Families come in many forms. A good rapport with parents, siblings, and grandparents can make all the difference in building a classroom and school community. Here are some creative suggestions for reaching out to families through conferences, special events, and volunteer opportunities. Our contributors also share the challenges of communicating with parents, and what they've learned when they've failed to connect.
Ruth Ayres shares a process for grading student writing that improves efficiency and accuracy.
Stella Villalba offers five compelling tips to making parent-teacher conference conversations more joyful, useful, and hopeful.
Does planning a family literacy night seem overwhelming? Lisa Mazinas offers six tips to ensure a thoughtful and successful event.
Tammy Mulligan shares a beginning-of-the-year routine where second graders create an identity frame. This becomes a place to highlight photographs of their learning each week throughout the school year.
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills find that they have to change the way they think about connecting with families once students reach middle school.
Dana Murphy looks at homework from the twin perspectives of mom and teacher, and finds she hates it from both views.
“What can I do to help my son and daughter stay sharp and not lose momentum during the summer?” When a parent asks this question, Mark Levine offers his Top Six Summer Slide Preventers.
Just reading. Pure, unadulterated reading. That’s the reading homework that matters most in the long run. Stephanie Affinito explains why.
Jen Schwanke and Stella Villalba share practical tips for conferring with parents of English language learners.
Parents of middle school students are often bewildered at how best to deal with their child’s unresponsiveness. Jennifer Schwanke explains how teachers can construct conferences with middle school parents that foster reflection, action, and shared goals.
Suzy Kaback is startled to see a picture of her deceased father on the wall when she visits her daughter’s seventh-grade classroom. It’s the start of learning about the power of ohana in schools.
Asking the right questions of family members can get you far more valuable information than anything from an assessment, especially when you are dealing with English language learners. Stella Villalba explains why initial meetings with new families are crucial.
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills lead virtual parent book clubs to foster more home/school connections and build a love of reading outside the school walls.
Jennifer Schwanke explains how she stopped railing against the tradition and learned to appreciate parent-teacher conferences. She shares tips for making them better.
Are you considering school-to-home journals in your classroom this year? Jennifer Schwanke describes how these notebooks build community and literacy skills.
ennifer Schwanke explains how jargon can trip up communication with parents, and lists which terms are worth defining. This is the final installment of her series on talking about literacy workshops with families.
Jennifer Schwanke explains why parent-teacher conferences can be bewildering for families, and offers advice for better ways to explain a literacy workshop model to them.
Jennifer Schwanke shares some of the unique struggles parents of English language learners have in making their children's needs known, and how we can help them.
Jennifer Schwanke and Franki Sibberson share four perspectives on student-led conferences — teacher, principal, student, and parent.
Bitsy Parks has her first-grade students record their writing as part of a regular workshop and assessment routine, and then uses QR codes to share the recordings with families and the larger community.
There may be few literacy homework assignments more despised by families than the dreaded reading log. Gigi McAllister proposes some alternatives, and explains how she keeps families in the loop on reading progress.
Andie Cunningham deals with the tension of welcoming an unhappy parent into her kindergarten classroom.
Max Brand brings a mother into the assessment process and teaches her what to observe as her child reads.
Helping parents learn to talk with their children about what’s going on in the classroom may be more valuable than any homework teachers assign. Max Brand shares some practical tips and prompts he gives to families to launch conversations at the dinner table or in the car.
If your students are already comfortable with an unstructured requirement of 20-30 minutes of reading each night, you may find adding 10 minutes of writing at home works wonders in fostering writing skills. Katherine Sokolowski explains how the assignment works in her classroom.
Shari Frost asks a provocative question: Can books harm children? She explores practical ways for teachers to walk the fine line between support and censorship in matching books to students.
Maria Caplin uses a getting-to-know-you activity in the first days of school to jumpstart research reading and writing with her fifth-grade students.
Curriculum night? No sweat says Tony Keefer. Only kidding — there is a lot of sweat involved, but Tony’s humorous account of how he has changed his curriculum night presentation will get you thinking about new ways of connecting with families.
Kelly Petrin finds animal backpacks are a wonderful tool for building literacy skills in young learners, as well as the home/school connection.
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