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Keeping Parents Involved at Home

Lately I've been thinking a lot about how to get parents more involved in the learning that happens at school.

In my board, more and more over the years we have been discouraged from sending home work that is to be assessed.  There has also been a major reduction in homework in general - homework is not something to be assigned for the sake of giving homework - if work is sent home, it is usually something the student didn't complete during class time.  

Now, don't get me wrong - as a parent of three, it's lovely having that home time free of homework most nights.  My kids are quite busy with their extra curricular activities, and we do read nightly at home (along with other learning rich activities).  But, as a teacher, I have noticed an increasing disconnection with parents involved in their students' learning.  Yes, they support the school, and are kept aware of activities and the learning we are doing through newsletters, phone calls, or apps like Remind 101, but they just don't have the same opportunities to get involved in the learning - to actually SEE the learning their students are doing until after the fact when the completed and assessed work is sent home.

I asked my followers on my Facebook Page how they keep parents involved in the learning, and they (as always) had some great suggestions to share.  
  • Send parents links to websites or apps to support students' learning (update regularly to match classroom work).  You can even make your own videos to send home (showme app) (Katie)
  • Have a "Secret Reader".  Parents sign up for a time once a month or so to come in and read to the class, and then do a craft.  It's so neat to have the kids figure out who the reader is using clues from the parent, and it's also pretty amazing to see which book/craft the parent picks.  (Christina)
  • Have a classroom blog or website where the students chat about what they are learning and invite the parents to ask questions and make comments.  Some of the more reluctant students really blossom when their blog post gets comments.  (Carol-Anne)  
  • After class assemblies (twice a year), parents are invited into the class afterwards to take part in topic-related activities with their child for the morning.  (Holly)
  • Use a twitter account that the students post to about their learning for the day (with parent permission first). (Karen)
  • Monthly parent meetings on different school topics.  (Amy)
  • Show parents a minilesson during conferences or on parent night.  (Kathleen)
  • Have students create youtube videos to share with parents.  (Meredith)
  • Challenge students and parents to "beat the teacher score" on online math game websites.  (Alan)
  • Send home Friday folders with all the completed and graded work for the week.  (Stephanie)
  • Family Math nights once a month - have centers and games with food and music.  (Katie)
  • Instead of traditional math homework, send home math games which parents need to play with their children to complete the required homework.  (Ellen)
  • Send home half-sheets for parents of each of the standards or expectations in math.  It has the "I can" statements and example problems on one side, and then the answers and any notes/explanations/steps on the other.  (Eildh)
  • Have a parent discussion question each week that students write in their planner.  During the week, they discussed it with their parent, wrote the response, and parents signed the planner.  (Krista)
  • Send home weekly reflection sheets that the kids write about themselves, their behaviour, and their work.  (Kathleen)
  • Have leadership nights where students share their data notebooks and goals.  (Laura)
  • Have a science kit with fun experience that goes home with a student to complete with a parent.  (Laurie)
  • Setting up online challenges through the class website.  (Marci)
  • Weekly homework sheet that has a current math concept, mini reading log, and quick reading piece with short questions to answer.  Parent participation was encouraged.  It kept parents in the loop and gave students practice with current work.  (Kathy)
  • Phys ed portfolio that is sent home with a family fitness challenge.  (Melissa)
  • Pose a question on the classblog about something learned each week.  Parents check the student responses before they post ... that way they learn about something we learned, and help their children with spelling and grammar.  (Kristen)
  • Send home math extension menu activities and get parents to try them out, too.  You can then have the parents do a reflective note back to the teacher about the experience.  (Melissa)
  • When preparing for tests, have the students teach their parents a lesson/skill from the unit.  The parents write to the teacher, telling what they learned ... and they get to brag about their child as a teacher.  (Lisa)
  • Through the shutterfly blog, you can take pictures of students actually completing the work, and parents can order the pics right through the site.  (Jen)
  • In the Friday journal, there are 3 specific questions about the learning from the week.  Students choose 1 of the questions and write a letter to their parents explaining what they learned.  Parents are supposed to write a short letter back to their child.  (Jennifer)
Thinking about this particular topic led me to create my Math by the Month resource.  Once a month, the corresponding math sheet / poster could be sent home for students to complete with their parents.  To encourage completion, students could be given a small reward, coupon, or entry into a monthly draw if sheets are returned by a certain date.  The posters also include the answers, where applicable (some of the questions are open-ended, or depend on the number of students in the class or number of members in the family).  A parent reflection checklist is also included for the parents to complete alongside the student (if desired).  You can take a peek at this resource by clicking HERE.  Be sure to download the free preview (I have included a free poster for you to try out in your classroom). :)

If you have any other ideas about keeping parents involved with the learning at home, I'd love for you to leave them in a comment below.  :)

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing these ideas--lots of good ones in there! A few years ago I started using dialogue journals with the parents. I send it home on Fridays with anecdotes about our week specific to their child. Johnny wrote the best answer to the journal prompt or Rachel is reading 30 words per minute now. They can also ask their questions. Only about a third of the parents respond regularly, but I feel like I have a better connection with them.

    Not Just Child's Play

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  2. Wow, lots of great ideas! At my old district, we had to give homework every night. I taught first grade and I would have parents comment that they felt like they knew what their child was learning in class. I made my own page. I would include math skill, grammar skills, ect...just a few problems of each. I would also include skills from the previous week or skills that the children struggled with. I worked at a very low income school and I think the homework was very beneficial to most of my kids.
    Kelly
    I'm Not Your Grandpa, I'm Your Teacher

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  3. Lots of great ideas! Always enjoy reading your posts. Staying in touch with parents sometimes feels a bit one sided, but I always try to remember they might take in more than I know about, so I should keep on keeping up with communications! I've been both sides; parent & teacher, it helps to remember both perspectives.

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  4. Thank you for sharing. So many great ideas! The social media ones would be particularly good to incorporate into high schools.

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  5. I do a monthly Math Night, in which the students and I teach the parents a math strategy we've recently learned or used in class. This is particularly helpful for new education strategies, like Singapore math, that the parents didn't learn growing up and don't really understand. It does take extra time, but it helps both of us!
    I also have a Parent Student Book Club every couple of months. I offer two choices of books, usually one easier and one harder, and the parent and student each read it (some do it together, and some read separately). Then I host the Book Club one afternoon after school, bring treats, and the parents and students discuss the book all together. It's nice for the parents to see all the post-it note-taking their child does while reading, and all the great discussion & comprehension skills we've been developing in class. I also like to choose really meaningful books that will open up value-based conversations at home between parent and child. This has been a favorite of parents!

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  6. Ack! New site, it's gorgeous. Even if I feel a bit lost, like when they reorganize the library. It's familiar but funky.

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