One reason a parent might not read the classroom newsletter is that it is not about their child. Here is a solution for creating weekly newsletters for parents that are individualized for their child.
Add the above Google Drive folder of newsletters to your Google Drive. You can make copies and use these templates for your classroom newsletter.
The Newsletter Design
Underneath the most essential information to include in the newsletter is a section that is customized to each child. It is good practice for teachers to each week individually consider each student in their class. What the students are good at and what they are needing to work on should influence lesson design. I always recommend that teachers have a spreadsheet with a roster of their students and to go through and make a note why each student would be engaged in that lesson.
In a spreadsheet have a roster of the students, the students email address, the parents email address and 3 additional columns. A column for a quick note to the parent about the child. A quick note of what the child has demonstrated they learned that week. A quick note of what goals the child is working on.
The newsletter has merge tags as a part of the newsletter design. A merge tag is a placeholder that will be replaced with the note from the spreadsheet. You can add the merge tags to additional places within the document.
When composing the additional pieces to the newsletter try to use the <<name>> merge tag as often as possible. Instead of saying “Students will need to bring a lunch from home for the field trip on Friday” try “<<name>> will need to bring a lunch from home for the field trip on Friday.”
Underneath the personalized note is a spot for your classroom wish list. I recommend you change the wish list each week so parents have new options for how they can support your classroom.
Your classroom newsletter is a great way to let parents know you’re fund raising to get a 3D printer.
At the bottom put your additional newsletter information.
Below the additional newsletter information is a place to list specific questions parents can ask their children. Instead of “What did you do at school today” and getting the typical “Nothing” parents can ask their child specific questions to help the parent review with their child.
In the Google Sheets spreadsheet, with the list of student names and comments you created, install the Add-On “Autocrat.” (Click Here for a sample spreadsheet template.) Make a copy of the newsletter template you wish to use. Customize the template for your class. Use the Autocrat Add-On to merge the information from the spreadsheet with your classroom template. Autocrat allows you to email a PDF of the newsletter to each student and parent.
I created an Add-On script specifically for the teacher newsletters. Using Autocrat gives you more flexibility and options. The Teacher Newsletter Add-On is specific to the folder of templates. Teacher Newsletter lets you easily create a list for comments each week.
How it Works
The first button allows you to make a folder for your newsletters. You will only need to do this once. The script is looking for this specific folder to put your newsletters in.
Generate Template Choices
Hans Tullmann and I have been creating templates for the newsletters. You can find them in this folder. The second button, “Generate template choices,” will insert a sheet with a list of all the templates in the folder. You may want to use this button every week you make a newsletter to see if new templates have been added. (If you create a template you would like to contribute, please share it!).
Identify the row the newsletter you want is in. If you want the newsletter in row 5 you’ll want to enter 5 into the next set of directions.
The 3rd button allows you to choose your template. Have in mind what row from the previous step lists the newsletter you would like to use. Only enter the row number into the prompt.
After entering the row number of the template you wish to choose, a copy of that template will be created. A copy of the roster of students will also be created. You will want to click the “Choose template” button every week that you are generating a newsletter.
A copy of your roster will be created and a link to your copy of the template is placed in cell H2. You will be prompted to name your newsletter. You may want something like “Mrs Smith’s Week 10 Newsletter.” This is the name of the document for your newsletter and parents will see this name.
Make Your Own Newsletter
Note that if you do not want to use one of the templates from my Google Drive folder you can create your own template that has the same merge tags. Simply delete the URL in H2 and replace it with the URL to your own template.
Edit the Newsletter
Opening the link in cell H2 will allow you to customize the newsletter template. Tip to edit your wish list every week to give parents new ideas for how they can support your classroom.
Merge tags are important!! Where you see <<name>> will be replaced with the child’s name. You can place this merge tag anywhere you wish.
Tip to word your newsletter as if you are speaking to the child or the child’s parents. Instead of “Reminder there is a field trip on Monday” instead write “Please remind <<name>> that there is a field trip on Monday.” Using the <<name>> merge tag is a great way to personalize the newsletter.
While you can use the <<name>> merge tag as often as you wish, you probably only want the <<note>>, <<good>>, <<goal>> merge tags once.
Comments in the Spreadsheet
The spreadsheet is set up to allow you to write a personal note about each student in column D. In column E reflect on what each child has accomplished that week and make a quick note. Column F allows you to reflect on what goals each child is working on that week.
The 4th button creates a newsletter for each student in your class. The information for each student in the spreadsheet is merged with the Google Doc. This process can be slow. A link to each student’s individualized newsletter is placed on the spreadsheet.
After checking that the individual student newsletters look like you want them to, you can send the newsletters. The 5th button creates a PDF of the newsletter and emails the newsletter to the student and parent.
Note: you MUST enter valid email addresses for both the student and parent. If you do not have an email address for the student or parent use your email address instead.
If you put YOUR email address for any student or parent email address you will get the email of the newsletter. This can help to remind you which students you need to print onto paper their newsletter and send home with the child.
Make More Newsletters
You can use the same spreadsheet each week for your newsletters. Go back to the same spreadsheet. You should have a template of the roster of your students, their email address and their parents email address. You do NOT need to redo this every week
Go to the Add-On menu and choose “Teacher Newsletter.”
Each Week – Same Spreadsheet
In the sidebar you will SKIP the first option to make a folder. You already have this folder in your Google Drive. Each week you will want to generate the template list again to see if new options are available. Choose the template you want to use. A COPY of the student roster will be made to allow you to edit your template choice and insert comments. Create the newsletters and preview them. When you are ready, click the “Email newsletters” button.