Parent Involvement: Ideas for a Brand New Year
NOTE: This blog was updated in August 2019
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 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.
Parents can play an important role in the learning process by providing outside knowledge of their child and reinforcing concepts, rules, and classroom expectations at home. When parents are involved in their children’s education, children may exhibit less disruptive behavior and thrive academically, while parents and teachers can work together to address rising problems sooner rather than later.
Parental involvement is a top priority for teachers, but it can be tough. As the new school year kicks off, consider these tips for encouraging parents to get involved in school and what’s happening in your classroom.
Set Expectations For Parent Involvement
Give Clear Instructions
One of the roadblocks to getting parents involved in school is that they aren’t sure where to start. In your first few communications with parents, let them know how often and under what circumstances you’d like their help. Don’t be afraid to give parents a clear list of what you need from them. Could you use help grading papers? Practicing spelling words? Working one-on-one with math flashcards? The more specific you are, the more likely you’ll find a willing—and eager—parent ready to jump in.
Take Advantage of Back-To-School Night
This may be your first opportunity to introduce yourself to all your parents and discuss the school year ahead. Be sure that your parent presentation includes your contact information and your policy for replying (e.g. do you reply throughout the day or only after hours?). Sincerely encourage parents to contact you with questions and concerns throughout the year.
Additionally, give parents information about how you manage your classroom and what their children will be working on throughout the year. Topics can include:
- The daily class schedule and the way your students will learn different subjects (e.g. small groups, one-on-one lessons, independent work).
- Expectations and end-of-the-year goals (e.g. reach guided reading level H or master adding and subtracting to 20).
- Where students in your grade level usually struggle (this will help ease parents’ minds).
- Classroom rules and how you handle issues with behavior.
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 what hidden resources you might find. 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.
Plan for Ongoing Communication
Everyone is engaged and committed when the new school year begins, but momentum can dwindle as time goes on. Your parent involvement ideas will be more successful if you keep up a plan of ongoing teacher/parent communication.
Use Cyberspace Wisely
Keep parents informed about what’s happening in your classroom with a web page devoted to your class, a blog, or regular emails. You can’t personally talk to every parent every week, so use virtual communication to keep everyone on the same page.
- Share pictures or videos from daily lessons and permanently display housekeeping items (e.g. schedule of specials, homework policy) on a class website.
- Use a weekly email to highlight the topics being covered in each subject, tests scheduled for that week, and other important news parents should know.
- Keep a list of upcoming volunteer opportunities, either in your classroom or school building, along with any clearances or checks that volunteers need to complete beforehand. Use an online scheduling program to help things run smoothly (e.g. SignUpGenius).
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 can also include a printed version of your weekly email, to accommodate any families that don’t have reliable internet access. This sends the message that learning doesn’t stop once a child leaves the classroom.
Give Parents Extra Support
It’s easy for parents to feel a little lost in their child’s world. So much has changed since they were in their child’s place—“new” math, cyberbullying, and mobile devices in the classroom, to name a few. Parents can easily feel unsure or that they lack the tools and skills to become involved in their child’s education.
Empowering parents to be part of the conversation can be an integral part of your parent involvement plan. 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. Guides such as these are perfect components for a parent resource center in your classroom.
Parental resources are available to guide parents at any grade level.
- For parents of students who are just entering school, share information on getting ready for math or getting ready to read.
- As students get older, parents will appreciate information on helping with homework assignments, being a study partner for tests, and preparing for Common Core assessments.
- It can be a real eye-opener for parents when they begin to truly understand the social issues their child is going through, such as bullying, body issues, and challenges with social media.
Browse our entire Parent Guide series and find resources for parents on topics ranging from stress and anxiety to homework tips, internet safety, and Common Core standards.