Parent Involvement

Hi All!  Just wondering what you all do to help get parents involved...

Parent involvement is so important!  I know we have all read that it can not only lead to improved student behavior, but it also helps to increase attendance, and even more, research shows that it can help overall student achievement.  So in my book it's very important to reach out to parents, communicate with them, and find ways to get them involved.  Sometimes for me this can be a little overwhelming or disappointing depending on how I perceive parent responses, but I know it is important and therefore I will continue to encourage involvement in many ways.  I like to remind myself that parent involvement means to find ways to encourage all parents to be actively involved in their child's education.  For me this goes beyond just asking parents to volunteer to help at the school book fair, but really means providing ways for them to become partners in their child's learning.  So here are a few ideas beyond the traditional classroom volunteers that I have used to help get parents involved.

1.  Class Newsletter... Keep those Parents Informed:  I know this is a common communication tool but I really think it is so important.   It helps communicate with parents what is currently going on and upcoming.  I have always sent home a weekly newsletter and although it is more work to do on a weekly basis instead of monthly, it allows for me to really keep my parents up to date without having to send home additional mini notes here and there.  I began placing these in student folders and encouraged parents to read these by including an "initial here" spot/ questions.  This allowed for me to identify who was reading the newsletter and also address questions it may have generated.  * Remember to think about the best way to send these: e-mail, print, or both? 

2. Table Talk... Encourage at home Communication:  When I taught kindergarten my director brought up the idea of having nightly table talk journals.  I had never heard of this but quickly fell in love with the concept!  Nightly table talk consists of a question or small activity that parents complete with their students each night.  For kindergartners I would pre-type the table talk points in regards to our weekly plans.  This idea encourages families to talk with their child about their day and helps to generate more of a discussion than just the "how was your day" question and "fine" response.

3. Family Projects... Get Everyone Involved:  I have posted previously about family projects but again this is just another way to help get the family involved in a child's learning.  Here's an example of my October Family Project.

4. Open Door Policy... Let them know you are available to Communicate with:  In the past I have made it a point to include an open door policy for one morning and one afternoon each week.  This may sound crazy but by letting parents know that they were welcome to come at these times without pre-setting a time it opened up communication lines and let parents know that they are welcome and that I see them as partners in their child's education.

5. Positive Calls Home... Focus on the Good: When most parents receive a call from the teacher their first reaction is "oh no, what did _____ do."  So change that!  Why not make positive phone calls home.  This helps encourage positive parent involvement where parents praise and encourage their student to keep up the good work.

6. Family Learning Nights... Give parents the Tools:  Hosting family learning nights is an awesome way to get parents involved.  It allows for teachers to model how they are teaching concepts and promotes parents to do the same at home.  Give parents the "how to" and watch what happens :)

7. Parent Notes... Let them know it's working:  If I have a student who is having behavior or academic challenges I will always have a conversation with parents as soon as possible.  Right away we set out goals and discuss ways that we can help their child succeed.  Parent notes are sent to parents.  These are quick notes where I might jot down "your extra time working with ____ on math facts is really helping, thank you!"  These little notes let parents know that I appreciate their help in this partnership.

8. Class Survey... Don't be afraid of feedback:  Have you ever sent home a survey simply asking how things are going?  Maybe include questions about how parents feel communication is, what they think of homework etc.  This may seem scary, but in reality if you send out surveys every once and awhile you'll get feedback and will know how things are going instead of wondering.  It's a great way to get parent input and reflect on what's really going on.  I'm a big believer that any and all feedback is good, it all depends how you take it and what you do with it.

These 8 ideas are just a small sampling of how I encourage parent involvement and communication in my classroom.  How do you?   Leave a comment and let me know! :)

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