Do you struggle to maintain ongoing communication with parents during the school year? So often, we start out with the best of intentions, but the parent-teacher relationship can be one of the first things to drop off as the busyness of the year sets in. I know that’s true for me, as sending home that weekly newsletter becomes such a chore. But over the years, I’ve picked up some great strategies for keeping families in-the-know. Follow these easy tips to keep communication going strong all year long.
Tip #1 Use a Communication app
I use the Remind 101 app to message parents weekly. Parents simply download the app and you are able to send out group messages, whole-class messages, or individual messages to parents. I use it to remind families about ice cream days, field trips, special events, and even remembering to bring back their library books or wear appropriate shoes for PE at the beginning of the year.
Remind, Bloomz, and Class Dojo, were all clear favorites when I polled my Facebook Group. Each app has its own unique features (class Dojo is also a classroom management tool) but what they have in common is that they allow you to communicate with parents directly. Check out all three, and think about which one is right for you!
Tip #2 Use Seesaw Online Learning Journals
Seesaw has transformed the way my students use technology. If your students have access to tablets, computers, or Chromebooks, get them using Seesaw! It’s the perfect way for families to see what their children are doing in the classroom, often in real time. Here are some examples of what students can do on Seesaw:
- Post a photo of a pattern they made using manipulatives
- Draw a picture using the drawing tool/ type a sentence or story to go with it
- Record a video of themselves reading a book
- Write sight words, sentences, and CVC words
- Record themselves skip counting
In the example below, a student was looking for nonfiction text features in her book. When she found these labels, she snapped a photo and used the drawing tool to circle them. Then she wrote the adorable sentence below it explaining what the page was teaching us. Her mom and classmates were able to see what she had done, like, and comment on it to encourage her.
The possibilities for Seesaw are endless–no matter what you are doing in the classroom, there is an opportunity for students to respond on Seesaw. Families simply need to download the app, and they will receive a notification when their child posts something new. They can even leave audio comments on their child’s work!
Tip #3 Send a Newsletter, but Don’t Rely on it
If you take the time to send out a weekly newsletter, kudos! I send one home weekly and gradually “wean” families off of the newsletter by spring. But so often, notes and reminders put in the newsletter alone get missed. For the first decade of my career, I was so frustrated by this! And then my son started school. Listen. If this elementary school teacher who KNOWS the importance of communication can’t always manage to read the newsletter before the week is over (oops), then I guarantee you the vast majority of parents aren’t reading it carefully and in a timely manner either. I still think a newsletter is great, but it doesn’t hurt to send an extra little reminder about important events, and your families will appreciate it!
Tip #4 Send Positive Notes Home
I know. You learned about this way back in undergrad, right? You said you were going to do it last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. I will be the first to admit that I never send as many of these home as I would like to. That’s why I created these “caught being good” slips that you can simply hand to a student! It’s so simple. Just keep them in a plastic container on your desk and hand out as you see fit. You can still send home a more personalized note when you can, but these are perfect for those crazy days when you would otherwise be kicking yourself at the end of the day thinking “darn, I wanted to send home a note about ___!” Just sign up below to access the free download!
Tip #5 Don’t Overwhelm with Homework
Research tells us that homework does not have a positive impact on student success. I have tried, seen, and purchased a variety of homework options over the years. One thing I’ve learned is that families appreciate it when the things you send home are quick, simple, and to the point. Last year, I really wanted to find a way to help families understand the skills we were working on. I created Home Connections, which require families to assess their child in one skill, and then report back to the teacher on the child’s level of mastery. It’s available HERE in my shop for both language arts and math. These have been a game-changer in my classroom! They’ve been an eye-opener for me! And now my students’ families fully understand each skill. If you choose to send home nothing, that’s great too! Just encourage reading!