Facebook
Edutopia on Facebook
Twitter
Edutopia on Twitter
Google+
Edutopia on Google+
Pinterest
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

We all know how crucial it is that our parents are supportive and involved in their child's education. We understand how important it is that they are aware of what is taking place in your classroom. The more supportive and involved parents are in their child's education, the greater the odds that their child will be successful.

For various reasons in this day and age, it is a difficult task making sure that our parents are involved. So here's the question: how do we keep them in the loop? Following are some tried and true methods I have utilized.

Old School Methods

1. Agenda Books

Every year my principal orders an agenda book for each student. This book serves a dual purpose. The students copy their homework in it, but it's also a great way to write notes to the parent or vice versa. It's a quick way to jot down upcoming events and minor behavioral issues, or to make a parent aware that his or her child had a great day. A happy face in an Agenda book speaks volumes!

2. Flyers

Another simple way is a flyer. This flyer has my contact information and links to important websites. I print it, stick a piece of magnetic tape on the back and send it home. Hopefully, it is placed on the family's refrigerator! (A digital version can also be embedded on a class website.)

3. Test Folders

At the beginning of the year, I have students bring in a folder for the sole purpose of sending tests home. Each time the test folder is sent home, it is accompanied by a checklist. The District Grading Policy and ways to contact me are constant, and the only thing that changes on the checklist is the assessment. This allows the parents the opportunity to view the actual tests and see where their child is successful or struggling. This way, there should be no surprises when the report card is sent home!

4. Phone Calls

A phone call is a simple way to keep parents involved. In this day of emailing, it is easier to shoot off an email than to call. I am guilty of that myself. However, the downside is that written words can be confusing or misinterpreted. Try to make more positive phone calls than negative ones. A parent who feels that every phone call is negative is going to be less involved. I try to make "Fabulous Phone Calls" at least once a week in order to increase positive interactions with my parents. Positive interactions tend to promote parent involvement!

5. Parents in the Classroom

Invite parents into your classroom physically and/or virtually. Ask them to write comments on their child's blog. For years, I've had students write a persuasive letter to their parents asking for a pet. The parents had to respond in writing. That's just one example of assigning projects they can complete as a family. Give the parents a chance to know you and the other students without a desk between you. I've had parents in as guest readers, experts on a particular subject, volunteers and chaperones. Parents love to come in and see their children perform -- I always got a good turnout for Poetry Day. The parents would stay afterwards and enjoy cookies and juice with the class in a no-pressure atmosphere.

New School Methods

1. Class Website

A class website is a fantastic way to provide parents with information. I post homework, an updated Google calendar, study sites, videos, projects, surveys, newsletters and photos -- anything that can be posted or embedded is on our site! Toward the end of this past year, I implemented a wonderful idea from PaulSolarz, a member of my Twitter PLN. It was called, "What Happened in School Today?" My students took a picture of something they found eventful, and then wrote a short blurb describing the event. Hopefully, this opened a dialogue between parents and their children at some point during the week.

2. ClassDojo

ClassDojo is an excellent method to keep parents informed about their child’s behavior, and it's very simple to use. Once the parents are connected, the behavior reports are emailed to them automatically every week. If they don't have access to email, the report can be printed. What a great way to keep parents updated on their child's behavior!

3. Remind101

Remind101 lets you stay in touch with parents via texting. However, no phone numbers are exchanged -- they don't have yours, and you don't need theirs. I've used this for two years, and it works beautifully. You can let your parents know instantly about tests, events and early dismissals. You also have the option of scheduling your messages. You can visit my blog for more about how Remind101 keeps parents in the loop.

Although these are all wonderful ideas, none of them matter if the parent does not take advantage of them. It can be frustrating to incorporate these methods and have only a handful of parents utilize them. But don't give up! For every parent you keep involved, you have a student who has a greater chance at being successful.

What tips -- old school or new -- do you have for encouraging greater parental involvement?

?

Comments (26)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

jhengstler's picture

Initially, KidParent, Mommazoo looked quite promising--but then I dove into the Terms of Service & Privacy Policy--something few educators do, but really need too. Whenever services are provided for free--our personal data & content we generate are the currency that pay for it. We need to really seeing this for what it is--a trade. In Mommazoo's case, I feel that the trade is not equitable.

There are a few things I don't like about Mommazoo's Terms of Service. For example, in 4.1 they reserve the rights to change the provided services without any prior notice to users. Not a great practice. Under 5.1 you have to agree that all registration info is accurate & up to date--precluding the ability to create digital avatars for individuals not comfortable sharing their personal data. In BC, Canada, where I teach, legally we need to provide these types of options for participation.
Especially problematic to me in the Terms of Service is section 11.1 where Mommazoo retains "perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services". This makes me very uncomfortable. In fact in section 11.2, Mommazoo says users agree that the license includes a right for MommaZoo to "make such Content [like documents, text, etc. provided by you the user] available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom MommaZoo has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services".
Scary is provision 14. 2 where Mommazoo does NOT assure that YOUR USE OF THE SERVICES WILL BE...SECURE".

In the Privacy Policy I would really like the section "If MommaZoo becomes involved in a merger, acquisition, or any form of sale of some or all of its assets, we will ensure the confidentiality of any personal information involved in such transactions and provide notice before personal information is transferred and becomes subject to a different privacy policy." to add, In the case that the user elects not to transfer personal data to the 2nd party in the merger, acquisition or any form of sale, such data will be deleted and destroyed prior to the completion of the merger, acquisition, or any form of sale."

Further under the "Information Security" section, there is no provision that Mommazoo will contact users/subscribers in the case of a suspected privacy breach to allow users to take action to protect themselves. This would be quite helpful.
While I realize that business providing "free" services need some type of structure for cost recovery or profit model, I think that it needs to be a more balanced equation.

Given these terms, I would have to say--"Thanks, but no thanks. Get back to me Mommazoo when your terms & policies are a bit more protective of your users."

Lisa Mims's picture
Lisa Mims
5th grade teacher /Education blogger
Blogger 2014

I agree, consistency is important. I make sure to use methods I know I will continue to use year round.

Lisa Mims's picture
Lisa Mims
5th grade teacher /Education blogger
Blogger 2014

You are welcome Kathryn! I always tell my parents that communication is key!

Lisa Mims's picture
Lisa Mims
5th grade teacher /Education blogger
Blogger 2014

Thank you jhengstler, for reminding us how important it is to read the Terms of Service etc, especially where our students are involved!

Catheryne's picture
Catheryne
Parent of 2 elementary school kids

Hi jhengstler,
Thanks for reminding us that we need to revisit our TOS and PP! The good thing is that where user security really matters - in the application itself - is where MommaZoo has been laser focused. If you read all the recent security issues that have plagued a number of apps commonly used in the classroom ("Data Security is a Classroom Worry, Too"[1] and "How Shutterfly and Other Social Sites Leave Your Kids Vulnerable to Hackers"[2]), you'll see that if the developers don't do the right thing, it leaves teachers, students and parents completely vulnerable, regardless of the TOS and PP. MommaZoo's security procedures are documented in "On Security"[3]. We encrypt the database, the transmission (we use SSL throughout the entire MommaZoo application, not just the login), we salt the passwords, we harden our servers, and each group is also passcode protected. Security can never be guaranteed, but we do our darndest to protect our users where it really counts. And yes, now we will make sure our TOS and PP are updated. Thanks again for the reminder!
Links to the above references:
[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/23/business/data-security-is-a-classroom-...
[2] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/05/shutterfly-teamsnap-eteamz-s...
[3] http://blog.mommazoo.com/2012/12/20/on-security/

Tracy Burch's picture
Tracy Burch
1st grade teacher from GA

I enjoyed reading your blog about keeping parents involved. I liked your idea about the test folder. I have heard about ClassDojo and Remind101. I plan on trying them this year. Hopefully they will help to increase parental participation in my class.

Lisa Mims's picture
Lisa Mims
5th grade teacher /Education blogger
Blogger 2014

Thanks Tracy! I figure even if I get one more parent involved, it's worth it for my students!

Lori's picture
Lori
Kindergarten Teacher

Thank you so much for sharing your ideas on how to have more parents involved in the classroom and their child's education. Being a new teacher in a Title I school where parent involvement is a struggle, your article has given me great ideas on how to involve my parents!

LaTonya's picture
LaTonya
Elementary Teacher from Texas

Thanks for the information. This is the first time I have heard of ClassDojo and Remind 101. I plan to look into them and see if they will be something that I can use in my classroom. They sound like great ways to communicate with parents and keep them informed about their student. Has anyone used any of the new school methods and have they helped out with communicating with parents. What are the pros and cons of them.

Catheryne's picture
Catheryne
Parent of 2 elementary school kids

Hi Lisa, I wanted to let you know of our latest release of MommaZoo, a parent engagement app (www.mommazoo.com). We do all this mobile & online: directory, communications, homework, reminders, volunteering, photos. Everything is translated and available on all mobile devices and computers. Did you know that 91% of parents have a mobile phone and smartphone adoption for Hispanic, Asians, and African-Americans is greater than Whites (see Nielsen report http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/newswire/2012/who-owns-smartphones-in-the-u...) ?

To jhengstler: check us out our new site with everything updated, including our new TOS and PP.

Oh and I also updated my profile on Edutopia - I didn't even realize I was anonymous before. Now you can see and know more about me =).

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.