A Guide to Involving Parents in Your Class Blog

This is an update of some of the posts I’ve written in the past about getting parents involved in blogging.

About parents and blogs

One of the many benefits of having a class blog is the strengthening of home-school relationships.

A class blog can provide a virtual window into the classroom.

After having a class blog for many years, I have found that most families enjoy being able to keep up with classroom events and student learning.

Unfortunately, I have seen a number of teachers almost give up on their class blog because of the lack of parent participation and comments.

I often get asked how we get parents involved in our blogging community.

Our parents are no different to those in other classes. They are busy people who need education, encouragement and ongoing invitations to participate.

I have certainly discovered that you cannot leave parent participation to chance.

Educating parents

At the start of each year when I introduce my class to blogging, there are always many students and parents who don’t know anything about blogs.

I spend lot of the time at the start of the year helping my students learn about blogging, however, I have also come up with ways to educate the parents. This is very important. Parents won’t be willing or able to get involved in blogging if they don’t know anything about it.

As Linda Yollis says, everything is more powerful when parents are involved in their child’s learning so I definitely like to encourage parent participation in blogging.

Like students, parents have different learning preferences and I like to offer my parents a range of different means in which they can learn about blogging.

Introduction to blogging handout

On the first day of the school year I send home a blog permission note along with an information note.

You can find the PDF of both documents below.

4KM and 4KJ Blog Permission Note 2013

4KM and 4KJ Blog Information Note 2013

The information note lets parents know things such as:

  • What a blog is
  • What our blog URL is
  • Why we blog
  • What our safety guidelines are
  • FAQs based on common questions from previous years

Handout to help parents navigate the blog

There is a lot to know about effectively navigating the class blog so I created a handout for parents called 10 Steps to Navigating the 4KM and 4KJ Blog 2013

It includes information such as:

  • blog jargon
  • how to subscribe to email updates
  • how to leave and reply to comments
  • how to use our web app and Google calendar
  • how to search the blog
  • how to become part of our wider blogging community

A guide to navigating your class blog is even something students could create themselves.

Information on the blog

I have created a “learn about blogging” set of pages on our class blog. This explains to readers (including parents) what a blog is, why we blog and how to comment. For parents who prefer a more visual description, I have created a video explaining how to comment.

Other ideas

Here are some other ideas we’ve used to educate and encourage parents to become part of our blogging community.

  • Parent Information Evening: When we have held these in the past, blogging is one of the areas we have covered.
  • Family Blogging Afternoon: We have held a couple of these events where family members are invited into the classroom to learn about blogging. Find our 2012 example on our class blog here
  • Family Blogging Month: This is an idea that Linda Yollis created for her class. We have borrowed her idea many times as a way to encourage family participation in blogging. Family Blogging Month is basically a competition where students try to get as many family members as possible to comment on the class blog. See our 2012 example which resulted in around 800 comments for the month of May here
  • Email Subscription: It’s important to have an email subscription on your blog and make sure your students/parents know how to sign up. That way they will be notified when new posts are published.
  • Fortnightly Parent Emails: We send fortnightly newsletters to all our parents. This is a great way to offer blogging news or tips (amongst other classroom news and reminders). You can also thank the parents who have been commenting and invite parents to comment on particular posts.
  • Posts for Parents: Sometimes we write posts with questions for parents. Here is one post we published last year that was specifically designed for parents. This idea was originally inspired by Henrietta Miller.
  • Virtual Volunteers: Linda Yollis has come up with the idea of calling on parents to be virtual volunteers on a roster basis. Rather than helping students in the classroom, they can assist online by replying to students and engaging in conversations.

Final advice

I always try to reply to comments or have students reply. Of course this is not always possible but we do it as much as we can.

It is good blogging etiquette to reply and provides an example to students that comments are not just one-way; they are used to generate conversation and discussion. A great deal of learning can occur when conversations are developed.

Parents may not be encouraged to keep commenting if they don’t feel their comments are being valued or acknowledged.

Using my work

Want to use these ideas or modify my notes and handouts for your classroom use? Go ahead, I have included a CC-BY-NC license for the PDF files. Simply credit me as the original author and link back.

What other ideas do you have for involving your parents in your class blog?

Internet Safety Posters

I recently wrote three posts around the issues of internet use and cyber safety.

10 Internet Safety Tips for Students

10 Internet Use Tips for Teachers

10 Internet Safety Tips for Parents

I have transferred the information in these posts into a set of posters which might make a useful display or handout. Feel free to download or print them for your own educational use.

10 Internet SafetyTips for Students Poster November 2012

 

10 Internet Use Tips for Teachers Poster November 2012

 

10 Internet Safety Tips for Parents Poster November 2012

If you’re having trouble downloading the Scribd documents, you can find the PDF versions below.

10 Internet SafetyTips for Students Poster November 2012

10 Internet Use Tips for Teachers Poster November 2012

10 Internet Safety Tips for Parents Poster November 2012

Good luck!

10 Internet Safety Tips for Parents

I recently published posts with 10 Internet Safety Tips for Students and 10 Internet Safety Tips for Teachers.

If parents, teachers and children can all work together to build a culture of safe and positive internet use, problems can be minimised.

Internet safety is a topic that should be regularly and authentically discussed in classrooms, staffrooms and homes.

Here are some key messages around internet safety that could help parents help their children.

In addition to following these tips, parents might want to install filters on their home computers.

1. Don’t let potential problems stop you from letting your child use technology for their education and personal interests.

2. Put computers in a communal area of the house and don’t allow portable internet devices (laptops, phones, tablets etc) in the bedroom.

3. Find out what your child is doing online. Talk to them regularly about what websites they visit and take the time sit with them as they use the internet. Make sure you’re familiar with how the sites that they visit work.

4. Encourage your child to tell you if they ever have a problem on the internet or if they’re ever unsure about anything. Reassure them that you won’t take away their connection to the internet if issues occur.

5. Remind your child to keep personal information private. YAPPY is a useful acronym to remind children of the personal information they should not share on public online spaces (blogs, forums etc.) – Your full name, address, phone number, passwords, your plans.

6. Remind your child that not everything on the internet is true and not all internet users tell the truth.

7. Don’t support your child to sign up for sites that are 13+ if they are under age (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram etc). Make sure your child sets their online accounts to private to limit access to people they know well (when they are old enough to sign up).

8. Encourage your child to balance their leisure time so they’re not spending all of their time online.

9. Create your own internet rules for your household and have your child agree to adhere to them.

10. Explore government resources for parents so you can educate yourself and protect your children on the Cybersmart website.

How to offer internet safety tips to parents is another question worth thinking about.

I am thinking of adding a page on my class blog with tips for families. Regularly publishing tips in the school newsletter could also be beneficial.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/44102337@N03/7882614208 Attribution: CC BY-NC 2.0

I am also considering inviting parents for a cyber safety afternoon early in the new school year. The event could involve children and parents learning about and discussing safe internet use together. Hopefully the lines of communication would then continue into the home environment.

What other internet safety tips for parents would you add? I’d love parents to share what advice they think is important.

How can schools pass on internet safety tips to parents?

Evolving Parent Communcation

When I began teaching in 2004, my main forms of parent communication were:

  • the occasional class (paper) newsletter
  • chatting to parents at the classroom door
  • signs on the classroom window with reminders
  • reports and parent teacher interviews
  • communication books for some students
  • phone calls or notes home if issues arose

While some things have stayed the same, many things have changed. I’ve noticed a decrease in the number of parents who visit the classroom every day. Moving from the junior school to an older grade also means parents are around less.

Since I started teaching, advances in technology and online communication have changed the way people interact and access information. It has been important to keep up with this, not only with what I’m doing with my students, but with how I’m interacting with parents too.

I now don’t worry about putting signs on the classroom window. I doubt they’d be read. I don’t see as many parents on a regular basis to pass on messages. Paper newsletters were time consuming for me to make and often got lost or buried at the bottom of a child’s bag.

As always, an ongoing stream of two-way information is important. I have found the more parents are kept informed and involved in their child’s learning, the more successful and smooth the child’s education is.

Every fortnight I email parents a class newsletter.

I wrote about this in 2010 but the main points of my system are:

  • I collect parent email addresses via a Google Doc form. I invite families to complete this at the end of the previous school year. I also use this form to collect more information about the child’s strengths, weaknesses, interests etc.
  • There are always a couple of parents without email addresses (I’m finding this is becoming less frequent). I print paper copies for these families.
  • I put email addresses in the BCC field of my emails to preserve parents’ privacy.
  • Kelly Jordan and I have surveyed our parents a couple of times and found they really enjoy this method of communication.
  • I invite parents to contact me via email if it is easier for them. Many embrace this option.

Our class blog provides information and a window into our classroom.

  • The 4KM and 4KJ blog is updated 2-4 times a week. Parents are encourage to subscribe and comment.
  • The blog houses a lot of information about what is happening in our classroom, including a regularly updated Google Calendar on the left sidebar. This calendar also helps the students to get organised.

I’ve found the class blog combined with parent emails means there is always a channel of information available for parents.

Of course some face-to-face contact always needs to be prioritised. For example, last week we held a successful Family Blogging Afternoon where students could teach a special person in their life about blogging and global collaboration. This is part of our Family Blogging Month celebrations.

As the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development points out “Family participation in learning is one of the most accurate predictors of a child’s success in school and beyond.” While this message has remained constant over the years, the way participation is taking is place continues to evolve.

I’d love to find new ways to continue to make parent communication easy and effective for all parties. What ideas do you have?

How do you communicate with parents?

How have your approaches to communicating with parents changed over the years?

Parents Shining in the Blogging Community

Educational blogging is so much more meaningful and rewarding when it occurs within a blogging community.

It takes time and persistence to establish your own blogging community. When I first started blogging with my class in 2008, we received the odd comment from a student or parent but there was no other audience or interaction. Fast forward four years and my students and I are part of a diverse and large educational blogging community. We learn and interact with people from all over the world every day.

Many teachers wonder how you can get parents involved in a class blog. My best advice is that parent involvement cannot be left to chance. It takes ongoing education and encouragement. This is something I have written about before and you can find some posts here, here and here.

Sometimes there are parents who take involvement to the next level. One such parent is Alma (aka AA), who is the mother of Bianca (aka BB), a student I taught in 2010.

2012 is the third year that AA has been extremely committed to commenting on a wide range of student, class and even teacher blogs.

AA has taken commenting to the next level and has established strong friendships with other teachers, students and parents from many schools around the world. She has learnt so much alongside us in the blogging community and she has reaped her own rewards.

AA and BB have generously sent Australian souvenirs, birthday gifts and Christmas presents to students, families and teachers abroad. They even supported Melbourne teacher-librarian, Kim Yeomans, by sending books to restock her school library after recent flooding. They found out about this cause from Seattle teacher-librarian, Julie Hembree.

AA is a role model parent blogger who demonstrates that the more you put in, the more you get out. AA would be the first one to say that blogging and navigating the internet was very new to her but through persistence, she has shown what is possible.

Recently, AA celebrated her 50th birthday and to commemorate the occasion, a number of blogging classes around the world put together a collaborative blog of birthday wishes http://aabday.edublogs.org/

With the new school year recently beginning, I hope to find other parents who are interested in embracing the world of blogging, even to a small extent of what AA has done.

Everything we do comes down to student learning and as the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development states,

” It is well known that students with interested and involved parents do better at school.”

With blogs and other online tools acting as windows into classrooms, the ways parents can be involved in their child’s school have been redefined. The possibilities are expanding rapidly and, with the right structures in place, amazing outcomes can be experienced!

Do you know any special community members who have embraced blogging?

What do you do to establish a blogging community and encourage those community members?

Family Blogging Afternoon

One of the many benefits of having a class blog is the strengthening of home-school relationships.

After having a class blog for a number of years, I have come to realise that you can’t leave parent participation to chance. Parents needs to be educated and regularly encouraged and invited to be part of your class blog.

Recently, I wrote a guest post on the Edublogs Teacher Challenge blog about encouraging parent participation. Click here to read it.

Last year I also wrote a post on this blog about some methods I have used to encourage parent participation. Click here to read that.

Today my class held a Family Blogging Afternoon. It was a great success!

Last week, all of my students made an invitation to give to a special person in their family. The family member was asked to come to our school at 2:30pm Wednesday to learn about blogging.

Invitation

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We had parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members come along. Almost all students brought someone along and proudly showed off our class blog.

We launched our Family Blogging Afternoon by skyping our blogging buddy in California, Mrs Yollis.

(Thanks Mrs Yollis for the photo below from her end of the Skype call!)

Skype

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Mrs Yollis told everyone about some of the benefits of educational blogging in regards to literacy, community building, geography and internet safety. It was fantastic for the parents to see how we connect with others via Skype while hearing about the benefits of blogging from another experienced teacher.

Following the Skype session, all the students showed their special person a copy of our poster about writing quality comments.

The students then taught their special person how to navigate our class blog and how to leave a quality comment.

I prepared a special post for the parents to comment on that asked them to reflect how school had changed since they were students. Last year I discovered that these sorts of posts appeal to parents. Everyone has a story to tell about their youth. Some fantastic comments were produced with the students’ guidance.

I team teach with Kelly Jordan and we have 42 grade two students between us. We used our 10 classroom computers, 2 interactive whiteboards, 9 mini laptops (borrowed from another class) and school computer lab (26 computers) to provide enough computers for all students and family members.

What a fantastic afternoon full of fun, learning and community building!

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Have you thought about having a Family Blogging Afternoon?

What do you do to encourage parent participation in your class blog?

Getting Parents Involved in Blogging

Note: since writing this post, I have created a more detailed guide to helping parents connect with your class blog. Find it here on the Teacher Blogging Challenge site.

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One of the many benefits of having a class blog is the strengthening of home-school relationships.

A class blog can provide a virtual window into the classroom.

After having a class blog for three years, I have got the message loud and clear that parents and families love being able to keep up with the classroom events and student learning.

Something that I have pondered a lot is

How do we get parents more actively involved in the class blog?

Most of my parents have email subscriptions to the class blog and read most posts but actual comments from parents haven’t been overly frequent.

This seems to be common in the world of blogging and social networking. Apparently 90% of readers never contribute, 9% contribute a little and 1% contribute a lot (click here to read more about that research). I would say this statistic is true in regards to my class blog.

The first step to get parents commenting is education. At the start of the year I send home a detailed tutorial on how to leave a comment which you can read more about in this post. I have also made a page with video and written instructions on the class blog here. Next year, I will also demonstrate how to leave a comment at our parent information evening.

Here are two initiatives I have trialled which successfully encouraged parents and families to leave more comments on our blog.

Family Blogging Month

This idea came from Linda Yollis who provides a wealth of information on educational blogging on her wiki here. I adapted Linda’s model for my classroom and I have now repeated the concept a few times.

This idea involves declaring a certain month “Family Blogging Month” and encouraging students to get as many of their friends and family to comment on the class blog as possible. I kept a star chart to keep track of comments.

star chart

At the end of the month the child/family with the most comments receives a prize. For our May is Family Blogging Month challenge which you can read about here, almost all families joined in and we received 275 comments. We asked the local pizza restaurant to donate a voucher as a prize and the winner also got to write a guest post on our class blog.

Next time, I think I will keep a star chart for the number of different people the students invite to comment on the blog rather than the number of comments in total.

Question for Parents

Last week, I trialled another idea, inspired by Henrietta Miller. I wrote a post specifically for parents (and anyone else) to comment on. The topic was “What was school like for you?” I sent an email to all parents asking them to comment. The response has been amazing! We have had more comments on this post than we have ever had on any post. The students have been fascinated by the information in the comments and some thoughtful conversations have been developing.

question for parents

Next year, I plan to do regular “Question for Parents” posts to involve families in the blog more.

I am always on the look out for new ideas to encourage families to comment on our class blog.

What ideas do you have?

Emailing Parents

For the last three years, my class blog has been a great way to communicate with parents. The blog acts as a window into our class and the parents can stay up to date with our activities and achievements.

This year, I’ve introduced a parent email newsletter which has been well received.

At the start of the year I asked all of the parents for their email address. Out of 21 students, I currently one have one parent without email.

I entered these addresses into my Outlook contacts and created an email distribution list.

Every fortnight I write an e-newsletter to parents. It includes information on our current learning focusses, upcoming events, reminders etc.

*Tip* If you are emailing a group of parents, put the distribution list or email addresses in the BCC field. This means recipients will not be able to see the other email addresses on the list and the privacy of your parents is protected.

This year I also use email frequently to contact parents individually.

I have had a couple of students who would have had a communication book in the past but the parents and I find email an easier solution.

Parents also email me about absences, medication and general queries.

Contacting parents via email seems like such a simple concept but one that, in my school circle, is not widely used.

It is important to note that email contact does not replace all face to face interaction, but with most parents working and busy, it allows for frequent, ongoing communication.

The benefits I’ve found are the instant access, reliability (no lost notes), privacy (personal notes not read by students) and ease of use. It’s sad to say that I can type up a note in about half the time it takes me to handwrite it!

To ensure the parents receive the email, I have made business card sized notes that say “I sent you an email today“.  I only hand these out when it is essential that the email is read. Most of the time it is not necessary but I have found it is handy to have some sitting on my desk.

Do you use email to communicate with parents?

What do you think about the idea?