When you think of a child’s success in the classroom, think of a triangle. Three parts complete the shape: the student, the teacher, and the parent.
Parent involvement outside the classroom is just as influential on a child’s performance in school as a teacher’s guidance. All the parts work together to create a positive learning environment for a student.
According to a study by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, a nonprofit education research organization, students with involved parents are more likely to earn higher grades and test scores, attend school regularly, have stronger social skills, and go on to post-secondary education.
When teachers develop strong connections with students, they begin to understand what makes a student tick and how to best serve their educational needs. Parents can play an important role in this process, providing outside knowledge of their child, and reinforcing concepts, rules, and classroom expectations at home.
Lucky for you, there are easy ways to promote parent involvement in your classroom, and they don’t have to break the bank. Involved parents not only help their students succeed, but they also provide you with an extra set of hands—for free!
As the new school year kicks off, consider these tips for encouraging parents to get involved with what’s happening in your classroom.
Set expectations up front
There is a delicate balance between having parents who want to help and parents who are overly involved. It doesn’t benefit anyone, including the child if the parents are a burden to the teacher. In your first few communications with parents, let them know how often and under what circumstances you’d like their help. Make it clear if “dropping in” is okay or if you’d prefer parents to schedule times to help.
Give clear instructions
One of the roadblocks to parent involvement is simply a matter of letting parents know how they can help. Many parents would like to get involved with their child’s class, but they aren’t sure where to start. Give parents a clear list of what you need. Could you use help grading papers? Practicing spelling words? Working one-on-one with flashcards? The more specific you are, the more likely you’ll find a willing—and eager—parent ready to jump in.
Give parents extra support
When it comes to parent involvement, expectations and opportunities vary greatly, depending on the classroom grade level. While parents may be involved directly in the classroom at the elementary level, they may provide more support from home as the child reaches high school. For tips on helping parents learn how they can best support their student, check out our parent involvement guides. They make a great resource to hand out to parents and they’re budget-friendly too, at just $2.95 each. Guides such as these are perfect components for a parent resource center in your classroom.
Use cyberspace wisely
Keep parents informed about what’s happening in your classroom with a web page devoted to your class, with a blog, or with regular emails. A homework hotline can be particularly helpful for parents who need a little support while navigating through current standards. Make sure you keep your web page or blog updated with current curriculum topics, project deadlines, upcoming special events, and more. You can’t personally talk to every parent every week, so use virtual communication to keep everyone on the same page.
Use your village
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and that’s certainly true in your classroom. Parents have a wealth of knowledge on topics that may be outside of your comfort zone. Early in the year, send out a questionnaire asking if parents would be willing to give presentations or demonstrations about their particular skill set. Who knows? When you’re teaching that unit on rocks, having a geologist give a hands-on lesson may be just what you need to make the topic come to life for your students.
Don’t overlook low-tech
While virtual communication helps busy parents stay connected with your classroom, remember the benefits of paper, too. Send home weekly folders containing student work, so parents can see firsthand how their child is performing, and consider adding worksheets or booklets that families can complete together. You’ll be sending the message that learning doesn’t stop once a child leaves the classroom.
Be considerate of parent schedules
Remember, there are many ways to encourage parent involvement in your classroom. Some parents can come in regularly to help in your classroom, but for others, this isn’t an option. Consider compiling a list of ways parents can help from home—from donating specific items for your classroom to contributing treats for a celebration, cutting out lamination, or stapling packets.