Sage Advice: Staying Connected to Parents

What's the best way to stay connected with busy parents?

What's the best way to stay connected with busy parents?

Email and school Web portals. Giving parents live online access to student grades, attendance, and assignments has been a great communication booster. They feel involved and can easily email with questions or suggestions. Playing phone tag is over.

Bob Elenbaas

Lake Orion High School
Lake Orion, Michigan

Sharing conferences with other teachers. By having another of a student's teachers with us, parents and students can get updated and teachers can talk about learning styles and behavior issues in more than one class. The group gets a more complete picture of how a student is doing academically and can work together on possible solutions.

Marcie Wombold

Humanities instructor
Aviation High School
Seattle, Washington

I keep a blog called The Principal's Office -- tagline: "Not as bad a place to be as you remember" -- linked from the school's home page. I talk about what's going on in school, upcoming events, school philosophy, adolescent health tips, and so on, while offering discussion forums, an image gallery, a calendar, and, in the near future, a link to an online bookstore.

Norman Maynard

Thornton Friends Upper School
Silver Spring, Maryland

Tell them they and their child control nearly 80 percent of what makes a learner successful; the school contributes only 20 percent. If they want success, they, as well as the school and its teachers, need to be accountable.

Tom King

Adjunct professor of education
University of St. Thomas
Minneapolis, Minnesota

A Web site, of course! But it must be an online portal that contains student work samples, learning objectives for the week and the school year, state standards, online/PDF resources, teacher-communication links, monthly classroom news, and polls and surveys for student and parent feedback.

Miles Roe

Sixth-grade teacher
Mill Creek Elementary School
Doylestown, Pennsylvania

We have established a parent listserv, which we use to send out a "Weekly Message." It is great for last-minute reminders of upcoming events in school as well as in the community.

Mary Miner

Technology coordinator
International Academy
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
extra search terms: 
ddb_parents, parent involvement, working parents
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Mar 2007: Simulation Nation
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Sage Advice

Comments (22)

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Barbara Trevino (not verified)

Resources for communicating with Spanish-speaking parents

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You might want to try The Parent/Teacher Kon-ver-SAY-shun Kit at There are also free resources on that site for educators Pre K-12. Also try Colorin Colorado ( You don't need to know any Spanish to use these resources, nor do you need to do any preparation. Good luck!

Rachelle Briggs (not verified)

Parent Communication

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I think it is very important to have communication with every parent. Every week the students take home a homework sheet that lists the assignment that need to be done everyday. The parents are to sign every night saying that they checked their child's homework. I also send home a weekly behavior sheet that lets the parents know how their child's week went. It seems to work really well for me.

James Moulton (not verified)

Communicating with non-English speaking parents

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Two things technology can do really well are support communication and collaboration and help us to see complex concepts in new ways. So, this calls for thinking about the communication and collaboration piece. Here are some of my favorite tools for helping school-based communication across languages are listed below. Try them all, and ask a native Spanish speaker which does the best job. Also, keep your language relatively simple.

1) Type your message in in English, and ask it to translate from English to, in this case, Spanish. These are getting better and better, but I would also recommend you explaining that you are using a mechanical translator, and there are going to be some mistakes, but the gist will come through...

2) Another, as above. Nice that it has print buttons, etc. built in!

3) Another... Go to the "full text translation" tab.

4) Casa Notes! Now this is a tad off-track, but you have to see the great tool from our friends at - This great tool allows you to build and customize all sorts of common teacher-home communication - in English and Spanish! I love it!

Hope these help - please let us know how it goes.



K.Klinger (not verified)

Communicating with non-English speaking parents

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Dear D.B.,

Hello, one of the techniques we have used before is to ask the student how they think their parents would like to get information about their progress at school. One of the students asked to have a digital photo taken each week that was printed out on a color printer showing him holding his assignments in one hand and announcements in another. It was a way for him to remember to translate the announcements to his parents. He told us that his parents were so proud of the photo that they put it on the refrigerator each week, and they kept the other ones in a notebook to show to other family members who came to visit. Just by asking the student, we came up with a solution that worked very well for him and his family. And I think that he worked a little harder knowing that his letter grades would show up in each photo. Maybe this will work for you too! (It doesn't always have to be a color photo, but it was important to do it in color several times a year around the holidays when the student shared with us that family was due...Warmly, Katie

B. Johnson (not verified)

Communicating with non-English-speaking parents

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Dear D.B.,

I have a couple of suggestion from a programmatic stand point. The effort to reach out to parents is becoming a priority for most schools. Non-Spanish school staff have difficulty relating to and communicating with parents who are non-English speaking. In keeping with the reaching out model--an outgoing teacher or administrator could go into the community to find volunteers that do speak English and Spanish and that would be glad to turn an English document into Spanish. If the number of people who speak Spanish is significant, you might consider hiring a Bilingual community liaison. If you urgently need to communicate with the parents who do not speak English, do not forget that the child most likely speaks both and the child or an older sibling can usually pinch hit and help the parents understand. Parents appreciate the effort to communicate with them, even if it is not perfect.

Good luck!

Ben Johson

D.B. (not verified)

communicating with parents

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In my school's community, families do not have internet access and writing notes or calling is also a challenge. Most of our parents speak only Spanish and some cannot read; therefore, writing a note home or calling means I have to get a translator to help me after school. It's very difficult and some times not successful. I do keep trying though, because it's very important to keep each other up-to-date on their child's progress. I do send home a homework sheet that parents have to sign everyday where they can write questions or concerns (even in Spanish). Any other ideas?

Anonymous (not verified)

Communicating with parents

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I am also a big believer in the importance of parent communication. I have a parent website through (which is paid for by my school)and try to update it as much as possible. I include homework, pictures, announcements, celebrations among the students, and my contact information. I have had several parents tell me that it is very nice to have all needed information at hand, as well as the updates and pictures so they can know what is gong on in the classroom.

Anonymous (not verified)

Communication with parents

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As mentioned in the book On Being A Teacher The Human Dimension, Kottler, Zehm, & Kottler (2005) states "Communicating with parents and guardians is an ongoing activity. Through newsletters, progress reports, notes sent home, Web sites, and e-mails, teachers communicate in writing (p.75).” I believe that teachers’ first connection between home and school should start before open house. I think it is a great idea to send parents a postcard to invite them to come in. It is very important to make parents feel welcome. When it is open house night, I think it is important to have an inviting setting and inviting attitude. Teachers should then mention their expectations of their child and mention how they want parents to be involved, such as volunteering on field trips, coming in to discuss their occupation and do not forget the importance of the communication folder!

J.Rolon (not verified)

Communication with Parents

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This is an area I need to grow in and a lot of the comments here have been helpful. Our school uses an agenda where the students can write in homework for each subject. There is a section for the parent/teacher to sign and make comments. This has been my first year, and I have not used it regularly. Next year I plan to use it regularly for homework assignments. Also, I have a "Tuesday Folder" that goes home with completed tests and work (some of the papers are "misplaced" by students!), and the caregiver needs to sign the folder. This has helped in keeping parents up-to-date on how the students are doing, but I realized that I need to start regularly sending home progress reports. Our district is working on having information like grades available on-line. Our school website is not up-to-date, and I will be looking into how to use it as a soucre of communication but not all families have commuters to access. Thanks for all the great ideas shared here!

C Lee (not verified)

Communicating with parents

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I share with the parents in the beginning of the school year that I will be using a homework assignment sheet every week. I preprint the homework assignments on the front, where parents need to check and sign each night. I initial it if the student didn't complete and/or turn in the assignment(s) the next day. On the other side I have reminders typed such as tests or special events for the week. Also, I have a spot for me to write quick notes and another spot for parents to write quick notes. I collect this every week and keep it on file.

When I send individual notes my students tend to lose it and I'm constantly asking for the note. But with this assignment sheet, all the parents know about it the beginning of the year and so the students are less likely to lose it because both the parents and I ask for it every day.

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