Breaking the Cross Cultural School and Home Divide

Looking for a way to get the parents of your ELL students more involved in the classroom? We often are looking for opportunities to build our cultural capacity, hence becoming cultural brokers.  Bridging the home and school divide is a huge challenge; compound that by cultural barriers and some districts are stuck.  This blog will go over some parental activities and ideas that will be sure to increase parental involvement and engagement!

Importance of Parental Involvement

When it comes to teaching English language learners (ELLs), engagement with parents is an extremely important part of the learning success. Within any classroom, parental involvement is valuable; however, this involvement is imperative for students who must also tackle the extra difficulties that come with acquiring a second language. 

Ideas for Communicating with Parents

The first thing you will need to do is reach out to your ELL parents! Creating that teacher-parent connection is crucial, so make sure you do not procrastinate. You will want to reach out before the first day of class; therefore, use the following ideas to make sure you start this connection off on the right foot!

Learn About Your Students

Prior to the first day of class or as soon as they enter your classroom or district, make sure you learn about your students, including their families, first language, and cultural backgrounds. Demonstrating a genuine interest in their backgrounds can make students and their families feel comfortable when it comes to classroom communication and involvement. Do not make judgments or assumptions about parents' level of interest; rather, use this introductory step as a learning experience for both you and your class.

Set up an Initial Visit

Request a home or special class visit so you can introduce yourself to students and their families. Ask about any academic preferences, family talents, or traditions that may be incorporated into the classroom program. Find out if families are interested in being involved in class or school activities. Complete a volunteer interest survey with parents that you can keep on hand as a reminder of what class activities or school events they may want to help out with.

Ideas for Involving Parents

The following ideas and activities can be used to get parents into the classroom, school, or simply more involved with their children's English language learning. When attempting to encourage parent involvement, always aim to be approachable. You want parents to feel welcomed, not intimidated, when it comes to participating in classroom or school activities.

Bring Parents to the Classroom

Invite parents to visit on a regular basis so that they become familiar and comfortable with you, the classroom, and the school dynamic. To improve shared literacy opportunities and skills development at home, consider inviting parents to come during classroom reading or library time. Parents can take part in centers and read-aloud sessions, while also learning how to assist students with reading strategies, such as close reading, reading for comprehension, text mapping, or story summaries. These activities help parents and students work together so English reading comprehension skills can continue to grow at home.

Encourage Volunteering

Put the information from the volunteer interest survey to good use by encouraging parents to help out in the classroom, in the school office or library if needed, or with school events. You could also provide them with information about joining the school's Parent Teacher Association (PTA). Volunteer activities not only help parents become acquainted with a school and its staff and students, but also can enhance the educational environment and its functions. There's always a need for volunteers, so if you do not require help in your classroom, ask around to see what other opportunities may be available at the school.

Family Game Nights

Whether for the classroom or the whole school, a family game night is always a fun way to involve parents in their children's school life. Consider games such as Win, Lose or Draw; Jeopardy, Family Feud, Wheel of Fortune, or charades. Allow families and students to showcase and teach games from their culture as well.  Games that encourage parental involvement and make learning fun are a great way to show how well students are doing in the classroom. In addition to showcasing students' progress, family game nights promote an entertaining environment of support that helps take the stress out of learning English.

Parent University

Many schools and districts have successfully involved ELL parents by offering a parent university: English classes right at the school. Teachers, volunteers, district organizers, or community members can offer these classes. Once implemented, they can help parents who may not feel comfortable becoming involved at school because of their English language abilities. Improving English language learning for parents not only opens the door to parent involvement but also improves their abilities to support their children's learning at home.

Information Sessions

Consider holding a community information session to help ELL parents learn about the resources and public services that are available in the surrounding area. Invite members from the community to share information about resources and events that might interest your ELL parents. Consider enlisting help from the local parks and recreation, fire, and police departments; libraries, churches, local services like eye clinics or hair salons that may donate their services at the session, or children's activity centers that offer childcare. An information session not only gives parents a sense of support within the school but also provides a link to the support that can be found in the surrounding community.

Parent Appreciation

Consider celebrating ELL parents and families by hosting occasional appreciation breakfasts, luncheons, or snack times in your classroom or school. Have students create individualized invitations and work on a performance or pieces of artwork to present to family members who attend. And be sure to follow up with personal emails and phone calls. Provide the food and drinks for parents so all they have to do is show up and be honored for the important roles they play in students' lives.

Recognizing how parents have a positive impact on their children's education is a great way to strengthen the school-home connection. It also shows your sincere support and appreciation for their involvement.

Dr. Martina Wagner | Wagner Educational Consulting 2018 |