Communication – The Key to an Effective Classroom (PART 1)

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Mrs. Marino

Communication has been a constant in my world in the past year. At work, our goal was to become transparent. In grad school, I write about it in almost every reflection I have. In the past year I can not even tell you how many articles I have read over the importance of internal and external communication in a school district. With communication being a key component to an effective classroom, school, and district I have found it extremly helpful to seek out what other schools and teachers are doing to implement the most useful communication system for their community of learners and stakeholders. In this 21st century, technology-driven world that we are living in communication is easier than ever to implement. If executed properly, communication can be the most powerful element of your daily routine. Here are four platforms that I use to communicate with students, parents, administrators, and community members:

Remind – I was introduced to Remind over a year and half ago. The classroom communication plan I utilized in my class prior to me discovering Remind  reflected the same components that I saw my teachers in grade school implement. Their system was not bad 25 years ago, but for a classroom in 2013 it just was not working. When I started using it Remind was easy, effective, and well-received by parents. Remind was founded as a way to ensure that parents received vital information sent home by the teacher to ensure student success. We have all been there….you send a paper note home and later discover it wadded up inside a desk or under a bus seat. Do I still send paper notes home? Yes. Some parents prefer that. But in the last year and half I can tell you for a fact that most of my parents, in a rural town in South East Texas, prefer a text sent straight to their phone. The power doesn’t just stop there. With Remind’s new features you can now send attachments. Listen, I am not just a teacher I am also a mom. A mom to a very cute but very forgetful 10 year old boy. Many times we have pulled into the driveway to discover that the backpack with the spelling words were left at school. Sigh. Last week, as I mulled this over and wondered how many moms were going through the same thing I thought, “Well, fix it Daisy. Fix that for your busy working parents. Send the spelling list home via Remind.” An a-ha moment for sure. I took a picture of my words for the week, uploaded it in Remind, and with the push of a button every student signed up for my Remind (whether they forgot the list in their locker at home or not) had their words to study. The next day a woman that I work with said (and I quote), “I am so glad you sent that list last night. My child left his at school, and we were panicking.” Powerful. This week is Labor Day. In the past students would receive their list on Tuesday which means they would have one less day to become familiar with their words before assessment on Friday. I went ahead and took a picture of my list on Sunday and any student that is signed up for my Remind now has the list for two extra days. I love that I am able to help my students that way. Yes, Remind has amazing features and ways to empower students and teachers, but that’s not the only reason I love this company so much. They are more than just a tool for me to use to enhance my class. They are now part of my family. They LOVE teachers. Everything they do is based on helping teachers. They are kind. They are hard working. They are the real deal. I am so glad that God allowed me to cross paths with Brett, Christine,  Clara and everyone else on the Remind team.

Class Dojo – Inspired by my student teacher, Kaylee Aulbaugh I decided that I should try this Class Dojo thing out, and man am I ever glad did. I have successfully used Class Dojo for one week. It’s been AMAZING! First of all, the students of course love their little avatars. Several have logged on at home and customized them. Secondly, the classroom management system that Dojo has produced is impeccable. This tool is really top notch for communicating acceptable classroom behaviors to your students without having to create a lot of RULES. My classroom is LOUD. Always loud. We constantly collaborate. We are on the floors brainstorming with peers. We are running to the art center to grab more crayons or markers. We are helping each other navigate through iPads. I call it organized chaos, and I love it. However, sometimes it gets a little too loud. Not last week. Last week when we started group work my first class was typical noise level for my room. Now, they are working…they were just loud. When the second group came in I decided to put their Dojos up on the SMART board as they did their group work. The difference was uncanny. So uncanny that I sent for the other 4th grade teacher to come witness it herself. Both groups worked just as hard, but the noise level of the 2nd group was much lower. I never even had to remind them to keep their talking level down. Because the Dojo was up they just did it. Our 4th grade line of 73 students this year is, for lack of a better word, freakishly quiet….without being reminded. They are working so hard to get those Dojo points. I am AMAZED! Let me tell you the coolest thing that happened this week with Class Dojo. On Wednesday one of my students raised her hand during class and told me the following, “Mrs. Marino, my mom was so proud of me when I got home last night. She showed me on Class Dojo where I got points for helping another student. She said she was so proud of me and that helping others is one if the best things to do.” Melt my heart. Without even meaning to I am now providing students with opportunities to be praised at school and then positively reinforced at home for the same behavior. In hindsight,  by setting up Class Dojo I have created a strong unit, a team, between myself and the parents. This is so powerful. I cannot wait to see how this process continues throughout the school year. There are a ton of features I have not tried out yet, but I know as the year continues I absolutely will.

STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 – A SCHOOL FACEBOOK PAGE, YOUTUBE, AND A CLASSROOM TWITTER ACCOUNT.

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