Connecting with Families 2017 Style

Looking Back

When I began this so-called journey into exploring how technology can increase parent communication and curricular understanding I had a very different vision of my plan than where I am at now.  Let’s travel back a bit to see how it all played out…

In my previous post (which seems years ago but might actually be a few months ago) I outlined my plan to make the best website ever.  A beautiful, carefully crafted website with all the relevant documents and tools parents would need which would be presented to them in a highly visual space that parents of varying language backgrounds could access and understand.  Then I realized that I am not actually a trained web designer.  Boom.  I realized that even the very “user-friendly” platforms like Google Sites and Weebly are quite tricky and time-consuming for the completely inexperienced user.  Boom.  My shattered visions of my wonderful website almost came crashing down when I came to the realization that SO many people had already come to…. Websites are boring.   They are are early 2000’s.  2017 is about instant news, instant updates, apps not sites.  And so my vision changed and I left my half built websites to linger in cyberspace while I began to pursue a new avenue that has led me to where I am now – in the midst of exploring and using a great teaching tool for parent communication known as Class Dojo.

Enter the Dojo

I first heard about the website from a teacher in my school who was using it to help with classroom management.  “It’s great,” she told me, “I can give the kids rewards, and their parents can see it.  I can also chat with parents on Dojo.”  That day I set up my free Teacher’s account on ClassDojo.  Within a week I was a pro.  ClassDojo, as I explain it to people, is like a twitter feed, except I am the only one tweeting.  It allows to me to share news and stories from our classroom in realtime.  I post pictures of the class, give suggestions to parents about websites to check out or things do with their kids at home.  I post stories to the class newsfeed or for individual students.  I can also give the students “rewards” for showing responsibility, working hard, good teamwork, etc.  All of this can be seen by their parents.  A great feature has also been messaging.  Parents can send me informal messages through ClassDojo, similar to texting.  

Crunching Numbers

How has this all impacted student learning?  Are parents more aware of curriculum?  Are they more involved in their child’s learning? Let’s look at some data…

It’s hard to make a direct correlation between my web connections with parents and student learning.  But here’s how I can see it having a positive impact:  As I mentioned, I make suggestions to parents about things to do at home, for example reading websites to try with their kids.  When I sent home a reading log, I posted a picture of it and explained to parents what the kids needed to do each night.   Earlier in the year I only had 7 children return a reading log.  After posting this one on ClassDojo I recieved 13 back on the due date.  I even had one mom comment that she hadn’t seen her son’s log – I checked his backpack (surprise! It was there!) and he was on his way to reading.  When I assessed my students with the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) this March, I had 5 students reading at or above grade level – more than I’ve ever had at this time of year with my ELL students.  I had 4 more students who were just 2 levels below grade level.  Like I said, I can’t make a direct correlation, but I can say confidently, that by directly communicating the importance of reading with parents is increasing my students’ daily reading at home – and I KNOW that yields results.  

So how do I know that parents are checking ClassDojo?  Like most social media sites, they make it easy.  For every post I make I can see the number of “likes,” and views.  Parents can also comment on posts and one of my favorite features – they can have the posts translated and I can see how many of them (and who) have viewed translations.  So here’s some data:

I have 17 students in my class and 13 of them have at least one parent who is on Class Dojo.  I’ve posted 24 times since January.  On those 24 posts I’ve had a total of 141 “likes,” 294 views, and 42 translations viewed.  That averages 12.25 views for every post I make.  So thank you ClassDojo….parents are viewing, reading,  and commenting. And let’s not forget about messaging…  Since I’ve started teaching I’ve had the capability to email with parents, but I have had VERY few contact me via email over the years.  Once I launched ClassDojo I started getting messages from parents – sometimes just to say hello or thanks.  Sometimes a quick question.  Sometimes to bring up a concern.  It became clear to me that particularly with my students’ parents who are not native English speakers, this quick, informal way to communicate was a more comfortable way to reach out than with an email platform.  I recently searched through my emails from this school year and found I had only 3 emails initiated by parents this year.  I have already had 13 messages initiated on ClassDojo by parents since January.

Keeping parents informed + sharing positive class news + direct communication with families = student success.  That’s what I think… stay tuned for more great results!

Talking before writing: An interview with Goldilocks

Revised Question

How can I use technology to make grade level writing tasks accessible to English language learners and students on IEPs?


Our first project in grade 3

Jen Ostayan (SPED inclusion teacher)  and I ( ESL inclusion teacher) set out to help our students write narratives that changed the point of view of the narrator.  We started with the traditional tale of Goldilocks.

What makes the task hard for our students?

Students would have to tell the story from the point of view of Goldilocks.  This meant students would have to use “I” any time they referred, and the correct verb form to go with it.  They would also have to be creative in order to think about what Goldilocks might have been thinking and feeling, and then add that into their writing.

What would we have kids to in order to use speaking to practice before writing?

Students did interviews of Goldilocks.  We paired high and lower students with the high student doing the interview, and the low student playing the role of Goldilocks.  Interviewers asked questions like, “What were you thinking when you saw the house?”  and “Why did you taste the porridge?” The higher student would have the challenge of asking probing questions, the lower student would have the chance to practice what they were about to write using “I” and the proper verb.

What technology would help us and how would we use it?

Our school has Chromebook carts for grades 1-5, but the kindergarten teachers share an ipad cart.  After evaluating the technology, we decided to borrow the ipads from kindergarten because it would be the least cumbersome technology.  We used  the  ___ app.

What did we notice kids were doing while recording their interviews?

Students with quiet voices realized they had to speak up to be recorded.

Students normally hesitant to speak in front of the whole class were very engaged and spoke a lot.

Many groups, even though we didn’t tell them to, rehearsed before recording, or re-recorded to “get it write”.

They made suggestions to each other.  “Why don’t you ask me___” or “Try that again but add _____”    Some of those suggestions included adding difficult vocabulary words.

What happened when it came to write?

Students were highly motivated to write.

Students were able to use “I” without too much effort to tell the story.

One SPED student that we had been previously been unable to engage in writing was so dramatic in her recorded story telling that we put her on speech to text software and she loved the assignment.  It was a real break through for her feeling like she could be a “writer”.

What did we do next?

We had students draw pictures to go with their recordings and they shared the work with their families at open house.