"Project Planner Nights are just another way we can help our parents," says Denise Read. "So many of our parents want to help their children, but often they are unsure of what to do or they do not have the funds to support their projects. By providing this opportunity, we are working together as a team -- teachers and parents -- to provide success for the students."
A Title I resource teacher and parent involvement coordinator, Read organized the first Project Planner Night in response to teacher concerns about students failing to complete projects at Windsor Oaks Elementary School in Virginia Beach, Virginia. When she inquired about why the assignments were not done, students frequently replied that they didn't have the materials required at home.
"I suggested to the teachers that we provide the parents and students access to the materials needed for the projects," Read told Education World. "I polled the teachers and got a list of craft materials they felt would be good to have on hand and that would give students a good start on their projects.
Read also provided a flyer for the teachers to send home with the project assignment that announced the Project Planner Night.
On the evening of the event, Read assisted teachers with laying out materials, compiling a list of useful Web sites, welcoming parents and students, and answering questions. Participants gathered in the cafeteria where they examined a table with several sample projects from previous years along with the grading rubric.
"Students and parents could see what an 'A' project looked like and what a 'C' project looked like," stated Read. "There was a long table covered with craft supplies, and the parents and students could select materials to start working on the project. Several of the third grade teachers were on hand to answer questions, to give suggestions, and to clarify the directions."
Work began immediately. Read believes that having the sample projects provided ideas and focus for the families. The computer lab was available for those who needed to do research, and students were permitted to print relevant pictures and information.
"Parents were very appreciative. Not only did they appreciate the supply of materials, but they appreciated the opportunity to ask questions, to get clarification, and also to have some quality one-on-one time to work with their children," Read observed.
Working in the group setting also allowed students to exchange ideas with peers. Read noted a sense of relief on the faces of parents as they left the event.
"More Project Planner Nights are definitely planned," reported Read. "I would like to be able to provide this opportunity for all projects that are assigned. If I had my way, I would offer the Project Planner Night two nights to accommodate more working parents' schedules or possibly expand the timeframe to allow the parents a chance to make it to the event."
A Project Planner Night requires an initial investment in basic craft supplies such as construction paper, scissors, craft glue, chenille stems, and clay. A well-organized storage system helps the event run smoothly and enables organizers to quickly determine what materials need to be restocked.
"Have basic craft materials on hand and ready," Read advises. "Then when a grade level wants to host a project night, all you need to do is pick up any additional project specific materials that may be needed."