November 2015 | Volume 57 | Number 11
Seeing Beyond the Glass Half-Full
Seeing Beyond the Glass Half-Full
Road Tested / Supercharge Parent Communication
Throughout my doctoral studies and work as an instructional coach, my observations have exposed me to a variety of best practices. One key to student success is the partnership between schools and families. Technology, I've observed, is a quick and often easy way to strengthen this connection. From apps that allow teachers to provide parents with reminders to blogs where students share projects and schoolwork with parents, the potential for engagement is limitless.
Keep parents up-to-date on homework and events. Websites like Remind, a free and secure messaging tool, let teachers create an account, set up a class, and send text messages to parents and students about school and classroom information. For example, a teacher might send parents a reminder that a project is due on Friday and then send another reminder that there is an art night at the school on Wednesday evening.
Give parents a window into the classroom. Elementary teachers can provide parents with a glimpse of what's going on in class by having students share what they are learning through electronic family message journals. In the 2014 anthology Using Technology to Enhance Writing: Innovative Approaches to Literacy Instruction, Victoria Seeger and Robin Johnson wrote a chapter explaining how it works: Students compose the first e-mail, and then parents respond and ask questions to help expand on the student's writing and to learn more about the student's day. This creates a dialogue that also promotes family literacy.
Seeger and Johnson recommend that teachers first discuss the process with students and their families. This includes modeling sample journal entries and outlining expectations. If parents do not speak English, use Google Translate to write an e-mail in the parent's native language. If a family lacks Internet access at home, take the low-tech approach by using notebooks that travel back and forth between the school and home.
Share student progress. Classroom websites and blogs not only enhance communication with parents but also provide an easy way to share student work. Edublogs is one of many platforms where teachers can post content ranging from pictures of projects that students are working on to videos of student presentations. Students can take an active role by commenting on teacher websites or creating their own blogs. Letting students be the reporters is an authentic way to promote the connection between the school and home. Platforms such as Kidblog allow teachers to moderate student blogs and comments.
Help tame the homework beast. Many times, when parents help children with homework at night, they hear the dreaded, "That's not how my teacher did it!" To alleviate this issue, teachers can use technology to record their teaching. They might simply use a mobile phone to record a lesson and post it to a YouTube channel that parents can access, or they can use screencasting apps like Educreations or whiteboard apps like ShowMe and Explain Everything to record their lessons and create video tutorials. Parents can watch these videos at their convenience, and students can use them to review lessons.
Communication is key for establishing the partnership between schools and families, but it has grown far beyond newsletters and written notes sent home. Teachers can embrace technology to give families new insight into their child's school day and help them feel like they are a welcome part of the classroom.