Maybe you have been thinking about how awesome it would be to have a class website of your very own.
Maybe you have never even considered making one but luckily, it is not hard at all and would probably be an excellent addition to your teaching portfolio since it is a great way to demonstrate your technical abilities.
HOWTO: Creating a Class Website
How to Make a Site?
There are many ways to create a class website but for now, let us just look at Google sites. With Google sites, you can create your own website for free and Google even has a template for classrooms that looks great, is easy to customize, and includes sections like 'Word of the Week' which is a great idea whether you are making a class website or not because it emphasizes the importance of vocabulary development. Rather than starting from scratch and having to learn computer programming, you can use the template to get started and there are easy instructions to help you set everything up just the way you want. There are also Google pages to answer any questions you might have or if you get stuck on something. There is a learning curve, as with most new things, but you will get the hang of it. If you are committed to seeing the site through to completion, a little perseverance is all you need although if your school has a computer technician, you could always ask for assistance too.
Why Create Class Website?
Depending on the country where you live and teach, students will have varying degrees of technological skills and access to technology but in many places, computers and the internet are part of daily life and a class website can give you a space to communicate with students and others outside regular class times. A class website is a great place to post announcements about schedule changes, homework assignments, and special activities. You can embed a Google calendar in your site for parents, students, and administrators to reference. Using a class website in this way actually increases the amount of time you can spend teaching material in your class since you will not have to devote nearly as much time to housekeeping items.
ESL teachers from native English speaking countries teaching abroad often have little communication with parents but a very basic introduction page and ‘contact me’ form could go a long way towards establishing a connection with parents. If you are fortunate enough to speak the same language as your students or work with a native speaker of the local language, you have the added benefit of being able to include content in that language which would make the site more accessible to parents.
With a class website, students will not be able to say they forgot what the homework was or lost their worksheet because you can post both the directions and the necessary files all in one easily accessible place. Additionally, students will know far in advance when upcoming tests are and can prepare themselves accordingly. Students who are too shy to approach you with questions in class might take advantage of this means of communication and you do not even have to hand out your personal email address and risk cluttering your inbox.
Finally, administrators will appreciate that you have taken the initiative by reaching out to both your students and their parents in this way. The website is also an excellent way to document what you and your students have been doing throughout the term so it reflects well on you as the instructor. Additionally, including discussion pages or student of the week sections can help foster a sense of community which would, in turn, improve cooperation in the classroom.
In countries like China where Google sites are inaccessible without the use of a VPN, Google sites might not be the best choice but there are other services available.
In countries where students have limited computer access, class websites would not be recommended however a bulletin board in your classroom or in the hallway could serve some of the same functions. While not every teacher will be in a position to use class websites, it is something that you might want to consider for current or future classes and now would be a good time to start exploring your options.
Tara Arntsen has worked with English Language Learners of all ages for many years and has taught in Japan, Cambodia, and China as well as online. When she is not teaching, she enjoys cooking, traveling around the world, and scuba diving. She is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California.
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