Teaching Tuesday: Educating Families to Support Students and Teachers

By Dr. Marjaneh Gilpatrick, Tracy Vasquez and Emily Pottinger

dad helping his son with homework

Educating and training children and adolescents is a group effort. Teachers can rely on families to reinforce and enhance what occurs in the classroom. Setting up a relationship with families can make a significant difference as the school year progresses. An added benefit is that it can also enhance summertime learning. One strategy that has been effective in engaging families is literacy sessions.

Facilitate Family Literacy Sessions

Teachers can provide families with hands-on strategies in face-to-face or virtual sessions. When you provide literacy strategies and model how to teach various skills, families can utilize them in the home, during breaks and summertime holidays. Consider using some of these tips to strengthen your family literacy sessions.

Build Community

Start by establishing and nurturing the class and family community. As the session begins, use an ice-breaker activity so the participants can learn about one another. This will help strengthen the sense of community.

Celebrate Success

Consider rewarding students who have demonstrated improvements in various academics with a public shout-out. When families witness that their students are succeeding, they are more likely to be engaged in further supporting their education at home.

Ask Thought-Provoking Questions

Encourage critical thinking in these sessions. For example, you can demonstrate reading a sample text, think aloud as you read the text and ask thought-provoking questions. You can have the audience members act as students and answer those questions. If any families speak English as an additional language, you can use a wordless picture book as an example text and encourage them to “read” the book to their students in their native language. By doing this, you are validating the critical importance of maintaining and strengthening the family’s home language and its contribution to the student’s literacy skills.

Keep it Clear and Simple

Less is more. You need to make sure to provide manageable and relevant skills, processes, tips and tricks. Each home is diverse, with many moving parts. While it may be really tempting to get creative and explore some complex classroom lessons, it’s important to provide families with strategies that are simple, fun and engaging.

Share Resources

Do you have a favorite educational website or free web-based tool? Do you know of a local resource or support that is free or has a minimal cost? Spread the word! There are a great variety of tools and resources available. Sometimes this can be difficult to navigate, and families may not have the time to sift through resources or know where to look. This can be a fabulous way for you to share your educational knowledge and expertise.

It really does take a village to raise a future citizen who cares about the community and makes contributions to its welfare.

Want more? Check out all of the articles from Teaching Tuesday and return each week for a new post. To learn more about the College of Education and our degree programs, visit our website and join in our efforts to elevate the education profession.

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