WordPress and Teachers: How To Set Up a Website For My Class
The internet is an invaluable educational tool and teachers simply cannot afford to ignore it. By allowing kids to connect with other students around the globe, this develops their understanding of different cultures, fosters an enquiring mind and engages and motivates them in their studies. It gives kids a global audience for the work, developing a passion for writing and an authentic motivation for completing their assignments to the best of their ability. All of this of course improves your performance as a teacher.
Using a free website builder, it’s so cheap and easy to set up a WordPress website for your classroom. The only costs involved if you already have a computer and internet access are registering your domain name, which costs around $10. Here is a step by step guide on how to do it.
Use A Free Website Builder
The best way to set up your classroom blog is to use a free website builder program, which is available through this site. It gives you everything you need to set up your web pages, with easy to use tutorials. Once your blog is registered and ready to go, then comes the fun part of adding content, picking themes and giving it an individual stamp that’s ideal for your kids.
Customizing Your Classroom Blog
The first thing to do is choose a theme to customize your classroom blog. There are several really good themes that are ideal for education and they’re really easy to use. Here are our top five, which you can download for free on our resources page:
- KidPaint: this is brilliant for younger kids up to high school age. Bright colors, easy to navigate, with attachment and image templates making it so simple to customize.
- In The Classroom: a really nice educational theme that focuses kids on learning. A chalkboard, books and an apple are combined with blocks of color with easy to read fonts and a nicely highlighted sidebar. Ideal for elementary or middle school, but it does have quite a serious tone, so it depends on what you’re looking to achieve with your classroom site.
- Hands Up: a great WordPress theme for high school kids, with a creative photo of children with their hands up that could be in a classroom or at a concert. Pretty cool for teenagers!
- Cute Seasons: this theme is great for younger kids, with its bright colors, easy to navigate format and simplicity.
- WP-EduBlog: this is very simple and easy to use. It’s quite minimal, with a simple banner containing colorful pencils and graphics. An ideal blank canvas to add your own content.
Use RSS Feeds to Keep Parents and Kids Informed
Using WordPress means that your website can automatically generate RSS feeds, which keep your students and parents informed of what’s new on the website. It’s a really good way of sending out a newsletter and making sure students have no excuse not to complete their homework assignments on time. Installing the Subscribe Widget to your sidebar allows parents and students to subscribe to your feeds so they are always informed of a new post or comments on the site.
Essential Classroom Plug-ins
To make the most of your WordPress classroom website, you may decide to add a number of plug-ins. These are basically pieces of computer program which allow you to do exactly what you want with your site. Here are some of the most popular with teachers around the globe:
- Lesson Plan Book: this allows you to record your lesson plans, with relevant links and files for students to download. This is really good for getting students into the habit of preparing for class, as well as catching up on anything they have missed or didn’t understand.
- Translator: there are various translation plug-ins that allow a reader to click to translate the post into their own language. This is great for connecting your students around the globe, as well as allowing relatives who live abroad and speak another language to see the child’s work. Google AJAX Translation is a particularly good one.
- GeoTags: a brilliant plug-in to engage your kids and show them how global their site is. Each blog writer is geo-tagged to show their location in the world and all this information can be displayed on one central map.
- NextGEN Gallery: many teachers are now presenting their lessons with Powerpoint slides, to visually enhance their teaching. This plug-in allows you to display different lesson presentations, allowing students to easily flick through them and find the slides they missed or want to review.
Of course many teachers and parents have concerns about the safety of students using the internet. It’s important you use the built-in features of a WordPress site that protect students from unwanted exposure to inappropriate material and language. Here are a few tips on how to do this:
- Set students up as contributors: this allows them to create posts but doesn’t let them publish them. You as the teacher can be set up as an administrator, meaning you can check any posts before they’re published.
- Allow subscriber access only: if you want really tight security, you can create a blog only for subscribers, needing a password and log in to enter. This does limit the globalization of your site, but you could still easily connect to a class room overseas by giving them their own secure access to your site.
- Protect student identities: the easiest way to do this is to give them pseudonyms or a student number, which conceals their identity. Also you can avoid using the school name and location, instead labeling the site as “a classroom in Los Angeles” for example. Don’t forget to also involve your kids in discussion about internet safety and make them feel responsible for the material they produce and search for.