5 Ways to Provide Parents a Window Into Your Classroom

When I attended my daughter’s kindergarden Back-to-School Night two years ago, I was delighted to see a video of the classroom playing on a television in the corner. As a parent, it was exciting to see my child in the context of the classroom. My daughter’s teacher had simply videotaped the children singing, working on projects, and progressing through their daily routine. The classroom was no longer a mystery. I left wanting to provide the parents of my 9th and 10th grade students with a similar experience.

Most parents of high school students probably have no idea how their children spend their days or what they are doing in their classes. This makes me sad as I will eventually be the parent of a high school student. As a result, I’ve tried to create windows into my own classroom.

Here are 5 strategies I’d suggest teachers consider:

1. Use a Twitter Hashtag or Create a Class FaceBook Page

You can post announcements, share pictures, and connect parents to resources and documents online.

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Tip: If you are using Twitter you do not need to follow your students’ parents, but you can add them to a list “Parents 2014-2015.” If you are using Facebook, you do not need to friend you parents for them to follow a Facebook page you’ve created for your class.

2. Create a Class Instagram Account

This makes it possible for parents to actually see what students are doing in the classroom. Post pictures that give parents a sense of what is happening each week.

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Tip: If you are using Instagram and plan to have a public account where you will post pictures of your students, you need your parents to sign a photo release form. Like Twitter and Facebook, you do no need to follow any parents or students with your class Instagram account.

3. Post Content Videos & Tutorials to a YouTube Channel

If you flip your classroom and provide video content online for students, parents can watch the videos too. This provides parents with the tools to support their students as they work on an assignment.

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Tip: Organize your videos into “playlists” so they are easier for your parents to navigate. For example, I have essay writing videos in their own playlist and vocabulary videos in another playlist.

4. Share Animoto Videos

Animoto is so easy to use I often take pictures of students working on projects or in their daily routine to share with parents via short videos. I play a video at Back-to-School Night and then post them to our class website for parents to view.

photo

Tip: You can create a simple Animoto video just using your phone. Take pictures and video clips, then use the Animoto app to create a polished video in minutes!

5. Share a Master List of Student Blogs

All of my students started writing their own blogs this year. I encouraged them to blog about any topic they are passionate about. One strategy for getting more eyes on your students’ blogs is to encourage parents to check them out! Create a Google Document with the blog titles (no names) and hyperlink to each student’s blog. This encourages parents to click on blogs written about topics they are interested in, while also giving them a sense of what students are working on for your class.

Tip: Post a link to a “View only” Google Document from your website. This way both parents and students can check out the blogs any time.

If you are using different strategies to engage your parents or provide a window into your classroom, please post a comment or find me on Twitter! I’d love to learn from what other teachers are doing.

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17 Responses to 5 Ways to Provide Parents a Window Into Your Classroom

  1. msmauck says:

    good use of technology to engage kids and keep parents posted on class activities

  2. Lisa Weber says:

    Before investing all the preparation that I expect, how do you handle those students (many at my school) that do not have a computer or internet at home?
    Warm Regards,
    Lisa

    • Hi Lisa,

      My goal is to get those kids without a computer and/or internet at home connected. I’ve embedded a Google map into my class website and dropped pins in all the locations on our campus and in our community where students can get online (school library lab, local Windsor library, wifi at the Town Green if they have mobile devices, etc.). At Back-to-School Night I make sure parents know about programs to buy inexpensive refurbished computers.

      Some students use a free period to use the technology on our campus too. I had a refurbished computer donated by our local recycling center, and they come in to use that during break, lunch and after school.

      It’s key we get those kids connected, otherwise they leave our classes more disenfranchised than when they entered them.

      Catlin

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  5. Gail says:

    Thanks for your tweet. We follow you! This is how we inform parents; your suggestion are excellent. We began this project 2103-2014. This is an elementary school, Sneed Elementary in Alief ISD—a suburb of Houston, TX.
    We have a Face Book where parents “like” us. http://facebook.com/sneedelementary
    We have a Twitter Feed http://twitter.com/sneedelementary
    We have filled our You Tube Channel http://youtube.com/sneedelementary

    We have found family engagement is much more vigorous and effective, as a result.

    The challenge is identifying someone in the organization that will manage this social media. I saw the need and volunteered to do this.

    Hope this added to the conversation.

    Gail

    • This is awesome, Gail!

      I’m impressed you volunteered to help manage the social media element. Is that super time consuming?

      It’s nice to hear your parents (at a school wide level) have been more engaged as a result. Too often parents are left out of the conversation. Providing these avenues to engage is so important and can help build relationships between the various stakeholders in a school community: students, teachers, administration, and parents. If schools are working with their parents, we can drive progressive change more quickly.

      Thank you for sharing these resources! They are great examples of what schools can do to invite parents into the conversation.

      Catlin

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  8. Love the very simple and ease of this post for anyone to process, comprehend, and most importantly – act on! With the technology tools available today, it is critical to provide a window into the classroom or campus for all stakeholders. Transparency. Communication is a critical component and you are setting a great example for all to follow. Way to go Catlin!

    Jason
    @JD_Rincker

  9. Susan says:

    Hi Catlin,
    I was wondering if you grade the student blogs? If so, is there some type of rubric you use?

    Do you allow students to change topics or do you ever assign a topic? I love the idea of blogging and I’m also looking for a way for students to discuss books they are reading independently. Any ideas or tips for me?

    • Hi Susan,

      Here is a blog I wrote about my approach to student blogging: http://catlintucker.com/2013/09/20-philosophy-meets-blogging

      Hopefully, that will answer some of your questions about topics, etc.

      I typically grade a blog on the “focus skill.” Each blog has a different purpose (how-to vs. commentary) or it requires students practice a new skill (hyperlinking, embedding a video, properly citing an image). I grade those focus elements to keep my own assessments really targeted. I also require students read and comment on their peers blogs regularly.

      Thank you for the comment!

      Catlin

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  12. Dan says:

    Caitlin, I love the ideas for the classroom involvement
    Of parents. My question is what type of consent form did you use?
    Did you get total participation?

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