Creating My Classroom Webpage

By: Cassie Truelsen

The Problem Statement

Describe your community, school, and information about yourself: I teach at Eagle Heights Elementary in Clinton, Iowa. We are a low income district with around 75% qualifying for free and reduced lunches. We have a high percentage of students in poverty with parents working many jobs or long hours. Our students and families have a lot to worry about that education isn’t always the priority because they want to make sure they can support their children. Eagle Heights is a K-5 building with 3 or 4 sections for each grade and about 100 students at each level. We are primarily Caucasian. I teach Talented and Gifted at each grade level. K-2nd grade are considered enrichment groups based on teacher recommendations. 3rd-5th grade qualifies for TAG based on test scores and a recommendation form. I serve about 10% of our population using pullout groups. I have a set of laptops available to my students when I have them. I see my students between 45 minutes-3 hours and 45 minutes weekly depending on what they qualify for (reading, math, and/or intellectual interest). The parents of my students rarely visit me during conferences or contact me.

Problem statement: Because our TAG program has recently changed and I see students more often, it is important to communicate with parents what is going on in my classroom, why their student is in TAG, and to voice any questions or concerns.

How can I keep parents informed about what is going on my classroom along with the TAG program in general?

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The Annotated Bibliography

1 .Delisle, J. & Lewis, B. (2003). The survival guide for teachers of gifted kids. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing.

This book helps give a different point of view with gifted education and communicating with parents. It talks about including trends in gifted education in your communications with parents. I didn’t think of this, but I think that’s a great idea to keep parents informed. By communicating with parents, we will make them allies to help support what we do, especially when we really need it. Some ideas are having to do with conferences, but it also talks about using websites and newsletters like the other sources have.

2. Designing a website for your class. Teachnology tutorials. Retrieved from: http://www.teach-nology.com/tutorials/design_site/

This website discusses things parents want to see on websites like calendars, which are important so students and parents can keep up to date and make sure assignments are done in time. In general parents want to be informed and able to learn using your website to help their child. It also mentioned add-ons to websites, which I never thought about. I’m not sure these would be beneficial because it looks like a third party wants to advertise or make money.

3. E. Folland, personal communication, February 10, 2015

This interview with the LRC Director at the middle school also gave me some resources to look into. She will also get more for me, especially since she is working on getting her Media Specialist Masters. Emma showed me Symbaloo as a way to help my students have a place with easy access to resources since they lack skills in basic computer skills. I like this idea, but I’m not sure it’d help me with communicating with parents.

4. Fleming, N. (2012, November 6). Schools are using social networking to involve parents. Education week, 32(11). Retrieved from:

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/11/07/11digitalparent_ep.h32.html

Using social networking and texts allow for parents to receive instant updates. The use of these are really increasing. Since all parents are different and have different sources, this article stresses the need to give parents a choice of how to communicate. Districts may need to educate parents in how to use the technology they use. We also may need to get grants and other resources to help our district get technology to use. This article echoes that we need to know what technology parents will use so we can effectively communicate with them.

5. Graham-Clay, S. (n.d.). Communicating with parents: teacher strategies. [Abstract]. The School Community Journal. 117-129. Retrieved from: http://www.adi.org/journal/ss05/Graham-Clay.pdf

This article mentions newsletters, which need to be written in everyday language. We have to remember as educators that parents may not know what some abbreviations or education lingo means. Many parts of this article are outdated. Instead of voicemails, texts may be useful. Technology opens up the time frame of when parents can communicate with teachers since many things can be found on the website or parents can respond or send emails when it is convenient for them. Like previously stated in other sources, we need to make sure parents have access to the technology we are using.

6. Haines, R. Keep parents in the loop with a class website. Learn nc. Retrieved from: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/6639

This article sympathizes with teachers since we have a lot of responsibilities and not enough time. This made me respect the article and its ideas. It made me think about the security of the blog or website, especially if it is dealing with my students. Wordpress seems like a great place where you can do a website connected with a blog while also being secure. Blogger and Google sites wouldn’t be a great idea for me because our district doesn’t allow us to use things like Google Docs because our broadband width can’t support it. Wikis seem to be like an idea for collaborative classwork, but not a classroom website where parents can add things as well. It could have a lot of miscommunication with so many people contributing. Timeliness and organization are important. Calendars, homework, papers, and feedback options are important.

7. McLean, H. Katikati Primary School. (2014, March 4). Retrieved February 10, 2015 from: http://electroniclearner.wikispaces.com/

This article discusses a lot of future ideas with technology, which doesn’t really help me communicate with parents currently. It did show me how a Wikispace works. I think everything seems to just run into each other making it hard to understand. I don’t think I’d want to do a Wikispace because my parents may get confused and frustrated.

8. Ramasubbu, S. (2015, January 15). Using technology to enable parent teacher communication. [web log comment]. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suren-ramasubbu/using-technology-to-enabl_b_6479766.html

This blog article emphasizes the need for parent involvement to create student success. Technology can help this happen. This can be done with simple emails, webpages, social networking, mobile apps, video conferencing, live chats, or portals. My district already uses portals. I need something to help keep me accountable in sending out emails to individual parents. Some of these options are ones I didn’t think of, but I also need to answer the question, which was stated in the article as well, about what technology is available to my parents.

9. Roberts, J. (2010, March 18). Blog vs. website: Which will you use in your classroom? [web log comment]. Retrieved from: http://www.litandtech.com/2010/03/blog-vs-website-which-will-you-use-in.html

This article helped me look more into my debate of blogs and websites. I wasn’t sure which one would be more beneficial. It surprised me when it says a website isn’t meant to have daily updates but a blog is. I figured changing a website or adding to it wasn’t a big deal. Blogs allow you to archive previous posts so that students can easily get to that date again in the future. Blogs allow gadgets to be added on the side like polls and such. This article favors blogs. I wonder if it depends on what resource you use to help create a classroom website.

10. S. Shepherd, personal communication, February 12, 2015

This interview with our LRC Director gave me some ideas for resources like the blog teachnologyrocksseriously.com. Sarah also talked about how our district uses Twitter a lot now for communication. All of our principals have a Twitter account to share news, resources, photos, etc. This is an idea I could use. I want to see how many parents this reaches by looking at how many followers people in our district have. The nice thing is that people can retweet to help spread the word.
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The Advocated Solutions

Solution 1: Timely Newsletters

Detailed Description: Using a program like Microsoft Publisher, I would create an eye catching newsletter to send home with parents once or twice a month. These could also be sent electronically. In the newsletter I would include what is going on in TAG at that time, things that are coming up, possible homework, resources, and tips about gifted students.

Pros: Information gets to parents, covers a lot of information for parents, students have to be responsible to get the newsletter to their parents.

Cons: Timely, printing may take a while, may take a lot of ink, students will not get it to parents or parents won’t read it, I have so many groups to cover in a newsletter, if sent electronically I need to make sure to have correct email addresses and for every parent (some may not have one), I may not get them out like I plan to.

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Solution 2: Blog

Detailed Description: Using a blogging website, I would give tips and discuss what is going on in our TAG classroom. This would need to be updated at least once a week if not more often. Students could participate in the blog as well. The blog would give details on projects we are currently working on including pictures and videos.

Pros: Information gets to parents, covers a lot of information for parents, students could be a part of this blog, videos and pictures could easily be uploaded, easy to update.

Cons: Timely, I may get lazy about updating it, I’d have to update it often to cover all the different groups I have, I’d need to make sure it is a user-friendly blog.

Solution 3: Classroom Website

Detailed Description: Using Symbaloo or Weebly for Education (or another website creator I need to look more into) I would create a website that is secure for everyone involved. There would be a calendar, a place for feedback, resources, tips for gifted students, pictures, videos, and happenings in our classroom. Students could help manage and update this as well.

Pros: A lot of information can be on a website, a website is available whenever parents want to check it out, students can help manage it as a 21st century standard, it can be updated whenever it is appropriate

Cons: Parents may not have access if they don’t have the technology at home, making sure to get the word out about the website, learning how to create a website may take some time.

Solution 4: Twitter Account

Detailed Description: Using a twitter account just for school to update parents on what is going on in the classroom, retweeting information from the district and experts, and sharing pictures or videos.

Pros: Twitter is used a lot in our district, retweet relevant information to parents, students know how to use it.

Cons: Entries could be vague, not as secure, it may be overused in our district, parents may not have an account.

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The Implementation Plan

Problem Statement

  • Lack of parent/teacher communication

  • Want to inform parents about TAG

  • Want parents to look at good resources about giftedness

    Specific and Measurable Goals

  • Parents are accessing my website
  • Parents are contacting me more often through the website and email
  • Students are coming more prepared for our group and projects
  • Parents are accessing resources about giftedness
  • Parents come to conferences already knowing what is going on in TAG

Specific Procedures.

Creating and updating a classroom website, which includes a calendar, updates about each group and student projects, and resources.

Steps to Take

  1. Research different classroom websites and website creators.
  2. Pick the source that best fits my needs of a calendar, accessible resources, and having available information about groups and their projects.
  3. Create the website
  4. Have fellow teachers and classmates check the website to give me advice and suggestions.
  5. Make changes
  6. Have people review it again including students.
  7. Create changes if needed.
  8. Email link to parents
  9. Have a place on the website where parents respond to make sure they are getting access.
  10. Continue to update website and assign students to parts to help with.

Expected Outcomes

  • Parents are accessing my website
  • Parents are contacting me more often through the website and email
  • Students are coming more prepared for our group and projects
  • Parents are accessing resources about giftedness
  • Parents come to conferences already knowing what is going on in TAG

The Implement 360

I talked to a fellow teacher in my building. Erica has a Weebly website she uses for her class. I asked her for advice and if a Weebly would fulfill all my needs.

Erica said she loves Weebly because it is easy to set up. She is able to take pictures and update a blog for what is going on in her classroom. Erica said you have to make sure to update it promptly. She suggests setting a prep time weekly or a time after school weekly to update it. She also says to take pictures often of projects, students, and other happenings to post. Students and families love this. She said I could also do videos since I’d love to show students in action. One thing she wasn’t sure about was a calendar but I could always create one and have it act like a picture to add. I could also cover topics in the blog to fix that she thought.

Her biggest suggestion about students helping update it and create it is that I will still need to keep an eye on it and have the students sign a contract. It could be a real life experience for the TAG students. Maybe they’d have to apply for the job even.

Erica said to get parents onto the site that I should post it on Twitter, which we use for school, email parents, and also send notes home to parents. She feels like many parents check it out. She said maybe I could share it with the students when there are updates and suggest they show it to their parents as well. Parents are able to contact you through the site.

Erica has pretty told me Weebly is the way to go and that it really does open up the wave of communication among parents, students, and teachers. It is easy to create and has many options. Sounds like I just need to make time to make sure it is updated or have students be involved. I need to check into it about the calendar aspect and just dive in!

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The Record of Progress

My goal is to have my website ready to be shared with parents on April 20th, 2015. This means I may have things to polish up as I go and things to add, but I want to have the blog, news, pictures, and about me ready. I will plan on adding to the news and blog weekly.

  1. I researched and asked others about what website tool I should use. After hearing what is the easiest and looking at samples, I wanted to try Weebly first.
  2. I signed up for Weebly and started playing around with it to make sure this is what I wanted before I decided to use it. I found it was pretty easy and that I could learn as I went. I was concerned because it didn’t have a calendar, but I figured I could add a page titled News to add important dates to. I could also upload a calendar I created in a different way if I wanted. I knew I could make due with it.
  3. I first figured out the theme and font to make it look fun and informational. I wanted students and parents to both feel welcomed to the website.
  4. I then added about myself to make sure I still liked how easy it was. This is also why I added a contact page. I do want to make sure parents know how to contact me. This is part of the reason for the webpage, afterall, to open the channels of communication.
  5. I added the news section so I can keep parents up to date on what is going on. I thought about uploading a calendar, but I wanted to play with that before I did. I also knew I wanted parents to know about the testing going on.
  6. I added great websites, but I need to add more. I went blank, but I want there to be plenty of a variety of sites so parents and students have resources about gifted education, topics we are covering, etc.
  7. I added a blog and my first entry. I was concerned about this at first because I want to make sure I keep it updated, but then I thought about all the topics I could cover and how I could give this to students to do as well.
  8. I added pictures and videos, which took a while from my phone. I want parents to have a visual to see what we are actually doing and for students to have bragging rights.
  9. Lastly, I posted the website on Facebook and Twitter to immediately share with parents, however, I will be sharing this via email and with my students to get the word out also.
I will continue to update and add to the website. I may put students in charge of parts of it also.

The Reflective Assessment

• How were my goals and objectives met? I have included many aspects that I want parents to know about to my webpage including news, a blog, pictures, ways to contact me, etc. This webpage is accessible by parents, who were notified through Facebook, Twitter, Email, and their children.

• Where were my "aha!" moments and/or successes? My biggest “aha!” would be the fact that I didn’t realize how easy this could be. It made me ask myself why I put it off for so long. I added more to the webpage because of this.

• What did not go well and/or was not as successful as I had hoped? I had a vision of a calendar, but it doesn’t look like there is a calendar section that could be added, but I could add news or even upload a picture or document of a calendar if I feel the need.

• What needs improvement? I need to make sure to continue to update the webpage and add more websites.

• What would I do differently next time? I would have started this way earlier so this webpage would have more on it from earlier this year.

• What will I do again? I will continue this website and email and post it so parents are reminded about it or be introduced to it if it is their first year in TAG.

• What were the key concepts I learned? I learned that it isn’t too difficult to communicate with parents as long as you work smarter. Students will enjoy helping you and making sure you stay up to date.

• What did others see that I did not or could not and how will I use that intelligence to continue to refine and improve my teaching? We realized that because there has been quite a bit of change going on in the TAG department, not everyone knows the standards or identification criteria for TAG. I want to make sure to have this uploaded to the webpage to communicate it to others, but I want to make sure it is correct and makes sense for I do so. We had to make some more testing changes so I just want it to be accurate first.

• What did I learn about my own teaching? I really do not do a good job of communicating with parents, but there are so many opportunities out there to make this easy. I always had an excuse not to, but now that this is so easy I realize I can do this!

The Resource List

Delisle, J. & Lewis, B. (2003). The survival guide for teachers of gifted kids. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing.

Designing a website for your class. Teachnology tutorials. Retrieved from: http://www.teach-nology.com/tutorials/design_site/

E. Folland, personal communication, February 10, 2015

Fleming, N. (2012, November 6). Schools are using social networking to involve parents. Education week, 32(11). Retrieved from:

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/11/07/11digitalparent_ep.h32.html

Graham-Clay, S. (n.d.). Communicating with parents: teacher strategies. [Abstract]. The School Community Journal. 117-129. Retrieved from: http://www.adi.org/journal/ss05/Graham-Clay.pdf

Haines, R. Keep parents in the loop with a class website. Learn nc. Retrieved from: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/6639

McLean, H. Katikati Primary School. (2014, March 4). Retrieved February 10, 2015 from: http://electroniclearner.wikispaces.com/

Ramasubbu, S. (2015, January 15). Using technology to enable parent teacher communication. [web log comment]. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suren-ramasubbu/using-technology-to-enabl_b_6479766.html

Roberts, J. (2010, March 18). Blog vs. website: Which will you use in your classroom? [web log comment]. Retrieved from: http://www.litandtech.com/2010/03/blog-vs-website-which-will-you-use-in.html

S. Shepherd, personal communication, February 12, 2015

Weebly is the easiest way to create a website, store or blog. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2015, from http://www.weebly.com/weebly/userHome.php
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How could I use these 10 research steps in my TAG classroom?

We conduct a lot of research in my TAG classroom, which standards include the 21st Century Skills. Some students struggle with research and creating a product. If we had specific steps like I used in this project students may be able to move along easier and quicker. It would help guide them and make students really think about their project instead of just diving in so quick and going nowhere.
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