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July 9, 2010

Using Email to Communicate with Families

Written By: Brandi Jordan
X Using Email to Communicate with Families

Using Email to Communicate with Families

According to a recent poll of Really Good Stuff teachers, email is the most used technology based communication tool that is being used in the classroom. It is a simple, free service that allows you to quickly interact with parents throughout the day and during odd hours. If you are new to email, or even if you have been using it for awhile, there are some great ideas that you can incorporate to help your students’ parents stay connected to what is going on in the classroom.

Ways to Use Email to Communicate with Families

Class Newsletter

At the beginning of the year ask parents how they prefer to receive their class newsletter. Some parents may want a hard copy to hang on the refrigerator, but many will prefer an electronic copy. Instead of creating a plain email newsletter, take it to a new level. There are free email newsletter programs online that allow you to use templates that are colorful and fun. Make your classroom newsletter stand out by using one of these eye-catching freebies.

Reminders

Email is a great way to send out weekly reminders about homework, special project due dates and items that need to be returned to school. You can create a generic update, blind copy the parent mailing list for your class, and send it out within a matter of minutes. If you need to send a personal message along with the reminder, just copy and paste the reminder into an email and send a separate note to the parent who needs the information.

Behavior Modification

For some students, instant communication with mom and dad can transform negative behavior into a new attitude. Some teachers have a series of warning steps that end with an email, that the student and teacher write together, home to mom and dad describing the negative behavior. In many cases, mom or dad will respond quickly with encouragement for better behavior. This simple act of emailing makes the student instantly accountable and ensures that parents know what is going on in the classroom. It is always best to discuss this system with parents at the beginning of the year, so that they know what to expect and are not rudely surprised by an email at home or work.

General Communication

Basic, everyday communication is important between parents and teachers and email provides that. Just knowing that they can address their concerns at anytime is comforting for many parents. It is also helpful for teachers to be able to give progress updates and share funny or exciting things with parents that will help them feel connected to their child during the day.

Guidelines

Before jumping headfirst into giving out your email and encouraging communication, set up some guidelines at the beginning of the year. Only give out your school email address, or a separate email address that you use only for class communications if your school does not have email available for you. Let parents know that you generally check your email at the beginning and end of the school day only, so that they are not waiting for instant replies. Always be mindful of your tone and language. Unlike face to face communication, and even telephone conversations, where you can hear the inflections in the other person’s voice, email is a blank slate. Your own perception of language influences the way that you read emails, just as a parent’s perception influences her reading of the email. A parent who is defensive may misconstrue a very matter-of-fact email as being aggressive or rude, while someone who is not defensive will often see it as facts as it is intended. Being mindful and conscientious about what you write and how you write it can save you from misunderstandings.

Email use is a natural means of communication in today’s classroom. Do not be afraid to branch out and try it if you have never used it before. By opening the lines of communication with your students’ parents, you create a classroom that is more closely knit and supportive. As any teacher knows, building good rapport with parents early on is one of the keys to a successful school year.

 

How do you use email with your students’ parents? What are some of the successes and failures you have had with email communication to parents? Share with us!

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23 Comments.
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  • Dana
    July 28, 2010

    I love e-mail for communication. I still use planners for certain things, but I also check planners daily to make sure parents are checking. If parents do not sign the planner two days in a row, I make a mention : “Please sign agenda nightly”. I post homework online weekly so parents know there is a test, but not all register with gradequick even though I highly encourage it.

    They have access to my work e-mail straight from gradequick. They also of course have my phone number at work, but once I started w e-mail I get more of that than calls– which I love!

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  • K
    July 14, 2010

    I love communicating with parents through e-mail. Just remember, whatever you write can be forwarded and printed off so be very careful with your words. Also, when responding, always start a new e-mail. That way you won’t accidently send something to someone that you didn’t intend to send it to. Technology is wonderful, but be professional when sending parents an e-mail.

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  • Barb J
    July 14, 2010

    I absolutely love using email, and other forms of electronic communication to communicate with parents. Notes are so easily lost by they time the child gets home from school, and it is possibly to play phone tag for days before actually reaching a parent. Email just makes things easier!

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  • Sofia Dirkswager
    July 11, 2010

    I did not use much email to communicate with my parents this year. Last year my parents preferred it, but I found that many of my parents this year didn’t have a computer hooked up to the internet. Those that did liked coming to me directly. I had parents that felt really comfortable coming to me directly. I made many phone calls this year also. Any newsletters sent home bunched up the up coming events. I feel that the use of email for communicating to parents will be a year to year decision for me. I use it a lot with staff communications.

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  • Jennifer Gorrell
    July 11, 2010

    I used email as often as I could…sometimes I would write notes to parents andthen I would make a copy for documentation but later to find out that the parent never received it..now with email its quick, easy and i can tell when a parent opens the email….:)

    Jenny

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  • Abby Sipress
    July 11, 2010

    Email is so much easier, faster, and more convenient than phone calls! I found that I had better relationships last year with parents who had email, because we could communicate regularly, rather than having to coordinate schedules for phonecalls or conferences.

    This year I plan to use email to become more “green,” and offer parents the opportunity to receive flyers, etc. through email rather than on paper. Of course there will still be a paper option for those who do not have email.

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  • Sharon
    July 10, 2010

    I use it a lot. If I need to contact a parent about a behavior issue or even a problem with a subject. Parents email me back. I have had parents tell me that they like it because they get a faster response from me than with a phone call. I have had students send me a report using it. The only draw back is that I have to have the same program as them in order to view it. It has been great. We have Grade Quick and parents will check their child’s grades and then email me a question about a grade. I am able to check it really quickly and get back to them.

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  • Bobbie
    July 10, 2010

    I would love to use e-mail as a way to communicate with parents but most of my parents don’t have access to a computer or internet.

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  • Megan
    July 10, 2010

    I think that e-mail is a great way to communicate! Unfortunately for me, most of my famiies do not have computers to check it on a regular basis.
    At the beginning of the year I give out all of my info: e-mail, work phone and cell phone. Suprisingly, the way that my parents communicate to me the best and most frequent is through text messsage. I try to deter this, because I prefer a more formal way, but that is how I seem to get a response quicky.

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  • Meaghan
    July 10, 2010

    Even though our union’s official position is not to use e mail, I find it invaluable. I used to send a newsletter update every month and I hope to start it again this year. I love to have e mail so I can contact the parent immediately and know that they’ll get the message, as opposed to hoping the child hands it over.

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  • Pam
    July 10, 2010

    I use e-mail ALL the time. And for several different things. Let me start by saying I teach third grade and notes, newsletters, etc. just don’t make it home, so I send the note AND e-mail it. I also e-mail parents when we have a test the next day because some of them just don’t check the planners. (I’m a single mom and know that it’s hard to get it all done.) I also e-mail parents for communication because, in my experience, most of them prefer this mode of communication, as do I because I can do it from school or home. And, as said above, it’s great documentation. Last year I had several parents without it and it was difficult. I’m hoping that every parent has an e-mail address this year!

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  • Annie
    July 10, 2010

    I have had great success using email communication. My parents often comment that they feel much more connected to the classroom.

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  • Lori
    July 10, 2010

    Email is quick and easy and can be done on my own time. I let the parents know right away to expect many emails from me so they know to check their messages regularly. I just don’t have the time to write personal notes.

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  • Kristy
    July 10, 2010

    In my district, all students have an email address. I use email as a way to tell students how great they are doing, remind them to bring homework or paperwork, and to encourage them to come to school.

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  • Debbie P
    July 9, 2010

    About half of my parents had email addresses last year so I use a combination of email and hard copy to send messages to parents. I prefer email because I know my message is going directly to the parents, I don’t have to worry about the child remembering to give a note to parents. My parents that have email really enjoy it because it is a very quick way of getting a message to me and I respond just as quickly. I usually check my school email before school, during my planning time and again at the end of the day.

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  • Nichole D
    July 9, 2010

    I don’t use email to communicate with my parents. I work in a VERY low SES district/school. Most of my parents don’t even have internet connections. I still use “old fashioned” ways =) of communicating with my parents: talking with them face-to-face when they pick up their child after school, calling them on the phone, sending home notes, and sending home newsletters.

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  • Leslie
    July 9, 2010

    Email is simple and easy. It is a good reminder to set limits and expectations with parents! I am going to try newsletter through email this year. Thanks for two good websites to investigate.

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  • Emily
    July 9, 2010

    The main communication I use in my classroom is email. It’s so much more convienent:
    1. You can send it directly to parents without worrying it may get lost in a shuffle of papers or on the way home.
    2. It gives parents an easy way to reply right away to anything in your email.
    3. Students who have parents that live in 2 different houses can easily have access to you and your newsletter. You can also communicate with both parents at the same time without making it uncomfortable for them or more work for you.
    4. You can answer parent communication in a timely manner but at your own convienence and the same goes for parents.
    5. It saves money and paper.

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  • karen warrick
    July 9, 2010

    Last 3 years, total of 3 parents had regular access to a computer from my kindergarten families. So no, I do not use email as a tool of communication.

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  • Cheryl s
    July 9, 2010

    I give parents my e-mail on the first day of school and tell them that they can send me one anytime and I will respond before school after school or during my planning time. I also take their e-mail address if that is how they want me to communicate about behavior, reminders, or just to let them know about something good their child does. Most of my parents like it because they can then get the information at work and their kindergartner doesn’t know how they know already!

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  • Kyla Turley
    July 9, 2010

    I only had a couple of parents that used email as a communication tool. It was very useful. We use Grade Quick and parents would send me an email and ask questions about their child, I love this communication tool. My parents knew I would get back to them as quickly as I could. I found it to be another effective way to communicate with parents.

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  • charla
    July 9, 2010

    I have found e-mail to be a great tool for communicating with parents. Many parents who feel uncomfortable calling me to ask a question have a new way to communicate. Do make sure that parents understand not to send change in routine e-mails for their child throughout the day. You can’t be checking your e-mail every five seconds! Just as the blog mentioned, my corporation has urged us to be conscientious about what we are writing in e-mails and suggests not writing negative comments about our students in e-mails to parents. It is very easy to misinterpret an e-mail and you must be careful about what you type!

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  • Pam Heward
    July 9, 2010

    I have found email a quick and positive way to communicate with parents. Many of my parents ask questions about upcoming events or projects, clarification of certain assignments, and how their child is doing in the classroom, either behavior or academically.

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