10 Tips for an A+ Classroom Website
Teachers, welcome to your one-stop resource for building your very own classroom website. Please take a look at the ten tips below and feel free to leave your comments or questions at the end of the write-up. Thanks for visiting.
1. Teacher to Parent Contact
Creating a direct line of contact from you to the parents of your students can improve your classroom dynamic in many ways. First, it allows parents to become more involved with the daily school life of their child. Several items in the list below directly relate to improved parent-student interaction in regard to homework, class activities, etc.
Second, your classroom website helps increase the level of responsibility placed on the students in your class. The excuses of "forgetting" about an assignment or other deadlines are a thing of the past when you present all the relevant and necessary information to students and parents in a format that can be readily accessed away from school.
"I have made it much easier for students and parents to find and obtain materials...As a side benefit, I am also cutting down on printed paper and bypassing the 'me to students to parent' system of disseminating information."
~Kasey Galligan, Director of Hudson Elementary Schools band
(In this article we'll be using examples from Sandvox from Karelia Software, creators of easy to use website software for the Mac, though these tips should apply no matter what tool you use. Feel free to browse through our user-submitted directory of Sandvox-built websites for real examples of classroom websites.)
2. Course Information
Depending on the grade level you teach, it can be very helpful to include basic course information for each of your classes. Including a syllabus, course summary, list of course objectives, etc., helps to more fully inform parents about the topics being taught to their students.
Such information can be just as handy for the students in your classes. At the very least, it should cut down the number of questions you get regarding items like grading scale, upcoming subjects or test, etc.
Making homework files available on your classroom website serves many useful purposes. First, it allows absentees or disorganized students to complete their assignments without extension or having to go through you to pick up the homework. Second, including a list of homework on your site helps parents to stay informed and fact-check what their kids are telling them in regard to homework and deadlines.
Some modern web design programs will allow you to setup a list of downloadable content. Whether you use Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, or PDFs, students and parents will be able to access and download content in the event of an absence or if (when) their child misplaces an assignment. It is, however, worth mentioning that, depending on software, not all students will be able to access Word or Excel documents, so it may be safest to stick to PDFs and webpages.
"I get complimented on my site by parents all the time. They love being able to verify the claims of, 'I don't have any homework.' "
~Benjamin Everson, Skyline High School English and Journalism teacher
4. Upcoming Lessons and Activities
Regardless of grade level, it can be very helpful to post a calendar of upcoming lessons/subject matter, along with class activities, field trips, etc. This allows parents insight into their child's school life and the opportunity to schedule around special events. Students can also check on upcoming events to ensure timely submission of permission forms, etc.
Website design programs often allow you embed a "pagelet," or sidebar to your page containing supplemental content, that includes a Google Gadget, such as Google Calendar. Google Calendar can display single-day events or trips, as well as allowing you to fill in several days or weeks for certain activities or subject matter.
5. Grade Report
Maybe you have an ambitious student or two who like nothing more than real time updates of their grade in your class. You may be happy to accommodate them, but imagine how much time you would save if they (and all your other students) could simply check their grades themselves. Your website will allow you to build a grade report for each course that students can check as often or as rarely as they like. Consider listing grades by ID number or password protecting each student's listing for privacy.
Some web design applications allow you to display items in linked lists. This would give you the opportunity to expand on each student's grade report, without cluttering the page, by including a link to their report details.
Sandvox-Created Classroom Websites
- English and Journalism at Skyline High School
Ben Everson's website for his various courses at Skyline High School. Click on the screenshot to the right to view Mr. Everson's homepage, including a listing of courses and archive files.
- Integrated Band at Hudson Elementary Schools
Kasey Galligan's site for Hudson Elementary Schools Integrated Band. Click on the screenshot to the right to see the list of Performing Arts Curriculum at Hudson, along with a glance of all the other great content on Mr. Galligan's site.
6. Outside Links
A listing of outside links can be helpful regardless of grade level or subject matter. For younger grades, such links can provide parents fun learning activities to do with their children at home. For older grades, the links can include study tips or additional information on assignments.
Your outside link list is a chance to valuably supplement your in-class instructional methods with helpful activities or information. As previously mentioned, some web design programs will help you build such a list. Be sure to regularly check up on the pages you link to, to ensure appropriateness of content, etc.
"There are helpful links for beginning students that help point parents in the right direction with how they can help their students from home and still have fun doing it."
~Kasey Galligan, Director of Elementary Bands HPS
Sandvox from Karelia Software
- Easy Classroom Website Design
Visit Sandvox.com to easily build your very own classroom or school website that includes all the items listed on this page.
"Sandvox is powerful, flexible, and easy to use...it was a superior solution to both iWeb and Dreamweaver for me."
~Benjamin Everson, Skyline High School English and Journalism teacher
7. Archive of Lesson Plans
This element of your website is mainly for your own benefit, but may come in handy in the future for your fellow teachers as well. Keeping a detailed archive of lesson plans and subject matter is a fantastic organizational step. Imagine the time, energy, and filing cabinet space that could have been saved if you had done this from the beginning.
You can store your lesson plans on your site as Word documents, PDFs, etc., allowing you to download them when need be. You can even password protect the archive page with help from your web host.
"I have benefitted greatly by having a detailed archive of what I've done every day of several semesters now...Preparing materials for my long-term sub took minutes rather than hours."
~Benjamin Everson, teacher of English and Journalism at Skyline High School
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8. Daily Schedule
Including a brief write-up of your daily schedule helps parents know the right time to get a hold of you, as need be. Of course, conflicts to your posted schedule are bound to happen on nearly a daily basis, but having a general timeframe should cut down on time wasted through "phone tag" exchanges with parents.
Depending on the complexity of your daily schedule, you could include a separate Google Calendar pagelet (mentioned in detail above), or you could simply provide a short paragraph on your daily routine and availability.
9. Classroom Blog
Starting a posting a classroom blog can be a fun and informational link between the parents and your classroom. You can include write-ups on upcoming or recently completed field trips or holiday events. How about some pictures from the latest play or spelling bee?
A blog should not be intimidating to start or even learn about. Your blog will be nothing more than a collection of pages, each including an informal write-up or update on a recent or upcoming events. This is a nice addition to your site and helps keep parents informed and connected. Some web design programs will help you easily create and maintain your own blog.
10. Contact Form
For those students and parents who cannot seem to keep track of your contact information, you may want to add an informal contact form to your site. A contact form also allows other teacher visiting your site to contact you regarding lesson plans, your website, etc.
You will want to select a web design program that builds a contact form for you, based on your preferences. Such a form allows the visitors to your site plug in their name, email address, subject line, and message, all while hiding your email address, if you so desire.