Not long ago, web design was limited to computer science professionals, using code and expensive software. A comprehensive class website for sharing work, communicating with families, and connecting students was far from reality.
Today, we, as teachers, have myriad web design tools at our fingertips, which are easy to use (commonly called WYSIWYG Editors - What You See is What You Get) and cheap, if not free. I'm sharing my experience with Google Sites, which is how I have built all of my class websites. Google Sites can be used by anyone, for no cost. All you need is an email address to use as your login. You will be able to access this tool even if your school does not use any of Google's services.
You'll need a Google account to get started. You can make one with a current Gmail address, or with any email address. I use my school email address for my class websites, so I can keep my personal and work email accounts separate. Once you've logged in, get started with site design by choosing a template. The most simple is the blank template, which gives you blank slate to design, decorate, and organize in your own way. This is a great choice if you're looking for a no-frills, basic look.
Google also offers a Classroom site template, which has many options teachers might like. Whichever template you choose, remember that you can add or delete any features you'd like to personalize it. You can also choose a theme, which dictates the background patterns, fonts, and color scheme for your site. Again, these range from simple and basic to complex patterns and striking colors. In this initial registration, you'll also name your site. The name should be a general name for your site: Mrs. Smith's Class, Central School 5S, or Mrs. Smith's Superstars. Think of a name your students will recognize and is not specific to one particular project or event.
Once you've gone through the initial setup, you can create the website that best serves your class. Start by thinking about what resources you want to provide in your website. You can add a calendar and include important dates, as well as sync it with the school-wide calendar. You can show pictures (check your school's policy on posting student photos) of your class, projects, or events. Use an announcement page to share upcoming events or describe projects. Upload worksheets, rubrics, or sample assignments so your students can access them in or out of class.
Don't let your hard work go to waste! Make sure students, families, and other contacts are accessing your class website. First, link your classroom page up to the school's home page (you might need to work with your technology or administration to set this up). Then, show your students the website in class. Use it as your home base when working on computers in school, providing links, assignments, or information for projects. Include the URL in your newsletters, on letters home, and at family events. Ask families to set up an RSS feed to subscribe to instant updates.