I’m moving to a new school in a new district, and before I get there I want to plan for communication efforts. Developing a communication plans are not my problem! However, sticking to one gives me serious problems.
One of the things I’d like to do in the new school is a monthly newsletter. And doing a better job than in the past is a top priority. I’ve started so many newsletters as a teacher and librarian, but I’ve just never followed through. Early and thorough planning will hopefully be key to help me gain and then sustain momentum.
Who is it for?
Teachers, parents, students, and even community all come to mind as stakeholders. But multiple newsletters seems a bit daunting, especially considering my history of letting them lapse. I don’t want to set myself up for failure. Is there a way I can make one newsletter work for multiple groups? To begin with, I think I’ll focus on the students and just send it to all the groups. After all, sharing any information will be better than sharing nothing. After I’ve built the newsletter habit, then I can rethink reframing information for a secondary audience.
Digital makes the most sense for publishing, but choosing the right digital platform depends somewhat on distribution. Again, this really needs to be something I’m comfortable with. If I have to stop and learn the components of a new platform, then that will be hindrance to any momentum gained.
Will we need physical copies for distribution?
Is there a need for the newsletter to be printed and copied? Google Slides or Google Docs might fit the bill if that’s the case. These have several features in their favor, with the top one being that I’m comfortable using both! Other pluses:
- They are both free.
- Templates can not only be easily developed but also easily changed when new or different items are required.
- Content boxes can be moved around for better placement.
- Newsletter templates are available through Google if creating one isn’t really an option.
Using Slides has a slight advantage over Docs. Content boxes stay exactly where they are put unlike Docs where the content might be pushed to the next page.
Google isn’t the only free option out there for newsletters. Here are a few others I’ve used:
- The “Make Use Of” site has 15 free options listed in this article.
- Canva has some great newsletter templates in their free version.
- Free slide deck templates from SlidesGo are also a great option.
Distributing wholly online?
Distributing digitally provides options in addition to the ones listed above. New Google Sites makes a great newsletter. Use the home page for the entire newsletter for an easy infographic look. Insert a table of contents so your readers can go directly to their favorite section. Or group all your newsletters for the school year into one website. The home page can function as a table of contents for all editions and include information you want in every issue. Then monthly newsletters can be added as pages. Think of the possibilities for recurring columns! Searching for book reviews across newsletters would be so much easier if all the newsletters were in the same site.
Other digital newsletter options to consider:
- Section/pages from the school’s website
- Free website creators like Wix or Weebly
- Blogging platforms like WordPress or Blogger
What content should be included?
Here’s the part that I think will be most helpful: deciding in advance what sections to regularly include in the newsletter. Then put those sections in the template. This still allows you to take out content, but if sections are already in place, then you’ll waste no time thinking about those ever-looming questions about what content to include. If a monthly newsletter is going to be the norm, then we need to know what kinds of articles and artifacts to collect before they are needed.
Ideas for regular items:
- Book recommendations, reviews, or talks
- Look what ____ is reading
- Ideas for home
- Monthly/seasonal/holiday themes
- Library skills info
- Student assistant corner
- What to do in the library besides borrowing books
- What’s happening in _____ grade
- Station exploration
- Upcoming events
- Student publications/productions
The list could easily grow quite lengthy! Personally, I want to keep my template to a couple of pages. Again, I want to get in the newsletter habit, and the inclusion of fewer quality items will prove to be a much easier task than lots of items that lack substance.
One more newsletter tip. I read several articles about the importance of creating a social media calendar if you want to post with fidelity. The same is true for a newsletter. If I want good content on a regular basis, I have to plan for it ahead of time. So, look at your lessons and planner before each week starts and use that info to help you plan to get the content you want for your newsletter.
What have you done?
I want to see your newsletters! Please share links and images in the comments.
Author: Bitsy Griffin
Bitsy Griffin is the school librarian for Chatham Grove ES in Chapel Hill NC. She has 25+ years experience in elementary, middle, and high schools as a math teacher and librarian. She is active in AASL and the North Carolina School Library Media Association. Find her blog at http://www.bitsygriffin.com .