“As a parent myself, I always wondered what goes on during my child’s day,” explained Fairmeadows Elementary 2nd grade teacher Amanda Oleson. “With that in mind, I wanted to paint a better picture for the parents of my class.” She’s now using a free website tool available from Shutterfly to provide her parents with a view into her classroom. First grade teacher Jillian Robbins from Westridge Elementary is also doing the same, “Many parents have commented on how they enjoy being able to ‘see’ what is happening in the classroom, and it’s opening the lines of communication with parents.”
5 reasons we love Shutterfly for connecting parents to our classrooms!
#1: It’s simple!
“In one single word, Shutterfly is…. SIMPLE,” said Oleson. It’s easy because the system already provides the framework for the website, teachers just need to plug in their content. There are even options to customize the site to tailor it to your specific needs. Here are some examples…
Volunteer Tab: Post information for what tasks and roles you need parent volunteers.
Class List: Since you can make your shutterfly site “private” for parents only, you can post your class list with contact information.
Wish List: Publish your classroom needs… whether it’s for you or for students in need.
Student Blog: Use it to post student writing!
Web Links: Have a list of commonly used websites for students and parents? Post them in your site for easy access.
Documents & Newsletters: You can post all types of documents: pdfs, Word, even PowerPoints.
A snapshot of Oleson’s classroom website built with Shutterfly, featuring links to the calendar, photos, and more.
#2. We love PHOTOS & VIDEOS!
Parent Tammy Wright exclaims, “Our favorite feature is the photo gallery!” This is where Shutterfly excels, it’s easy to take photos of any classroom event and post them to a photo gallery in Shutterfly. “I love the pictures and videos on the site which document classroom activities like when the student learned the continents through a song. Being able to play these back at home helps me get involved and help spark great family conversations,” states parent Ken Morton. Parent Deborah Lind said, “I’ve always wanted to be ‘bug on the wall’ in the classroom and with the photos and videos, this is the closest I’ve ever come!” Parents are also finding that classroom photos are great conversation starters with their children, “My son loves to tell me about who is in the picture and what they are doing,” says parent Gina Feingold.
Organized photo galleries are one of the many strengths of Shutterfly
Besides your traditional photos of classroom celebrations and major events, here’s a few other ideas suggested by parents…
- Record a video of learning rhymes and songs. If you’re using a song to learn or memorize facts or concepts – record a group of students practicing it. This enables parents to see exactly what students are practicing and enables families to help out with practicing at home.
- Science experiments: A quick video clip of a science experiment can draw lots conversation at the family dining table.
- Student work: Parents expressed an interest in seeing student work examples, as they’ve found that it’s a great conversation starter and helps them gauge classroom expectations.
- Recess. Really? Yes! Of course, no one is asking for daily recess photos… but the idea was suggested by several parents, as they found that a few random shots of recess will draw huge conversations from students, enabling them to work the conversation towards what’s going on in the classroom.
#3. Calendar and Email Notifications
Shutterfly’s calendar is not only easily to use, it also has notification options available for parents. Oleson states, “I plug in homework dates, due dates, or reminders of events and Shutterfly sends my parents emails reminding them of these times.” Shutterfly also has the ability to send weekly digest updates… a quick weekly update of things that are new on the classroom website. In fact, Shutterfly even provides parents with the ability to submit their photos from classroom events.
A snapshot of Robbin’s classroom website, showing the calendar, wish list items, and links to documents.
#4. Private vs Public
Shutterfly has two basic options for your classroom website: private or public. Both Robbins and Oleson are currently using a private site. This restricts search engines from finding their student photos and projects, enabling a safer environment for posting photos. At any time during the school year, parents can request an account from the teacher by simply emailing the classroom teacher.
#5. It’s FREE
You can’t beat the price!! Although Shutterfly does have limited storage for videos, there is no cost for the standard, basic classroom site.
Considering Shutterfly’s strengths in providing a safe environment for posting photo galleries, it’s easy to see why parents are so excited about using photos to get a view of what’s happening in the classroom. Parents agree that the use of photos certainly appears to be the key to sparking the conversations at home. As Robbins has found, “it gives parents an idea of things they can prompt their children with,” giving parents a new angle towards answering the age old question of “What did you do in school today?”
2nd grade teacher
1st grade teacher