5 Tips for Engaging Parents to Help Close Learning Gaps
While learning gaps occur at all grade levels in all kinds of situations, one thing that remains constant is that parents want their children to succeed in school. Finding ways to engage parents, so that they can help close those learning gaps, is vital to each student’s learning success. Parents who partner with teachers can help close those gaps and, ultimately, create a positive learning environment for students.
Parental engagement is doubly important in the wake of the pivot to distance or blended learning that took place toward the end of this past school year, when parents had to step in and play more of a co-teaching role in their students’ lives. As we ramp up for the 2020-21 school year, teachers should look to help engage parents so that they are more confident in their ability to help their child learn and narrow the anticipated learning gaps.
Engage Parents in Closing Learning Gaps by Communicating Early
In order to get parents involved in their student’s learning, it helps to reach out to them early in the school year. One middle school teacher sends a letter home to parents at the beginning of the year. This opens the lines of communication between parents and teacher where they can write to her and talk about the student, while also giving parents a chance to share their child’s learning experiences, both positive and negative. While building relationships with students is vital to a successful school year, building relationships with parents will help ensure that learning can take place at home.
Another positive of communicating early is that parents will be aware of their student’s learning gaps. If a parent doesn’t know their child is struggling in a particular area, it’s more difficult to help them at home. So be open and honest with parents about their student’s learning within the classroom.
Host a “How-To” Night to Equip Parents to Participate in Blended Learning
As children grow, the content that they are learning becomes more complex, and parents may not always know how to help their children with homework. Additionally, with more and more teaching and learning taking place remotely, parents may not be up to speed on the emergent technology that enables that education. Hosting a “How-To” Night can be a great way to help parents feel like they know what is going on in their child’s classroom as well as helping their child at home. Teachers can host a night by subject or by grade, and parents could come learn more about the learning process that is taking place in class. They could learn how the teachers are teaching math or grammar or learn about major topics in history or foreign language classes, or these discussions can cover blended learning topics like digital literacy and citizenship. These nights or sessions can even be done digitally through Zoom, Google Meet, or even YouTube. This is also a great way to make personal connections between parents and teachers as well as give parents the confidence to help their children with homework.
Keep Parents Informed and Engaged in Blended Learning Over Social Media
With everyone’s phones in hand, social media is a great way to connect with parents. Teachers can share information about what is going on in the classroom, but they can also share helpful tips for learning at home. Teachers can also share tutorials for how to complete homework assignments. A math teacher can share how to work through a problem, or an English teacher can share how to diagram a sentence. Parents can view these tutorials and help their student at home.
Another great way to use social media for learning is to have family nights via Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Teachers can create family-oriented activities that have learning skills embedded in them for families to complete at home. Parents can share pictures and videos via whichever social media is chosen to share their progress with each activity. This will encourage families to learn together and show students that learning can be fun while supporting the community and helping to close learning gaps.
Positive Reinforcement isn’t Just for Students. Provide Parents Need Feedback, Too
While parents want their children to learn and succeed, it can be hard for them to know if their efforts are paying off at home. Giving feedback to parents is essential to closing the learning gaps but also keeping parents on board with their own efforts. Giving informative assessments that show parents where students are performing is one way to show growth. Teachers can also give pre and post assessments to show learning. For those students who are learning in a virtual setting, showing parents how to assess learning growth is also important. Teachers can give feedback on assignments via video, email or letters home. This is a big one: keep parents in the loop of how their child is learning and progressing.
Celebrate the Success
As teachers, we love to celebrate when students succeed, but we should also get parents involved in these celebrations. Consider sending a note to share student successes with parents. It’s also great to honor student successes with parents and the students themselves. I like to send postcards to the students through snail mail to celebrate them, compliment them, and let them know I see them and care about them. It also shows their parents that I want them to succeed, and it is more likely to get parents involved in those successful moments.