Create Highly Engaging Coaching Newsletters
Posted by Traci Piltz on December 15, 2020 at 11:11 AM
Traci Piltz, technology integration specialist in Montana, walks through her steps for crafting beautiful weekly newsletters for her teachers as a way to better communicate with them across buildings.
ix years ago, I began as the K-3 technology integration specialist for a district of 16,000+ students and was responsible for supporting teachers across the 22 elementary buildings in our city.
While ideally I would visit each building on a regular basis and provide support and ideas to teachers face to face, logistically, I knew this wasn't a reality. It became clear that I needed a way to communicate quickly and easily with many teachers at once. Teachers in our district had access to technology and needed tips, support, and ideas on how to use that technology—and they needed it quickly and consistently.
To meet this need, I began sending out a weekly email to any teacher who subscribed. The number of tips varied each week, and the email contained a lot of text and links to lengthy blog posts. Teachers were appreciative, and the number of subscribers steadily increased. At the same time, I knew it wasn't a sustainable format and I needed to try something different.
Use a template that's visually engaging
The following year, I created a newsletter template to use each week. Rather than putting all of the content and text directly into the email, I worked to produce a visually engaging product that would catch the eye and allow teachers to grab bite-sized pieces of information.
The newsletter linked out to more in-depth descriptions and examples, so teachers could investigate further if they chose. Here's what it looked like this time last year:
Traci's wonderful holiday newsletter last year.
I now had a template with four distinct sections and knew that my goal each week was to come up with four ideas to provide teachers. This made production of the weekly newsletter much more manageable!
I created my template in Google Slides. I like using Slides because it allows me to share one link, and update the deck with a new slide each week. Not only does it make it easier for me to "batch produce" these newsletters but teachers can also access the archive of all previous issues by scrolling back through the deck.
Pro Tip: You can also use a variety of programs. Here are a few to get you started: Keynote, Canva, Buncee, Google Docs, or you can make a copy of my newsletter here!
Use lists or reminders to help curate content
Educators share fantastic ideas and resources on social media, and I curate some of that content for teachers by including it in my newsletter. While I share mostly open source resources and ideas that teachers don't need to purchase, I also think it's essential to include original content too and I work each week to create resources that can be freely shared, like templates, graphic organizers, Classkick lessons, or Seesaw activities that are ready to use.
Part of my job includes going into classrooms to model lessons to students and teachers, so I am also able to share some of my classroom experiences along with authentic examples of student work.
To make it easy to curate content, I use Google Keep to store images and links to examples and ideas that I plan to use in upcoming newsletter issues so that I always have content ready when I need to create a newsletter. Whenever I use an idea, I check it off my Keep list. This ensures I am not sharing the same ideas over and over again.
Share with teachers in and out of your building
When I first started my newsletter, I only sent it to teachers from my district who had subscribed. As I became more active on social media, I began sharing my newsletter there as well, and quickly realized that teachers beyond my district appreciated and benefited from the information. I now share my newsletter weekly via email to all K-3 teachers in my district, as well as educators outside my district via Twitter and Instagram.
Additionally, I post a publish to the web link to the newsletter to my blog and direct educators to view it there. This allows me to direct more traffic to my blog, where teachers can find additional resources and information. I keep an archive of all past newsletters on my blog and have also used spaces like Wakelet and Flipgrid to share my newsletter.
Make it appealing
If the prospect of designing your own newsletter from scratch sounds daunting, you can make a copy of my newsletter here and adapt it for your own needs!
While I create my newsletter in Google Slides, I utilize many other tools to design them each week. I enjoy using clipart from Flaticon, and love using the Google Slides Add-On to quickly insert fun graphics. I also like to use the Bitmoji Chrome Extension to drag and drop my Bitmoji into my newsletter. Plus, who doesn't love Bitmoji, right?
To create the headers, I like to use Hello Fonts, which can't be uploaded to Google Slides. I create them in Keynote, then screenshot and add them as images to my Google Slides presentation. You can also use a site like Text Giraffe to create eye catching headers. Another favorite is the Color Pick Eye Dropper extension, which allows me to match colors throughout my design, creating a polished, cohesive look.
Pro tip: I recommend using a URL shortener like bit.ly or tinyurl to share your newsletter link with educators easily.
Although face-to-face support is the preferred method of communication with teachers, we need to adapt to the times and I've found that creating coaching newsletters is the perfect way to do so! As a final request, I would love to see any newsletters you create on your own, so please be sure to tag me on social media with them.
Good luck creating your own newsletters!
About our Guest Blogger
Traci is a K-3 Technology Integration Specialist and 1st Grade remote learning teacher in Billings, Montana. Traci has a passion for technology and has been a technology integration specialist in her district for the past 6 years helping kindergarten through 3rd grade teachers innovate and integrate technology. Prior to her current roles, Traci taught kindergarten for over a decade, and was one of the first 1:1 iPad classrooms in her district.
Traci is an Apple Distinguished Educator, PBS Kids Early Learning Champion, PBS Media Literacy Certified Educator, Google Certified Educator, Seesaw Certified Educator and an Ambassador to Flipgrid, Book Creator and PicCollage. Traci has presented to educators both in person and virtually at ISTE, NAEYC, the Apple Distinguished Educator Academy, NCCE, the Great Plains Summit, the Montana State Educators Conference, and various other workshops and conferences.
Be sure to check out Traci's blog, and connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.
Topics: Guest Blogger, Your Coaching Toolbox, Newsletters, Classroom Technology, Teacher Support, Social Media, Communication