Sunday, January 15, 2012

Showcasing My School

This year I have been given the privilege of managing my school's website. As the Editor-in-Chief of our school's newsletter, this job seemed very fitting. I had many questions at first, mainly about organization and content. What should I include on each page? What kind of content should I post? How often should I post? After doing some research and carefully examining other school sites, I jumped right in.

Click here to view what I have complied so far. This is not by any means a final product. I have learned through this process that this project is a work in progress. My hope is for it to change, transform, and evolve.

Although I look forward to the evolution of this site, here are some elements that I think are essential for any school site:

Faculty and Staff Page-The faculty and staff are at the heart of any school. I like to include pictures of the different teaching teams and staff (i.e. grade level, Auxillary, Special Education, cafeteria and office staff) at our school so that families and the community can see who we are. I took this concept a step further and created a "We Are Thames" video that included several members of our school family. For this video, I had everyone pick a word that represented their classroom or philosophy. I feel that this painted a picture of who were are.

Administrator Page-The leadership has its own page with accompanying mission statements and a brief background. This gives readers a sense of our school culture and approaches taken by our school leaders.

Calendar-This page includes a list of important school-wide events, holidays, Professional Development Days, and Early Release Days for each month. This page also includes a Google Calendar that automatically updates each month.

Announcements Page-This is perhaps my favorite page and the one that gets the most traffic. Here reminders for important school-wide events such as fundraisers, parent and community programs, and school performances are posted. This page also features articles on different projects, field trips, or activities. I like to include videos and pictures whenever possible to give readers a glimpse into our classrooms and the learning that takes place.

PTA Page-I am so thrilled about this page! Our PTA has done a wonderful job of posting activities and special events here. They also publish a monthly newsletter that is available for download.

Future Additions

Here are a few items that I would like to add in the near future:

Grade Level/Class Specific Pages-I would love for teachers to maintain their own class or grade level pages or class blogs. This would be a wonderful way to further showcase what is happening in their classrooms.

Special Feature Videos-My teaching partner and I put together a technology video that illustrates how we use iPod Touches in the classroom. She is interested in creating more videos that highlight different strategies and approaches that are being implemented in our school. I think this is a fabulous idea and am eager to share these!

So here are my two cents on managing my school's website. What else do you think should be included? Feel free to leave a comment and share your school's website!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Writing with Edmodo

This has been my first year to use Edmodo with my classes. My students have taken to it like fish to water. But even more so, it has opened up opportunities to write for different purposes. I think this is important because students need to see writing as another form of communication.

Here are several ways we have incorporated Edmodo in our gifted classes:

Weekly Journal Entries- I normally prompt students to make connections with the topic they are exploring and their own experiences. Instead of just limiting journal writing to a notebook, now students are able to post and share their thoughts, opinions, concerns, and doubts with others. The instant feedback my students receive provides further affirmation for their writing.

Collaborative Projects- In the fall we used Edmodo to collaborate with classes during The Global Read Aloud. We created a group where students could post their reactions and predictions to the novel, Tuck Everlasting. This semester, I am incorporating that same structure to create Book Clubs for several novels we are studying. I am taking it a step further to post some products such as illustrations from a section of the book that other partner classes can guess (Literature Circle Job), Haikus about nature (for The Whipping Boy), and video trailers for the novels. I am interested in seeing the feedback and dialogues that take place through these Book Club Groups.

Keeping in Touch with Former Students-This year we were sad to see two of our students move. To keep in touch, I created a group where the class can leave notes and keep their fellow classmates updated in the happenings of our classroom. I even awarded them a “We Miss You” badge.

Checking in After-Hours or during an Extended Break- My students love Edmodo so much that they asked if they could log in at home. They love to see what their classmates are doing on the weekends, during holidays or breaks. I think that this communication among peers is essential in maintaining the sense of community that we have. However, as informal as the communication may be in these instances, I always stress the usage of correct grammar, punctuation, and complete thoughts.

How do you use Edmodo in your classroom? What have been your favorite features? I would love to hear your ideas!