Classroom Website 101

By Victoria Jasztal on September 27, 2009

It all started when I visited Heather Renz's website in 2004, I believe. Mrs. Renz (http://www.mrsrenz.net) is a fourth grade teacher in Redmond, Oregon who has a plethora of resources for her students and teachers as well as a motivational club called the Mastery Club. She focuses on math brain teasers and has photos of her students' projects. After one visit to her website, I was hooked on the concept of having my own site. I had been designing websites in general since 1998, so it was not going to be a challenge, necessarily. I just needed to think about the content I would include. In July 2005, http://www.teachingvision.org became a reality in cyberspace.

Over the past four years, the website has evolved quite a bit. Since then, I have posted more of my students' work online and added widgets (interactive sidebars) to my website that spark a great deal of interest among my students, their parents, my colleagues, and teachers from all over the world. Today's post will discuss starting a classroom website (it is never too late) and adding different kinds of content to the site.

Starting a Website

Starting a website is an immense challenge, particularly if you have never done it before. However, there are several websites out there that have templates and do not cost any money to maintain.

  • http://www.edublogs.org- With Edublogs, you can maintain a classroom weblog and add pages to your website for other content. It is well-organized and includes a variety of templates.
  • http://www.shutterfly.com- Perhaps you would rather start by just including a photo album of your class projects, field trips and lessons. I have been using Shutterfly for the past two years to put photos of my students online. However, before you start any websites like these, please ask your parents for permission to place photos with their child in them online.
  • http://www.weebly.com- This is an organized, very professional looking website where you can create a free website with a weblog.  
  • http://www.wix.com- Here is yet another website builder where you can put together professional-looking Flash websites for free.

You may from then need to know a few important things-

  • Sensory overload= bad, very bad. Keep the design of your website simple enough where visitors do not have to stare at clashing backgrounds and listen to midi music where they do not have the option of turning the music off. Also, posting "This Page Under Construction" signs is so very 1999. (My students would think that is ancient because they were born in 1998, 1999 and 2000.)
  • There are guides that teach you HTML (the language of website formatting) if you need to use it for anything on your website. Lissa Explains it All has been online for more than ten years, yet it is probably one of the top three most useful websites on the Internet for HTML coding. You may need to use HTML at times to make text bold, italic, or underlined. You may also want to place a picture in a specific place or include a few widgets on your website, which requires inserting or writing HTML. 


Design in itself-

Many people have asked me how I designed my website. The layout was made using Adobe Photoshop CS. I really cannot go into how I create images here, yet there are many tutorials online for how to maneuver Photoshop. Even better, if you do not have Photoshop and cannot get a program like it in any way, there is a website online that works a great deal like Photoshop called http://www.pixlr.com

Content-

My website includes a great deal of content- I spend time during summer break working on it. First, I feel an About the Teacher page is essential. Additionally, you may then desire to upload photos of student projects, include links that direct students to websites for a variety of topics, have a page for pen pals to visti (if you participate in a pen pal program, of course), upload podcasts, incorporate videos, and much more. A few websites I strongly admire are that of Mrs. Bunyi and Mrs. Newingham (both from Teaching Matters here at Scholastic), as well as Mr. Coley, Ms. Jensen, Ms. SanchezMrs. ShawMrs. Sunda and Mrs. Venosdale.

Here are some examples of content at my website-

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A scroll box for updates that is designed to look like an iPod

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Samples of educational music (Rockin' the Standards and Mr. Duey) using a widget from Amazon.com.

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A Twitter update widget- If you have a Twitter account, you can click on a few possible widgets and receive the HTML code to insert the box anywhere you would like in your classroom website.

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I also located a widget here at Scholastic for the Teacher Book Wizard, which parents can use at my website as well to locate books for their children. They can find books on their levels as well as books similar to ones they have been reading from our classroom library.

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You can also create polls at your website where people can vote. The website where I created the poll pictured above is http://www.polldaddy.com.

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I think it is also neat for students to see where our visitors come from. The world map from ClustrMaps captures their interest.

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I also link to many QTVR (QuickTime Virtual Reality) and interactive websites where students can go on virtual field trips without even leaving our classroom.

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This is our website hosted at Shutterfly- the particular URL is http://msjasztalsfourthgrade.shutterfly.com. I used to upload pictures to our classroom website, yet it took up a lot of space and I did not have a particular album to place them in. This website provides an easy template where you can upload hundreds of pictures quickly without having to worry about the format of your page.

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Another component is our Cranium Commanders website where students can answer a variety of questions for points. Our class has not used it the last two years like in prior years, yet we plan on using it again in the near future. The idea came from Mrs. Renz's Mastery Club, and you can use any questions or content if you would like to include Cranium Commanders on your website.


If you have any questions about creating a classroom website, please ask! This is a question I have received many, many times, so I would not mind answering any questions here to help as many people as possible to create a website for their students, parents and colleagues to visit. Also, if you have a website you would like to share or seek advice about, link to it in the comment section below!

 

Comments

http://www.teachwithawebsite.com offers free tutorials and a site configuration, which will allow you to offer a fully functional website with a chatroom, message forum, user polls, event calendar, file repository, and so much more!

E: Classroom Solutions DATE: 02/18/2010 10:18:15 AM Having a class web page focuses students on where to go when they start working on the internet. It provides a consistent page for students to see when they get onto the internet for their daily assignments or assigned classwork.

I love the classroom webiste advice. I'm learning new words every day! We just started our own classroom websites in our district this year and it is a challenge getting everything posted and current. I'm keeping up 2 since I work between 2 schools and 4 grade levels.

... Cyndee- I am excited for you. Feel free to share your website with us so we can visit. :) - Victoria

Victoria,

Thanks for sharing the great links on getting a website up and started. Your comments were also great for those of us who already have a website and are looking for new content, widget, ideas, etc.

Thanks for sharing - I look forward to future posts and I'll keep checking your website to see what's going on!

Brian

... Thank you, Brian. Are there any specific widgets you are seeking for a website? Do you have your own site as well? - Victoria

I am impressed! I only use a Scholastic Classroom Homepage and update it weekly. Sometimes I find it difficult to make time for that!

... I bet you have a wonderful website that works for you! Whatever you can do to communicate with parents and students at home is great. - Victoria

I have used the Scholastic.com website as my homepage for many years now. I love it. It provides me with everything that my students need. I recommend it to everyone I know. It is also free which is really nice for a poor teacher like me!

... When you find what works for you, that's awesome! Thanks for sharing, Kay. Scholastic truly offers a lot of wonderful resources. - Victoria

Wow! Thanks for the great websites and resources! I appreciate all you have given us.

... You're absolutely welcome! Do you have a classroom website, or are you thinking about creating one?

Laura- I am glad you are branching out! The Scholastic template provides a really good start, though it is exciting to choose to expand on what you already have at your classroom website! Tell me when you debut your new classroom website so I can see it. - Victoria

Hi, Victoria! You have inspired me to try making a website/blog!! I think it would be a great way for parents to keep up with what is going on in the classroom! I've had a Scholastic homepage in the past, so I think it's time I branched out on my own! Thanks for inspiring me!! Laura

Angela, it is true- people do see our websites, whether we believe it or not. Teachers especially desire to see what goes on in other teachers' classrooms that is effective. And above all, don't be so hard on yourself- everything is looking great, despite this very busy year! - Victoria

Must. update. web.site. Can you swamp everything over from my old site to my new one Victoria? Haha. I am kidding. Thank you for gently reminding me that other people do look at my site once in a while, and that it is worthy of updating. It is still in shambles a bit, which is really sad. I really need to get it back to its glory days of a billion and three pages. Thanks for reminding me. :)

Happy Sunday,

Angela Bunyi P.S. Great job on your site!!!

Thank you, Heather. The good thing about this post is that it pertains to all grade levels. Would you like to share the URL of your blog on here? I am glad you began a weblog because it does help parents even more than before to understand what it going on in your classroom. When kids come home from school, they often say, "Nothing" when the parents asked what they did in school. Having a weblog certainly changes that! - Victoria

Your website is defenitely an inspiration for any teacher looking to begin building a website! This year I decided to go the blog route because it is easy for me and didn't cost me a penny. So far I've had all positive responses from parents. With the way the digital world is evolving, having class blogs or webpages will soon become the norm.

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