Friday, August 14, 2015

Streamlining Parent Communication Using Google Products

Hi there!!

One week left until the big first day for me, and I've been working like crazy in my room. In addition to making sure my borders are straight and rearranging my furniture 56 times, I've been working on setting up parent communication this year and wanted to share with y'all how we do things with our team. Hopefully it gives you an idea or two. :) We started streamlining our communication this way last year and LOVE how it turned out... but more importantly, our parents and students did too!
One of my core beliefs about education is that educators and parents should work as a team for the best interest of the kiddos. Side note: If you missed out on my Beliefs to Actions blog hop (where this idea came from), check it out here-- a lot of amazing educators had amazing things to say.

Now, it's one thing to believe it. It's another thing to put it into action. My thought is that clear, easily accessible communication is the means of achieving this partnership between educator and parents. My (fabulous, wonderful, hard working, innovative) 4th grade team and I, along with ideas and help along the way, have established a way to streamline our parent communication in a time efficient, yet informative way. And... we did it all with Google.

Ahhh... Google. Even saying the word brings a smile to my face. Remember when it was "just" a search engine? Those days are over. Google is now taking over many worlds, education and business included. Funny story, our school has been using Google products often, especially after adopting the 1:X program (one piece of technology to every 4th grader and up). What's funny is my boyfriend, an accountant at a Big 4 accounting firm, just now had all his work products moved over to Google. Guess my school had the leg up on that one. :P  What better way to educate kiddos than to use technology they may be using in the workforce?

To best communicate with parents, my team and I utilized:

  • Google Sites
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Docs
And let me show you how. :) 

First and foremost is our Google Site. Our site is the "go-to" for all important information. Students create an app out of the website on their iPads, and we encourage parents to bookmark it. As you can see in the screenshot below, we have one site for all of our grade (we are departmentalized 3 ways- ELA, Math & Science/SS). The home page includes important information, as well as the Google Calendar which I will address later. Along the side, you can see each teacher's individual page, as well as important other information. 
 On each teacher's individual page, we share the weekly concepts that we cover, helpful links, and even resources to practice or enrich at home. The FABULOUS thing about Google Sites is because all 4 members of our team can be owners of the site, we can all go in and update the site on our own, and it automatically updates everywhere. It is also helpful to parents as it is a one stop shop for all the 4th grade information.

At the bottom of the picture above, and in a closer look below, we have a Google Calendar embedded into the home page on our site. Y'all.. this feature is SO COOL. Again, the calendar is"owned" by each teacher in 4th grade. Each day, the teacher edits the Google Calendar (easy process, all ready to go with your Google account) with the homework. Afterwards, the homework AUTOMATICALLY UPDATES ON THE SITE! No more questions about homework for the students or parents- it doesn't get much clearer than that! 
As you can see on our planner, we have the title everyday as PLANNER, so that every homework assignment doesn't fill up the daily boxes. In the details, we copy and paste every subject, then each teacher fills in the homework after his/her name. 

**If creating and embedding a Google Calendar into a Google Site is something y'all are interested, I would be happy to do a how-to! Just let me know in the comments below!**

Finally, we have good ole Google Docs. We utilize Google Docs for our weekly email purposes. At the beginning of each week, we create a copy of the weekly email form (making sure it is still shared with the whole team), rename it for that week, then start editing it as information and important dates come out over the week. Each teacher also fills in the concepts and upcoming activities in the columns under his/her subject. On the same day of each week, we all send out a link to the Google Doc so parents can access it. Of course, when we send the link it is in 'View Only' mode! 
Parents responded very well to the streamlined form, as opposed to the verbose, essay format we used before. To see a FABULOUS post about how to create weekly emails that communicate information well, head over to my teammate Whitney (yes, it's her name too!) blog post here! Bonus is we use the blurb that we type in the weekly email and copy and paste that into our website for the week's happenings! 

In short.. We update our Google Calendar daily with homework. Weekly, we create and send through email a Google Doc for a newsletter, as well as update our site. The time spent on these activities is so worth it because it keeps our parents and students informed, while cutting down on confusion and misunderstandings. It's a win win for everyone. :)

Have a GREAT beginning of the school year, all you fabulous educators out there. :) Here is to clear communication, done the easy way!! 

With Love from Texas,