As schools and families adjust to the new normal of learning and education, home-school communication is more vital than ever. Effective communication should:

  • Be clear, concise and free of jargon.
  • Be timely.
  • Provide for both personal and general messages.
  • Emphasize the positive.
  • Inform and remind parents about school policies and procedures.
  • Provide information on students’ progress.
  • Suggest strategies parents can use to support learning at home.

 

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Engage parents to strengthen social and emotional learning

Helping students develop social and emotional skills leads to higher academic performance, improved peer relationships and deeper connections to school. Here are four ways schools can engage families in social-emotional learning:

  1. Get to know students’ families. Gather information on family composition, concerns, special skills, experiences, etc. This knowledge can help teachers forge stronger relationships with families.
  2. Ask families to set goals for their children. What types of social and emotional skills would they like their children to develop? What support might they need?
  3. Form a committee made up of educators, parents and community members to oversee SEL program development, implementation and evaluation.
  4. Plan on-going initiatives. Host virtual workshops for parents. Include articles in your newsletter and on social media.

did-you-know  Did You Know?

“Researchers at Columbia University concluded that for every dollar a school spends on social-emotional learning programs, it sees an eleven dollar return on its investment.”

EdSurge

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It’s more important than ever to embrace the digital tools that help schools stay connected with students and their families. You may not be able to see parents face-to-face, but you can connect with them digitally to foster their engagement and boost student achievement. Here are a few ideas:

  • Use social media to keep parents informed about school events and news. Use popular channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Google Plus. In your posts, include a link that will take parents to your school website.
  • Include content on your school website outlining ways parents can support student learning.
  • Post videos of teachers providing guidance on how parents can help with certain assignments.
  • Use online conferencing tools to meet with parents when face-to-face meetings aren’t possible.

 

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Five ways to overcome language barriers

Communication with families who have limited English proficiency can be challenging. To promote two-way communication:

  1. Get to know the families. Learn their stories. Be respectful of situations at home.
  2. Provide information about the American school system. Parents who were educated in other countries might be unfamiliar with U.S. education concepts.
  3. Recruit other families at your school to act as mentors for newcomers. If possible, match up families who speak the same native language.
  4. Translate materials sent home or posted on your website.
  5. Use interpreters during meetings. If you do not have a bilingual parent liaison on staff, ask for volunteers from the community.

did-you-know  Did You Know?

According to new research published by the American Psychological Association, prospective teachers appear more likely to misperceive Black children as angry than white children, which may undermine the education of Black youth. This is the first study to show how anger bias based on race may extend to teachers and Black elementary and middle-school children.

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Sometimes family problems get in the way of students’ academic engagement. Make sure teachers, counselors and the rest of your staff have access to a list of community agencies and resources to share with parents. Include contact information for:

  • Family services. These include children’s services, domestic violence and abuse help, food and other assistance, foster care, homeless shelters and social services.
  • Career support services. These agencies may provide assistance in finding a job or childcare.
  • Health services. This includes emergency medical services, nutrition and support groups.
  • Court services. Families might not know where the court is or how the system works.
  • Mental health and substance abuse services. These usually include treatment and counseling facilities.
  • Transportation services. Families might be unaware of bus, train or other transportation options in your community.

 

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Strengthen home-school relationships

The beginning of the school year is an opportunity for a fresh start with parents. These tips can help you establish and maintain successful home-school relationships:

  1. Make your first contact with parents a positive one.
  2. Be straightforward when communicating with parents and avoid educational jargon.
  3. Provide parents with simple information about how to support learning.
  4. Ask parents to share their concerns and ideas—and address them in a timely manner.
  5. Provide accommodations for language and cultural differences.

did-you-know  Did You Know?

Research published in the School Psychology Quarterly shows that teacher ratings of parental involvement early in a student’s academic career can accurately predict the student’s academic and social success. It also shows that teacher training programs can help improve the quantity and quality of teacher-parent interactions.

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Promoting literacy is one of the most important things you can do to help students achieve in every content area. Literacy partners can provide funding, volunteer tutors and resources for literacy programs and events. Consider asking the following agencies for help:

  • A local college or university
  • Boys and Girls Clubs
  • Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
  • Corporate sponsors
  • Junior League
  • Reading is Fundamental
  • YMCA
  • Your local library

 

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Issue a reading challenge to students

Want to encourage students to read more nonfiction? Consider issuing a challenge. One school challenged their 650 students to read 1,500 biographies between September and February. Through an arrangement with the local public library, the school library stocked up on biographies. To do this at your school, issue students a challenge. Then:

  • Decide how students will share what they read. Younger students might read a sentence or two they have written on a card. Older students could create video presentations about their books.
  • Involve parents. Encourage parents of young children to read biographies to them. Parents of older kids can discuss the books with them.
  • Celebrate success. At the end of the challenge, highlight students’ accomplishments on your social media platforms. Host a virtual award ceremony for students and their families.http://www.niswc.com/SACF_library

did-you-know  Did You Know?

The Haskins Global Literacy Hub has launched a new Resource Library for parents and educators. It is a compilation of links to free, high-quality content that promotes literacy for children and teens with different levels of reading proficiency. Check it out at niswc.com/SACF_library.

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Many parents who have taken an active role in their children’s education in elementary school seem to “drop out” when their children move into the middle grades. Yet parent engagement is just as important for students to succeed at this level. Middle school students with involved parents:

  • Earn higher grades and score higher on tests.
  • Enroll in higher-level classes.
  • Pass their classes and move on to the next grade level.
  • Display better social skills.
  • Graduate and go on to college.

 

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Student ambassadors can ease middle school transition

A remote student ambassador program can help rising middle school students form a realistic expectation of what middle school will be like. The program connects current middle school students to elementary school students to answer questions. Here’s how to make this program work for your school:

  • Choose ambassadors carefully. Select students who are mature and who have good judgment—and who are comfortable speaking to others.
  • Train ambassadors. Go over questions that elementary students typically ask and give them practice answering questions on topics such as bullying, homework, time management, etc.
  • Schedule remote calls with groups of students. Include a teacher or counselor on each call. There may be a few questions that students can’t answer. In that case, the teacher or counselor can step in.

did-you-know  Did You Know?

A Microsoft survey of 500 K-12 schools across the United States found that 61 percent expect to start the 2020-21 school year in a hybrid environment, mixing both remote and in-classroom learning.

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