Design Digital Newsletters for Parents

When my daughter began kindergarten, she would come home with notes pinned to her shirt–informationa about upcoming events, permission slips for field trips, and monthly newsletters. I found this incredibly amusing, but I had to admit it was an effective way to get information home to parents when you are dealing with 5-year-olds.

As a high school teacher, I often wish I could pin announcements to my students’ clothing or backpacks to ensure they actually make it home to parents. For the last 3 years, I’ve used Remind to send text message announcements and reminders.

This year, I decided to embark on digital newsletters. I was concerned about the time this would take, but I was delighted to discover how simple it is to create beautiful multimedia newsletters in minutes with Smore.

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After putting my digital newletter together with information about what we’ve been up to first semester and reminders, I copied all of my parent emails (from the Parent Survey Google Form I use at the start of the year) and sent the newsletter to all of my parents. I immediately received an email telling me it was sent succesfully!

Smore Analytics

I was able to check the analytics on my newsletter to see how many people had viewed it and how much time they spent reading it.

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I could even see a map that showed where the viewers looking at my newsletter were located.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 11.54.25 AMI was able to go into my Flyer Settings to make my newsletter private, so only the people I was sharing it with directly could view it. Teachers can turn comments, name and profile information, social media buttons, etc. on or off depending on their preferences.  
Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 11.54.51 AMThe free version gives users 5 credits to create free flyers. They can send up to 200 emails a month. If teachers fall in love with Smore, there is a personal account option they can pay for which is $15/month.

I’m always looking for more effective ways to communicate with parents, so I wanted to share this! Smore was so easy to use and I love that I was able to see how my audience was engaging with the newsletter! I no longer have to rely on students to get my parents information about the class.

Creatively Teach the Common Core Literacy Standards with Technology 

Available NOW! 

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Design a Thematic Art Gallery with Google Art Project

At the end of Lord of the Flies, there is a section titled “Notes on the Lord of the Flies,” in which William Golding says, “The theme [of the novel] is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable.”

I asked students to design a thematic art gallery that explored the truth about human nature. Because art often serves as a mirror reflecting people, society and life, I thought this would challenge students to confront the realities of human nature–the good and the bad. It also allowed students to contrast this theme in the text with this same theme in art.

Although I used this project to explore the theme of human nature, it can be done to encourage students to think deeply about any theme they are studying.

Directions for creating a Google Art Gallery:

  1. Go to Google Art Project – Click the blue “Sign in” button in the upper right hand corner and sign into the Google Art Project with your Gmail address and password. GAG1
  2. Explore the collections, artists, and artwork – Find art that represents the theme you selected. As you see artwork you might want to include in your art gallery, click the plus sign (+) in the corner of the artwork. You will be able to access those images when you build your gallery.GAG2
  3. Click “My Galleries” to create your own gallery. You can mix and match artwork from various collections to create your own gallery that explores the theme you’ve selected. Drag saved images into your gallery.GAG3
  4. When you add artwork to your gallery, you can give it a title and a description. In the description, analyze and explain what each piece reveals about the theme you’re exploring. To add a caption to each image, simply click “Edit” at the bottom of the image.  Then click “Text” in the upper left hand corner to add text about each piece.GAG4
  5. When you’re done, click “Public” in the upper right hand corner and make your gallery public. Once students have made their galleries public, they can share their unique URL. It’s important to note that it may take time before the galleries become public and viewable. I’d suggest allowing 24 hours before attempting to check student work.

Teacher Tip: Teachers interested in doing this project with students, should consider collecting student galleries with a Google Form, like the one pictured below. I’d suggest collecting the following information:

  • Name
  • Class Name
  • Email (optional)
  • Title of the Thematic Art Gallery
  • Description of the Thematic Art Gallery
  • URL for Public Thematic Art Gallery 

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Here are a student examples:

If you are teaching Lord of the Flies and want to use this project, click here to view the Google Document I put together for my own students. Make sure you are signed into your Google account, then click “File” on this document, and select “Make a copy.” It will be saved automatically to your Google Drive. You can then edit it and use it with your own students. I hope this will save other teachers time!

Creatively Teach the Common Core Literacy Standards with Technology 

Available NOW! 


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Join me for a Master Class at BLC in July!

I’ll be leading a master class titled “Creatively Teach the Common Core Literacy Standards with Technology” at Alan November’s BLC Conference in Boston in July. Space is limited, so visit the BLC16 Pre-conference Master Class page to register!

This hands-on workshop will allow participants to explore the creative strategies for developing literacy–reading, writing, language, speaking and listening. The Common Core gives educators and opportunity to rethink how we teach and how students learn.

This workshop will also model blended learning strategies to keep students engage both inside and outside of the classroom.

I’m excited to share some of the strategies, tech tools and lesson ideas from my newest book Creatively Teach the Common Core Literacy Standards with Technology during this master class!

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