This past summer, I began a travel blog which led me to write about survival tips for the first time teacher as there are lots of ESL teachers overseas who may consult the web for helpful tips. Wanting to stay true to the travel theme, I am embarking on a new journey of sharing wisdom from my many years in the classroom via this website.
As you begin your own journey in the creation of a class website, I would like to pass along my top four tips that will motivate your students and families to check out your site.
Post class photos and videos on a regular basis
Make the most of those "Kodak Moments" as they happen in your classroom or at school events. There is nothing more exciting than seeing your picture. Many of us are very visually oriented. As a side note, put those kids who are "insta/vine" happy to work in your room documenting your in class projects, games, etc. This also a great way for your parents to get involved with their kids' school lives. Each photo opens the door to a conversation about what's up at school. (Not an easy thing to always get out of tweens and teens.) Finally, having this link can serve as excellent documentation for professional purposes. Note: Be sure to get permission (in writing) from all parents to post photos/videos of their kids. It is always great to ask the kid for their permission to post a photo, too.
Publish their work
Students who know their work is up for publication tend to take more care and put in more effort. This is a great space to showcase their work. Students enjoy reading each other's ideas. Supportive comments and kudos from you and their peers are great for boosting classroom community. I found this to be one of the best ways to really get to know my students.
Organize your pages
Once you get the hang of designing pages,figure out what the best organization of them is. For example, you might want a homework page where students and parents can see weekly homework assignments and print copies of worksheets or extra credit at home. You might create a "Favorite Web Sites" page where you create links to common webpages you want them to visit. For my students, I created themed pages. For example, when we studied the Titanic, I posted primary source photos, the movie trailer, links to articles, and more.
Create reasons for your students to visit the page
Use your webpage as a learning tool. You can literally, flip your classroom so that students can view presentations and take notes at home so that when they come to class, they have time to apply what they have learned and get clarification for what they didn't understand. Include visiting the class site in the assignments or to find important information. Ask your students to respond to one another's work or comment on the day's work. Using digital tools can save quite a bit of time and lots of trees.
Finally, creating and maintaining a class web site is one best tools I used in my last years in the classroom. It was successful because I made expectations clear for responsible and respectful behavior when posting comments or posting student work and photos. Digital natives must be taught digital citizenship and this is one of the best ways to do so.