Fostering Parent Engagement in your Classroom

Do the parents in your class know the great stuff happening every day in class?  Most teachers and schools work really hard to share what learning. They create newsletters, annual reports, websites, blogs, twitter feeds, but they often overlook the most important way to really get parents engaged. Schools need to empower students to share their work directly with parents.

Find a safe way to share student work

If you don’t yet have a school-sanctioned safe way to share, get one. It might be a class blog, a school social app like SeeSaw (I am a seesaw ambassador, that link goes just to SeeSaw, no tracking). I use to use Kidblog with my high school students. There are many other ways to share student work and images responsibly.

Don’t make up your own system, talk to other teachers and figure out what the approved system is. Always follow your school and district guidelines on posting social media. That awesome tape grid video got 30 likes on Instagram, but it is not worth your job.

Chances are there is someone at your school working hard to tell the story of learning on your campus. Meet with them. Find out what their goals are and team up, ask them to help you find more ways to connect parents to their kids’ digital work.

Use Lesson Trailers to give them shareable context.

Lesson trailers are short 30-second videos that give parents and students a peek into the lesson. Just like a movie trailer, these ignite a curiosity and give the viewer some understanding of what is going on. I use the lesson trailers to contextualize the work that the kids share home. I could write it all up as a blog post or explain where the idea came from. I could spend 700 words calling out all my learning objectives, but does my primary audience need that? The parents in my class want to know what is going on so they can respond appropriately when kids share home a picture of a toilet paper tube taped to a strawberry basket (actually an accurate description of 90 percent of my kids' work).

This is a lesson trailer I made for the Fall Leaves lesson.

it is only 15 seconds long and it is a boomerang post, a picture of my board, and a quick no-microphone voiceover. The video only has one job, to give parents some idea why their child has posted a video of a fan and a yellow piece of foam flitting by. The conversation becomes “Tell me more about the leaf video you posted.”

I have created other trailers that are more detailed to guide the kids, like this one.

Here is a playlist of several more trailers

These trailers help the parents in my class “get” what we are doing and maybe tease some more information from their kids. I also try to make the trailers exciting enough that the parents might want to share it. The trailers are hosted on YouTube so they will be shareable. The student work is hosted inside SeeSaw.

Moderate Boldly

If you are in charge of an online community, even if it is JUST your class community, you are in charge. Your job is to read ALL the posts and delete anything that is questionable. If a parent posts something that doesn’t mix well, talk to them in person about it. You can pick up the phone, but never try to clarify their meaning or intentions through more text-only messages. If you don’t understand what they are saying, improve the medium. Move to a means of communication that will give you both access to more information.

How are you engaging the parents in your class? Let us know in the comments.

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