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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Strengthening the Home to School Connection

Strengthening the Home to School Connection

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We all know that children do better in school when parents are actively involved in their education. Parental involvement is one of the biggest predictors of student success. But what does that mean for both parents and teachers? How can they build that bridge between home and school which is so vital?

Edutopia has put together a page of resources, but we also want to hear from you.

Tell us what's worked and hasn't worked in your house or classroom. What are your favorite strategies and resources for strengthening the home-to-school connection?

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Megan Dushin's picture
Megan Dushin
Parent of 2 elementary school students in Roseville, MN

Believe it or not, a simple parent directory early in the school year with full information (parent names, address, phone, and email if possible) is such a powerful tool for parents to help their kids socially! Our school used to print all of this in the directory (tho not email) but now only prints phone numbers. And it comes out in December or January. Small beef I have I'll be bringing to the board hopefully. :)

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.
Facilitator 2014

I've been using twitter and soundcloud hooked to my tumblr school blog. Every year more parents are using twitter to follow my classroom posts. Soundcloud is great for audio posts like spelling lists and songs and explanations on class procedures.

John Bennett's picture
John Bennett
Emeritus Faculty in the School of Engineering / University of Connecticut

Hard to call it a resource as I'm still working to find a community for which I might facilitate an effort. But I'm concerned about those families than cannot, that will not, or do not see the need to engage in their daughter's / son's effective learning efforts. In such cases, reaching out to parents is unlikely to succeed. An alternative that I have been developing and discussing is the Local Education Community or LEC. I was fortunate to be asked by Peter DeWitt to write a guest post for his Education Week blog: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2013/02/local_educa... . I am very interesting in continuing the dialogue with anyone interested.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator 2014

As a mom and an educator (and the wife of an educator) I think it's important to keep in mind that most parents want to be involved in their children's education but between work, lack of access (some parent portals can be a nightmare to navigate), negative past experiences with school plus the needs of multiple children...it can get overwhelming. I'm a fan of getting information out in multiple ways- electronic, print, phone call, etc- and in meeting parents where they are. There are certainly some parents who feel quite comfortable walking into a school building, but there are lots of parents for whom that walk is just too hard because of their own negative school experiences. Wise educators reach out to parents first, find ways to connect with parents outside of school whenever possible, and don't work hard to come from a place of respect and understanding. It's easy to fall into the judgement trap, particularly when families don't look like our own, but judgement gets us nowhere. Most parents are doing the best they can for the kids- keeping that in mind will make authentic community building more effective.

Ray Van Geel's picture

Twitter. Twitter. Twitter. Having a website, google calendar, weekly newsletters, daily planner updates, etc. over the last few years, has not compared to using twitter to connect with parents. This was confirmed for me at this year's "Meet the Teacher" BBQ. I had sent home a note recommending that parents follow the class feed and over a few days a third of my parents became followers. The feedback they gave me at the BBQ was irrefutable; the tweets I was posting about the power of the short sentence lesson or the 13 problem solving strategies we had developed were not only being read, they were being discussed. My students could no longer answer the age old question, "What did you do today?", with "Nothing". I couldn't possibly hope to share the highlights of our daily lessons any other way, and the fact that I was communicating directly to the parents meant that my students didn't have to relay the information. And it is so simple! I tweet the big idea of an important lesson or the fact that we just finished an awesome baseball game and parents are suddenly sharing in our classroom experiences in real time. Granted, not all parents have twitter but two joined to simply to follow the class feed and the positive energy is contagious. The greater affect is that we are educating a population that didn't have twitter when they were in school, the 21st century skills we are trying to teach their children. Consider how much WE all learn through twitter, when we introduce it to parents and students alike, we are encouraging learning far beyond anything I could have imagined. Twitter hasn't bridged home and school, it has made them one and the same.

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

We've been talking in our district about helping teachers to articulate what they want from parents- in other words, let's assume parents want to help, and give them a bunch of ideas or suggestions on how they can help their kids, the more explicit and tangible, the better. Not eveyrone knows having a "homework box" with supplies makes home work time 99% easier at home, so someone suggesting it just might make that home life much more pleasant, for example.
Additionally, we're going to start hosting parent ed sessions a few times a year- talks on things like digital citizenship, tech in schools, etc. to help parents feel they can understand what their kids are learning and help support it at home. For example, some teachers will let kids skype into their classes when they are home sick, others won't, but how many parents know to even ask?
From a parents perspective, i can do better when I know better, and I need more direction on how to be most helpful and supportive. yes, we might not reinforce counting skills at every trip to the grocery store, but if you tell me that it's important, I might be more patient and more willing to have the kids help me when I'm cooking if I know it also supports the math curriculum, for example.
My husband is an OB GYN, and I can tell you for sure, parents get more instructions with a blender than they do for the OS for their children. Not everyone took psych in college, and they need help doing a better job, for their kids and for the teacher- so please, please help them. Even if there are some parents who wont engage, you can at least say you tried, and it will be welcomed by those who really want to do the right thing.

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

Let me add- the services like classroom parrot that allow a teacher to send a text to students and parents as a reminder for things like permission slips, upcoming assignments, etc. has been popular in our district for the teachers who have adopted it.

I would also suggest contacting home with positive news every once in a while- a short email when a kid is making progress, etc. goes a long way to building a positive home-school experience,and break the cycle where parents assume if it's information from school, it's only bad news. That's one of the best things we can do to make home-school communication more productive.

David Markus's picture
David Markus
Former Editorial Director of Edutopia; dad of 4 (3 kids in public school)

There are so many great ways to help your kids learn by improving your connection with the people in their school. The first best one for our family has been to listen. Listen to the teachers about how they want to help your kids learn, and listen to your kids about what's working for them--and what's not. What you hear may not be what you want to hear, or may not even be right for your family (in which case, speak up . . .). But listening first will almost always make you situation better, even when, as has occasionally been my experience, it's hard to do.

Kristen Swanson's picture
Kristen Swanson
Teacher, Leader, Edcamper, Learner
Blogger 2014

I like using "read aloud" Skype to allow parents to come into the classroom each week. It really helps students to practice Speaking and Listening standards in a digital format. It also helps parents feel like they can "drop in" anytime. ;-)

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator 2014

My husband teaches a 1-2 combo and he's had so much great response this year to a request that parents write him a letter about their kid. He's probably had half of them respond, which is excellent considering that he only sent one notice. It's been great for him to be able to start out in a listening stance.

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