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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?

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