How do you share information with families during the school year? A parent newsletter is a great way to keep parents in the loop about what is happening in your classroom. A newsletter can include classroom stories, details about upcoming events, and suggestions for how families can support their children's academic growth at home.
Technology tools can make it easier for teachers to create newsletters that showcase the work students are doing in the classroom. Digital newsletters can also be sent directly to a family's inbox or smartphone and provide a more dynamic experience than a sheet of paper. The technology tips in this post are designed to help you explore the power of creating newsletters with technology tools.
1. Choose the Right Tool
There are different ways to create newsletters using technology tools. Take a moment to decide on your goals for your next newsletter. Do you want to show a gallery of photos from student projects? Do you want links that parents can click on? Do you want to share updates on a weekly or monthly basis? Do you want to create a newsletter that's friendly for parents with low or no technology access?
These questions can help lead you in the right direction when choosing a tool for your newsletter. Here are three of my favorites:
Spark Page: This free app for Adobe lets teachers create a webpage on their browser or iPad. It's a beautiful design tool that's also delightfully easy to use. Teachers can add photos from their device, search for stock images to illustrate an idea, and add plenty of text to their page. Spark Page lets you embed YouTube videos and links to other pages so that you can share school stories and online resources with parents. When you finish designing the page, you'll have a link that can be shared with families.
Wordpress: As a classroom teacher, I used Wordpress to share updates with families, and it's the tool that I still use for my ClassTechTips blog. Wordpress lets users set up a free website that they can update as frequently as they like. This is a good choice for teachers who are looking to post weekly updates instead of a monthly newsletter. Wordpress is web and mobile friendly, so you can even use your cell phone to post information for families.
Pages: Pages is a fantastic document creation tool that's available on Mac and iOS devices. It includes newsletter templates so that teachers can design their newsletters simply by dragging and dropping images and adding information. Pages is a great tool if you want your newsletter to reach a diverse set of families. You can save your final creation as a PDF file and share it as an email, or you can print it out to send home on paper.
2. Continuously Capture Media
Sitting down to write and reflect about your month in school for a newsletter might feel intimidating. To make this task less daunting, set up structures for capturing media in the weeks leading up to your next newsletter. Snap pictures of student work with a smartphone or collect moments from a field trip with an iPad camera.
Invite students to be part of this process by asking them to submit a story for a newsletter or send their own digital pictures. Not only does this make your work of capturing media and stories easier, it also gives students a clear audience for their work. Of course, make sure that all of the appropriate permissions are in place for sharing student photos and work outside of the classroom.
3. Make a Plan to Share
Once you've created a newsletter, you want to make sure that it gets into the hands of families. Technology tools like Remind let you send home a link to a webpage (like the one you created with Spark Page) or attach a document (like the one you created with Pages). Remind also gives teachers the option to open communication so that parents can respond or ask a question about what they've read.
Another plan for sharing is attaching the link to your newsletter to a QR code. You might print out this graphic representation of a URL on sticker paper and attach it to a magnet or take-home folder. Families can scan the QR code with their mobile device to access your online newsletter. I'm a big fan of #ScannableTech and the strategies for using it in and beyond the classroom.
You might decide to send a newsletter home at the beginning or end of each month, or maybe you'd rather update a class website more frequently. Keeping parents in the loop about upcoming events and celebrating special moments is a wonderful way to bridge the home and school gap. If you've created a fantastic newsletter, share the link in the comments below!