Do you struggle to boost parental involvement in your classroom? Try these five tips…and let us know what works for you!
by Sara Jonckheere
How do you get parents involved in your classroom? That’s the age-old question teachers ask every year. For some schools, parents are naturally involved. Teachers have all the volunteers they could ever need or want. For others, it is a struggle to gain and maintain that partnership, which is so crucial to the success of each student in your classroom.
Each school and population are unique and present challenges when it comes to getting the parents involved. Try these five ways to get past those challenges and boost parental involvement in your classroom.
1. Get to know your students and their families.
Using a survey or questionnaire is a great way to get to know your students as learners and as individuals. However, a survey can be used for much more than that.
Use it as a way to learn more about the parents and family—their hopes and fears for their child, their background, their area of expertise, prayer requests, ways they can support you, and ways you can support them as a family.
Taking the time to get to know each family and their specific needs can do wonders for helping your families feel comfortable and connected with you, which means they’re more likely to be involved.
Send the survey out in multiple formats so parents can fill it out in a way that is most convenient for them. Send home a paper copy for those that want it, and create an online version using Google Forms or a website like Survey Monkey (SurveyMonkey.com) to reach parents who work better digitally.
2. Create unique volunteer opportunities.
I will never forget the year I had a student’s father come in and read to our class. He was noticeably nervous as he sweated and stumbled over the words.
It was a huge “Aha” moment for me that something I did all day long and was second nature to me might not be second nature or even comfortable for others. It was then that I realized the importance of creating a variety of volunteer opportunities so parents could participate in ways that were comfortable for them.
A great way to manage this is to have parents sign up at the beginning of the year, but also host an informational volunteer training meeting. You can describe the volunteer opportunities, show parents where any needed supplies will be kept, and explain your expectations for each volunteer position. That way, when they come into the classroom, they’ll know exactly what to expect and you don’t have to lose any time explaining what you need them to do. Knowing exactly what is expected of them helps alleviate any anxiety for the parents.
Here are some ideas for parent volunteers:
- Classroom helper with small groups of students or one-on-one with a child who could use some support;
- Guest readers to come and share their favorite stories with the class or read something related to the topics you are learning about;
- Career/hobby sharing if it relates to a topic you are covering in class;
- Copy/prep parents that can run copies, laminate, cut things out, organize, and set up activities for you;
- At-home help, such as cutting, stapling, tracing, sorting, and prepping upcoming activities; and
- Supply donor when you need supplies or snacks for upcoming activities.
3. Design a family night.
The possibilities for a family night are endless; this can be done as a whole school initiative or only in your classroom. I found that when I hosted something just for my class, the parents and students liked that they got to be a part of something special for our classroom community.
This is a way for families to come to school at night, spending time together but also having meaningful learning time and conversations. It is also a time for you as the teacher to interact with them in a more informal setting.
Some ideas for a family night:
- Movie night: Show a movie of a book you read in class and have everyone come in their pjs and serve popcorn and snacks.
- Game night: Bring out board games or some of the games your students play in class and let them share those with their parents.
- Make-and-take night: Have the families make something together that they can use at home. This could include math or literacy games (the same ones your students use in your classroom so they already know how to play them). It could also be creating a family prayer box or a family prayer journal that could help them grow in their faith as a family.
- Book club: Pick a book that would be great for your students to read at home with their families. Families could read or listen to the story and then talk about the book, ask questions, make predictions, and do follow-up activities as a family. This could even be done as a family Bible study and would allow each family the chance to dig into Scripture together.
4. Use technology to keep them up-to-date.
Giving parents the opportunity to stay connected to their child and your classroom through a device they most likely carry with them all day is an easy way to keep them involved. Think about some of the things that you normally send home on paper that could be moved to technology, such as newsletters and reminder notes.
5. Share the positive and keep parents in the loop.
Do you ever feel like you only talk to certain parents when there is a concern with their child? I found that some parents feared this negative communication and were less likely to be involved. You can change all that by taking time to share the positive. This is effective for all students, not just the ones that are often a challenge.
When you find a positive—maybe a behavior improvement, an improved test score, an awesome effort, a student exhibiting saintlike behavior in a school setting, a student demonstrating a virtue—make sure to share that with the parents. It can be a phone call home, an email, or a handwritten note. Let those parents know that you noticed how amazing their child is, and they will appreciate your taking the time to share with them.
Sara Jonckheere is an elementary school teacher turned stay-at-home mom. She now creates digital curriculum and resources and shares teaching ideas on her blog, Sara J Creations.