Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Happy the Home- Parent Communication Newsletters

Back in this post I gave a little background on my belief that parents are the first and most important teachers of the faith for their kids.  Here, I would like to give some ideas for parent newsletters and how they can encourage faith involvement.

The idea of using newsletters to communicate between home or church and school is nothing new, but that doesn't mean that they can't be effective.  I use weekly newsletters both in my CCD program at church as well as in my classroom at school.  Here are a few ideas for using them:

1. Actually get them in the parents' hands.  A stellar newsletter does no good if the parent never sees it.  Find out what the most effect way to get them "home."
-A paper copy that goes home in the same folder every week with the student.
-A paper copy sent in the mail.
-A PDF sent through email.
-A post  on a regularly checked classroom website.
-A combination of more than one delivery method.
-Deliver your newsletters on a regular and expected basis.  I recommend weekly, on the same day of the week. 

2.  Keep it simple and useful.  I create newsletters that have one page of information, all on the front.  On the back of the newsletter, I include enrichment activities that the family can use.
-Too much information gurantees the newsletter won't get read.
-Keep the same info organized in the same locations each week- dates, upcoming events, special announcements, etc.
-Know when a paragraph is necessary to communicate info and when a list will do a better job.

3.  Make it recognizable.  Each year for CCD and my classroom, I create a newsletter template, and just update it each week.  It has the same theme, design, and layout.  Samples of different themes are posted below.  (Also, I have had people ask- I use Microsoft Word for all of my files.  I know there are a lot of perks to Publisher or InDesign, but I have learned to make do without buying another program. :) )
-Use a consistent header with program title, location, dates, etc.
-Use text boxes to separate info.
-Use interesting but readable fonts.  Don't go crazy, but make it look attractive.

4.  Give parents a reason to read it.  Here are some ideas to include in a CCD/Sunday School Newsletter:
-A current and correct calendar.  (We do our best to give parents accurate calendars at the beginning of the year, but things change, are added, and are decided at later times.  The biggest perk to doing a weekly newsletter is being able to communicate our upcoming events.)
-Include any events relating to the kids and families, not just CCD classes.  Adult Bible Studies, special meetings, Youth Group events, upcoming Sacrament opportunities, etc. are all good to include.  Everyone might not be involved in every religious ed event, but it is good for them to be aware of them.
-Special announcements.  Some examples of things to include:
     *Updates on Sacrament classes, including first names of students as they are close to receiving a
       new Sacrament, asking families to pray for them.
     *Announcements relating to the Liturgical year.  Share ideas for celebrating as a family, invite
       them to parish events, etc.
     *Updates and requests for service.  Donations, volunteer opportunities, etc.
     *Draw attention to special CCD events.  Give more details than what is just in the upcoming
       calendar sections.
     *Highlight specific things going on in the classrooms.  Special projects, guests, accomplishments,
       prayer requests, etc.
-Include some faith formation ideas.  Little facts, trivia, discussion starters, prayers, simple projects, etc.  I also like to include coloring pages, games, or activity sheets copied on the back of the newsletter that tie in with the faith info included on the front.


Here are some actual samples of newsletters that I pulled out of the file from years past.  Perfect?  Absolutely not. But if you are looking for a starting point or a fresh idea, click on the images below for a link to three or four newsletter samples.

From our year with the Armor of God theme:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5ETRkL51fhMemV4RThBcTVGbGs/edit?usp=sharing

From our "My Soul Magnifies the Lord" theme:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5ETRkL51fhMbm05Z19neWI1bG8/edit?usp=sharing

From our All Saint theme:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5ETRkL51fhMODc4TDZoRHBwMjA/edit?usp=sharing

 And for those Catholic School Teachers out there, here is a list of ideas to include in a weekly classroom newsletter:
5. Classroom newsletter ideas:
-Upcoming school or classroom events for the week.
-Due dates for projects or plans for tests/quizzes.
-Fun trivia or facts.  (I use trivia as an incentive for families to read my newsletter each week.  Trivia answer=prizes!)  This is also a great way to introduce an upcoming topic or to stretch their knowledge of something we are learning in the classroom.
-Info on fundraisers, service projects, etc.
-Announcements about classroom curriculum and current areas of study.
-Encouragement about what has been going well, and reminders of what can be reinforced at home.
-Prayer requests, faith tidbits, Liturgical Year activities, etc.
-Requests for volunteers, supplies, donations, etc.

Click here for a few classroom newsletter samples.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5ETRkL51fhMenN4Y3hKb0p1cjA/edit?usp=sharing

What kind of information do you like to see in a newsletter?
What do you think makes a newsletter effective?
How have you/could you use a newsletter to help with church/school to home communication?
Let me know what you think!

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