I know you are busy. I get it. I’m busy, too! And so are the parents of your students. If you are relying on your students to communicate important class information, or even just tell about their school day, you are not doing yourself any favors.
As we all know, kids are not the best at accurately communicating, well, anything that is told to them by adults. Heck, even adults frequently miscommunicate. This can lead to misunderstandings and problems arising over what parents THINK you are doing in class vs. what you are REALLY doing in class.
So, do yourself a favor and create a newsletter.
Not a Designer
Now that we know you are not a designer of any kind, you can throw that excuse out the window. It can join the pile of stupid excuses with “the dog ate my homework.”
Making a class newsletter is almost idiot proof. Seriously.
Do you have a PC and Microsoft Office installed? Great! Then you have publisher. On publisher, and online, are hundreds of templates that you can use to create a format for your newsletter. These come fully loaded with images, text boxes, and fancy design elements. All you do is add the content, as in type into the text boxes. See? Really easy!
Or you can make a blank document and add your own clip art, photos, and color scheme to it, then place text boxes where you want them. There are even guides on the internet.
On a Mac, publisher has been integrated into Word in the new Office suite. There are templates that you can use here, but there is not always as much customization possible.
You could even go high tech and use an online service to create an email blast. I use Mail Chimp for my MilKids newsletter. You can use their design templates, and just add your images and content. Then, on a given day, the email service will send everyone on your email list the newsletter you created.
As a teacher, I used the Publisher/Word newsletter process since emails are not always reliable or available for every family, and internet access isn’t a given.
You’ve picked a format and program to create your newsletter. Perfect! But what do you put into it?
Some great ideas are to include a blurb about what your students are learning and doing in your classroom. For example:
In Math, we use Base 10 blocks to practice adding, subtracting, place value, and estimating. We play board games and work in small groups to boost these skills, too!
For elementary teachers, be sure to cover all of the subjects that you teach. It might be easier to just give a sentence or two, or a few phrases of bullet points to summarize the content and methods that you are using in the classroom. For single subject teachers, you should go into more details about what is going on in your classroom.
You should also include information about upcoming special events, days off from school, or major tests and assignments. I like to put these in a side bar on the first side of the newsletter.
Newsletters are a great place to share important tips or school policies with parents and families, as well as ask for help. I frequently include a reminder about the illness policy, ideas for stress reduction during tests, or how to keep kids safe online.
Since this has a limited distribution, I included class pictures in many of my newsletters. Parents enjoy seeing their kids’ activities, and kids love to see themselves in print. It was a win-win!
This is a totally personal decision, and it is different for every teacher. My policy is that parents need to be super involved in the teaching and learning process, to do that they need frequent updates. I put out a class newsletter every other week, or at least I tried to do this. I wasn’t always successful.
Other teachers put out a weekly blast or go with monthly or quarterly newsletters. Any choice you make is fine, as long as it works for you.
It is also perfectly fine to recycle content, especially important stuff like policies and classroom events. I like to include the school’s sick policy in several newsletters each year.
So, how do you share important news with your parents?