Sending Summer Stories Home July 23 2009

For me, the week before school starts is called “Work Week.” The primary teachers spend some of that work time filling out and sending home postcards or letters to the students in their classrooms.

As an intermediate teacher, I aspired to get a jump on this kind of communication, but my letters to kids usually waited until the first day of school, lost amid the packet of registration papers stuffed at the bottom of backpacks. And now, with so much of our communication driven by technology, my approach to communicating with students and families is quite different from the standard letter sent home on the first day.

Social Networking, for Kids

My fourth graders already use cell phones on a regular basis and refer to Facebook pages, so why not meet them at their level?

There are several ways to build a simple website to communicate with kids and their families while also sharing your fun summer activities. Start with your school’s website; do you already have a classroom page waiting for content? If not, Wordpress and Blogger offer programs that are easy to set up and navigate.

When you’ve decided on the program, upload some of your summer pictures. Use simple captions or a few sentences to share what’s going on, and focus on using pictures that show important elements of your life that may appeal to kids – family members, pets, crafts, hobbies, or summer trips!

Sending out an announcement about your new blog can be really easy. If you’re school’s administrative staff already uses an email list to send out notices to families, ask if you can have access to those email addresses belonging to kids in your class. While you’re sending out news about your new blog, set up those addresses in an email group for future use. 

Update your blog or page a couple of times a week. Pretty soon, you’ll start making a mental note to share your most current pictures or fun stories on your website or blog. Your adventures will make some great summer reading for kids!

Teach Technology

Some of your school’s population may not have access to your blog at home. If you have a computer lab at school, use it at the beginning of the year to introduce students to your Summer Stories, and teach them how to leave comments on your blog. This is a great way to teach about safety and making good choices on the internet; kids don’t seem to understand that when something is online, everyone can see it.

At the same time, it’s a great way to have them share their own stories, creating another aspect of storytelling and reinforcing rapport between teachers and students. Students could use the computer lab to create blogs or websites of their own. These “blogs” or websites can be a simple word processed document about their own fun activities from their summers, accompanied by pictures, or designs of what they would have on a blog or website. Or, they could design a live blog or website that has to be maintained on a regular basis. If this idea seems overwhelming, small groups could design a website or blog together, helping to spread out the responsibility.

Your Summer Stories online will inspire kids to share not only their summer fun, but more stories in the months to come!

In honor of Frank McCourt, an awesome author who died last week:
They don’t want to read and they don’t want to write. They say, Aw, Mr. McCourt, all these English teachers want us to write about dumb things like our summer vacation or the story of our life. Boring. Every year since our first grade we write the story of our life and teachers just give us a check mark and they say, Very Nice.