Monday, May 23, 2011

What We Love Wednesday - Ways to Keep in Touch

First, I have to say that Mrs. Claborn and I are pretty proud of ourselves for keeping up the alliteration with our "What We Love Wednesday" topics. Every week I think, this time there are REALLY no "w" words left.  This week's post is all about how I communicate with my students as well as their parents. Parent communication is SO important and I really feel like in many cases, a little proactive communication can go a long way. Here are some of the ways I keep in touch in my classroom:

  • The Griffin Gazette - As you can probably guess, this is my newsletter. Each week, sometime between Friday afternoon and Monday morning, I send an electronic newsletter. We were encouraged by our principal to do this and I think it's a fabulous way to communicate with parents. I break it up by subject and explain what the objectives are for the week. It's also a great way for those absent kiddos to keep up with what's going on. Of course, at the bottom I add in any important information for the week - field trip info, important dates, reminders and announcements. What do you do if a parent doesn't have or doesn't provide you with an email address? I have 3 of those, and I just print out my email and send it home in take home folders. This is a great way to go green and save paper, plus I feel like parents read this version more than when it's another paper in their child's folder.

  • The Web - Being a technology magnet, it makes sense that we would want to communicate using technology and the many resources on the web. For several years, my school (and now many other schools in my district) has used Blackboard. I think Blackboard has great features, and I think it's probably a great tool for intermediate and secondary teachers. That being said, it has a lot of great features that as a first grade teacher, I just don't need. I'm hoping to convince my principal to let us use wikispaces next year instead. I went to the Region 10 (anyone else in North Texas go?) Technology Conference yesterday and saw 2 great presentations about wikispaces. In fact, I was so excited, I went straight home and created my own page. I think having a wiki page will be better suited for what I want to use it for - not just communicating with parents, but posting student work for parents to view and the kids to revisit.  What a great way to review! Students can just hop on our wiki and review concepts by looking back at products that they and their classmates have created.

  • KidBlog - I don't know how many of you use KidBlog, and if you don't you absolutely need to check it out. It is a great way to integrate technology that allows kids to reflect, respond and share on any topic. We've used it for every subject. I know the kids love it as much as I do because they're always getting on at home! Sometimes the kids create their own posts about a certain topic, or sometimes I post a question and they leave a comment to respond. One of my favorite "tricks" is to post a question and not tell the kids for a couple of days. I like to see who is keeping up with our KidBlog on their own and I usually reward those sweeties with a "pawsitive paw" (it's a school wide positive reinforcement system). I'm putting this on my list of ways I keep in touch for two reasons. First, it allows other people in the building to communicate with my class. We've had all kinds of exciting visitors leave us comments and questions, such as our technology teacher, one of our math specialists, one of our reading specialists and even our principal! Second, I plan on keeping the KidBlog open this summer so the kids can communicate with me, if they want to.

  • Postcards - Yep, good old fashioned snail mail! Confession: I am one of those people who cries on the last day of school. I just can't believe our time is over! One thing I love doing is to give each of my kiddos a blank "postcard" with a stamp and my address. I print these on 4x6 index cards and just have my address printed on the right half of the unlined side. Usually the kids will draw a picture on the left half and then write a letter on the back, where the lines are. At the very least, I know they'll practice their writing once over the summer! It really is a nice surprise to get their sweet notes in my mailbox.

  • Bucket Filling - I started bucket filling in my classroom a couple of months ago, and I love it. Of course the kids love getting a note from a friend, but they especially love finding a special note from me that's just for them. Since we started in February, I try to write at least 5 or 6 notes per week so that by the end of the year each sweetie will have gotten a few from Miss Griffin. I think it's a good way to remind them of the great things they've done - I might write a note that says "I really liked how you helped _____ during centers."  - and I swear I can see them thinking to themselves when they read the notes "Oh yeah, I did do that!". Brining bucket filling into my classroom has truly improved the way my kids communicate with each other, and I think that's a pretty cool thing.
How do you keep in touch? Speaking of keeping in touch... stop by tomorrow for my giveaway announcement! Here are your clues: it was on my list of favorite things and it has to do with one of the above mentioned ways to keep in touch. Eeek! I can't wait!


Mrs. Claborn

I love that you call it the "Griffin Gazette"!

Miss Griffin

Oh, Mrs. Claborn, you KNOW how I feel about alliteration! Ok so it was so long that I took bucket filling off, but I saw that you had it on your list so it's going back on.


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