Friday, July 12, 2013

Tips for Starting/Maintaining Classroom Websites and Weblogs

Recently, a friend asked me about starting either a classroom website, weblog, or both. That morning, I gave her some tips and suggested she start a weblog with Blogspot. I didn't tell her as much as I could have beyond that, though, so I am have pondered some good advice since then.

1. Starting a site is simple with the right tools. My best friend, a kindergarten teacher, has been building her team's website through Even when you have a free membership, ample storage is provided, and ads are not posted on the pages. Her website includes numerous pages-- she has uploaded photos, videos, and information for the parents of kindergartners at her school.

2. Include suggestions for home and summer reading. Convey your expectations for how much you expect your students to read nightly. Review the books you enjoy the most. Include suggestions for reading apps as well like Scholastic Storia. Just like you promote books in your class, make it an even more interactive adventure on your classroom website. You may even want to put a Shelfari widget on your page.

3. Of course, put photographs of your students completing projects in your class-- but only after acquiring the parents' permission. Link to or upload .pdf files of the resources you use with your class, which are particularly powerful when you accompany them with photographs and explanations.

4. Provide a plethora of links your students can visit. I cannot imagine not telling my students about phenomenal websites like Arcademic Skill Builders they can utilize at home to review pertinent skills!

5. Remember, you can promote resources you create on your website, but don't make that the only thing you do. Websites are more than holding contests and gaining followers. Of course, it is exciting to hold contests and promote your products (because they can help so many people), but balance it out with anecdotes about your daily classroom adventures. Also, remember to be patient in gaining followers-- it does not happen immediately.

6. If you have vocabulary lists you want your students to review, upload them to your website. Also, upload your classroom newsletters, test prep recommendations, and explanations of concepts. Even if only a few of your students access the files, at least the resources reached someone. It may serve as inspiration for other teachers as well.

7. After explaining the purpose of your website and the direction you plan on taking with your students and parents, I suggest you show student samples of work and classroom displays you create. You can scan samples of student writing, though I think it's a wise suggestion to seek their approval first. Surprisingly, not every student may feel comfortable with his or her writing online.

8. Also, add personal touches. I have stories I wrote on my classroom website, ranging from little memoirs to a full children's novel-- Second Chances. I have excepts from two stories I have written, too-- Kathleen's Story and Etola's Keeper, as you can see.

9. If you choose, your students can contribute to your weblog. You can start a weblog for your students to update as well as one for you to update. On Blogspot/Blogger, I have three weblogs-- this one, the one I had while teaching fourth grade, and then the one that serves for inspiration for eventually starting my own school.

10. Last, make sure you update often and remember that you are reaching out to an audience of other teachers around the world, your school community, your students, and your students' parents. Make sure you type in a font that is a decent size and use colors that are pleasing to the eyes. Also, don't make your pages too busy.

When people ask me about how I started my website, I became skilled in using HTML when I was in high school. In 1998, I opened my first website, and then in college, I learned about using absolute positioning with graphics, which I create with Adobe Photoshop. It's complicated to explain, but it's also become a passion and talent of mine after 15 years.

Last, here is a post I wrote for Scholastic a few years back-- Classroom Website 101-- that offers even more suggestions.

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