by Erin Dye
It’s back-to-school time! As you establish new routines with your students, it’s also a good time to think about how you’ll communicate with parents during the year. Parental involvement is a key factor in student achievement. Regular communication with parents keeps them informed about activities and assignments in your classroom as well as their child’s performance.
The following tools can make teacher–parent communication easy and effective:
1) Create a class website or blog.
A class website is a great way to give parents an overview of your class. For example, you can post your contact information, a syllabus, classroom rules and expectations, and a schedule with important due dates. Weebly and Blackboard Engage are helpful resources for setting up classroom websites. Depending on how you want to use your site, you can keep the design basic or set up interactive features, such as discussion forums.
You can also create a class blog using a site such as Edublogs or Blogger (Google’s free blogging service). On your blog, you can post written updates, photos, and videos of what students are learning. Parents who read the blog will get a glimpse of specific classroom activities.
2) Use social networking sites.
Many parents check social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter regularly. Why not create a class Facebook page and Twitter account for parents who are on these sites anyway? This allows you to share frequent, quick updates about classroom happenings. You can even link your Twitter account to a Facebook page to make communication easier. Just remember to check your school’s rules regarding social media before posting anything.
3) Give parents ongoing access to grades.
To minimize surprises at the end of a grading period, consider giving parents open access to their child’s progress. Many data management systems used for recording grades, such as Rediker, have secure portals for parents to view grades. If your school doesn’t use a system like this, then you can create a grade book online using a site like Edmodo or Engrade to share grades with parents.
4) Text parents important information.
Using texting services such as Remind (formerly Remind101) allows teachers to communicate quickly with parents on their mobile devices about upcoming events or assignments without sharing their personal phone numbers. It’s also a great way for administrators to communicate time-sensitive information such as weather-related school closings.
5) Don’t forget about emails, phone calls, and conferences.
Despite the many new methods of communicating with parents, sometimes emails, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings are the best ways to share information. Even if you update your blog or send out tweets regularly, not all parents see this information. Many parents appreciate getting regular email updates, such as newsletters, with important information in one place.
For emails or phone calls with individual parents, be sure to share your policies at the beginning of the school year. For example, let parents know if you return phone calls or emails within a certain time frame or if you have office hours when they can best reach you by phone. In addition, consider face-to-face meetings with parents as your schedule permits; sometimes these meetings are the best way to address specific questions or concerns.
Erin Dye is Manager of Consulting Services for Green Light Professional Development. She has extensive experience creating digital materials for interactive whiteboards and iPads. She writes about technology integration and GLPD’s work in local schools.