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.


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.

25 Responses

  1. 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,

    • 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.


  2. […] 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  […]

  3. 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.


    • 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.


  4. 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!


  5. 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://cluttered-record.flywheelsites.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!


  6. 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?

  7. What I’m loving most about the twitter hashtag is, that I imagine pupils who write something like the following at the end of a lesson or the school day: “Today I learned, how to write a letter” or whatever you did in class, that helps them to think about, what they’ve learned and that they’ve learned!

  8. I teach HS English, and I had my students create a video for Back-to-School Night that showed their parents what our class was like. The project worked well because we had an authentic audience and purpose. As a class we discussed what their parents would want to see and know about our class, we had some good discussions about register, we chose a unifying theme, and then we split up into groups to produce the sections of the video (e.g. course outline, major assessments, regular activities, teacher bio, and relevance of the class). I asked a few of the questions at the beginning, helped them get organized, and required that every student appear on camera, but other than that the students mostly ran things on their own.

    • I love the idea of having the students create the videos, Alisha! Did they create one video as a class or did they create individual videos? I make the Animoto video for Back-to-School Night, but it might be interesting to see how the students would portray our class ūüėČ

      Thanks for the idea!


  9. Consider https://twitter.com/alicekeeler/status/668145684621606912 by Alice Keeler. Each of my three kids brought stuff like this home from school year after year. Until Last night when I saw her tweet it had never occurred to me that it was eye/heart candy.

    Sharing out with the learning community of parents and stakeholders is important. But what are you going to put out there for the community to sink its teeth into? Until I started going to EdCamps (I’m not a teacher) I had very little insights into what my kids experienced in terms of learning.

    I would have loved to see lesson plans and how they met learning/performance objectives and standards.

    Eye/heart candy is great. It helps parents and stakeholders engage with schools. But to really leverage student success share out the how and why, too.

    • I agree that showing work is not that same as explaining what students are doing and why it is important. I’m a big believer in explaining the why behind what we are doing in the classroom. Unfortunately, there are not many opportunities for me to sit down with parents and talk to them about the why.

      I flip my back-to-school night so that I can spend our valuable time together talking about the skills we will be focusing on, the tools we will be using, and how I’ll be assessing their level of mastery in relation to these skills.

      As the school year progresses I lean on technology to communicate with parents and keep them up to date on what we are doing and why. I send out a parent newsletter and link to Google Documents with assignment descriptions directly from our class website.

      There are a lot of ways that teachers can keep the lines of communication open with parents so they have a better understanding of what is happening in the classroom and why. That said, I also love the visual component. It’s fun for parents to see their students communicating, collaborating and creating, so I will always try to give them those visual windows into the classroom too.


  10. […] By creating a¬†Twitter hashtag, class Instagram, or a class¬†Facebook¬†page, teachers can share what is going on inside the classroom. They can share photos with parents, as well as information, and these posts are easy to follow. Another option is for teachers to create a YouTube page to post videos. These videos can be classroom presentations by the students, or lessons by the teacher to assist with homework. Teachers can also create¬†Animoto¬†videos using pictures that they have taken throughout the day. Animoto is an app that allows videos to be created from pictures. To get tips on how to go about using these tools visit¬†5 Ways to Provide Parents a Window Into Your Classroom. […]

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