Over the years I have learned that a smooth school year partially depends on keeping parents in the loop. In the era of helicopter parenting, they want to know what is going on. Not having an easy way of communicating the day-to-day can equal much more work than is necessary for teachers.
My solution is Google (as it always is)! I started slowly by using Google to post assignments on Google calendar which I shared with students and parents, and I used Gmail to communicate with parents as much as I could. Then, I expanded into Google sites; now, the entire Google suite is in my repertoire.
Because so many parents want to know what is happening every day and middle-schoolers are apt to grunt “nothing” when asked the parental question, “What did you do in school today?” I like to establish ways for parents to get the information the same way their kids will get it. For my classroom, students can refresh their memory of what happened in class that day by checking my website which has the class calendar embedded and any necessary documents or notes we may have used. My classroom is also practically paperless, so I communicate through email a lot – I may send reminders, additions to a lesson, or documents. If I have parent contact information easily accessible, parents become another student in my class with just a click.
Here is what has become my go-to procedure for starting the school year right and establishing contact with my students’ parents.
I use Google Forms to create a simple form to gather the most essential information from parents. This form is embedded right into my Google Site which makes it easy to get to and submit. (This isn’t the only way to send the form.) Once parents complete the form, their responses are automatically dropped into a Google Sheet (spreadsheet). From here, I can do several things.
- I can use the form as my main point of reference for all contact information.
- I can download then import the contact information right into my Gmail contacts to create a group for parent contact.
- I can use the Save as doc app in Sheets to create a document with each parent’s responses on a separate page. This can be printed and stored in a binder in my classroom or just saved in my Drive as another way to view the information.
The Google Form I create for parent contact has the following information:
- First Name (text)
- Last Name (text)
- Email (text)
- Should I bcc you on email communication addressed to students? (checkboxes)
- Phone number (text)
- Student’s name (text)
- Is there anything you like me to know about your child? (paragraph text)
Here is a link to this form. Please MAKE A COPY (go to FILE – MAKE A COPY) if you intend to use this form as anyone with this link can edit and review responses on this form. Once you make a copy of the form, rename it, and this will be your own file. Parent Contact Form SAMPLE MAKE A COPY
*I also include the contract for my school’s summer reading so that this information is easily collected right away and doesn’t require another paper to go home. Thanks, Ann V for giving me this amazing idea!
You may want to add some other simple fields as well, but remember to keep it short and sweet. Parents have so much paperwork to fill out at the beginning of the year; you want this to be easy for them because they are making your life 100x easier by filling it out. (Trust me on this one.)
Personally, I like to import all the contact information and break my parent contacts into two groups in my Gmail. One group has all the contacts who want to be bcc’d on communications and the other group is for those parents who do not care to be inundated by my emails (no offense taken). The sheet is also an easy way to quickly look up a parent’s information.
Below is a video showing the procedure for embedding a form into your Google Site, share the link in other ways, how to import the results of the form into your Gmail Contacts, and how to save the responses in a Google doc. (This is my very first tutorial video – welcome to the premiere – eek!)
Remember, you can access a sample Parent Contact form by using the link above – just make sure to create a copy that you can edit for your own use. You can also start from scratch by creating a Google Form on your own. Here is link to a Google Slides presentation created by my great friend, Phyllis Zuri: How to Create a Google Form.
I also collect student information the same way. More on that in another post.