Keeping Parents Involved - Class Website, Remind 101, and Class Dojo

I thought I'd write a blogpost to share how I try to keep parents involved and knowledgeable about what goes on in the classroom. This year I've gotten involved with some new ways that supplement the regular communication methods I have in class. I've always done a Friday newsletter that gets sent home in the Friday Folder (includes graded homework and tests for the week). The newsletter recaps what we did during the week, upcoming tests or events, and any other information I'd like to convey. But besides this, I wanted to make sure that I didn't have the usual, "We didn't know this about our child or I didn't know that was coming up or due..." response that we all know we often get. In order to try my best to avoid that, I have several other ways to get the messages across.

1) Class Website
Over the summer, I took some time out to develop a Weebly.Com website. This website is basically designed for educators and non tech people like myself. The set up is extremely easy to follow and you can customize it just how you'd like. On there, I have a tab for a blog (where I put up pictures of the week - I get permission from parents first to include their child in the pictures). This allows parents to see all the learning activities that take place at school, which will contradict their child telling them they did "nothing," in school that week. Haha!
The homework tab is where I list the homework for the week in case a student misses writing something in the planner, or if parents would just like to see what is coming up to prepare. The spelling words tab lists the regular and challenge word lists for the week. I have an uploaded files area, where I can upload notices that I have also sent home. There are a few other special areas such as links to online versions of workbooks or practice websites. I think having a website has helped the parent-teacher communication gap. They know what is going on and can get any information that their child may have forgotten to tell or if they have misplaced something. 

cover page for the Weebly website
side tabs for all the pages

Add caption
I upload some files that I sent home copies for incase they get misplaced.
I upload pictures of the week in a slideshow under the blog category.
I put up a copy of the weekly newsletter I send home on Friday

things you can add on the website

Spelling lists for the week

2) REMIND 101. I LOVE this free text message service app from Remind 101. You sign up and you get assigned a special texting number. No one can text you back on it (the best part.. ;) ) I send out quick texts for reminders such as tests coming up, project due dates, or special messages to let them know the new blog post is up on our website so they can go take a look. Unfortunately, despite 1,203,503 reminders since the beginning of the year to get all parents to sign up, not everyone has. I have 20 out of 27 signed up, so I guess that's pretty good.

3) Class Dojo. I started Class Dojo midway in the previous school year after I found out about it. Kids respond to it really well. You can customize the positive and negative behaviors you see in your students and give or take away points during the day. I always have my phone near by to get to the app and assign points. I made a reward chart for every 25 points. Every time they reach the milestone, they can choose from 2 or 3 prizes. As the levels go up, the prizes get better. Many of them are waiting for the 175 point value where they can choose to teach a subject for the day! Anyway, parents can keep up to date with their child's behavior because a report is sent to them through email or their Dojo account if they sign up. I don't always record every consequence or negative behavior, but do so when I see it happen more than once or twice in the same day. I like this because I have some very active parents who contact me when they see a certain negative behavior and they would like to know what it was specifically. It is quick information and everyone stays involved. 

It seems like a lot, but once you get used to doing it, it helps out tremendously on accountability on everyone's parts. 

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