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68 Parent Involvement Ideas

That Really Work


1. Know THE SECRET to getting 11. Develop written policies encour- 22. Encourage teachers to assign
parents to attend meetings at aging parent involvement. If it’s homework that requires talking
school—make sure they know not in policy, the message is we with someone at home.
they’re genuinely invited. don’t care much about it.
23. Ask teachers what they would
2. Establish a friendly contact 12. Write for parents at 4th to 6th like to tell parents if they had
with parents early in the year, grade level. Use a computer to the chance—and ask parents
“In Time of Peace.” check the reading level. what they would like to tell
teachers. Then exchange the
3. Insist that teachers not wait 13. Know why parents say they are information! Great program.
until its too late to tell parents not involved: 1) Don’t have
about potentially serious time, 2) Don’t know what to do, 24. Put up a “Welcome” sign in
problems. Early contact helps. 3) Don’t know it is important, 4) every language spoken by stu-
Don’t speak English. dents and parents at your
4. Ask teachers to make at least school—get parents to help get
two positive phone calls to 14. Take heart from the “one-third the words right.
parents each week. Add a phone rule.” Research says if you can
line or two if needed. Parent get one-third of a school’s 25. Have handy a ready reference
communication is a cost- parents involved, you can begin list of helpful materials parents
effective investment. to make significant improve- might use to help them cope
ment in student achievement. with student problems. Better
5. Remember the 3 “F”s for suc- yet have a lending library.
cess—Food, Families, Fun. 15. Be aware that teachers are
more reluctant to contact par- 26. Set up a parent center in your
6. Focus on the strengths of fami- ents than vice versa. Solution: school stocked with resources to
lies—they know their children get parents and teachers to- help (and lend to) parents.
better than anyone else. Find gether—just as people—in
ways to get that information to comfortable social situations. 27. Offer parenting classes—with
teachers, other school staff. videos and lots of handouts.
16. Stress two-way communication
7. Learn how to deal with angry between schools and parents. 28. Know the facts about the
parents—separate the parent “One-way” isn’t communication. changing structure of the fam-
from the argument he is mak- ily—and consider how schools
ing. Use active listening. Don’t 17. Conduct school surveys to can cope to best help children.
get angry. Look for areas of reveal family attitudes about
agreement, “We both want your your school. 29. Consider an inservice program
child to do well.” Find a win-win for staff on facts about single-
solution. If you’re not sure 18. Use “key communicators” to parent families—it can be a real
about a parent suggestion say, control the rumor mill. Keep eye-opener.
“I’ll certainly keep that in those to whom others turn for
school information well in- 30. Breakfast sessions at school
mind.” If necessary, devise a draw busy parents like crazy.
temporary solution. formed, especially the three
“B”s—barbers, bartenders & 31. Be very careful to monitor how
8. Provide a brief parent newslet- beauty shop operators. your school telephone is
ter. One sheet of paper is best. answered. Phone impressions
19. Use simple evaluation forms to
9. Remember “30-3-30” in writing get parent feedback on every are lasting ones!
school newsletters. Eighty per- meeting or event. If we ask, 32. Provide “Go to the Office” slips
cent of people will spend just 30 they will tell us what they for teachers to give students
seconds reading it. Nineteen want. who do something good.
percent will spend three min- Student takes slip to principal
utes. One percent will spend 30 20. Try “quick notes” home—notes who compliments child, writes
minutes (your mother). the day something happens. A
parent helps the child with a note to parents on the slip (or
10. Remember the dollar bill rule spelling test and the child does calls parents), sends it home.
for newsletters. A dollar bill better. Shoot an immediate note 33. Be aware that parents are look-
placed anywhere, at any angle, home to say, “It’s working!” ing for a school where their chil-
on any page should touch some dren are likely to succeed—
element of graphic interest— 21. Take parents’ pictures. Tell
them in advance that pictures more than a school with the
headline, box, screen, bullets •, highest test scores. Show
bold type, picture—or it’s too will be taken with their child,
and prepare for a crowd. parents that you care.
dull for most people to read.

Copyright © 1996 The Parent Institute


34. Send a school bus filled with 46. Help parents understand why 59. Having problems getting par-
staff around the school neigh- excessive TV hurts children— ents involved with a child who’s
borhood to meet and welcome TV robs them of needed play, having discipline or other
students. parents just before exercise, reading practice, study problems? Try videotaping class
school starts. time, dulls critical thinking, sessions. Showing the “candid
encourages obesity through camera” tape to parents and
35. Solicit parent volunteers at the snacking. children works wonders.
Kindergarten Registration Day
program. Make it easy to sign 47. Understand the diversity of 60. Make sure all staff know the
up when parents are most single parent families. Living top things parents report they
enthusiastic. with one parent can be want to know about school: 1)
wonderful for some children, How they can be involved with
36. Don’t make judgments about destructive for others their child’s education, 2) How
parents’ lack of interest in their they can spend more time at
children’s education. You’ll 48. Offer school sponsored sessions school, 3) How to talk to teach-
probably be wrong. “Walk a on single parenting. ers, other school staff, 4) How to
mile in their shoes” and help their child at home.
understand that what looks like 49. Help parents understand that
apathy may be exhaustion. student effort is the most im- 61. Try holding “non-academic”
portant key to school success, social events to draw parents to
37. Try day-long parent academies not just ability. school to see students’ work.
with short repeated workshops
on topics such as building self- 50. Encouraging (and assisting) 62. Try an evening Curriculum Fair
esteem, language development, parents to network among to give parents a better under-
motivating children, encourag- themselves to solve common standing of what’s being taught.
ing reading, discipline, talking problems builds parent support.
with kids about sex, dealing 63. Try a “Family Math Night” to
51. Provide some parent education inform parents about the math
with divorce, etc. Test weekdays classes at the workplace. Con-
vs. weekends. curriculum through math
venience works for 7-11 stores games.
38. Provide training and lots of and it also works for schools.
school information for parent 64. Try “refrigerator notes.” Ask
52. Try providing “Good News Post- students to “Take this note
volunteers. They are powerful cards” for teachers to write
goodwill ambassadors. home and put it in the refrig-
short positive note about erator.” That gets attention!
39. Invite parents to fill out inter- students and mail them home.
view forms detailing child’s One thousand postcards cost 65. Know that parents are also
special qualities—interests, less than $200 to mail. looking to schools for help in
abilities, accomplishments. dealing with non-academic
53. Ask parents’ help in developing problems (child care, raising
Teachers can use information to questions for a school “audit” to
write story about child to read adolescents, advice on drugs,
see if your school is family sexual activity). Providing help
at school program, post on friendly.
bulletin board. can build parent support.
54. Invite parents to a program 66. Understand one key reason for
40. Investigate “voice mail” systems about helping children do well
to keep parents up-to-date on parent non-involvement: Lack
on homework and eliminating of information. One memo
homework, school activities. things that distract them. Most won’t do. Try letters & notes &
41. Find ways to provide positive have never had such signs & calls & newspaper &
reinforcement to parents. information. radio & TV. Repetition works &
Everyone responds well to 55. Ask parents to fill out a works & works.
recognition. “Contact Sheet” listing home 67. Transition Nights (or days, or
42. Involve parents in goal-setting and work addresses and phone afternoons) for parents and
for their children. It promotes numbers—and the best times to students getting ready to go to a
working as a team. be contacted in either place. new school help answer
questions, relieve anxieties,
43. Use research findings that one 56. Have children write personal build involvement and support.
of the best ways to get parents notes to their parents on school
involved is to simply ask them, papers, surveys, invitations to 68. Want to get parents out for
and also tell them what you’d school programs, etc. Watch school meetings? Make children
like them to do. parent response rates soar! welcome by offering child care.
44. Give parents specific sugges- 57. Help all school staff understand
tions about how they can help the central role they play in —These ideas from a presentation by John H.

their children. Many just need building parent attitudes, Wherry, Ed.D., President, The Parent Institute,
P.O. Box 7474, Fairfax Station, VA 22039-7474.
to know things like: “Read support and involvement— The Parent Institute publishes the Educators’
aloud every day.” “Turn the TV secretary, custodian, food Notebook on Family Involvement newsletter for
off during homework time.” service staff, bus driver, school staff (from which all ideas for this handout
librarian, aides, everyone have been taken), the Parents Make the
Difference! newsletter for schools to distribute to
45. Try a short student-written
newsletter for parents about 58. Try sending home “Resource parents of elementary grade children, the Parents
STILL Make the Difference! newsletter for
what students have been Bags” filled with games, videos, parents of secondary school children, as well as
learning. (You still need your reading materials and instruc- booklets and videos for parents. For information
own parent newsletter. You tions on specific activities about publications and services call toll-free: 1-800-
cannot fulfill your obligation to parents can do with children at 756-5525. Copyright © 1996, The Parent Institute.
home. They’re very popular. Permission granted for reproduction of this
communicate by delegating the material if this credit message is included.
job to students.)
Copyright © 1996 The Parent Institute