Improving Parental Involvement in your Classroom

Working in a classroom can be one of the hardest jobs around. When I started to work in a School I used to get the whole 'it's nice to work half a day' 'it's nice to have all that time off' but really, they don't know the half of it!

One of the ways to make our job a little bit easier is to have the support of the parents of the students in our classroom and to involve them more in the day-to-day running.

Involving parents can be really hard, what if nobody wants to help or wants to take part in the classroom? What if people are too busy and just ignore your requests? Stop thinking that way. Think about those parents at home who may really want to help out in the classroom but are too scared to come forward, or the ones who would love to know more about the day-to-day goings on in the Classroom but don't want to be nagging you. Seriously, banish those negative thoughts.

So first up, why should we involve parents?
Well, lots of different reasons really. I mean, we spend a few hours a day with these children, but who spends the rest of the time with them? Who knows them best? Of course, the people who live with them! They spend the most time with them, they have the closest connection with them and 9 times out of 10 they may know the answer behind a meltdown. You want to build a strong yet professional relationship with parents of your students because it means they'll be more truthful for you. We all know how hard it is to admit when things aren't going too well, so imagine how hard it is for our parents. We want them to feel they can trust us and be open with us - to get this, we need to give them something back. 

But, how?
Don't panic, you don't need to go into full on organiser mode and start planning coffee mornings, fete's etc. You just need to involve them that little bit more.

Think carefully, how do you communicate with the parents of your students? Do you do it daily, weekly or monthly? Do you wait for parents evening? In an ideal world, it should be daily but we are only human, there's going to be days when we forget to communicate or days where it's so crazy busy there just isn't enough time to communicate with every parent. So, how do we get around this? 

Home/School Books
Parent/School books are a great way to be able to communicate between School and Home. You can make your home/school book however you like, we tend to make ours big enough to include the most important details of the day, leave enough room to write comments and to include all relevant information about the class - this could be the weekly timeline (simplified) i.e what days do they need to bring swimming kit etc. There's a page where we have all staff and pupil faces of who is who in the class - this is especially great when it comes to Christmas because there's nothing more heart warming than parents sending in cards for other students in class. As you can imagine this doesn't happen often with our students, so this added touch by the parents really does go a long way. Plus, it means that family life at home can get more of an idea of what staff are in their child's class, who is who etc 

If you love the idea of a Home/School book but just don't have time to sit down and create one from scratch you can check out my one here. 

Here is the part for weekly plans. You can jazz this up or leave it simple like this. Sometimes we will add in different pictures of the activities that we will be doing just as a visual aide as many of our students like to read the weekly plans with families at home.

Here are the daily comment pages. As you can see there are spaces to fill in each of the different boxes - you can leave some blank etc. It's just what you would prefer to fill in or what you would find relevant for families to know about their child's day.

And finally the cover. It's nice and simple but with a cute touch. The clipart image isn't actually supposed to be there, this is where you put a photo of the child in your class or your School logo whatever you would prefer. You the fill in the child's name, class and School. Bind it altogether as a book or put in a ring binder file and you have a home/school book ready for some great communicating between home and School.

Classrooms can be so busy with so much going on that it can be hard to let parents/families know all about the different things that have been happening in class or are coming up - plus it's going to be really tiring trying to write this home to every parent of a student in your class. I mean, sure, it's not going to be too bad if you have a small class, but if you have a huge class then it's going to be pretty time consuming writing the same thing over and over, so have you considered a newsletter?

A newsletter is a great way to let parents know all about what has been going on in class, what is coming up and you could even have enough room for a 'star pupil' section where a student can be selected each month for something they have done or improved upon etc. There's space for important information - this could be about upcoming appointments or pocket money, trips etc. It's also a great way so that all families are receiving the same newsletter so nobody can be offended if anything is on there thinking that it is personally aimed at them. 

You can make these as regular as you like, they could be weekly, monthly or even just termly (i.e. spring term, summer term etc). If you want to have a look at my Year Round Newsletters on my TpT - that are editable you can check them out here.

As you can see there's room for so much information but it's all laid out so it's not too overpowering. They come with different themes for each month and there's different options for each months title as well as backgrounds etc to suit your ink budget. 

What we did this week

Every Friday, we have a page made up of 3 pictures, some symbol writing and the date to show what each student has taken part in or achieved that week. A copy is printed out and stuck into their 'photo albums' so that at the end of the year you can flick back through all the weeks and see how each student has progressed - as well as providing evidence, and a copy is emailed home to each individual parent so they can see what we have been doing in class that week too! It's a great way to help involve families more in what's going on all the time in class.

Coffee Mornings

This is a sort of irregular thing throughout our School, one lady organises a coffee morning every now and again for families to come along and meet others and build friendships/support groups. It's very much contained within a room so they all just sit and chat there - they're welcome to bring younger children etc and it's a great way for families to be able to find others in similar situations and build networks - it also provides them a chance to meet more staff in the School, again building a strong professional relationship.

How do you involve parents in your classroom? I'd love to hear!

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