Classroom newsletters have been used for decades as a way to connect parents with the material their kids are learning. In the digital era, these messages have become virtual and have continued to thrive. Even with social media, texting and other forms of communication, many teachers still continue to use print and digital newsletters to keep parents in the loop.
If you are developing a newsletter for the first time or want to update your existing one, follow these 12 tips to create a valuable classroom newsletter that will engage both your students and their parents.
Keep Your Content Scannable
The most important thing to remember in your newsletter is to keep it scannable. You don’t want parents to get distracted by one piece of information that causes them to ignore the rest. You also don’t want to overwhelm or bore them, causing them to stop reading.
“Parents want to be able to scan and digest the school newsletter and read the sections they’re interested in,” says Jenn Horton at WeAreTeachers. By adding “quick highlights and bold sections, you can make your newsletter scannable for the parents who read it,” she adds.
Evaluate the format of your newsletter to make sure the most important sections catch the reader’s eye. Ask a fellow teacher to look at your mock-up and point out what they see first.
“Newsletters should look more like an infographic than a novella,” writes Emily Boyle at School Webmasters. “Make it look good, simplify messages, and provide a link to the school website where they can get more information.”
Make Room for White Space
White space can make your newsletter more scannable and less intimidating. It makes your newsletter look easier to read.
“If your newsletter has very little white space – the space on the page that contains no text or graphics – your readers will have a hard time getting through it,” writes Jennifer Gonzalez, former teacher, now editor in chief at Cult of Pedagogy.
“Adding more white space to your newsletter can easily be achieved by increasing your page margins and the space around individual blocks of text or images,” she explains. “If you find you have too much text to add sufficient white space, reduce your font size a little bit.”
Stick to a Schedule
Commit to a newsletter schedule that you know you can follow — even when your own schedule gets busy.
“Choose a day, time, and frequency for sending your newsletter,” writes Mia Charette, director of demand generation at Finalsite. “When parents know when to expect your content, they’ll be looking for it. Remember: less content isn’t a bad thing…we’re looking at quality over quantity.”
It’s okay if you can’t handle a weekly newsletter as long as parents get the information they need. A twice-monthly newsletter might be more reasonable with your workload.
Add a Personal Touch
It’s okay to introduce your classroom newsletter with a quick note to parents or a personal connection with the students. This makes you seem human and more engaging.
“Always start your newsletters with a personal note,” writes Solomon O’Chucks at Profitable Venture Magazine. “Parents and carers are more likely to come to you to discuss an issue, become involved…or offer positive feedback if they feel you are interested and not just the person running the show.”
The next time a parent has a problem, they might feel more comfortable approaching you instead of keeping the issue to themselves.
Make Your Newsletter Inclusive
It’s possible that not all parents in your classroom are English speakers or are able to read the newsletters you send out. Todd Finley, associate professor of English Education at East Carolina University, says teachers can take the following steps to increase inclusivity in their classroom newsletters:
- Avoid using online translators that might create confusion or change the tone of your message.
- Read the newsletter with your students during class so they can tell their parents what is included in the content.
- Include audio or video recordings of the content. You can add a QR code that links to a video recording. This also helps parents who are illiterate or use accessibility tools to engage with written material.
As you get to know the parents of your students, you can identify additional ways to accommodate them to make communication easier.
Focus on the Positive
Use your newsletter to convey important information and positive stories within your classroom. Focus on the best parts of the classroom, rather than issues you may be having with a few students or parents.
“It’s never a good idea to rant or vent in your newsletter. This communication tool should be positive and uplifting, not nagging,” writes teacher Roz Addler at The Empowered Provider. “If you are having a serious problem with one family following a policy or guideline, it is always best to have a private conversation with them rather than posting a blanket announcement in your bulletin.”
If you do need to address a serious issue in the newsletter, consider your tone. Focus on solutions to demonstrate how changed behaviors and actions can be helpful.
Highlight Different Types of Student Achievement
Save space in your classroom newsletter to showcase the great work your students are doing. This can include a student spotlight or a photo of current class projects.
“Educators need to highlight the successes and achievements of their students,” says Roy Pope, who has a doctorate of education and is founder of professional development platform EdGuru. “Parents will be proud to see the accomplishments of their children, and the students will be delighted to be highlighted and praised for their positive contributions to the school and community.”
Change the basis of your students’ achievements. Not every student will win prizes for sports or academics. Be sure to highlight students who are improving their skills or working hard in the classroom. Every parent wants to see their child as worthy of recognition.
Help Students and Parents Get Involved
Include calls to action in your newsletters to get parents involved in school and classroom. Many parents want to get involved but aren’t sure how.
“Newsletters help engage parents and increase involvement,” writes the team at Paper Pinecone, a preschool and childcare directory. “They can also be a source of information to help parents reinforce what children are learning academically, socially, and emotionally.”
Include regular descriptions of both classroom and school-wide activities that require parental participation. These include intramural sports, arts organizations and other volunteer opportunities such as fundraising and community events.
“Creating awareness of the things happening around school can teach students that school is much more than education, is also personal development and companionship,” writes Lavi Buciuman at digital publishing tool Flipsnack.
Share Resources for Stressed Parents and Students
Along with clubs and activities, mention school resources for students and parents who are experiencing high levels of stress.
“Given the current environment, many students might be feeling a little anxious about the future,” writes Tara Britten at website, app, and admissions software development company DigiStorm. “Sharing encouraging words and a reminder of what services are available to students (and parents) is a great way to foster a supportive community.”
Helpful resources might include tutoring, personal counseling and academic counseling for older students who are planning for college.
Direct Parents to Your Resource Center
As an educator, you may get the same questions each week from parents. These repeat questions steal your time and can leave you frustrated. Consider creating a resource hub online to which you can direct parents.
“Have a parent resource center where parents can turn when they have urgent questions,” writes Brita Hammer at education technology company Edmentum. “A parent resource is a great way to ensure that you don’t have to be available 24/7.”
This resource center can include frequently asked questions, links to school assistance programs and an updated school schedule. Publish a link to that page in each classroom newsletter you send.
Suggest Additional Learning Opportunities for Families
Many parents want to reinforce what their students are learning. Include a few videos or books that families can check out if parents want to learn more.
“Even if you don’t assign a lot of homework, parents will often ask what they can do to help their children at home with learning skills,” writes primary teacher Kristen Donegan at Easy Teaching Tools. “Include special apps, questions, and review items in your newsletter for parents to try with their students at home.”
This can help students learn more while giving parents the tools to tutor their children.
Collect Feedback From Parents
The classroom newsletter you create in August doesn’t have to remain the same through June. Make it interactive, and don’t be afraid of feedback and advice from parents.
“Include a reminder in every newsletter with your email for suggestions on topics or improvements,” writes the team at Hammermill, a paper production company. “Parents will appreciate your effort to improve your school newsletter, and also will appreciate you being open to their suggestions.”
This outreach can be as simple as adding a footer to the bottom of your newsletter asking for comments, advice and feedback.