Sunday, March 7, 2010

Parent Teacher Communication

What is wrong with this picture? I see  a noticeable  separation between the teacher and the parents. The teacher looks like she is smiling, just as she does with every conference before and after and the parents look a little panicked! I want my students' parents to feel like we're are partners, teaming up to ensure their child's success.Sadly, I couldn't find and clipart pictures of parent teacher teams. :(

I was recently asked to list a few of the ways I facilitate sharing information with my parents. As I started to share,  I realized I have several methods. I feel that parent teacher communication is so important. I want parents to know I value and appreciate open communication between parents and teachers. When I first started teaching, I was very uncomfortable talking to parents. Now, I try to build a relationship with each of my families. (Inevitably, some parents are a little reluctant or private, so some of these relationships are more open than others.) I can serve and teach each child better when I have a full picture of the child and his life.

F*I*S*H* Binders
I have a binder for each child that serves as the primary avenue for the daily back and forth communication with parents. F*I*S*H* stands for “Family Involvement Starts Here”.  Our FISH binder is a 3-ring binder notebook, put together by the teacher that houses EVERYTHING the students and parents need to keep up with what is going on at school. This will include things like the weekly newsletter, important notes, work to keep, upcoming events calendar, daily progress notes, notebook paper for notes to the teacher, etc! No more lost notes, newsletters or calendars or wrinkled papers in the bottom of our backpacks! No more searching the house to find paper to write the teacher a note  --- I provide it.

Why are they important? These notebooks help students establish good organizational skills their first year of school---skills that can carry on throughout their time in school.

  I ask parents to remove any loose contents, initial the daily progress portion, include any pertinent notes to the school and return it to school the next day and place it on the same white counter. Many of the parents initial the book and remove contents, but choose to leave the binders here. I don't mind as long as they are checking it daily.

F*I*S*H* Binder contents:
Daily Progress Report- A quick form that gives a brief sketch of the child's daily behavior and targeted skills for the day. I use five colored faces that correspond to the student's day. Each day the child starts at green and has opportunities to demonstrate positive behavior traits throughout the day. If a reminder or two are needed, there is a designation for that as well. I believe that every child deserves the opportunity to make better choices, so our system starts in the middle. I'll have to write a more detailed post about our system soon.

Behavior Chart With Multiple Opportunities for Success: Originally, I made this form for one student with special needs. He got so hung up in any difficult time during his day, that he was not able to ever get back on track. Part of his behavior plan was to inform the parents of any difficulties he had throughout the day. Now, he has an opportunity for success for each segment of the day. Each segment of the day starts fresh, so even if he has a complete meltdown, he can still have success later in the day. I recognized that I have a few friends who would also benefit with a visual reminder with multiple opportunities for success, so I've implemented it with them as well. It is time consuming, since I do this with four or five of my friends, but since we've been using this system, I have seen an improvement in decision making and social skills.

Correspondence Report: Basically, this is a form where parents can write a quick note to me and I can respond. Handy for letting me know a change in transportation, if a student will be leaving early, expressing the need for a conference. I will occasionally use this area to inform parents of a specific problem that we need to work on together, explain any incidents that I feel they need to be informed of, etc.

Weekly Newsletter
This year, I decided that since I was planning to do themes lasting longer than one week, I would not send out a newsletter weekly, but rather as we changed themes and whenever needed in between. The first part of year was so busy, that "whenever needed in between" turned out to be weekly. I've tried a few times to skip a week, but some of the parents were funny and kind of scolded me that they needed to know what was going on because they missed the newsletter! So I guess it has become a weekly newsletter.  I include last week's happenings (and I try to add a pic or two of learning in progress), next week's themes, any student accolaides, quick reminders, pleas for help or recyclables, generally any info I need to pass on en masse. 


Parent Information Bulletin Board

This bulletin board displays the school year calendar, our daily schedule, weekly menu, info & sign up sheet for class pets, a copy of our newsletter, Changes To Environment, info and sign up sheet for class pets and a list of recyclables currently needed for our class.

Parent Information Entry Whiteboard 

This is right beside our classroom door, so even if parents only walk their child to the classroom door, they are able to see reminders and notes.

Opportunities for Involvement
I offer many opportunities for parent involvement in our classroom. (I admit, I'm no Teacher Tom, but I do have parents in my class frequently. :) Parents have an open invitation to come to lunch anytime, I have a sign up sheet for mystery/guest readers, help with classroom projects, and I frequently have parents who come to facilitate show and tell or other small group activities. I always ask for parents to help with field trips and special activities, as well.

Parent Lending Library
While this is not really a venue for communication, I wanted to mention it. I have a Parent Lending Library just inside my classroom that has materials available for parents to check out. I include article, books and magazines on parenting, special needs, community events, nutrition, behavior issues and ways parents can foster their child's learning at home. I let my parents know that this is a small percentage of resources available and I can help them find appropriate information on just about any topic if needed. Occasionally, this does open the door for a frank discussion if a parent finds the need for a particular type of resource.

Other Means....
I have a small bulletin board right outside my classroom that I post my weekly lesson plans, my planned Changes to Environment, our daily schedule and any school happenings. 

Instead of individual permission slips, our center uses one permission slip with a class list and each parent signs permission next to the child's name. The forms have a section to check off each time a child gets on/off the bus and several "head checks" throughout the trip. These are posted on the outside of the classroom door along with any sign up sheets for activities or supplies requested.

Parent teacher conferences are scheduled for twice a year, and of course any other time a need arises. I have frequent "impromptu" conferences--5 or 10 minutes alone in the teacher's lounge when needed, as well. 

 This is just an overview of some of the ways I communicate with my students' parents. I would love to hear if you have something you do to facilitate good communication with your parents.


  1. Karen Nemeth, www.languagecastle.comMarch 7, 2010 at 6:27 PM

    Wow - lots of great ideas in this post! I think teachers of the younger students have the biggest responsibility - it's your job to set parents on the right path for being involved in their child's education. If they have a positive first impression, they're much more likely to continue their strong connection with school. In the next couple of years, nearly every teacher will need to be to really reach out to families for whom English is not their first language. We'll have to rely more on photos, diagrams, and getting used to the idea that we all have to learn key terms in other languages. Any ideas?

  2. You put so much effort into keeping up that vital communication between families and the preschool - I like the idea of the fish folder. I find that parents rely on different methods to get their information - some read the newsletter, others don't. Some check out the notes on the board, others don't. So like you we need to try to cover all bases!

  3. @Karen, I do have some ideas---and I already implement a few things. I may have to write a post. :)

    @Jenny, you are so right! It does seem redundant but just like we have to reach all learners, we have to reach all learners' parents! Whatever works! :)

  4. Ayn,
    I was so excited when I saw your article that I posted this on Facebook before I had the chance to even read the entire article and leave a comment:)

    Now that I have a minute, I have taken the time to read all of your amazing ideas and suggestions for parent communication. WOW! Really wonderful. You are incredibly organized - those FISH binders are way cool.

    The school I used to work at had dry-erase boards outside of every door for years but eventually the owner took them all down because the teachers were constantly misspelling words and leaving really kind of ignorant statements - LOL! So I guess the owner thought it was easier just to remove the boards. Too bad though - I love seeing how you use them so effectively for communication.

    Great job! Thank you for taking the time to share so much information.

  5. Great ideas!
    I have to admit that parent communication is not my strong point :/ Plus, I don't always get a chance to see my parents because the majority of my students come on the bus.
    I do have my newsletter, though!!


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