There are many ways of organising parents' evenings, or parent consultations, or whatever else they may be called where you are reading this. I know at our school, up until this year, a time-consuming administrative afternoon was spent with class teachers trying to organise appointments to fit in with siblings in other classes. It took a whole PD slot of 90 minutes to organise. Not much PD; but plenty of hassle. Paper slips were the order of the day, much like I guess it has since [insert date a very long time ago].
Enter the new idea of using Google Calendar to organise everything. I shared this video with staff to help them on their way:
If you like the idea of moving from a paper-based system to Google Calendar here are 5 tips you may wish to consider:
1. Start small
Depending on the size of your school of course, it is a good idea to trial with a number of classes, or a subset of teachers first if at all possible. We trialled it initially with specialist teachers before rolling it out across the entire Junior School.
2.Use Agenda View to print a summary
When you are on the Daily view for your calendar, click on 'Agenda' at the top-right of the screen to create a print-friendly version of your appointments:
3. Time Zone settings may cause you problems
Especially if you work in an international school! You may get some parents coming to you saying 'Did you mean to set the time slots up for 4am-8am? - I think you may have made a mistake!' In which case, it is most likely their Google account settings are for somewhere other than your school's. Politely ask them to check their settings and all should be well.
4. Disappearing time slots? Check your calendar isn't unticked
If your appointment slots have mysteriously vanished, double-check that you have got your calendar ticked in the left-hand side of your Google Calendar page. If it is unticked you won't be able to see your slots but parents obviously still will after you've sent out the link.
5. Use a URL shortener when sending out the link to parents
It doesn't look great to send out a calendar link such as this:
So use your favourite URL shortener (if you have a favourite you'll likely do this anyway!) - try goo.gl to send out a better, more professional link. Paste the long URL you get when making your appointment slots into goo.gl - then copy and paste this into your parents' evening letter.
As far as Google Docs goes, it's been said that it does 90% of what most people need from a word processor. That's certainly true, especially in the primary school, where complicated mail merging is not exactly commonplace. At least not in my school...
There are a number of Google Docs Add-ons that can help you get even more from the program. In no particular order, have a look at these add-ons for your pupils:
You've created a bullet-pointed list. At the touch of a button you can transform this into a mind map. Useful when you're perhaps writing out character traits - the first bullet point would be the character, followed underneath by their traits. Instantly created rather than messing around for hours with shapes and arrows....
Often you want the children to just write and not spend the first half of the session choosing fonts and colours. However when you do need an additional range of fonts, and you're after something a bit different from 'Lobster', this add-on provides ample choice to refresh your students' writing/typing!
Enables you to add voice feedback easily to your groups. Integrates well with Google Classroom. You'll need to experiment first with this one, maybe with a small group...
So there are millions of images available when you Insert>Image and then use the 'Google Search' tab. And that's half the problem sometimes. Keep things like the 1990s and offer a selection of clipart images. Sometimes less is more. Unless you need something really specific that is...
A useful highlighting tool - provide a story opener for example, and then get your children to select particular features you are looking for - all examples of direct speech could be one possibility. Assign a colour to this feature and then at the click of a button all the highlighted text can be saved as a new document. Also great for peer assessment.
You have a group collaborating on a document. This add-on allows you to see each person's contribution as a percentage of the total. Now there's no excuse and nowhere to hide! It also gives other useful stats including a word count. I know that's available anyway in Docs but still...
To access any of these once installed look at your toolbar as follows: