5 Tips for Creating a User-Friendly Classroom Website

I am working this year on updating my classroom website. I have a very skeletal website from several years ago that has never gotten much traffic. This year, as we are moving towards more technology and 1:1 technology in my school, one of my goals is to update my classroom website and to make it useful and user-friendly. This led me to some tips.

5 Tips to Creating a Classroom Website:

1) Think like the parents and students (the clients). What do they want to see on a website? What would make them visit it? Some of the things that came to mind for me are listed below:

  • Assignment calendar, possibly with printable copies of assignments
  • Photos or updates on what is happening in class
  • Contact information
  • Some information about me
  • Other resources that they could use if they are ‘stuck’

2) Make it visually appealing. Many times businesses have very appealing, easy to navigate websites. While an individual teacher can’t hire a web developer, do your best to use easy to read fonts, bold or larger headings, and adequate spacing so that it is easy to follow.

3) Don’t be afraid to use a template or guide:
There are many websites that can help make your life easier. Consider – do you want a wiki? a blog? a website? Do you want to use your district page? If not, you can easily re-direct from your district page to a page of your choosing. But check out your options. A few are shown below
Wikispaces for Teachers
Article on Picking the Best Classroom Blog
Weebly (with tips from Scholastic)
Google Sites Classroom Website Template

4) Include the students
Our classes, essentially, are about the students in them. Give students a chance to participate in creation. Perhaps a student who is done early could take a few photos. Or a student who is a good write could write a ‘newsletter’ or ‘blog entry’ about what has been going on in class.

5) Keep it up to date
A website is not useful, and will not be utilized, if it is not up to date. Therefore, it is important that you keep it up to date. Make it easy on yourself to do so. Come up with a template or strategy that you can update easily. You don’t have to write a book! If you can embed information from somewhere else, use it!

You can create a useful website with limited work on your part, and help keep parents and students informed, successful, and connected!

profile pic2Tara is a science teacher from upstate NY. She has taught General Science, Biology, Environmental Science, and Earth Science.
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Technology Post Round-Up

To wrap up our month of Technology posts, I’ve rounded up some past posts related to different technology in the classroom:

Turn Cell Phones into a Tool for Formative Assessment 2/18/14edmodo

Tools for Teachers: Remind 101 and Celly 2/20/14

Hey, Khan– can’t ELA be flipped, too? 2/25/14

Project Possible: Edmodo 3/11/14

Interdisciplinary Literacy and Project Based Learning with The New York Times Learning Network 3/25/14

Vocabulary Strategies 5/20/14  (discusses Quizlet)Slide1

Making Vocabulary Fun with Quizlet! 6/24/14 (another post on Quizlet)


What about you? Is there a technology tool that you would like to share?

Grade Smarter (with Technology)

This post originally appeared at Ms. F’s Teaching Adventures. Reprinted with permission.

Grading. Especially as an English teacher, that word sends CHILLS down my spine. What I love about teaching is interacting with the students, presenting information, and getting creative. I do not like assigning grades and pouring over a hundred versions of essentially the same essay. I find it tedious.

I have attended several professional development sessions on assessment and I have taken classes in curriculum design. The common theme deals with figuring out what you’re trying to assess and to make sure your assessment focuses on that.

I think, as English teachers, we often try to assess EVERYTHING all at the same time and that is what causes us to take so long and to get so frustrated. Because of this I am currently experimenting with a few different grading techniques.

The first, is color coded grading. I had all of my students in my college class turn in their persuasive papers in via email. They had to color code their papers. I was specifically looking for persuasive techniques: Kairos, Ethos, Logos, and Pathos. I required them to highlight each of those items. I also wanted to make sure they had a strong thesis statement so I had them highlight that in another color.

This allows for a couple of things to happen.

1. Students, before turning in an assignment are forced to go through it one more time and see if they’ve included all the necessary elements. If they haven’t they can quickly fix it! Ideally this means we are getting stronger papers overall.

2. Teachers can quickly find all the elements that specifically need to be graded. And, more importantly can see if the students understand what these elements mean. Was the sentence they identified as a thesis statement truly a thesis statement?

Here’s my process with this technique.

I read the whole paper and focus on the grammar for the first two paragraphs. Then, I go to fill in my rubric (I always use a specific rubric with point values for this technique) and revisit each section. I write my comments and move on.

Because the submissions were made via files online I was able to type comments right in which, for me, is much faster.

I have a few other Grade Smarter ideas that I will be posting about soon.

What about you? What are your grading tricks?

TPT ProfileSara Fuller is a 5 year veteran English teacher with an MA in literature who has experience teaching students ranging from the middle school to college level. She blogs about her teaching adventures at Ms. F’s Teaching Adventures and young adult books at YA Lit, the Good, the Bad, the Ugly!
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Turning Images and Words into Art

I’ve made a recent discovery that I am obsessed with: WordFoto. I found it on Pinterest and then followed the pin to their website, where they say you can “turn your photos and words into stunning works of art.” Even though it was only available as an app, I was intrigued enough to purchase it for $1.99. It reminded me of Wordle, which generates “word clouds,” but I liked WordFoto’s use of images.
However, once I purchased it, I needed to figure out how I could use it with my computer. I’m not particularly tech savvy, but here’s my procedure:
1. I find the image I want to use and compose an email to myself with the image saved as an attachment.
2. I open my email on my Iphone and save the image to my photo library.
3. Once the picture is saved, I go to my WordFoto app and open the image there.
4. I add my word set. The makers of the app recommend that you don’t use long words or sentences, so I’ve kept my words and phrases short (no spaces) and limited them to three – five words.
5. Next, I choose my style, where I can make choices about my font and background. You can choose from the preset styles such as Classic Color, Comic, or Romance, or you can create a custom style.

As I learned to use it I started with a photo of my dog Buster when he was a puppy: buster

Then, of course, I decided to experiment with images for some TpT product covers.  I searched for a symbolic image and found an attractive photo in the public domain.  I entered key words for my product and created my image.  Finally, I emailed the new WordFoto image to myself so I could open it on my PC at home.  Here is one I made for a recent product cover:


ccc1Just to be sure I could use my images commercially, I checked the website and discovered that users “have full responsibility and rights to the images (created) with WordFoto… including commercially.”  The creators of the app have just asked for a link back to their website. Besides using this app for personal photos and TpT products, I hope to use it when I teach Young Writers Camp in the coming weeks. I’ve also used our blog button to create a WordFoto:


This has been a fun and exciting learning process.   I’m sure there are more uses for WordFoto…Do you have any ideas?  Or do you know other apps that might also be useful?  Please share in the comments!

OC_BEACH_TEACHER_revised_finalKim, the OCBeachTeacher, is a National Board Certified English teacher who is currently teaching American Literature and AP English Literature and Composition.  She shares classroom ideas and tips on her OCBeachTeacher Facebook Page.




Students and Social Media


Students and social media combined:
It is a new fact of life in education. Adults explain to students why the Internet is forever, teachers define valuable sources, and parents fret over lurking dangers. Yet, 94%* of teens on the Internet use social media. We adults worry – rightfully so – about teens misusing social media.

Technology has given young minds social media. Schools can provide a positive example through social media use, and engage students concerning their futures and educations. Social media is part of students’ lives. Schools can capitalize on this with positive messages for students.

Your school or department may realize this and have a social media page. Is it active though? It may be an afterthought or forgotten from previous employees. The presence may lack because of the time to find appropriate, safe, and engaging ideas.

A new product on TpT, Monthly Social Media and Newsletter Blurbs, solves these common problems and gives schools easy and accessible knowledge to share.

Each month, you can purchase a bundle of “blurbs” for your social media page or newsletter. They “blurbs” are easy to use – simply copy and paste them where you need them!

For example, the August Social Media and Newsletter Blurbs focuses on encouraging students as they return to school, empowering students, reminding them of school procedures and rules, and providing health tips.

The blurbs are not all the same. Some are longer, with appropriate articles linked. Others are simple reminders – a few sentences encouraging organizational habits.


Five images are included and are royalty free, so once you purchase them, use them freely without giving me credit!

These monthly social media blurbs will provide students with meaningful and timely information. They will provide educators with easy copy and paste information for students.

Setting up a social media page on Facebook or Twitter is simple. Maintaining a social media presence is difficult. Businesses employ social media experts, and designate advertising budgets for social media. Schools can compete with a small investment in materials to share on the social media.

Lets harness the power of social media and explore ways to get students using social media in positive ways. Lets provide examples of meaningful social interaction.

Owning daily blurbs for social media, month by month, is a start.
August Social Media and Newsletter Blurbs

*Supporting article for statistic on teenage facebook friends

LanguageArtsClassroomLauralee Moss, a secondary language arts instructor, has taught for over a decade. She has a B.S. in English Education and a M.A. in Teaching and Leadership; visit her blog for more ideas or store for great products.
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Is It Okay to NOT Use Technology?

Tech in the Classroom 2 Tablets, Smartphones, SmartBoards, Apps, and more are invading our classrooms.  They bring interactivity, multi-media, and edu-tainment.  They bring new classroom management challenges (oh, how to have a jammer for text messaging in my classroom!)  But is it okay to not use digital textbooks, eReaders, Smartboards, or videos?  Is it okay to do things “old school?”

Let me first assure you that I do love technology.  Case in point– summer of 2010 I brought home two very exciting new additions to my life: my newborn son and a copy of Office 2010.  One of them did a lot of fun stuff those summer days, while the other mainly slept and ate and didn’t come with a Help button…

I love exploring new technology, and I love many of the possibilities it offers.  But my classroom was not a technologically advanced classroom.  I did not have a Smartboard.  I had a chalkboard… sometimes, I even had chalk!  Sometimes I worried that my students were missing out by not being able to pull out some digital device to look things up or watch a video or text-in an answer.

My classroom was not the only hopelessly out of date classroom out there– there are many, I’m sure, in areas too cash-strapped to upgrade.  And yet, in spite of this, my students learned.   At times, they were engaged in projects that did not use or require technology.  Other times, they were working on regular old school work– dead trees to read from and write on.  Things not inherently “fun” or “interactive” (overlooking the fact that learning can be fun just because it’s learning!)

Note Taking in 2012Technology can easily become a crutch.  We rely on it rather than ourselves.  Such as taking a photo of the lecture notes or getting a PowerPoint from the teacher– rather than doing the work of reading and re-writing (and in theory writing down only the important stuff), students “save” themselves work.  But what are they losing?  Students no longer have to process the information.  They just “have” it, which skips an important step of learning.

But what about scaffolding? How does one build connections if information is not retained?  How much more is remembered by writing (even copying) something compared to taking a picture or reading the notes (assuming the student actually does that, rather than planning to but failing to follow through?)

Back in math class, sometimes we would have to work without our calculator (gasp!) to ensure we knew the process and complete it manually.  I think that this notion applies to all classrooms, from time to time.  Can the student spell without spellchecker?  Can they take notes by hand and capture the important information?  Can they do order of operations without a calculator?  Can they read a diagram that’s not interactive? Can they find things in a book rather than online?

And I do believe that not only is okay to not use technology, but it can be useful to do things ‘old school.’

(You’ll pry my digital gradebook from my cold dead hands, though.)
CDickson Profile PicClair Dickson, high school English teacher (and computer nerd!), likes free eTexts and Project Based Learning to stretch her meager budget. Visit her store High School English on a Shoestring Budget to stretch your budget.
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Google Drive: A Powerful Tool for Your Classroom.

I love using Google Drive with my students.   Drive allows them to create and share a document so they can collaborate on-line on an assignment or project.  It’s virtual group work.  Even better, the teacher gets to be part of the group, and you can observe their on-line conversation, and nudge them in different directions if need be.  Let me give you some examples:

Right now, my Pre-IB class is reading John Knowles’ A Separate Peace.  They have all read the novel, but we have not yet discussed it as a class.  Instead of doing the traditional novel study, they have been divided into groups, and each group will “teach” two chapters to the rest of the class.  I modeled what I want them to do with chapter one, and now they are planning their own presentations.

sp chat oneSo, for example, group one is looking at chapters two and three.  One person in their group started a document on Google Drive and shared it with the rest of the group, as well as with me.  Once everyone opens the document, they can engage in a chat to the right side of the document.  There, they can throw out ideas, and make plans before they put the information that they want to save on the document.  Once they get their ideas down, they can go back to focus and organize it.  Everything gets saved on each person’s files.

Meanwhile, while all this chatting is going on, the teacher can be part of the group, either as a silent observer or as an active participant.  I take turns dropping into each group’s discussion and add suggestions if they need them, or nudge them if the discussion is taking off in the wrong direction.  Once the students are satisfied with the discussion of their chapters, they will use the document to plan their presentation to the rest of the class.

sp chat twosp chat three


It takes some time and coordination, but it has been, by far, the most powerful tool for collaboration I have ever used.  Because you can “see” each student on-line, you are very aware of who is contributing and who is not.  And, because they are aware of this, they are more likely to participate.  Also, because you can scroll back and look at what they have on the document, you are more aware of what has transpired than you are if you are going from group to group in your classroom.  The notes that you leave on the document are also there for the students to refer to, whereas a comment in class might not get remembered.

So, if you want to use Drive, your students will all need a gmail account so they can access the program.  If you are lucky enough to have access to a lab that runs the program, you can begin this process in school, and have them finish it up at home.  If you don’t have access at school, it could be solely a take home assignment.  If the students are doing the work at home, they will need to decide on a time to “meet” and share that time with you, so you can pop by and see what they are up to!  Give it a try.

new logo blogThis was originally posted on reallearning213.wordpress.com by Jackie, from Room 213