It’s hard to believe that I am writing a blog post on techy ideas to start the school year strong. Didn’t I just write a blog post on finishing the race strong?!
Nevertheless, the new school year is quickly approaching – like, in less than 48 hours. Over the summer, I spent a lot of time brainstorming ideas for using technology to foster strong relationships and increase communication with parents and student to set a strong foundation for the school year.
Here are a few of my ideas:
#1: Personalize a Student Survey with Google Forms & FlipGrid
At the beginning of each school year, I have my students complete a “Student Survey” so I can get to know them. In the survey, I ask questions to help me understand their academic ability, as well as their interests outside of the classroom. It’s always been a great way to get to know my students. The survey is created in Google Forms and is embedded to our classroom website. I can view the results in Google Forms or in Sheets. In the resources below, I have linked to the “view” form so you can experience it as a student, as well as a link to create your own copy.
One section that I added this year was a “Questions/Comments/Concerns” section that utilizes Flipgrid. In this section, students will be able to go to our classroom grid and will respond to the following prompt:
Share any questions, comments, and/or concerns that you have about Math 8. Or, just share something fun! Remember, you can also view other student’s videos and comment.
Although I haven’t done this yet, I am hoping that it will open the door to some communication within our classroom. In this Flipgrid, students can ask questions, comment on the classroom, share concerns, or simply share anything they want about their day. In addition to this, students will also be able to view and respond to other students. Overall, my goal is to increase communication and build a strong foundation for our classroom culture.
#2: Use Google Forms & YouTube to Create a Parent Survey
In the same way as the Student Survey, I have also created a “Parent Survey” for parents to complete in the first week of school. In this form, I am able to gather parent contact information, ask questions about their student, encourage them to join Remind, and allow time to ask any questions and/or express any concerns. In the resources below, I have linked to the “view” form so you can experience it as a student, as well as a link to create your own copy.
This year, I have added a couple of new features to the parent survey. First, I have put in a section on photographic and video permissions, which also links to my blog and Twitter, so parents will better understand the purpose behind these permissions. Second, I have created a YouTube video for parents that discusses the course, our classroom, and is a general introduction to the year. For my Math class, my students are Honors students and I always want to create a strong line of communication since it tends to be a fast-paced and rigorous course. In addition to this, I also want the opportunity to reach any parents that may be unable to meet or attend back-to-school night.
Again, my whole goal is to increase communication which, in turn, will create a strong foundation for a positive rapport and school year.
#3: Create a Remind Account to Increase Parent Communication
Remind is one of my favorite resources as a teacher. Remind is a “communication tool that helps teachers reach students and parents.” Basically, it is a safe and secure way to text students and parents information about the class without ever sharing personal contact information (i.e. phone numbers). I started using Remind last year and it was a great way to send a quick message to parents if there was anything I needed to discuss. As an example, if I saw that a student’s grade was dropping, I could send the parent a quick text. If the student was upset or having a bad day, I could quickly inform the parent. More importantly, I also found myself sending more positive notes to parents since I could quickly send messages through the app on my phone or my web browser.
This year, Remind is going to be (unofficially) mandatory for the parents of my students. Obviously, if they do not want to join, I will not force them. However, if they have not joined after two weeks, I will be personally calling parents to encourage them to join Remind. Creating an environment of communication is crucial at the beginning of the year.
#4: Create an Interactive Classroom Syllabus with PearDeck
As I begin each school year, I provide my students with a paper (digital and/or physical) that contain classroom information. I hesitate using the word “syllabus” but, in a sense, that is very much what it is. And – it’s dreadfully boring to review. However, there is some really good information to share with students and conversations that can be formed from it.
This year, I will still provide them with this information, but I want to integrate it into PearDeck. I want to create a presentation that is interactive and engaging to students. A presentation that asks the students question about what we have discussed, as well as opens the door for them to share their own ideas about how they would like to see their classroom structure. Voice and choice are essential for student buy-in, so I want to use PearDeck in a way to introduce myself, the classroom, the course, and open communication among myself and my students.
#5: Review Classroom Information with BreakoutEDU
In the first week, the students are given so much information about what they can expect during the next year. However…sometimes I worry that they do not always retain this information. Again – it’s because it can be boring.
One goal I have this year is to create a BreakoutEDU Digital on the information my students receive in the first week – classroom and course information, school information, expectations, etc. Not only would this be a fun end of the first-week activity, but it would also be a great way to solidify any important information that you would like students to remember.
How do you use technology to foster relationships and increase communication at the beginning of the school year? Share in the comments below!