Most parents want to be supportive participants in their children's classes, but they want the classroom teacher to provide opportunities to be involved.
Teachers who involve parents in their class activities will find that they have increased parent support at home, because parents have a deeper understanding of what their children are experiencing in the classroom. According to researchers Kathleen Cotton and Karen Reed Wikelund, "the more intensively parents are involved in their children's learning, the more beneficial are the achievement effects. This holds true for all types of parent involvement in children's learning and for all types and ages of students." Even as students get older, teachers can find meaningful ways for parents to be involved in their classes.
Parents of Upper-Grade Children
In early elementary, parent volunteers are eager and plentiful. As students get older, parents often become less involved. Perhaps they have younger children in other classes, perhaps their children are less enthusiastic about seeing their parents at school, and perhaps schools offer fewer opportunities to be involved in school. Teachers can create a parent community in upper-grades by reaching parents in new ways and involving them in the classroom on different levels.
Depending on a tween to bring home letters to parents is risky if the child is reluctant to have his or her parents in the classroom. Mailing newsletters, updating classroom websites, and using email lists are excellent ways to "eliminate the middleman" and reach parents directly. Due to budget restrictions, some districts may be reluctant to have mass mailouts, but teachers can often include newsletters with grade-check mailouts or other school handouts.
Many schools have webspace available for teachers, but if that is not an option, there are free internet resources for teachers. Many of the blog-hosting sites are free, and a blog is an easy way to update parents on classroom needs and opportunities. Blogger.com and Wordpress.com are free, popular, and easy to use. For a more comprehensive page, education World also offers a list of free websites that allow teachers to create homepages for their classrooms.
Beyond Field Trips and Class Parties
Putting all these well-intentioned parents to use is easy with a little brainstorming. Many parents enjoy helping with classroom displays, decorating desks, creating bulletin boards, and hanging up work samples and student art. This gives them a chance to be in the classroom and enjoy the atmosphere without having to be in charge of any children. Parents also like coming up and reading with students, guest speaking, and helping make class run more smoothly. If teachers are playing games to prepare for a big test, parents can come help monitor activities and be leaders. Teachers can also depend on parents to help judge classroom contests, be an audience for students presentations, and take pictures of classroom activities in action.
Everyone wins when parents increase involvement in the classroom. Students who see their parents and teachers working together and feeling supported will realize that classrooms are communities that extend beyond school boundaries.
Originally posted Suite101 on September 4th, 2008
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Ally Sharp is a teacher, writer and editor, and technology trainer.