It’s no secret that getting parents involved and informed is hard. You have all the basics covered, communicating in a convenient way for parents, maybe even using automated translation to overcome language barriers, offering times to meet or schedule a phone call, but unfortunately all too often we hear that these efforts can fall flat for a large number of the families.
There is no better time than now to lay the foundation that will continue to pay off all year long, improving parent engagement, but even that might not be enough. Don’t worry! You are not alone. At ClassTag, we casted a wide net to collect the most creative ideas that have been tested by teachers across the country and proven effective to improve parent engagement. Read on!
1. Introduce yourself with a personal video
“In August when I get my class list I like to reach out to families before school starts. I sent home postcards to families with a QR code that went to a video of me saying hi and introducing myself.
As a bonus for the kids I read a fun back to school story! I got so much great feedback from parents saying this made their student more excited for the school year, and I still have old students coming back to me asking if I still do that for my class.” – Amanda Arevalo, teacher in Boise, Idaho
2. Co-create with parents and students
“At openhouse which is probably the only time I see my students’ parents, I shared a word cloud made on things my students require from me and their parents to feel successful academically, but also feel supported. This word cloud was made by student responses. On open house night, I had parents respond to mentimeter so I could make a word cloud to share with students. The prompts on www.mentimeter.com were words of encouragement and advice. After open house, I make posters of word clouds to hang in my classroom to remind kids of parents’ well wishes throughout the year. I get kids to respond to stuff on mentimeter and share these thoughts with parents throughout the year. This keeps us all connected and parents are aware of their kids are doing and feeling and allows all of us to be responsive to each other.” – Mary Rose Joseph, teacher in Katonah, New York
“I’ve had parents do “I Can,” notebooks with me and their student.
It’s a journal that I prepare for the student. I write all positive “I Can,” moments I notice throughout the day. The child brings it home and shares with their parent/guardian. The parent/guardian then writes the positive “I Can,” things the child does at home. The student brings it back to school and shares it with me. Kids loved seeing the parent responses to their work.” – Jessica Jablonske, teacher in Kaukauna, Wisconsin
3. Turn students into journalists
“Every week, my students collaborate on a newsletter using Google Classroom and Google Docs.
The kids write about what we’ve been learning in class and the finished newsletter is sent home to parents at the end of the week.” – Christina Curlett, teacher in Collingswood, New Jersey
4. Make your students ‘Famous’
“This past school year was my ninth year of teaching and my first not distributing a paper newsletter to my parents. I used ClassTag to post a novel study trivia each week. To access the trivia, they had to visit my ClassTag and complete a challenge or question.
The students would then be recognized with a photo or treat. My students were motivated each day to become ‘ClassTag Famous’ for their parents to see. ClassTag has eliminated the stale, wasteful, outdated practice of classroom newsletters and brought my teaching into the 21st Century.” – Jennifer Ingram, teacher in Weedville, Pennsylvania
5. Give ESL parents resources to succeed
“All of my students are English Language Learners, primarily with the first language of Spanish. I have 50 students I work with, so that is a lot of families to communicate with! The past several years I have I been building a Spanish/English take Home library to increase literacy involvement at home and parent engagement.
Many of the my students’ parents do not read English so they are unable to help with homework, especially reading homework. After launching the library I had many students, even as old as fourth grade say that was the first time they had ever read with their parents. It brought a tear to my eye! The past year I have also been able to find some bilingual math games to encourage math support at home “as well.” – Katie Meisner, teacher in De Pere, Wisconsin
6. Use technology to keep open lines of communication
“I have taught for 27 years. It is amazing to think of how communicating with parents has changed. I remember handwriting newsletters like it was yesterday.
Today I Tweet and use tools like ClassTag. In the past we used Remind and ClassDojo, but my team has decided that ClassTag better meets our needs. It is wonderful to be able to share a special moment about a student with a parent through the simple gesture of sending a message. I am grateful for these resources such as Class Tag because it keeps the line of communication between parents and their child’s teacher stronger. Even though I remember the days of handwriting letters to parents, I embrace new and innovated ways to communicate.” – Monica Higgins, teacher in Jefferson City, Missouri
7. Go from same old conference to a creatively flipped one
“I held a parent-teacher conference, but instead of me talking about their child they walked in and found another student sitting at my desk and holding the conference. What a surprise! I wanted the parents to hear how THEIR child has impacted other children, their friends, throughout the year. The students spoke about their child’s personality specifically, examples of how kind or caring they are, a favorite memory with their child, how they stood up to a bully for them, etc. This “conference” brought so much joy to the parents, and let me tell you tears were streaming! Not only did it allow the parents to feel proud of their child, but it also allowed another student to practice their writing and presentation skills, while also practicing their heart skills!” – Nicole Nuske, teacher in Kilmarnock, Virginia
8. Keep your message front and center 😯
“I type an important message on a sticker and the kids wear it on their shirt home. Your communication cannot be missed!” – Sara Matzdorf, teacher in Brillion, Wisconsin
9. Bring parent community together
“Our amazing school hosted an Escape Night that had a great effect on our school community. Teachers and staff conducted the escape challenges within their classrooms where families were challenged to try and be the quickest to “escape.”
In order to do so, families were given various tasks and problems that they needed to solve in order to get the correct combination code to a lock. It was the most amazing turnout that our building has seen in the 10 years I have taught there! Parents, students and staff all had a ball!” – Kelly Kiser, teacher in Post Falls, Idaho
10. Go the extra mile to show you care
“I attend my students’ extracurricular activities to meet parents in a “neutral” environment. This includes athletic events, music and theater productions. Parents know I care about their child because I am taking free time to support them and that starts the relationship on a positive note. Then the parent feels more comfortable asking questions in the future. The student also responds positively for two reasons: they know I care and they know I have a quick way to get in contact with their parent at the next event.” – Ashley C Miller, teacher in Spencer, North Carolina
If you don’t have yet an effective foundation for communicating with families, explore ClassTag’s free communication platform that will not only help you reach all families in their preferred channel (SMS, email and even paper flyers), but also save you valuable time on all the followups and reminders including volunteer signups, parent teacher conferences and even automated newsletters. Sign up today -> ClassTag.com