We’re excited to welcome Kristin Jason to Minds in Bloom today! One of the biggest questions teachers ask is in reference to generating parent involvement in their classrooms. Kristin’s sharing several ideas on how to do this in her guest post, so read on and enjoy!
Hello teachers! Although it still feels like summer outside, the school year is right around the corner! What are your goals for this coming year? One of my most important goals every year is to build a strong teacher-parent-student team. I’m a third grade teacher, and this will be my 14th year teaching. I’ve learned that parent involvement and support is essential. Many new teachers may be nervous about reaching out and building that bond to get more parent involvement, and it can be difficult! Here are some of my best tips from my experience.
On the first day of school (or before the year starts, if your school allows!), send a letter home with the students introducing yourself, giving some generic background information about you and your class expectations. I like to include the number of years I’ve been teaching, my degrees and the schools I graduated from, and the fact that I’m a wife and mom with two young sons. I find that giving parents a little bit of information about you (not too much!) will help them feel connected. I also tell the major goals I have for the students this year, like building their reading ability and learning strategies to become stronger readers, mastering multiplication and division, as well as fractions, and writing and publishing stories. I mention my social goals, as well, like making new friends and learning to accept and respond to views that are different from their own. There are some great sample letters online, but writing your own letter in your own voice is important. If you do use a sample letter, make sure to change the wording. I’ve actually seen multiple teachers use the same letter, and if a parent has read that letter before, it will then seem impersonal rather than helpful.
A very important tip is to make sure your first contact with parents about their child is a positive one! This will help them feel comfortable with you, and as a result, they’ll be much more likely to feel comfortable coming into your classroom. During the first two weeks, send a short note or email home about something special the child did or said during the week. Class Dojo is a great way for quick and easy communication with parents. You can send messages and post general information like class parties, news, and updates on the class page without giving out your personal phone number or information. Another bonus is that all communications are recorded, in case you need a record or verification of attempts to contact parents to show your administrator if problems arise.
Back to school night is a wonderful way to meet parents and talk about your plan for the school year. Keep it positive, and don’t have conferences about a child that night! If a parent wants to talk about his or her child, then set up a meeting for a later date. I give parents a quick overview of each subject area and the expectations for what students should master this year, and we discuss field trips, class parties, and projects. I also let parents know of any upcoming dates for trips, parent project days, and class parties. If they don’t have enough time to prepare, then parents may have trouble taking off from work or finding a family member who would like to attend, like Grandma or Uncle Bob. Finally, you may want to discuss parents signing up for a once-a-week time to spend 45 minutes in the classroom running a math center for fact mastery.
Let’s talk about that math center idea! If your school allows for parent visits during class time, it’s a wonderful idea to ask parents to sign up for a once-a-week slot to come in and do flash card fact practice with your students. Many schools have a volunteer form, which I have available on back to school night. If each student’s family member signs up for a time slot, you have a great fact review center. Parents are usually thrilled to sign up or to ask Grandma to help out, and it is an easy way to get them into the classroom with an activity that anyone can do. Flash cards are great for fact mastery, and students can rotate through the center in small groups. If you want parents in for reading, then you can have them do task cards, like these free Oceans of Fun fact and opinion task cards. Family-led centers are a great way for parents to see how you are working toward classroom goals.
Another way to promote parent involvement is to have project days. Instead of having students do dioramas or poster projects at home, invite parents into the classroom to make the project with the students! You can do habitat dioramas for science, where students use craft materials like construction paper, felt, plastic animals, fake snow, etc. to represent an ecosystem, if that ties into your curriculum. You can build a diorama to show a scene from a book as part of a book report, or make a poster or a comic strip for the report. For social studies, students can make a poster or a diorama to represent a historical event, such as the first Thanksgiving, a battle, or a presidential, speech like the Gettysburg Address. I usually send home a note about one month before the date telling parents about the project day and requesting supplies, like a shoe box or poster board, plastic figures, felt, stickers, etc. I’ve found that parents love to come in for these days, and the time that parents and students spend together is priceless! If a student doesn’t have a family member to come in, then you can invite a special person in school, like a guidance counselor, or some parents are willing to help their own child plus other students, too. I love helping, and I always get involved in the projects, too. These days are some of my favorite school days of the year.
Are you looking for a fun and festive way to invite families into your class during the holiday season? Class parties are fun, but it is great to have activities that involve parents and build learning. A “Holidays around the World” celebration is a perfect activity for building family involvement or a cross-curricular culminating activity for a holiday unit during December. I like to run my “Holidays around the World” celebration in centers. Some parents may sign up to run a center, but I like to set the centers up to be successful if the students are there without a guide, too. Before sending students and their family members to the centers, I give a quick overview of the activities. You can have them play dreidel for Hanukkah, make a Christmas ornament or craft, weave a construction paper Kwanzaa mat, or sculpt a clay candle holder for Diwali.
I hope these ideas help you to get your classroom parents involved and feel comfortable in your classroom! I wish everyone a very happy and successful school year!
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