Communicating with Parents Throughout the Year
As a kid, I loved getting ready for open house at school and hearing all about it from my mom when she got home. I experienced my first open house from a teacher’s perspective last week and thought it was a great success. Parents loved hearing about what their kids were doing in school, and it was great to connect with the families of the students we spend our days with.
On my drive home, I couldn’t help but think it’s a shame open houses don’t traditionally take place multiple times a year. Typically, the only times parents meet with teachers after open house is when something is wrong. Regular in-person updates might be unrealistic for working parents and busy teachers, but there are good ways to keep families updated as the year goes on.
Weekly teacher email
One easy way to touch base with all your students’ families is to send a weekly or monthly email update. Email allows you to send pictures along with your updates, and gives parents an opportunity to respond easily with any questions. Sitting down to summarize a week or a month in school can be time-consuming, but you can break it up by typing a little at the end of each day or week into a working draft.
Collaborative classroom newsletter
One of the first teachers I observed during my field experience collaborated with her students on a weekly, printed newsletter. Every Friday during morning snack, she’d project a Word template on the board that had spaces for every subject they studied, one for important reminders, and one for non-subject specific activities. The students would discuss what they did during the week while they snacked, and the teacher would type the information into the template.
This kind of newsletter is effective because it makes students take responsibility for sharing what they do in school with their parents. It’s also a great way for a teacher to assess student understanding and interest. If students aren’t able to effectively summarize what they learned that week, it’s a good sign they do not fully understand the concepts.
Build a classroom website or blog
For those who are a bit more technologically savvy, a classroom website or blog is a fantastic way to keep parents informed about what’s going on in class. On top of posting regular updates, a website or blog allows you to easily share images from the classroom. Just be sure not to post any pictures showing students if you do not have parental permission.
Through a website or blog, you can also link to other websites you think might be beneficial for parents. For example, you might suggest a website with tips for parents helping students with their homework or link to a store having a sale on books you think your students might enjoy. Students can also get involved as guest bloggers. It’s a great way to practice writing and computer skills.
Letters to home
I’ve noticed that many teachers have students write letters home to their families about their first few weeks at school. Why not keep it up throughout the year as a weekly or monthly task? Letter writing is an important life skill that students typically learn but have few opportunities to practice. At the end of the year, parents can compare the letters and see how their children have progressed in spelling, punctuation, grammar, and handwriting.
Lisandra I. Flynn spent 2012 to 2014 working toward a master’s degree in elementary education while working full time as an editor. After seven years in publishing, she recently transitioned from corporate life to student teach fifth grade in an elementary school. Flynn shares her journey from the office to the classroom and offers insight and advice to those seeking their own career change.