Old School or New School, Keep Parents Involved | Edutopia
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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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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. Remind

Remind 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 Remind 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

ballout clement's picture

Lisa I enjoyed your blog, I believe ClassDojo can be a great help for me as well as the parents of my students. what methods do you pick as your go to method?

Lisa M.'s picture
Lisa M.
Teacher, Blogger - "Diary of a Public School Teacher", Global Collaborator

Hey Lori, you are welcome! Glad I could help!

Lisa M.'s picture
Lisa M.
Teacher, Blogger - "Diary of a Public School Teacher", Global Collaborator

Hey laTonya, hope Classdojo and Remind101 are working out for you.I don't think there are any cons with Remind101, The only con with ClassDojo, I think, is if you let it be the end all and be all of classroom management.

Lisa M.'s picture
Lisa M.
Teacher, Blogger - "Diary of a Public School Teacher", Global Collaborator

I enjoy using Classdojo.

Tiffany DuVal's picture

Hey Everyone,
I had never heard of Remind101, ClassDojo, or MommaZoo before. All sound like wonderful resources to test out! As Catheryne stated that MommaZoo worked great for her, jhengstler seemed to have a few reservations about the terms of use. I was wondering if anyone has had any problems first hand with any of these resources?

Lisa's picture
Lisa
4th grade

Hi! I use ClassDojo and MommaZoo. I love them both. ClassDojo helps parents understand more clearly how their child behaves in class, and really helps my students' parents support positive behavior choices! MommaZoo is like Facebook for school - I can keep in touch with parents and students, send out messages without having to type out all the email addresses, share photos of class work (without names, of course!), and more. It's very secure and easy to use. I know some teachers who use it instead of a class website because it's so user-friendly, and all ready for you to use. I recommend it to all of my teacher friends!

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

There's another new information/communcation platform I like- Class Messenger- we're going to try it out for a bit and kick the wheels.
As much as possible, especially in Middle School and high school, it's easier for parents if the grade level chooses one or two tools to use rather than every teacher using a separate tool- that just causes confusion and many different accounts- and ultimately, disengagement. I would urge you to talk to other teachers in your building and see what they like so you all can try using a similar platform, whatever it is :)

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program

The only thing I don't love about ClassDojo is that there can be an element of public shaming it it's not used carefully.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I agree, Laura- we have to be careful how much competitiveness we inject into the classroom- some kids thrive on trying to outdo each other, and some just shut down and decide they're hopeless cases, and that can led to some pretty ugly acting out. (The old adage negative attention is better than non attention at all....)

Kids do a pretty good job at establishing social norms and hierarchies, and as teachers, our jobs are, in part, to make everyone feel cared for and important in the classroom- even - especially- those kids who may be the less well liked. Those are usually the kids most desperate for a little positive, realistic reinforcement and encouragement.

Paige's picture

Providing parents with access to the curriculum is another way to keep them involved. I recommend schools or districts look into purchasing mapping software, such as A Balanced Curriculum, in order to provide full disclosure of the written curriculum. Using A Balanced Curriculum, teachers can design units with significant tasks aligned to Common Core Standards. A Balanced Curriculum ensures that all students have equal access to an aligned curriculum and, when implemented with fidelity, ensures that all students have similar prerequisite skills. This online format will allow teachers to access curriculum from home without carrying binders for each subject area. It will also ensure that special education and English as a Second Language teachers have access to the curriculum and can make the necessary modifications to lessons and properly plan when co-teaching lessons. Most importantly, parents can access the curriculum from any computer or smart phone, as well, allowing them to stay more engaged in their child's education and extend the learning beyond the school walls.

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