Using a Blog/Website for Parent Information Night

Helloooo!! I am back to share a bit more about the website I've been working on for my students and their families. I have big plans for this website/blog this year...

I'm using it as the focal piece of my Parent Information Night presentation!

And I'm linking it up with Elizabeth's and my (sounds awkward, but you can give a teacher a break since it's summer, right?) weekly linky party...Optimum Organization.

Why? Well, it's really helping me get organized in several ways at once:
  • I'm setting up all of my information I'd like to share with my parents during Parent Information Night.
  • I'm planning out the major parts of my year as I create the site.
  • I'm linking up frequently-visited kid sites my class continually uses throughout the year.
Nothing like one project taking care of so many important things, is there?

And, really, I have no idea why I've never thought of this before. In the past, I've always gone with Powerpoint Presentations during Parent Information Night, which are informative and all...but just for that one moment. And I imagine as I nervously speed-talk through all of that important information, my poor parents are completely inundated with systems and procedures. With a website/blog, they can go back and read at their leisure, should they want more information than provided in the 15 minute presentation.

For this particular site I'm using Blogger. I call it our website rather than blog because, with Blogger's page features, it is very easy to make the whole layout more website-like...with the blog part being the home page featuring updates and class news.

So, here's a breakdown of what I have so far my website, as well as how it will be presented during our Parent Information Night...
No, my students don't call me Ladybug, this is just a little sample of what our page looks like. I called it our International Class because that is our informal name...as some of you know I teach a half EL newcomer, half mainstream 5th grade class and it is simply amazing. This will be my second year of teaching such a class :)

So. I decided to keep the site pretty simple, that way it wouldn't have too much information to navigate through.

One of the most important features will be the Subcribe widget...
which, as so many of you already know, will allow my parents to sign up for email updates from the blog. I placed this at the very top of my sidebar and it will be one of the first features I present to my students' parents.

I know how busy parents can be and I certainly don't expect them to frequently visit our class blog on top of everything else they already do...I'm hoping this feature will provide an easy way for them to stay informed of upcoming events and projects, as it will be delivered right to their inbox.

I only have two other widgets in the sidebar...
Events for the month (for a quick, at-a-glance resource) and the Translate feature (since I have many wonderful families from different countries).

The home page itself will be the blog of updates.

The black text links are pages for parents...
That second tab, Classroom, will take the parents to a page full of information, from homework policies to various subject areas.

Each of those sub-headings can be clicked and will jump down the page to the section containing that information. For example, parents can click on Word Work...
and will be taken to a section explaining all about this subject...
Since this page has so much information, it is the one I will be presenting the most during Parent Information Night. Since it is all organized into different categories, it will give me plenty of talking points. And, since I won't be able to cover everything during the presentation, I can easily reference this page as a source of information that can be visited at home.
At the end of each section, there is a Return to Top feature, to help with easy navigation (and hopefully save some time!).

This Classroom page has the bulk of the information on our site. I did include a few other pages as well.
As this will be our first official year of Common Core, I did want to include a page on it, so parents could read about the standards. This was the easiest page of all because Mastery Connect has the code for a Common Core app and widget!

The same was true of the Calendar page...
Using my Google Calendar account, I could just import our district dates right to this website calendar very easily. Not much to show here in July though :)

The final parent page is my contact information.
I left this at the end of the page list because it stands out and will be easy for my students' parents to find. I also kept this page very simple, just my email information and that's it.

The remaining pages are those fun little guys on the right hand side of the site. Those are for my students and will feature websites and apps we use during the school year. Now this is something I have always done with my class and it's very helpful for both school and home for my students.

And that's all I have! I really tried to keep it pretty simple and basic...I know I get lost easily when I go to a website that has a lot of information and menus (is it bad to admit that???).

If you would like more information on making those page jumps (return to top) or adding any of those widgets, please let me know and I can in explain in more detail.

Do you have tips to share for keeping parents informed? Maybe you would like to link up with Optimum Organization, we would love to have you join us!
Or please feel free to share your advice in the comments below!

84 comments

  1. I would love to know more about the widgets, like jump to the top, so I can add these little touches to my class website as well. Thanks Ladybug! How do you import your Google Calendar too? That's something that I didn't even think to put in...so easy to share something I already use!

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    1. Thanks very much Carrie! I will try to make some video tutorials on the calendar and widgets very soon :)

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  2. This is just amazing! I really need to make a blog like this for my parents. They always have a million questions especially after open house. I've always done the power point and then had to answer many e-mails afterwards because it went by so quickly! I'm going to search your blog for more information about how you started this up! Thanks for sharing!
    Rambling About Reading

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  3. I really need to switch mine to blogger. I currently use weebly, but I don't like that parents can't subscribe! Thanks for the inspiration! I will totally need to be findin out how to add the page jumps.

    Courtney
    4thgradesprinkles.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks Courtney! I will make a video about it very soon :)

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  4. I love your class blog! It almost makes me wish I was back in the classroom myself.
    I would be absolutely thrilled to have a teacher like you for my daughters! You are truly inspiring.

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    1. Thank you Brenna, what a lovely thing to say! You made my day :) :)

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  5. Your website is AMAZING!!!!

    ❀Jodi
    Fun In First

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  6. This looks great! What site do you use to host your website? I would also love more information about adding widgets and the extra things you added to make it more accessible for parents. Thanks so much!

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    1. I'm sorry I wasn't clear! Sometimes I forget the most important details, like you can read my mind haha! I'm using Blogger. :)

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    2. It looks great and I am looking forward to creating one of my own! Just a head's up--though I'm sure you've already caught this--your first page says "Welcome our class website!" You're missing the word TO.

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    3. oh yes, how did I miss that?! Thanks msevans :) :)

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  7. Your website looks great! Love the idea of presenting the website and not a powerpoint. I have a class Wiki that I started but needs to be tweaked. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

    Erica
    Shepherd's Shining Stars

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  8. Very amazing! I think that's way more effective than a "flip book"/newsletter! Feeling the pressure now! :-)

    Teaching With the Middle Sister

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  9. i love your website layout and everything else about it! How did you get that clip-art & that specific layout?

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  10. I will be asking you a LOT of questions about this. Prepare yourself :)

    Diane
    Fifth in the Middle

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  11. Looks amazing! Your parents will be so impressed!

    Rowdy in First Grade

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  12. Thank you Kristen! That really helped. It was nice to see how someone else set up their classroom website. I can't do anything until I see what the district firewall will let me use. Thanks again!

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  13. Wow! I've been following you for a while, but this gets top prize. I have a million questions because I need one of these! Do you use blogger? How do I get started?
    PS - Thanks for all the great stuff you share.

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    1. Thanks Gail!! I did use Blogger :)

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    2. Thanks Gail! I use Blogger. I would just start playing around with a new blog and try setting up the most important info you'd like to share first. I will try to get some videos up on basic setup very soon :)

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  14. I'm amazed again! I love the look and simplicity of your class website. You are right, we can get overwhelmed when visiting sites sometimes with too much going on. I love how yours looks! Unfortunately, our district firewall blocks Blogger :( I wish I could create one for my parents, but it would be too hard for me to update that when I got home (and had other things on my mind). I wonder if there is an alternative? Weebly isn't blocked, but I don't love the look of it. Maybe a .com site??? Anyway, I'm rambling, but just wanted to tell you how much I love it :)))

    Elizabeth
    Fun in Room 4B

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  15. WOW. I am seriously amazed! I would love, love, love to know how you designed such a template and laid it out in such a user-friendly manner if you would be willing to share :) I used a blog last year and my parents continually told me how thankful they were for it. Even my 2nd graders were able to get some great use out of it - they went crazy commenting on it. I made a habit of uploading 20-50 pictures I'd taken throughout the week every Friday. My parents really loved this, too. I don't see any way to improve your site because it's so great, but maybe adding a place for classp pictures?

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  16. This looks great! How did you insert your calendar onto the page?

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    1. I will try to make a tutorial on that very soon! Thanks!!

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    2. Thank you very much!! Google Calendar has code you can insert into a blog post/page. I will try to do a video on this very soon :)

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  17. Love this! We have district websites that we're required to use and maintain, but they are so user unfriendly :(

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  18. I am going to go make mine ... NOW!!! Thanks for the idea!!

    Kimberlee @ iTeach 5th & Digital Doodle Designs

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  19. I really like that. It's great that your doing it now before the school year starts . I'm going to try to get the widget on my class website. Thanks



    Sending Tons of Teacher Love Your Way,

    Lori

    Second Grade Serenade

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  20. I'm sure I'm going to sound dense...is this a blogger account or a web account? I use weebly right now but I didn't design it, per say. It's very basic. Yours is adorable! How do you know how to do all of that??? I'm sure that's too much for you to answer but I was just wondering!

    This looks awesome!
    Amanda
    Collaboration Cuties

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    1. Never Amanda!! It's my fault, I don't know why I am not more clear about things sometimes! It's Blogger, I went back and edited that. As for the rest, it's been years of working on blogs :)

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  21. Love your post! I used my class website as a talking point for Curriculum Night as well. It was a good use of time to show them how to navigate the site and advertise it as well! Last year I also made a QR code on the cover of my info packet and had iPads available, so parents could scan the code and follow along with me on the iPad or their phone. That was a big hit with the dads!
    Erin
    Short and Sassy Teacher

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    1. Oh Erin, I LOVE the idea of the QR code!! What a smart and easy way to get to the site! Thanks very much for sharing :)

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    2. Great idea with the QR codes for parents. I am definitely doing THAT for Back to School Night. :)

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  22. It's gorgeous!!! You are so talented, Kristen! I love how the design is so clear and easy to navigate. Your parents are going to love it! Thanks for showing it to us! :)

    Kate
    EduKate and Inspire

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  23. You have re inspired me to make a class website. I've said in the past I was going to make one and then never do. I definitely want to make one and am adding it to my to do list! I would love more info on how you did all of this!
    Rebecca

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    1. I too have wanted to create a class website for a while & am now totally inspired! Awesome!

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  24. Love this! Your class and parents will love it too! I have a class blog on our district's site, but there are very limited options for customizing and using widgets. I am wondering if you able to control any privacy settings on Blogger? In other words, can you control who sees your blog? That might be a deal breaker for me because I like to post lots of class pics from our daily activities.

    Lizzy from *The Teacher Chick*

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    1. Thank you Lizzy! You can control the privacy settings to people you invite to see your blog, I think, but I don't post class pics so I'm not going to worry about that. I'm almost positive you can do so however, under the Settings of your blog. Thank you again!! :)

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    2. Yes, you can set it to private: Settings - Basics - Blog Readers - Edit - Only these readers (then place the email addresses of the parents you approve to see the site). :)

      Kimberlee @ iTeach 5th & Digital Doodle Designs

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    3. Thanks Kimberlee!! :) :)

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    4. You are most welcome - you are wonderful!!!!

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    5. I also send home a Blog Permission Slip at the beginning of the year with permission to post photos of the kids online. Only once have I had a parent ask me not to include pictures of their child, and it wasn't a big deal; I sent the photos I took of that child to his parent via email and left them off the blog.

      Plus, I never post a child's name with a picture, and I also set my classroom blog so that it's un-searchable on Google and other search engines. This way I know it would be pretty difficult for random people to happen upon it.

      :)
      -Gayla
      Teach On.

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  25. Love it! I use blogger with my class as a reading response/writing activity type page. I've wanted to transform it into a class website for parents and students but our district mandates we use their own awful site. I decided this year I'm just going to link to my blogger! How do you get the page tabs to be icons though, and get them to be separated from the parent tabs at left?

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  26. Wow, your website looks amazing!! Great job! I might have to decide to use blogger myself for a class website.

    Jamie
    Sixth Grade Tales
    Follow my new Facebook page

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  27. Simply amazing!! I love the look and design. I'd love to know how to add the tabs at the top so parents can click on the section they're interested in.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Laurie
    First Grade Lyons' Den

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    1. Thanks Laurie! There's an option in Blogger for when you put the page tabs in...you can add them horizontally or vertically.

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  28. I would love that as a parent!

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  29. What an awesome idea! I too have a class blog on blogger, but each page I add keeps the home page side widgets. Is it possible to have different widgets on the subject pages for links and such? I would love to see what your subject pages look like.
    Thanks for the great idea,
    Laurie

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  30. YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!
    That "website" is fabulous and simply adorable.
    I am always in awe of everything you do.
    When I was in the classroom, I had a class website and blog. The website was similar, but not nearly as cute, as yours. The blog was where they would get on during independent work time and answer questions. I really liked using both and the kids did as well.
    Have a great day! :)
    Antoinette

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  31. Your new parent site/blog looks awesome! I love the simplicity of your layout. I use a classroom website for my families and students too. I really like the Common Core section you put in, I will definitely have to look into adding something similar to my site. I always learn something from reading your posts! Thanks for sharing.
    ♬Kay
    On the Trail of Learning

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  32. OMG Kristen....duh! I was so proud of myself because I've been using Power Point to present the last couple of years, but you're right, after a while it's just information overload, a class website with this information to refer to would make more sense. I started my blog for my parents so they would have a glimpse into our classroom, but it didn't seem parents were using it, and I was slowly drifting more towards being a teacher blogger. Anyways, as always Kristen, thank you for all you do and turning on my lightbulb ;)
    ☼Libby
    First Grade Dual

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  33. I'm going to add to the broken record playing: We're encouraged to use our district website provided for teachers. It's so not cute :( Anything you add links, documents, etc all show up on the sidebar with no discerning what's what, ugh! I love the idea of this so much more but blogger is blocked by our system, so I'm gonna have to see what other options I have, you've gotten me all inspired now :-D

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  34. This is simply genius! No better word to describe your idea! My favorite part: Parents can translate the page!? Ummm, yes please! No more spending time translating my classroom newletters? Ahhhh! I am going to have to try this out.

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  35. AWESOME!!! Thank you so much for ALWAYS sharing so freely your wonderful ideas and workl! You're quite an Inspiration... and TRULY the epitome of a Loving, Caring FANTASTIC TEACHER! Keep up the Amazing work!

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  36. This is an amazing idea! Please don't mind if I get in on this little bit of genius. I've been trying to decide how to do my class page/website and this is the best I've found!

    Teachunscripted.blogspot.com

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  37. Stop! I love this, but naturally I would want it to be as cute as yours and I don't know all the coding to make that happen so I would never get around to doing this. But a website is so easy and make the most sense to give my parents, especially if there is a translate button. oh the struggles of being a perfectionist. ;)

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  38. Holy cow, your website is looking amazing! Super user-friendly, too. I wish I was more of a techy-guru when it comes to blog design and content. Seriously, I'm in awe. You have some very lucky students (and parents). :)

    XO,

    -Gayla
    Teach On.

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  39. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this idea. Making me want to learn super fast!! Ha! As for your header, did you pay someone to creat it for you, or did you do it yourself? If you bought it, from whom? If you created it, what program did you use?

    Thanks so much and super job!
    Denise

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  40. Love your site that you are working on for your parents and students. I have always had a class website and kept up-to-date with it weekly and am just now dabbing in the teacher blogging world, so I guess the opposite of you.
    I worked some this summer on organizing all of my links that I had for the students to access. It was overwhelming with big long list of links. I took some time and dumped all the 250+ science links that I have found in the past few years and placed them in categories for my 5th graders on Symbaloo boards (these would be appropriate for 3rd and 4th graders also, I believe). You're more than welcome to link off of them if you'd like. Here is the link: Science Links by Categories for Kids
    I still need to organize the other subjects. One thing at a time.
    Alison
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

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  41. Love this, you made it look so cute. I am not computer illiterate, but I am blog illiterate. I can read them, but I have never tried to set one up. Looking at this makes me want to try. At least I have time to work on it. What a wonderful idea. You did a super job!

    Thanks for a great share!

    Debbie

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  42. Your website looks great! I have done a class website for several years now and find it invaluable in getting information to parents. I have never used the "subscribe" feature though. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on that. My site now has "Subscribe" widget attached!

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  43. This is beyond wonderful! I am making a blogger blog/site as we speak. I enjoy your ideas, insights, and products very much.

    Quick set-up question: What template (on blogger) do you recommend to get this started? I used the simple template. I am going to attempt my own blog for teachers and create this blog for my students and parents.

    THANK YOU AGAIN!!!!!!!!!

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  44. Adding this to the list of things I want to do next year. Thank you for sharing--it will give me some time to try out learning to customize a blog, which is something I've really wanted to learn to do!

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  45. OMG! I'm seriously in overdrive right now thinking how amazing this is. I've done the power point and video thing for parent night but this is true genius especially since I speak at warp speed trying to cram everything in for those parents.

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  46. Wow! Kristen you've inspired me yet again... I'm also working on my class website/blog and I hadn't thought about making it a dual site for both parents and students. I teach 5th grade as well, and while I want the kids to learn to be self-sufficient I know the parents always have questions. I love how yours is set up. Thank you for another great creative boost!

    Mel
    Teaching with Ms. Mel

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  47. LOVE, Love, Love your website! I use a website to share with parents but it's not anywhere near as fabulous as this one. Thanks for sharing all the great ideas!

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  48. This is a SUPER web/blog site and I am so inspired by your blog that I have started my own and would love to know what you use for parents to translate. I teach in a dual language setting and this would be so helpful! Thank you for sharing!

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  49. Love! I would love to learn more about page jumps and widgets too!

    You continue to outdo yourself! :)

    Rachel
    Thirdgradecupcakes.blogspot.com

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  50. Kreated by Kelsey created a classroom blog for me on Blogger called Camp Leader-in-Me, since I have a camping theme and am using the 7 Habits of Happy Kids. I haven't added much to it yet, but am planning to use this during Back to School Night.

    Camp Leader-in-Me

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  51. Kristen,
    I have been mildly (ok, outrageously) obsessed with all your creations and ideas ever since I've stumbled upon your website this summer. This idea of using the class website as a permanent resource for parents is INCREDIBLE! I used a powerpoint last year, and I had a few parents who missed the info night who asked to meet at a later date so I could go over everything with them. I could also see some parents drifting off during my presentation... I can't wait to finish making mine and having computers and i-Pads set up in the room for parents to explore on their own.

    Thanks for teaching me how to embed calendars and that amazing common core app! I also found a super cute Common Core TAB that you can put on all your pages so parents and teachers have quick access to the standards, anywhere on your page! (The app also includes sample questions for *each* standard....how cool is that?!?) http://scootpad.com/curriculum

    Thank you, thank you for everything you do...and for your generosity in sharing everything with us!

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  52. This looks incredible! I SOOO need to take an HTML and Blog design course so my blogs can be as adorable as yours! What lucky students and parents you have. :)


    Colleen Patton
    http://pattonspatch.blogspot.com

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  53. LOVE this!! I've had a class website for years... what a brilliant idea to present the website rather than a PowerPoint! What an AH-HA Moment!!!!!
    Karen :o)
    Mrs. Stamp's Kindergarten

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  54. I love your class blog, and I am slowly working on mine. (Slowly, being they key word in this one.) I was wondering if you could tell me a little about how you made the links for your students to different things. I have my navigation bar that I am working on for the parents, but I would love to have something similar to what you did for the students. Suggestions...or is it well beyond my limited skills?

    Thanks!
    Rebecca

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  55. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this idea! I am so inspired by your classroom blog (for Curriculum Night and MORE!!) post, that I immediately started working on mine. I transferred all my Curriculum Night info from my Powerpoint onto my blog - GENIUS!!! - and just looked at the clock and it is 3AM! Wow! Thanks for the inspiration!! :)

    I did want to ask you about that "return to top" feature. I would really like to add it to my Curriculum page. I did a search for tutorials, but really didn't find anything helpful enough for me. Sad, because while I've never done much with HTML, I consider myself fairly tech-savvy. Could you do a tutorial for adding that "return to top" feature? Please, please, pretty please!! :-)

    And one last question...is your a "link" between sections of your post, or it is a floating image/button? Most of the tutorials I found were for floating images, and that was not what I had in mind.

    Thanks again!! I love your blog - your colors - your organization - your products (I've bought several!!) - and your inspiration!

    Sincerely,
    Erin

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  57. You inspired me! I created my first blog...or I'm working on it anyway. :-) I figured out how to add the subscribe gadget, but I can't get a list of events to add upcoming dates. Help! :-)

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  58. Once again, I love your design... do you think you'll ever go back to designing templates for the teachers out there who are not as tech savvy?

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  59. Hi Kristen--I've been hard at work playing around with this, and I have two questions that I'm hoping you're willing to share the answers to, and they're sort of connected. I love the way you have embedded the subject links with images into the header--is this something you might explain or do a tutorial about? The second (two part) question is re: the black text links for parents. Are these just pages you added in your blogger template? If so, how were you able to position them in this way vs. having them simply go across in a horizontal line? Or are they also embedded into the header? Thanks in advance for any light you can shed on this!

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  60. Yes, I love your website. I just built my first blog and I am so new that I have no idea how to change my background to make it cute like everyone else's. It is just black. :) I want to change and add a heading title to match the background but I don't know how. How do you jump to the top? I love that. Your parent night idea is great. I have a weekly superhero website that I am working on that I was going to present to my parents. Do you have a separate parent/student website where you will post pictures, projects that your students have completed in class, etc.

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