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Dr. Tisha Shipley has been in education for 17 years. She has taught Pre-K, Kindergarten, Gifted and Talented 3rd-6th Grades, Dr. Shipley was an elementary principal, a cheer coach, and was on...
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Family Forums: What Are They?

Family Forums are something that I did when I was teaching and I decided that they would become a normal part of building successful relationships with the families in my classroom.  I challenge you to take the parts of my Family Forums and incorporate them in to your teaching practices.  They work!

Family Forums should be just what the name says. They are a time when families get together and learn from the teacher, share and engage.   My time with my families were a party for my families, not a meeting but a place to come and have fellowship with others and to learn about what their child is doing at school. What are these parties all about? 

Fun!

 I invited anyone in the family that felt they contributed to the child’s school success to be a part of each forum/party.  I did not allow children at my Family Forums, but a place for the children to play with adult supervision was put in to play so all families could be involved. This could be a classroom next door to yours, fun on the playground or time in they gymnasium.

 Family Forums may include:

1. Food

2. Music

3. Games

4. Learning

5. Getting to know other families

A Family Forum can be anything you want it to be.  Here are some of the Family Forums I had.

1. Getting to Know Each Other: This Forum was held the first month of school.  I provided food, and music.  I gave hand-outs on how my classroom ran (procedures, the snack calendar, schedule etc). I gave a tour of the school building and my classroom.  I showed the centers and how they ran and gave an example of how the day would be spent.  I allowed each family time to get to know each other.  We played an “Ice Breaker Game” and I handed out prizes and at the end always handouts on community resources, events for children in the community and places for families to be involved or receive help.

2. Social Media and Families: I acclimated families with my professional and educational Twitter, Pinterest, blog, Youtube and classroom website. I also helped families set these tools up for themselves.

3. Understanding/Curriculum/Concepts: Teach families how to help their child with any concept you are learning at school.  Many families are not familiar with terms and vocabulary such as one-to-one correspondence, and vocabulary they may not have grown up with. Add this to your classroom website or YouTube channel so they can re-watch what you have shared.

4. Understanding how Children grow and Develop: Give handouts, professional knowledge and or even invite a child development specialist that can provide families with ideas to help their child develop. Teach families about developmentally appropriate ideas and practices.

5. Healthy Ideas for the Family: Give ideas and games on how to keep the family active.  Have families take pictures and send to school. Make a family bulletin board in your room showing families incorporating these ideas into their family time.

6. Recipes and Cooking Ideas for Families: Collect recipes and make them at your parties and send them home with your families.  Have families take pictures and send to school. Make a family bulletin board in your room showing families incorporating these ideas into their family time.

7. Large Motor and Small Motor Development: Teach games and ideas on how to help a child develop these skills.

8. Understanding Literacy: Teach literacy concepts to families that you are learning in the classroom. Teach them games that they can play with their child at home.

9. Invite Community Members:  Invite important community members to come and speak that may be a great resource for your family such as: eye doctor, specialist and or resources that could help families struggling.

These are only a few ideas that a Family Forum can incorporate. You can change your Family Forum to include any ideas, concepts or knowledge you feel is important.  You can also video the forum in case a family member is unable to attend.  Upload the forum to your Youtube channel so they can watch any missed parties you have.  A forum should be one hour in length and not waste time.  Be prepared and organized so they will want to attend the next one planned.

Get food donations from the community. It is nice to have finger foods, drinks and snacks so families feel valued and welcome. This could also be your time to thank families for allowing you to be their child’s teacher. Don’t forget that families want to be involved and sometimes the classroom atmosphere can be scary to families.  Not all families had a positive school experience.

I believe that Family Forums are important and build a reciprocal relationship with the teacher and family.  They allow a trusting relationship to form that is helpful in and out of the classroom.  Give Family Forums a try!  They may just give you a new outlook on teaching!