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What I Did at School Today: Keep Parents in the Loop

EducationWorld is pleased to feature a variety of book excerpts in collaboration with Stenhouse Publishers. The following excerpt comes from Attention Grabbing Skills for Involving Parents in Their Children’s Learning, by Jane Baskwill (Pembroke Publishers, 2013; distributed in the U.S. by Stenhouse Publishers). The book retails for $22 and is available on the Stenhouse Web site.

Do you ever get the feeling that your students forget everything they learned at school between the bell and the front door? This article offers a great way to assist parent-child communication about what goes on in the classroom! For more great tips from this book, check out: Portfolios and the Student-Led Parent Conference and Use Social Media to Communicate With Parents.

Ask Me About…

Teachers of young children, in particular, often hear the complaint from parents that their child comes home and has little to share about what he or she has done at school all day. In fact, many parents report that when they ask their child “What did you do in school today?” their child responds with “Nothing” or “Played.”

Monthly newsletters, although informative, do not solve the “What did you do today?” issue. They provide a recap of old news or are an update of coming events, but do not meet this particular need. Ask Me About… flyers give parents insider’s knowledge to be able to ask the right questions. When parents ask the right questions, children respond knowingly and enthusiastically. It becomes a much more satisfying exchange all around.

Our Ask Me About… flyers were hand printed on 8½” x 14” paper because they had a more personal quality that way. We also decided to decorate each issue with children’s drawings. When the page was ready, teachers asked individual children to draw illustrations for the sections. For instance, for a section about writing instruction, a student might be asked to draw a picture of the children at their table working on their writing. The children drew on pieces of paper just big enough so that, when trimmed, they would fit in a corner of the section. We found that young children were quite eager to do drawings for the flyer. The finished pictures were glued onto the master and photocopied on bright paper for each child to take home.

The teacher briefly goes over each issue of the Ask Me About… flyer with the class. This doesn’t take much time and allows children to go home expecting to talk with their parents about what they have been doing. The flyer highlights class activities over the course of the week and gives parents just enough information to enable them to ask a question that will get more than a “nothing” response. We built in specific prompts. For example:

  • Ask me about our Writing Time. We do it every day and it is when we write about our own ideas.
  • Ask me about the science activity in the Discovery Centre. It involves water!
  • Ask me about the jungle that is growing in our room!

About Stenhouse Publishers

Stenhouse publishes professional development books and videos by teachers and for teachers. Their titles cover a range of content areas -- from literacy and mathematics to science, social studies, the arts, and environmental education -- as well as a variety of topics, including classroom management, assessment, and differentiation.

We tried to keep the focus on the learning that was going on. All the teachers agreed that, when parents get upset or feel they are out of touch, they worry about academic progress and whether the school is teaching the right things. Their frustrations grow and are magnified when they speak with other parents who feel the same. Finally their frustrations can end up in confrontation. The Ask Me About… news flyer served as a proactive way to allay any parents’ fears that might exist.

Feedback from the parents was very positive. Whether you send home a news flyer weekly or bi-weekly will depend on the feedback you get and your ability to work it into your week. You will need to schedule a time when you can sit down and create the flyer.

The news flyer works to keep the information current, while producing a manageable communication tool that speaks directly to parents and children. Many parents reported they were saving the newsletters in their child’s memory box as the flyers were effective in capturing their child’s school year. They also recognized that teachers were making a special effort to keep them informed and to help them better communicate with their children about what they do at school.

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