MAT Blog

School Circle: A Free App to Help Strengthen Parent Partnerships

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 5, 2014 2:36:55 PM

Schooowl-badgel Circle may be the answer to one of our biggest “teacherly” conundrums: simplifying communication and solidifying relationships with our students’ parents. Here’s how School Circle works:

After creating your free account, you can send out invites to parents and use your dashboard to visibly track who accepted your invitation. If parents’ email addresses change or stop working, you’ll know it because School Circle will send you a notification. With this complete, you now have the ability to send messages, set up events, and share photos and documents with anyone in your “circle.” Pretty cool, huh?

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Tags: parents, parent partnerships, Parent Engagement

Enhance parent partnerships and capture your students in action

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 20, 2013 11:27:00 AM

parent partnershipsThis morning we came across keepy, a new app that allows users to capture photos and audio bits, catalogue them in their “digital keepsake box,” and share them with others. We thought this tool would be particularly useful for teachers, especially those who want to enhance parent partnerships.  

After you’ve taken a photo of your students' work or captured them in an audio snippet, you can share these artifacts with parents through email, Facebook, and Twitter. What makes keepy super cool is that you can edit all of your keepies directly inside the application.  

In addition to these features, the keepy catalogue system allows you to add your students’ names, location and the date your keepy was created. When you’re done, parents can "fan" your catalogue so they can see all your keepies and leave video comments on them.

Pretty cool, huh?


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Tags: parents, parent partnerships, apps for educators, Best Apps for Educators, Parent Engagement

6 ways to take the groan out of Back to School Night

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 25, 2013 2:27:00 PM

back to school nightImagine: You’ve had a long and exhausting day at work; you fight traffic, pick up your spouse, and skip dinner so that you can make it to Back to School Night on time. Sure, you’d like to meet your son’s new teacher, but something tells you that you are in for a bad case of déjà vu. Will you review the glorious intricacies of state standards, review the syllabus? Groan. Snooze. Gack. 

Indeed, many of these activities are a necessary part of Back to School Night, but we want to help you add a little flare, a little moxie, a little panache to your first encounter with parents. Thanks to Stella Erbes’s book, What Teachers Should Know but Textbooks Don’t Show, we’ve got six ways to help you take the groan out of back to school night.

6 ways to take the groan out of Back to School Night

  • Food always makes everything a little bit better. Provide a small basket of mints or snacks for parents as they walk into your classroom. It’s a simple gesture that shows hospitality.
  • Play music as parents enter and leave the classroom. This will help alleviate moments of awkward silence and create an inviting atmosphere.
  • Provide several sign-in sheets—and rotate them throughout the room—so that parents don’t bottleneck at the door.
  • Spending time on rules and procedures is a given. But don’t forget to include the students in your presentation. Provide visuals of the students working or showcase some of their work. This will help remind parents that everything you’re doing is for the students.
  • Do you need parents to chip in with classroom supplies? Instead of passing around another sign-up sheet, try writing different items on Post-it notes and sticking them to wall so parents can take a note home with them.
  • Do something visual. Do you have pictures of your students in action? Have you been updating your classroom blog? Show it off.

These gestures may seem small, but you’d be surprised how they’ll distinguish your presentation from so many others on Back to School Night.


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Tags: parents, parent partnerships, parent teacher conference tips, back to school night

Building a Partnership: 5 Parent-Teacher Conference Tips

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Mar 6, 2013 9:36:00 AM

parent teacher conference tips

Researchers continue to underscore what common sense has always told us: Parental involvement (or lack of) impacts student success. Since spring parent-teacher conferences are approaching—what better a time to build parent-teacher partnerships?—we thought we’d offer 5 parent-teacher conference tips to make your meetings as painless and productive as possible.

Building a Partnership: 5 Parent-Teacher Conference Tips

Discuss progress and growth
Always start by highlighting the student’s successes—and remember that they can succeed in ways that transcend books and GPA. How does the student interact with peers? Has the student demonstrated leadership qualities? What do you (and his or her peers) appreciate about the student? How has the student grown over the last eight months? Use specific examples when you can.

In addition to this, make sure that parents understand the learning goals and have access to data that identifies areas in which the student could improve.  

Ask questions
We may have spent the last eight months with our students, but parents have spent far longer with them—which means they know more about them than we ever will. Use parent-teacher conferences as an opportunity to listen and learn.

  • What is the student like at home?
  • How does she learn best?
  • Do the parents have specific hopes and dreams for her?
  • Does the student have aspirations that you might not know about?
  • What did the student like about her last teacher? What didn’t she like?
  • What learning strategies did this teacher use that worked well for the student?

Collaborate to find solutions
Parents know who is in charge, even if they don’t always agree with the way you run your classroom. Avoid telling parents what “they” should do. Instead, emphasize how “we” can collaborate to help the student improve and remain open to their suggestions.

Design a plan of action
Spend the last few minutes of your parent-teacher conference designing a plan of action with clear objectives. Write it down so that both you and the parents have a copy.

Stay in touch
Once you’ve created a plan of action, use it as a point of reference in progress reports and future meetings. And once a student has met or exceeded goals, continue to refine the plan. You don’t necessarily need to meet face to face to do this: Instead, try using Voxie Pro, an app that allows you to record CD-quality voice recordings on your phone and email them directly to the parents. To learn more about this, check out one of our recent blogs, Going Paperless: Podcasting Your Students’ Progress Reports.


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Tags: parents, parent partnerships, parent teacher conference tips, Parent Engagement

Parent Partnerships: Are you managing challenging parents gracefully?

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Feb 13, 2013 9:57:00 AM

Parent PartnershipsWhen was the last time you heard someone say, “And where were the parents?” or “What’s going on with parents these days?” There’s no doubt that social mores have shifted over the years, but ultimately parents today, just like parents 50, 60, even 150 years ago, still want the same thing: They want what’s best for their child.

That being said, we’ve all encountered “challenging” parents—and that’s never going to change—so here are a few tips, courtesy of educational leadership experts Todd Whitaker and Douglas J. Fiore,  to help you create parent partnerships and navigate these relationships with grace and poise.

Parent Partnerships: Are you managing challenging parents gracefully?

You don’t have to prove who is in charge
Who are the most effective teachers at your school? Think about this for a second. Chances are that these teachers share a common characteristic: They don’t feel the need to prove who is in charge. Now picture some of the less-effective teachers you may know or even have had as a student. How often do/did they feel the need to assert their authority? Constantly, right? And the more these teachers asserted their authority, the more students resisted it, yes? This idea applies to how you work with parents, too.

Resist the urge to be right. Likewise, resist the urge to be sarcastic or patronizing and most important, resist the urge to prove who is in charge. Parents already know you are in charge of your classroom and it won’t work in your favor to remind them. Instead, listen, model appropriate behavior and remember something: You may have different ideas as to how to achieve it, but they want what’s best for their child just like you do.

Allow parents to hiss—not bite
In their book, Dealing with Difficult Parents, Todd Whitaker and Douglas J. Fiore recount an old Bengali tale about a cobra who used to bite passersby as they made their way to the village temple. As time went by, more and more people were struck by the snake; eventually, people became so fearful that they stopped going to the temple altogether. When the master of the temple heard this, he used a mantra to put the snake into a state of submission. Then he spoke to the snake and made it promise never again to bite the people who walked along the path.

The snake kept his promise and life went on as usual. But it wasn’t long before the snake was being taunted and drug around on its face by mischievous boys. When the master of the temple heard this, he visited the snake and found him bleeding and nearly in tears…all because, the snake said, he had kept his promise to the master. After hearing this, the master replied, “I told you not to bite, but I didn’t tell you not to hiss.”

Here’s the moral of the story: Parents who lash out, yell or insult us are “biting”—and we should always make it clear that abusive behavior is intolerable. However, we must know the difference between “biting” and “hissing.” When parents “hiss,” they are simply questioning the way we do things—and they are perfectly entitled to do so. Drop your defenses and listen. If you can distinguish between a “hiss” and a “bite,” and if you don’t feel the need to prove who is in charge, you should have no trouble keeping your head up and making your way to the temple as usual.

If you’re looking for a few more ideas for nurturing relationships with challenging parents, we recommend that you check out two of our other blogs, Parent-Community Education Programs Impact Student Achievement and Create parent partnerships by using 5 of the best apps for educators.


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Tags: parents, parent partnerships, Parent Engagement

Create parent partnerships by using 5 of the best apps for educators

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 27, 2012 2:40:00 PM

There is a lot of information out there about technology for teachers and their classrooms: the best apps for educators, the best apps for students, the best fill-in-the-blank app. But in a world where most parents work full-time and teachers bemoan the lack of parent involvement, technology can provide a virtual platform where teachers, parents, and students remain more connected.

5 of the best apps for educators—and parents

  1. Weebly Websites. While the idea of creating a website may seem daunting, the infinite benefits will be well worth your time. Weebly makes web creation super simple. Parents will love having one place they can go to access that week's homework assignments, classroom announcements, or to print the permission slip their child forgot to bring home. The more you use the website, the less work you'll have to do over time, and pretty soon it will be a smooth operation. Use your website to post interesting videos, informational snippets, and other factoids you might not have time for in class.

  2. Google Docs. We consider Google Docs to be one of the best apps for educators and parents. Almost any document can be digitally translated into a Google Doc. If you’re tired of hearing parents exclaim, "I never got that form,” Google Docs allows teachers to store handouts in a public online forum, where parents can check in daily/weekly if they feel their student's backpack is a little light. Once students are able to use computers to generate their own work, (e.g. write papers), have them use Google Docs; they’ll always have access to documents from school and have the option of printing them at home.

  3. Ediscio Online Flashcards. Some things never change - and when we say "some things," we mean flashcards. When it comes to rote memorization, flashcards are a parent and student's best friend. Ediscio Online Flashcards are a prime example of technology for teachers, students, and parents. You can begin creating as an in-school assignment to teach kids how to use the program. Then send the letter home (via Google Docs!) so parents can continue to build a flashcard repertoire with their student. An added bonus to using Ediscio study flashcards is that students can borrow and share flashcards within the Ediscio online community.

  4. Snag Films. Another fun app for educators and parents. With this one, you get to show award-winning documentaries in your classroom FOR FREE without ordering, returning, borrowing, or finagling film access. Students were absent on film day? They can watch it at home using Snag Films. Get parents involved by assigning a Movie-a-Month assignment so families and children can watch an assigned educational film together, and offer credit for a post-movie free-write assignment signed by the parents. Parents can even comment on your new Weebly website. Concerned parents can easily screen a movie before they decide if their student can watch it or not. Plus, the wide variety of available films makes Snag Films a cross curriculum technology for teachers.

  5. Twitter. Ever wonder what on earth you would have to Tweet about? Now you know - your classroom observations, students' work, upcoming assignment due dates, a list of that day's absent students, or the Star(s) of the Day. Twitter says, "Find out what's happening, right now, with the care about." A teacher-run Twitter feed can help parents have a better idea of what their kids are doing all day. Don't have any homework tonight? Busted - your teacher Tweets differently.

Parent-oriented technology for teachers will help you, and your parents, feel more connected to your students' academic success.


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Tags: parents, parent partnerships, apps for educators

Link up and share your favorite read-alouds for older children!

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Dec 3, 2011 10:21:00 AM

Post your favorite read-alouds.It’s pretty easy to find a good book for an early reader—there are tons of them. But finding a great book to read aloud to an older child is a far more difficult task. Some believe that it could be one reason why reading interest can wane for children; the selection is not as great…at least not yet. Additionally, parents tend to stop reading aloud to their children when they begin to exhibit competence in reading. Let’s reverse the trend!  

We want to know what books you have found to be interesting and absorbing reading in your classroom for upper elementary and beyond. This compilation can be printed out and sent home or e-mailed to parents, for some great last-minute holiday gift ideas.

Please join in and add a link to a post about your favorite read-alouds.
Note: for the link-up to work properly, you’ll need to ensure the following:

  1. The link you submit needs to link back to your specific post for this link-up, not your general blog URL.
  2. Link back to this post using a permalink in your post. That’s it!

We’ll start things off with a list from our Marygrove MAT Academic Director, Dr. Diane Brown.

From my shelf to yours. Some of my all-time favorites.

While children's literature dates back centuries, in the 1980s and 90s The Boomers demanded more books aimed at children as children, rather than children as miniature adults.  With the 1997 publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the market for children's literature literally exploded. 

Although we don't tell the children, one of the major purposes for children's literature is to teach society's values:  Be polite, help those less fortunate, be honest, sometimes you have to experience a small amount of pain for a big gain, sometimes you have to sacrifice for a friend, we are all different and that is a good thing -- these are the underlying "lessons" in children's literature which are not taught through more popular channels, like social media. 

Here are some books which do a great job of teaching these values. While these can be independent reading for Grades 4-6, even Third-graders will appreciate the stories. 

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick. - You can make your own decisions. You can rise above a difficult family problem.   

A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet) by Madeleine L'Engle  - even though he's your brother, he's worth saving

Power of Un by Nancy Etchemendy - mistakes can be corrected, but there is a cost

The King in the Window by Adam Gopnik and Omar Rayyan - bravery only gets you so far - you have to use your brains, too, to solve the really difficult problems

Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry  - facing an incredibly dangerous experience requires preparation to ensure success

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate Dicamillo and Timothy B. Ering  - Actions have unintended consequences (this one has the bonus that you can use it to teach multi-layered plot structure)

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum  - true friends make a difficult journey possible

The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King  (this is not a horror book - he wrote it for his sons) - Patience - Little tiny bits of progress add up, over time, to amazing results

My Side of the Mountain (Puffin Modern Classics) by Jean Craighead George - (before Gary Paulson wrote Hatchett, this was THE “becoming a man” novel) - courage is really just facing your fear and doing what you are afraid of, despite your fears.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach and Russell Munson - pursuing a passion might make you look weird, but it is worth it.

Have a joyous holiday season of reading,

Diane S. Brown, Ph.D.
Academic Director, Marygrove MAT


Tags: parents, last-minute reading gifts, book suggestions, book lists, book lists for teachers, read alouds

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