This morning I saw a parent on Facebook post “Does anyone have a 3rd grader and can take a picture of the social studies study guide? Ours was accidentally left at school and my kid is upset.” My question was… is it not posted online?
Window Into Your Classroom
Every teacher should have a classroom website that gives parents a window into the classroom. When I ask my kid “what did you do today?” the response is likely “recess.” When we post what students are doing, parents can ask more direct questions to help engage their child in conversations about what they are learning.
We oftentimes ask kids to be more responsible than adults.
I’ve left my classroom keys at home more times than I can count. I’m not irresponsible, there is a lot going on at my house (I’m not unique in this) in the morning. On my mind is how I’m going to greet the students and have awesome lesson plans. I would sheepishly go into the office. I didn’t even need to say a word… the secretary would just hand her keys over. At the faculty meetings when the principal would ask us to fill stuff out, it was ALWAYS accompanied by a can of pens being passed around.
We can easily reduce a lot of stress for kids who leave something at school by just posting it online. Even a picture of it posted online if you don’t have it digital. Back in the day, I had a digital camera where you inserted a floppy disk. I would take pictures of the whiteboard before erasing it and posted the pictures online.
If it’s important enough to say, it’s important enough to put it online. Kids are not going to memorize every word you say. In fact, when I’m trying to tweet someone talking I find it really difficult to remember 140 characters worth of what they JUST SAID! I think we have all had this conversation with students “Mrs. Keeler, but you told us..” and you remember that conversation differently. Or “Keeler, you never told us that” when you swear you did. I suffer from saying things wrong frequently. I say April when I meant May. It happens. Now we are really confusing the kids. Officially update corrections online. Although, it’s jerky to digitally correct your mistake and expect that kids would have looked it up and noticed the difference. When you do make a mistake this is the time to show flexibility and understanding.
A student who is not in the room should not miss out on important information.
New Google Sites
The new Google Sites is super easy to use. You can create a new Google Site right from Google Drive just as you would create a new Google Form. You can also go to sites.google.com/new.
Keep the Front Page Dynamic
Make a habit of changing SOMETHING on the front page of your site daily. Show that this is not a website where they syllabus goes to die. Your class website is how parents know what is going on in your class; especially when the message is unclear from the student.
The upper left is the “name of the document” just as you would in Google Docs, Sheets or Slides. This is what shows in Google Drive. If you click just below it where it says “Enter site name” this is what the website viewer sees. You may or may not want these to match. Just as in Google Docs, Slides and Forms, the title and the document name will automatically match when you click on it. Edit as desired.
By default your website is private. Just as Google Docs by default are private. Press the purple “Publish” button to make it visible to more people than you. Note that Google Sites are collaborative. You can leave it private and click on the add a man icon to add collaborators before you’re ready to publish the site.
The Site location is the UNIQUE URL that will direct people to the website. Just as two houses can not have the same address, that would confuse the mailman, no two websites can have the same URL (Site location.) Notice as you type the Site location it populates to the end of the sites URL. That https://sites.google.com/etc…. is the link that people would use to access the website. You probably want to change from the default of only people at your school can view the website to “Anyone on the web.” Press Publish.
One of my favorite tricks to add content to Google Sites is to double click. This brings up an options wheel to add content from google Drive, link to a website, or insert images. You can also use the sidebar in Google Sites to add content easily to your Google Site.
Make sure your documents and elements you add are visible to others. You will be able to see them because you own all the documents you added. Try out my Chrome extension “AnyoneCanView” which in one click changes the sharing permissions of your document to “Anyone with the link can view.”
If you are wondering how I made the animation above I use Snagit. When I take a screenshot or screen record in Snagit the image is in a tray in Snagit. I am able to drag directly from Snagit over to Google Sites and drop in the images. If I have images on my desktop I just drag and drop them into the new Google Sites.
Tip: If you have a page selected when you click on the “Add page” button, the header will match.
Other Website Builders
Google Sites is one choice for your class website. I like to use it because it integrates so easily with Google Drive. It really does not matter what website builder you choose. Wix, Weebly, or even just use a Google Doc and choose to “Publish to the web.”
What do parents see coming home… papers. They miss the smiles that were happening in class. Post pictures of what is going on in your class to your class website.The app Bloomz is a tool intentionally designed to engage with parents. It also allows you to privately post pictures from class so parents can see the awesome things kids are doing all day.