Newsletters in Middle & High School

Ok, so it's time for back to you-know-what (I know you don't want me to say the words, so this will suffice.) During professional development this summer, a colleague of mine was talking to me about parental involvement and family/community engagement and communication because it was part of her professional growth plan. Woooooo, a big topic.

Parental involvement always seems to be so hit or miss at the upper levels. I know that parents are busy, kids are busy, and teachers and administrators are busy. We still have to keep the communication flowing. As I was thinking about this, I realized that this is a rarely used form of communication in the upper grades in my district. I'm not sure about other districts, but I just don't see our 7-12 teachers sending newsletters home. I think the reason for that is that we're just not quite sure how to really make use of them.

Last year, I worked on formatting a newsletter that I could use for my upper level students. No, I'm not talking about the weekly, get this signed, we learned about the letter "A" this week: no offense primary and elementary teachers. It's not likely that my parents would read that. I'm talking about something a little more age appropriate for 7-12. I created a set of modular newsletter templates with some tips for how I use them.

Ok, so one of the newsletters I mailed out last year. The templates I'm going to share with you are actually more streamlined than this, which we're going to talk about in a minute. I included contact info, dates to remember, and an outline of what was going on in class. In the same envelope that I sent this out in, I included a copy of the assignment sheet for our independent novel project. I wanted parents to know what was going on in class: the requirements and expectations were included on the assignment sheet. We're a rural district, so not all parents have email to go online and check the website. This was a quick way for me to give them an overview without them having to take time out of their hectic lives to come to the school.

Let's talk tips!

These tips are by no means all inclusive. This is just what I've figured out that works for me.

-Important dates: If there is a deadline coming up for a big project or scholarship, include it. Picture day: yep. Banquets: absolutely. You get the drill. This probably isn't the place to include nightly homework (if you assign it). Remember...this is the big picture.

-Pertinent information: Your name, what class you teach, and a date (broad -spring semester- or specific -october-)

-Graphics: Break up the information. We all get tired of reading long pieces of text. This modular format definitely helps with that. It helps me make sure that I'm not cramming every last inch full of stuff. However, you don't want Charlie Chimpmunk or Katie Cartoon on your newsletter. If your newsletter is filled with graphics that aren't appropriate for teenagers, parents may wonder what grade you're teaching, they may not take you seriously, or they may not bother to read it at all. I was reading a forum the other day that put out a really good point. Secondary teachers need to set their materials: curriculum, newsletters, handouts, etc apart by using age appropriate graphics.

Streamline: Make sure you're providing important information and not just trying to fill space. You can always include pictures of recent projects or units that your students have completed. Changed up your classroom? Include a picture. Think about why people love infographics so much. Pertinent information in a streamlined manner.

Ok, this is an example of how a streamlined newsletter might be formatted. In the powerpoint presentation I've included tips about how to format things and how to spice up your newsletter.

 Ok, so these are some basic modular templates that are included in the resource. These are in brights because that was the theme I was working with. If you don't like brights, change the shape outline color. If you're going to print on colored paper, which I talk about in the tips in the powerpoint, change the outlines to black. Do what you need to to make your heart happy.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for using a newsletter in the upper grades? Let me know in the comments!

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