How to Set Up a Classroom Site With WordPress

I am surely opening myself up to ridicule a little for this one, but I have recently had a few people ask me how I created my classroom site. My school purchased a web hosting package from SchoolCenter which is a web-based design software that I hate. It quickly became inadequate for my needs and is becoming inadequate for my colleagues. WordPress to the rescue. I won’t waste time here espousing the greatness of the platform, just know that it is great.

Note: This article is intended for a self-hosted WordPress installation and takes for granted that you already have a web-host and have installed WordPress. If you haven’t, look here.

1. Theme

When setting up a WordPress installation for a classroom website you will be using what is primarily a blogging software as a Content Management System (CMS). Although this is not the platform’s primary purpose it does an excellent job thanks to the amazing community behind it. To that end you need to be careful when selecting a theme for your CMS. I recommend you select a theme that is simple and easy to customize. I use a theme called Atahualpa, which has the most sophisticated customization options of any WordPress theme I have ever seen (and I have been through a lot of themes). This theme will allow you to use 1-3 columns in any page configuration you wish. It also has a built in CSS menu bar and SEO options.

2. Essential Plugins

I employ many plugins for aesthetics and for ease of use on the back-end of the installation, but these are the plugins that I feel are essential for a classroom website.

Contact Form 7. Of course we need a way for parents and students to get in touch with us.You could add a mailto link to your site, but that would launch another program. The more elegant solution is a contact form. Simply put, Contact Form 7 is the most customizable and user friendly contact form plugin there is.

NextGEN Gallery. The most feature rich way to manage all of the images on your site. Set up a slide show, sort by tags, interact with Cooliris, this plugin does it all.

WordPress Download Monitor. You need to have a way to make resources available to your students and to parents. WordPress Download Monitor is the easiest way that I have found to do this. This plugin has an interface that will upload and tag your files for you. It will also count the number of times your file has been downloaded. If you need to have protected files that only registered users can have access to you can set that up with this plugin as well.

WP Events Calendar. The built in calendar widget for WordPress will only post information about your blog articles, not so handy for things like test dates or conferences. WP Events Calendar will let you place any information on the calendar that you want and will also allow you to make a separate calendar page, which is handy for parents and students.

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