Since I started teaching, communicating with families has always been an area that I have been seeking to improve. Yes, I communicate with families in a variety of ways: emails, phone calls, newsletters, notes, and Class Dojo messages. And this whole time and for all these years of communicating using these methods, I thought I was doing great. I was keeping parents and family members informed and they knew what was happening in our classroom on a weekly basis.
It wasn’t until my summative evaluation my fourth year of teaching that I realized that I wasn’t necessarily doing it correctly. “I” communicated with families. “I” sent home newsletters explaining what we are going to be doing. “I” sent messages, phone calls, and notes home to inform families. I was doing everything and I thought I was doing a really good job. According to my principal and the evaluation system my school district uses, I wasn’t communicating in the best way.
According to the Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching Domain 4C (excellent rating): Students develop materials to inform their family about the instructional program on a regular basis.
My intentions were pure and I did walk away with a proficient rating but being the person that I am, I didn’t want to settle. I started asking myself, “What can I do to incorporate a new and engaging activity that allows students to inform parents on our classroom happenings and take on that leadership roll of communicating when them?” This is what eventually led me to think of student created newsletters. Students create the newsletters and all I have to do is press print.
My next question was, ” How am I suppose to explain my expectations to students on creating these newsletters that they would enjoy working on and parents would actually read?” This is where I brainstormed my layout of the newsletter and how to divide the class into equal sized groups. I needed enough areas that each student would feel like they contributed, incorporating more writing-based sections and fun interactive sections of the newsletter.
When I first introduced student created newsletters, I split my class into 4 teams of 5. We essentially did a trial run. I explained each section of the newsletter, what needed to be included, and what students needed to do in order to complete the template. They chose a spot around the room and I told them that they needed to work together to complete this sample newsletter.
Please note: We worked on leadership skills, responsibility, and being respectful during our morning class meetings for two weeks prior to implementing this activity. Students knew my expectations of working in a group setting and how to be leaders instead of bosses.
In these student created newsletters, students talk about what they have been learning about, upcoming events, celebrations, student shout-outs, weekly schedules, class goals, and create or search a joke of the week. I have incorporated several aspects of our classroom into a two page layout all completed by students.
Each group has a chance to create a newsletter once a month. I have students meet for about 15 minutes on Monday to decide on the color of the template, assign roles, and start working together on the newsletter. They will meet on Thursday for 15-25 minutes to complete, edit, and proofread the newsletter. I give students a lot of freedom on how they would like to complete the newsletter. Some groups designate roles while others work on the entire newsletter together. The leadership skills I see in students is exponential.
All of the templates for the student created newsletter is on Google Classroom using Google Slides. All I have to do is share the templates with the group on Google Classroom and they will be able to edit. Their newsletters are due Thursday before the end of school.
What I have noticed: Students are more likely to read the newsletter when their peers produce it. Students take pride in their work and are more likely to take it home and show it to their parents. Parents are more likely to read the newsletter when they see their child as a creator.
Are you looking to start implementing a more student-led classroom for the new year? Are you wanting students to have more of a leadership role in communicating with their families? If you are, check out my Student Created Newsletter Templates in my TPT store!