By Joanna Douglas
I spent 16 years in third and fourth grade. While I loved the independence of those students and their ability to tackle most tasks, I missed my time in kindergarten. So when one of our kindergarten teachers retired, I begged to be moved. Then I started to panic. I began scouring the Internet for ideas about how to connect with my kindergarten parents. What could I do to make them feel a part of their child’s school day, and alleviate some of their worries? That’s when I discovered Seesaw.
Seesaw is a growing and ever-changing company that provides a digital portfolio for students, a strong communication tool for parents, and an activity library chock full of grade-level appropriate activities that can be done at centers, during technology time, or any other learning time of the day. There is an app for Android and iPhone users as well as an app for teachers, making it easy to access over the course of the day.
The first thing that I decided to use Seesaw for was to document each kindergarten student’s weekly progress. I used the video feature to record them reading their high-frequency words. I used the photo and voice record to document their stories from Writer’s Workshop. I also used the message center to send out group and individual messages to my students’ families. In the beginning stages the hardest part of Seesaw was figuring out a time, at least once a week, when I would use the program. Now, in my fourth year, it has become part of my classroom, and the times when I use it happen organically.
Seesaw has been the key to success in my classroom. I connect each of my student’s parents to their own child’s portfolio via an individual email at kindergarten orientation. They simply scan a QR code and are connected to their child’s journal. It is confidential. No one outside of the family is able to see the students’ work. Once connected, they receive a notification each time their child has a new item in their portfolio or if I have sent a message. Parents have the option to receive that notification by text or by email. They then login and view the items. At this point, they can add a text or voice comment to the item or reply to a message from me. I make it a habit of reading parents comments aloud to their children as the comments come in. They light up when they hear what their parents have to say.
Seesaw also has a bank of activities that teachers can assign to a select group of students or to the entire class. There are activities for each grade level, categorized by subject matter. Ambassadors, which are Seesaw users who have received additional training in the app, can create their own activities and submit them to the activity bank at any time.
The activity that I love the most for my kindergarten students is the one with four boxes, focusing on a high-frequency word for the week. The students must record themselves reading the word, write the word with the drawing tool, circle the words when they are mixed with other words, and lastly, drag the letters of the word into the correct order using the label feature.
I asked a few of my parents to tell me their thoughts on Seesaw, and they were excited to share.
“Seesaw is an amazing app that connects teachers, students and parents!” one parent said. “It allows you to see your child’s progress and all of the fun activities on a daily basis. I love getting an alert because then I am part of my daughter’s day.”
“Seesaw is the epitome of the home and school connection,” a parent who is also an educator said. “It gives a meaningful window into the everyday school life and successes that are going on within the classroom.”
Another parent’s statement summed it up perfectly.
“Seesaw allows working parents to be continuously connected with our child’s teacher and progress,” the parent wrote. “I love that we can even make comments so our children can see that we are proud of them.”
The app has a free version, but there is a paid version available to schools based on a per student dollar amount. My school started off on the free version, and then purchased the school version for pre-kindergarten through fourth grade in our school.
No matter what age, parents truly enjoy getting a glimpse into their children’s day. I strongly recommend using Seesaw in your classroom. It helps to strengthen the school to home connection, and it uses technology in a strategically successful way.
Joanna Douglas is the president of the Point Pleasant Beach Education Association and a kindergarten teacher at Antrim Elementary School in Point Pleasant Beach. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.