I try not play favorites when it comes to the technology I integrate in the classroom. We use iPads and Chromebooks, apps and add-ons, websites and social media platforms. To limit our learning to only one way limits the possibility of reaching someone, of allowing connection, of helping the lightbulb go on. I do have my "go-to" tools. These are the tools that excite me because I know that they will elevate our process of playing and learning. I am also very thoughtful about analyzing tools so that they are serving the highest purpose in our learning. Just as I try to have a variety of tools and learning experiences throughout the day in the classroom, the technology I use must have variety as well. As long as the tool is used to elevate the experience in a meaningful and engaging way, I'm willing to give it a try. With this idea in mind, in this post I thought I would share my Back to School Night presentation.
Back to School Night is, for many parents, the first chance they will have to watch their child's teacher, to spend time in the classroom space, and to develop their ideas about what their child experiences on a daily basis. For me, this is the night I pour out my heart. I share with them how I love what I do - that it has never been just a job for me. Each year, I strive to make sure the way I share reflects my philosophy, beliefs, and captures the feeling that our Kindergarten world is incredibly special. In the old days there was the overhead projector, then we moved to PowerPoint, slowly we were able to integrate videos into our presentations. Now we are blessed with a plethora of multi-media options to communicate. Just as I do for my students each day, I begin by considering the perspective of the parents and caregivers. How are there needs different? What are their backgrounds? What challenges may they have faced just to make time and space to be in their child's classroom that evening. Parent needs are as different as those of the children we nurture each day. It is my sincere belief that they need to be nurtured, guided, supported, and lifted up in order to make the dynamic of our classroom experience together work.
With all of this in mind, the past three years have afforded me the opportunity to build and deliver a meaningful, loving, visually pleasing, supportive resource. My go-to tool for this is Adobe Spark. For this project I focused on using the Spark Page format. The platform is nothing short of beautiful. It is user-friendly, accessible, easily shared, and once you have done your first year, it can be easily changed up for the following year. No need to do anything over, just edit, add, and personalize for the needs of the current class and families. I work back and forth between the app on my iPad and my laptop to make sure the views translate between devices.
One reason I love AdobeSpark is because it plays so nicely with the technology tools that I make available to families. In order to share this presentation with the public, I actually created a copy of my Back to School project and edited it so that I did not share any personal classroom information. I hope that it is able to provide visual inspiration for how you might create a Back to School night presentation of your own. Here is a quick overview of what you will find integrated into my presentation:
Photos/Screenshots easily uploaded from my computer
Google Slides - I continue to use Google Slides to share routines/procedures/curricular information. I update them each year to reflect changes in schedule and curriculum. In presenting mode, I take a screen shot and add it right into my project. This way I can keep my talking points, but can stay right within my Adobe Page project. Parents can also easily refer back to them in one place.
A major portion of my presentation focuses on the variety of tools we use to connect, innovate, develop, and expand our learning. I want families to see the flow from life in the classroom to the world beyond.
Seesaw - Seesaw is a big part of our classroom, so getting parents set up is top priority. This year, I began the set up process over the summer with my welcome letter inviting parents to join our class. Back to School Night is my opportunity to follow through and support parents who may not yet be set up. There are so many great resources on the Seesaw website. All I had to do was take screenshots of resources that were helpful in sharing with families so that I could talk through them and make sure they were set up with their child's account by the end of the night.
Youtube - I was able to embed the parent introduction to Seesaw right into the presentation.
Google Classroom - A button linking directly to a screencast of our Google Classroom makes it easy to share with parents.
ITunes U - A few years ago I began playing with ITunes U to create family resources. I created a course to help children with the transition to Kindergarten through family activities. Each year, I update the course as needed.
Twitter - I introduce our class Twitter handle and add a link right in the project.
Flipgrid - This year, I am using Flipgrid as part of my family communication. I created a Family Learning Community class. The first class topic asks families to share their thoughts about the start of our year together. This is brand new this year, and I am so excited to see how it goes. The link to our first topic is in my project as well.
Animoto - I use my free educators account from Animoto to create beautiful class video newsletters. I make sure I take lots of photos during our first days together so that I can conclude with a true glimpse into our world.
Not only is this a beautiful platform for a presentation, it becomes a resource that holds all of the links families need in one place. I email the link to the project, and add the link in each child's Seesaw portfolio as well. Each year I see well over a hundred visits to the sight in the weeks following my presentation. You can take a look at the entire teacher sample version of my project by clicking below.
Prioritizing family communication is one of my joys and passions as a teacher. I truly believe that I cannot fully teach a child without teaching the family as a whole. As I tell the families on Back to School Night, when I get my list of 20 names, I know that I have not just been given 20 children teach and guide. I have been 20 families to nurture, love, and support.
Heart & Soul,