Communication is the key to success in the classroom. Today, I want to focus on developing our communication with parents. My quick & easy guide to student-created newsletters will provide you all the tools you need.
How often do you send a newsletter?
I know there are some overachieving teachers out there who send home a new newsletter every but I am not one of them. I do not have time for that nor as a parent do I have time to read a newsletter each week.
We are a bit old-fashioned around here. I require my children to all eat dinner at the table together and have a conversation every night without technology for 1 hour. It has been this way since the day they were born.
As this is our routine, I hear all the stories of the day and what they are learning. I know the gossip and depending on the day I might even be able to tell you what the teacher wore to school. As I spend my “free” time interacting with my children, I don’t have time to read another note.
I take my feelings as a parent into consideration when sending anything home. Would I want this? No, don’t send it or Yes, send it. Is it required by the school/district? Yes, send it home.
For this reason parents only receive 2 newsletters from me each month. One written by me and the other written by my students.
One of the standards for any writing class is to write with a purpose. My students create a newsletter for their parents each month. This is exactly what that standard is asking for. BONUS!
Plus, I know a parent is more apt to read something written by the class than me. DOUBLE BONUS!
Have you heard of Project Life
? It is an easy way to scrapbook and journal about your memories. I love this idea! I am planning on starting it someday as I have the materials to do so. Just waiting on free time to do so.
Moving on, this company inspired the design for my classroom newsletters.
Step 1: Create Project Cards
Each month I create a set of 24 new cards in 2 different. I save them as photos and then upload them to google drive for my students to access.
Step 2: Assign Monthly Reporters
I do this at the beginning of the school year. I divide my students into 10 groups. I usually have 3-4 students in a group. These are my monthly reporters. They are allowed to use the class iPad to take photos, will interview classmates, and will determine what news from our class is sent home.
Step 3: Creating Articles
Using PowerPoint, my students create a newsletter. The student will overlay a text box and get to work writing.
The monthly project cards give them the guides of where to put information and spaces to write. This ensures that articles are kept to the point. It limits the number of pictures they can add and really focuses the students on their work.
Step 4: Article Limitations
There are no guidelines other than they cannot change the size of the project cards and must use the project cards to create their newsletters.
They are free to write about anything in our classroom. This includes gossip. I use this as a lesson why we do not gossip (knowing it can be written about stops it quickly!) and to write to an audience (parents, administrators, classmates, teachers, etc…) .
They can also accept articles and ideas from others in the class but they are the editors and ultimately responsible for this edition of our newsletter.
This is their newsletter. If someone has a big game coming up and the editors have approved its addition to the newsletter, it is added.
This is done on class time and is not graded.
If a student is misusing their position as class reporter, they can (and have sadly) been removed from the job. Removal as Reporter requires a meeting with the students parents as the Reporter will need to explain why he/she was fired.
Step 5: Find Project Cards
Each month, I create a new set based upon the seasons and holidays. August is almost always based upon the classroom decor of our room.
Each month includes:
- monthly calendar
- a picture holder card
- a top 5 list
- a top 3 list
- a quote of the month
- 2 journaling cards
- and some other random things
August includes an “about me” card that I have every student in the class complete. I use these for our class “year book” which I have a parent volunteer create for me each year.
I love my student-created newsletters. Seeing my classroom and what they view as the most important events of the month is an invaluable resource of information.
Not all of my parents agree.
I have actually had a parent complain that I did not write a newsletter. They wanted one. They needed one. This particular parent stated they felt “lost and left out” of the happenings in my classroom. If one parent is brave enough to say, there are probably more thinking it.
I searched high and low for a professional looking template for the upper elementary classroom. I couldn’t find one so I made one.
I was using the chalkboard template originally but thought it looked to “young elementary.” This was my news… adult to adult. I wanted something fun but professional.
I finally found a layout that said “upper elementary” but the fun addition of color made the teacher in me happy. Except I couldn’t decide on a color. I made 6 different color schemes.
All templates are editable and you get the chalkboard design as well as all the colors I couldn’t decide upon. As always, upgrades are free so if I decide I need a different color or theme, you will get it as well. (If you need something specific, email me.)
How to Use
At the beginning of the year, I open up PowerPoint, save a new copy of the file, and then overlay text boxes where I want them to go. There are 8 boxes total and it is set up for a front-to-back newsletter but you could easily just use the front side.
I add in my title for the information to be entered into each box and then save it. I do not change these titles all year long. I want my parents to get used to seeing the same information.
When To Send Newsletters
My students send their newsletter on the last day of every month. The last one of the school year goes out a week early so that my parents can get it into our “class yearbook.” I have had some amazing parent volunteers who manage to sneak the final moments into our scrapbook some how.
My newsletter goes out on the first Friday of each month. It is a look ahead at what we are planning on covering. Long-term planning plays a huge role in the creation of my newsletter as does the district calendar.
My newsletter always looks ahead. The students newsletter is always a reflection of what we have done.