Free & Easy Tools for Facilitating Family Communication

Family communication should play a vital role in every classroom. Our students’ families deserve to know what’s happening in the classroom, along with info about upcoming events and student progress. This can be a time-consuming task, especially for those of us with large numbers of students. Fortunately, there are some great tools out there to help streamline the communication process.

The tools below are free and accessible on both mobile devices and computer platforms. Importantly, teachers won’t have to worry about disclosing personal contact information. I’ve provided some basic information on each, but the best way to learn a new tool is to explore it -- once you find one that sounds useful, take the time to play with it!

RemindRemind lets teachers send short messages to students and parents, such as reminders for project due dates and school events, or updates, pictures and videos about what’s happening in the classroom. Teachers can message an entire classroom, group, or individual guardians and parents. Guardians can then reply, creating individual conversations. Remind allows the creation of up to 10 distinct class groups and can translate messages into 70 languages.

Families enroll using a class code and can communicate via the app, email, or text messages.

BloomzBloomz offers messaging capabilities like Remind, enabling teacher-parent communication along with translation options. Parents can also message one another, unless teachers disable this feature. In addition, Bloomz provides the ability to schedule parent-teacher conferences, request volunteers, and share student behavior information. Bloomz also lets students interact with the app/website and develop a digital portfolio.

Families enroll using a class code and can communicating via the app, email, or text messages in their preferred language.

SeesawSeesaw is a digital portfolio tool that enables students to submit work for teacher comment and parent viewing. Students can post drawings, videos, photos, and text. Teachers can share files and provide feedback. After teachers approve student work, parents can access it for viewing. Seesaw is free, however “plus” and “whole school” versions include more features for an additional fee. Also important to note, student work is only available for parent download within a month of the school year ending.

Families can sign up via printed handout with a QR code or email link.

GoogleGoogle Classroom is free and accessible to any classroom in a district that has implemented Google for Education. Classroom enables students to submit work for review and enables teachers to share feedback and resources with students, primarily using Google Apps. Teachers can post assignments, conduct polling, and make announcements. Classroom can also be employed to enable parents to see what’s happening in the digital classroom.

Using the Guardian feature, teachers can invite parents via email to receive emails about missing or upcoming work and teacher-posted topics in Google Classroom, such as announcements, assignments, and questions. Additional ways to use Classroom for parent communication take some creative thinking on the teacher’s part. Examples include:

Teacher shared assignment links – Every document used in Google Apps has an associated link. Teachers can set the sharing permission to “Anyone with link can view” to enable student collaboration and provide guardians with links to view student work. Group work can be easily shared with multiple parents using just one link.

Encourage students to show parents Classroom at home – Information posted by teachers on Classroom can become a vital part of the “what did you do today” conversation. Students can access Classroom at home and show parents the day’s posts, such as links to activities and videos supporting classroom instruction.

Communicating with families doesn’t have to be complicated. While there are many tools available, you only need to choose one or two that work for you and your families. Be careful not to use too many tools and social media apps, which can overwhelm and frustrate parents. Asking for feedback is a great way to find out if a tool is easy or difficult for parents to use, along with what kind of information they’re seeking and with what frequency.

christine_blog_photoKindergarten Teacher Founder of .  Former TK Teacher