as we have text to speech features for them.

How Can Teachers Use Codemoji?

Codemoji is an engaging tool that helps teachers guide students through the main coding technologies that drive websites: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Content-wise, Codemoji easily fits into a computer science, STEM, or media arts course. It is also a great addition to flipped or blended classrooms, enrichment programs, and summer camp offerings. We have also seen Codemoji being used as a free time website that students can go to or even a website students can go to as a reward.

Students can work individually or collaboratively, either by exploring in the Playground (HTML and CSS) or tinkering around in the Workshop (JavaScript). The teacher dashboard manages classes, tracks student progress, and presents data/assessments in a variety of ways. Stick to Chrome and supported browsers.

Students tab under teacher dashboard:

Bring Coding to the Classroom with Emojis

Codemoji In The Classroom?

If you would like to use Codemoji as part of a class, you can do this by showing the students how the platform works and giving them a quick overview. Then let them proceed on their own since Codemoji is self paced. You, the teacher, can then walk around the classroom and help students as needed.

In the teacher dashboard you can track all the students’ progress by clicking on the student’s name in the students tab. Also in the students tab we have lights to the left of the student names that you can use to see what the students are doing and if the students need help.  The students will have a light on all of their lessons and if they click this light it will show up in your dashboard as red which means they need help. If the light is blue that means they are in the webpage build or the workshop. If the light is grey that means the student is not online. If the light is green that means the student is online.

Codemoji can be used many different ways but it was designed with the classroom in mind first and that’s why schools and students love it because it has everything they need to be successful learners.

Bring Coding to the Classroom with Emojis

My name is Livio Bolzon and I am 21 from Chicago IL. I am a fan of the Chicago Cubs and I went to Whitney Young High School and now I go to Northwestern University where I study computer science. I am the Co-Founder of Codemoji.com a platform to teach students programming. 


Easy Parent Communication with the Technology Tool Edmodo

It can be really challenging to engage parents in their child’s classroom activities. Blended learning adds to this challenge when students aren’t bringing home as many papers. Edmodo is a technology tool that helps to solve this problem.

Easy parent communication with the technology tool Edmodo FB

What is Edmodo?

If you haven’t come across Edmodo yet, it is a learning management system. That means teachers load content into the system to share with students through assignments. Students access their assignments, work on them, and then turn them in through the system. Teachers then grade the assignments and give students feedback. It is all done digitally, paperless.

How do Parents fit into Edmodo?

A teacher invites students into their Edmodo “class” through a Class Code. Teachers can also make a Parent Code but it is a little different than a Class Code. With the Parent Code, a parent uses the code to make their account and then can add all of their children under their account. They only need one code and then they are in (but students need a Class Code for each class they join).

How can Teachers communicate with Parents through Edmodo?

Once parents have their accounts, there are several ways to communicate. I’m going to highlight three.

  1. Weekly Newsletter to Parents. Parents, don’t read this next sentence. Teachers, the parents can’t send you messages (yay), but you can send a note out directed to them! You can post a note with an attached newsletter for parents and students to see. A weekly message that included updates and achievements is a great way to help Parents feel like they are informed.
  2. Direct communication. You can send a note with only one student chosen, which means their parents will be able to access it. This can also be great if the student has a tutor or someone else they work on homework with. Consider giving this other person a Parent Code too.
  3. Calendar. You can add events, key dates, activities, and assignment due dates to the calendar so that parents can see what is planned for the month. Note to parents

What other parent communication tools have you tried or heard of that are digital?

Thanks for reading! -Brittany

Easy parent communication with the technology tool Edmodo

10 Attention Grabbers To Try when using Tech

10 Attention Grabbers To Try when using Tech

10 Attention Grabbers To Try when using Tech

10 Attention Grabbers

When our students are using devices it can be really challenging to get their attention. Sometimes they have headphones on, sometimes they are just really engaged in the lesson. These 10 attention grabbers are something to try with your students. Some will stick with your group and you can add them to your regular rotation of classroom management strategies.

These attention grabbers are split up into 2 categories

Call and Response

The teacher says a phrase and the children respond to it with a specific response (usually also requires a physical response from students like putting their hands up, etc.)

  1. Hands Up – Buttercup (students raise their hands from their devices and look at the teacher)
  2. Mac – Cheese, Children – Freeze (this one is two parts to give students a moment to prepare to stop)
  3. Hands on Top – That means stop (hands on head)
  4. Floppy – Disk (fun tech themed one)
  5. Light Show – Time to go (teacher flashes lights and then says the phrase. This one is great for when they are wearing headphones)10 Attention Grabbers To Try when using Tech

Teacher Phrases

This set of attention grabbers doesn’t require a verbal student response, but rather a physical one.

6. Clap it and Lap it (to get your students to remove their hands from the keyboard)

7. Flip the Flap (for use with iPad covers, “Close the lid” would work well for laptops)

8. T-Rex Arms (again, to get your students to remove their hands from the keyboard)

9. Horn signal

10. Chime or music with specific patterns or songs for different effects

10 Attention Grabbers To Try when using Tech

Give these a try and let me know how they go for you. Do you have another suggestion? Leave it in the comments so we can all learn from each other.

This list was compiled by dozens of Tech Teachers and Media Specialists in the Facebook Group Technology Teacher Tribe.  Request to join today!

10 Resources for Your {Almost} Paperless Classroom

If you are fortunate enough to have technology in the classroom, you should be using these 10 resources. These are the easiest apps and sites that I have found for students to use, and the most meaningful for me in terms of content and data.

Resources for going paperless:
1. Google Classroom is an absolute must! Upload any pdf to Google Classroom and your students can annotate over it! AAAMMMAAAZZZING!!!  They can type, highlight, and write on any pdf.

2. Class Kick is another way teachers can assign pdfs and have students annotate over them. If you don’t have access to Google Classroom, try this app! It makes using technology in the classroom easy! Classkick is a free app that shows teachers in real-time exactly what students are doing and who needs help so they can provide instant feedback. Using any content, teachers add drawings, text, images, audio, links, and videos to provide instruction or create assessments.

3. SeeSaw App is yet a third way to assign content to students. You can assign files, videos, drawings, and anything from Google Drive now! This app makes technology in elementary classrooms so easy for students. They can upload their work, and you must approve the assignment. Send parents a link to their students portfolio so that they can see their child’s work. They won’t be able to see any other student’s work, YAY for student privacy!!!

4. Digital ReadWorks  is a great way to assign articles. They have an amazing, in depth library of fiction and nonfiction texts organized by skill, topic, and/or grade level. They are easy to assign, students will need to have a login, but the texts are well worth it.

5. Newsela also has tons of articles along with comprehension questions. They publish new articles daily to reflect current events and highlight holidays and cultures.

6. Front Row is great for math practice! You can assign lessons, or allow students to do the adaptive practice on your current math domain. All students need to get started is your class code and logging in is easy. You can check their “report card” to see how they have done. I usually require 20 problems (2 levels) during a math block. The video tutorials are so helpful when students are struggling with a topic.

7. Remind app makes communicating with parents super easy! Print out instructions for parents and then send them texts anytime you need to. You can also schedule texts so that they go out at just the right time.

8. Digital Task Cards  are fun and easy! No more printing, cutting, laminating, and storing (and finding) task cards! Students get immediate feedback with these digital task cards and enjoy the competitive format. Check out how digital task cards work on Boom Learning! Boom Learning will give teachers who are new to Boom Cards, for one year, and at no charge, the ability to collect and maintain student progress reports for up to 80 students. This is a super cool feature because students get immediate feedback and you have digital access to data that you can analyze!

9. Digital Interactive Notebooks takes the frustration of copying, cutting, and pasting out of interactive notebooks. As long as students have devices, they can access their notebooks. Students love these notebooks, and you will love how much you can use and re-use them.


10. This Paperless Back to School Flipbook is easy to set up and parents will find it much more useful than your old handbook that gets lost in the hustle of back to school paperwork. You can send the link home as often as needed.


Are you going to be incorporating technology into your classroom next year? If so, have no fear! You’ve got this! If I can do it, you can too! And you can save soooooo much paper by using these tools!


>Click here to get the one page wonder, digital resource that will get you started with technology today! <<<

>>>Find out more about Google Classroom here!<<<

My Top 10 Blog Posts About Integrating Technology into Reading and Language Arts

My Top 10 Blog Posts About Integrating Technology into Reading and Language Arts


One of my professional passions is finding meaningful ways to integrate technology into reading and language arts. Here are links to my top 10 blog posts of digital reading and language arts activities I have carried out in the classroom over the years.
10. My Favorite Tech Tools for Communication & Collaboration (writing and oral language skills)


How do you use technology to enhance reading and writing instruction?


Julie Smith

Using Typorama to Develop and Reinforce Growth Mindset

Are you at a loss of ways to grab your students’ attention at the beginning of the year? Do you want to lay a foundation for a positive learning experience? With the emphasis on fixed and growth mindset, we want our students to stretch their minds to learn and experience personal success, even though there may be setbacks. Teachers and students can use the design app Typorama to create posters to develop and reinforce a Growth Mindset.

A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.” – Carol Dweck

It’s so important to help our students develop a growth mindset and understand that failure is a learning experience. With the app Typorama, students can design their own posters reflecting a growth mindset. They can research different quotes or just make up their own. This is a perfect activity for the beginning of the year.

Typorama is a free app that’s so easy to use. It takes very little instruction and students will love exploring the different settings. The posters look so professional.

– When you open the app, you automatically see different backgrounds. You can choose one of those or select your own.

– Type a topic in the search window, or select camera roll and choose your own photo.


– Next, you’ll be prompted to select the format for the poster. 

– Then, comes the fun part! Select the text styles, tools for adjustment, filters, and overlays. Your students will love playing with these tools. 

– I recommend saving it to the Gallery (camera roll)
– Then, print the poster. You may want to reduce the size if you want your students to place these on their desks. Or, place them around the classroom throughout the year.
– The posters can even spark discussion on what the the poster and quote means to them.


4 fun Ways to integrate math skills using Wonder Dash Robots and Ozobots

This year we were gifted 2  wonder Dash Robots and 2 Ozobots so you can imagine my excitement and yet at the same time slight worry about  how we could use just 2 of each with a class of 24 kids…. The answer was stations! While some of the students used the desktop computers or tablets I had a small group and  was able to focus on one group at a time working through the lesson. So if you have the same problem at your school here are a few quick and easy lessons do reinforce math skills being taught in the classroom!

Ozobots: ShapesOzobots Shapes

The first lesson was using Ozobots.  In the classroom, kindergarten students were working on learning shapes so to reinforce the classroom curriculum. I created shapes pages using Google Slides numbered and laminated them. I then created a paper for them to record which shape they had used.  Ozobots will move around each shape the students then match up the number and make that shape on their paper.  Quick and Easy lesson, but a great way to build student engagement and reinforce the lesson. This would also be a great math station in the regular classroom as well!

Get a copy of the items used for the lesson using the link below.


Dash- Recognizing Numbers, Adding, or Subtracting

Don’t you just love it when you create a lesson and can use it for multiple grades just by tweaking a few small details! For this activity I created a grid using a piece of poster board. Inside the space I placed numbers. In K-2 we used this lesson to reinforce a few different skills. At the beginning of k- we used it for number recognition. I then pulled it back out for k-2 to use when we they were working on Addition and subtraction in the classroom. So here is how it works, you will need a large piece of poster board, create a grid that matches that of the Path App for Dash. I think mine was 7 inches down by 12 inches across. After creating the grid you can then add your numbers, math problems, shapes, etc. Install the Wonder Dash Path App on you tablet. With k-1 I had them “drive” to a path and then tell me the number or math equation and answer that Dash “landed” on. With the older ones, I would give them a math problem and then they would have to figure out how far over and down they would have to go as well as the answer to the math problem. As you can see you can differentiate the lesson for the age group you have. This would be a great activity to use with numbers, shapes, letters, sight words, or equations. Once you teach your students how to use the Path App you could set this up in a small group math or reading station.

Dash Math Numbers Pathwonder path app

Dash Challenge: How Far does Dash Travel?

Using Wonder Dash Robot students were given a challenge to see how far Dash would travel using the Blocky App. Students then marked the distance and measured using a ruler or yard stick.  Students could even change the variables by selecting a speed. This lesson reinforces measuring used in the classroom.

 Dash Challenge: Maze Creation

My 4th Grade students were given a challenge to work in teams to sketch out a design maze, construct the maze, create a code that Dash would move through the maze, and record their code. This lessons focuses on team building, measuring skills, sequencing, and problem solving.  The catch students had 45 minutes to complete the project and make it function.  You will notice that each teams maze is just a little different.

So here are just a few quick and easy ways to use technology while reinforcing math skills being taught in the classroom!

Using Tech to Ease Math Center Prep

Untitled Design (7)

Thanks to apps and websites, I’ve stopped spending hours of preparation and lots of money on creating math centers for my students. Instead, I used several math apps and websites to support student practice.


I run a guided math set up currently in my second grade classroom and plan to do something similar in my new fifth grade classroom next year. Students rotate through Meet with the Teacher, Practice, Problem Solving / Fact Fluency, and Review with Tech.

Often, the practice was paper and pencil this year. But, I also used www.classkick.com and app.Seesaw.me sometimes for practice. I love classkick because I can see at a quick glance where students are and if anyone needs help.

Stuents glued the problem of the day in their problem solving journals, solved the problem and then took a picture to submit on Seesaw. This way I can grade quickly online. Then, they worked on Fact Fluency using either xtramath.org or the fact fluency component of www.frontrowed.com. I prefer xtramath because I can see progress easily, but students like to have choice. Front Row will give reports if you have the school version.

Finally, in review with tech, students can choose one of many adaptive math programs. When I have the ability to assign or students have the abilty to choose a domain, I assign or tell students the domain to choose. Again, Front Row has a great site that you can access completely for free, but any reports or the ability to assign come with the paid version. Students are able to choose the domain they work in though. There is an app, but it does cost, so I just use a QR code for my students to scan and access.

Prodigy Math Game is super motivating for students. I usually have students do front row first because I feel like they get more math, but prodigy is much more motivating and does give reports, at this point in time at least. My second graders have figured out how to add others to our class group login and get noisy collaborating with classmates about what world they’re in so they can battle each other.

SumDog is another game based math practice platform.  This one is best using the app or a computer with flash. The free version is limited but my students enjoyed it fine enough. We competed in a competition that the company occassionally has and were the winning school. Our prize was to get the full version for free for one year. My students loved that they won and have really loved playing the full version. The full subscription requires the SumDog 3D app, which is also free but only full subscribers will have acess to most of the games in the 3D version. The games aren’t really 3D and don’t require any special eye wear.

Additionally, any coding apps or sites would be a great thing to add to your math. A great fast finisher option or an additional rotation. I have mostly used code.org, but I know many more have popped up and are wonderful.

There are many other math websites and apps and you can use whatever you have access to or that work best for you. These just happen to be the ones I have had the most success with in my district and with my devices. We’d love to know in your comments below what sites and apps you use. I’m always looking for new ideas.