Parents can be the missing link for any teacher who is searching for ways to improve the curriculum and strengthen students' success. Likewise, a teacher who includes parents as active and valuable resources in the classroom can be the missing link for parents who would like to get involved in their child's education but need concrete support.
As a first grade teacher of students who are products of a two-income household, the days of classroom volunteers who arrive to help on a regular basis are long gone. Here are some ways that I have discovered to open up my classroom to parents, and create positive partnerships:
•Send home DVDs of their child so parents can get the "feel" of their child as a student. For example, you could set up a camera on a tripod and read a birthday-themed book to students on their birthdays, or chat with students and have the class sing "Happy Birthday.” Other great opportunities to record would be Readers' Theater and "Author's Chair" performances. Field Day, special assemblies and other activities that occur only during the school day present a wealth of opportunities for video or photographs. Imagine how touched your parents will feel when you share something special about their child…something most parents never have a chance to see.
•Move classroom parties to the evening hour, but keep the time brief to honor parents’ schedules. For the holidays next year, try offering an evening party with simple refreshments. You can make a quick project such as this cute family conversation jar. Have the class read some poems, sing holiday songs— and you have a sweet and memorable party that engages parents within 45 minutes, tops!
•Send home regular invitations for parents to come in as “guest readers” to read a holiday story or to answer questions (created ahead of time) about their holiday traditions for a social studies unit; the tasks they perform on their jobs for a social studies unit; or to help with "busy" lessons such as mixing liquids for science experiments or cutting fruit into fractions for math. Here is a great how-to for fraction fruit from a wonderful Canadian site.
•Send home questionnaires for parents to answer in writing, and then read those answers in class. Topics can be anything from an interview about their reading experiences as an early reader, to questions about their favorite invention in the kitchen, or their favorite outdoor activity. Be creative! Children love to hear what adults like to do…it can be inspirational.
•Use Skype™ to read poems or writing projects to parents and grandparents; for older children, use Facebook for interactive conversations.
When used wisely, establishing positive partnerships with parents can help free your time for teaching, and allow you to achieve the goals you have set for your class. It may take a little more planning on the front end, but the dividends are well worth your time.
For other ideas that are well worth your time, download this free classroom management guide to maximize your productivity in the classroom. Make it a New Year’s resolution!
Betty Carlisle is 22-year teacher, and serves as a Mentor in the Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching Program. She is a First Grade Teacher in Medina, Ohio; National Board Certified, 2000; 2010.