I’m going to advocate that every teacher create (or have someone else create) a website for every class, especially those of you teaching in middle and high schools. I have one, though I won’t link to it because I like my anonymity, but I will say it has improved my communication with parents and students. The following are a list of benefits I have found.
I no longer have to keep a paper lesson book. Now I simply create my week’s plan on an online calendar, which anyone can view. I have everything I plan to teach on the calendar, and I can update it daily as things change.
Everyone can access my lessons. While students and parents are obviously people who benefit from seeing what I do every week and day, the administrators can check it at any time. They have complimented me on maintaining the site and because they can see what I’m doing, no one ever asks me to submit lesson plans or to see my plan book.
No one has an excuse for not knowing what is happening in class. Students must first ask a neighbor what was missed in class. Then I have the students grab any leftover hand-outs from the hand-outs tray. However, some students check the online calendar prior to coming to class, so they are ready without having to catch up while some know of absences in advance and get the hand-outs early. No one can say access is not possible since the school is open to all students before and after school, and virtually everyone has access at least from a friend’s house.
I can post pictures of projects completed in class. Students and parents can view what is being done in class with a click of the mouse.
Students can retrieve notes on the calendar. If the class took notes on the board or on paper, I can post the results online for absent kids to download.
I am virtually never asked for extra hand-outs. If a student loses a hand-out, he can print a new one at any time. Parents can do so as well if a student says he forgot the assignment.
Enrichment and fun links can be posted. I encourage students to check the site by providing fun links for them to explore and by providing sites containing more information about studied subjects.
I have started creating a page for every major text I teach. Each page has pictures, online texts (when available), author bios, vocabulary words, study guides, puzzles, and other aids for learning. Right now I have about fifteen major text pages.
One of my pages is completely devoted to literary terms. This access has become invaluable for students studying the terms and for me to use when giving certain assignments. Since every term comes with an example, the kids enjoy the page.
All of my contact information is readily available. Students can call or e-mail me at any time when needed.
I can easily print my entire year’s lessons for future reference. Today I printed my year’s lessons, which I can use next year to inform my lesson planning.
New teachers at my school can follow my lessons and planning without having to meet regularly. Our new teachers and student-teachers can see my progression through units and semesters without meetings, but they can obviously chat with me any time they need.
Teachers from all over the U.S. find my site and give me new ideas. While searching for help with units, teachers discover my site and conversations ensue. I have garnered some good ideas for lessons because of these contacts.
Overall, I can say that life is much easier with a website. Everyone remains informed, and I am more intentional with my lesson planning knowing that anyone could be reading about what I’m doing. There are many more benefits which you’ll discover after you create your own website. Good luck!
P.S. I use a program called Entourage which makes web site creation quite simple.