“The importance of good parent-teacher relationships has been well documented. Research has shown that parent involvement in education benefits not only the child but also the parents and teachers.”
We want our students, parents, and teachers to experience these benefits.
Challenges are easy to list, and we likely have a long list beyond these, but here are some of the big ones.
Start by planning
Strengthening your communication with students and families can start as simply as organizing your approach. Whether you’re approaching the beginning of the year, a new term, or are in the middle of a course, trying a new tool that can be customized to your unique communication style and your school’s expectations for family contact will support your work.
In the example below, our first goal was to start with listening, in this case using a baseline survey to the student’s parents that establishes a connection and supports us in understanding our student from the parent’s perspective. Our second goal was to have three positive contacts with the family, in addition to any contacts necessary to discuss issues that may arise in the classroom.
From here, we would continue to add our notes and check in on communication that may be needed in order to meet our goals. This template can continue to be streamlined or expanded as practices change over time.
While the content of parent/teacher conversations may not always be easy, simply getting started can give you confidence and increase the ways in which you can connect with families.
By G. FAITH LITTLE
We check for understanding constantly, don’t we?
“Does that make sense?”
"Know what I mean?”
When it comes to our classrooms, we’re looking for more precise ways to check for understanding. Here are some simple ways and a few tools to use in your class as soon as tomorrow!
A simple and positive hand gesture can check to see who is hearing your instruction and who needs more support to move forward. You can use this:
Choose your emoji
Expressions are a helpful way for students to share how they’re feeling or thinking about new or challenging content. It is especially useful for English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities. Using emojis (which can be individual cut outs or together on one piece of paper), ask students to choose the emoji that best represents their current experience.
As you move around the room, you can customize your questions and support. Find out more about what the happy faces understand, what the thinking faces are working out, and what the sad faces need to make their struggle productive.
See how the homework informed thinking or where yesterday’s mini-lesson landed by collecting a little data at the beginning of class. You can even combine this tool with the emojis you've used previously:
Whatever the tool, getting clear feedback is key to differentiating your instruction and increasing communication with your students!
By G. FAITH LITTLE
Behavior is a form of communication.
Plug this sentence into your preferred search engine, and it will return enough results to keep you reading for hours. Since it’s more likely you’re scrolling through this post on your train ride, between classes, or at lunch than sitting with a cup of tea and hours to spare, let’s connect the dots quickly and consider a way to look at communication through behavior as data that we can analyze to determine a productive possibility in our classrooms.
Collect the data: what is the behavior?
Start with documenting low inference observations of behavior. As you jot down the description of the behavior, challenge yourself to write only what is observable. When you write, “a fight broke out,” ask yourself, “what did I actually see?”.
What did you see? What did you hear?
It’s worth the time it takes to develop your low inference observation skills, because you will be working from more accurate data, as free of assumptions as possible.
Analyze the data: what might it mean?
While you already have classroom expectations clearly outlined and students may be fully aware of the consequences of certain behaviors, whether it is a phone call home, a visit to the AP, or other intervention, you may also consider using a tool to support your own problem-solving. This is especially helpful when you’re confronted with a persistent, or even new, behavior.
Lifelines is a tool we’ve used with our partner schools when looking at data reports together. With a few customizations, we can use this tool to explore behavior as data.
Consider possibilities: apply analysis to inform instruction
What questions, lessons, or interventions make sense to support the student and their learning? Is it an individual moment that is needed or could the whole class benefit from some time investigating this issue together?
Try your lesson or intervention out. What happened? What other questions came up? What might you try next? If you continue to remain curious, your “final” determination in the Lifelines tool can be a starting point to a simple cycle of inquiry.
By engaging your curiosity and making low inference observations of student behavior, you can engage in an inquiry cycle that could result in new and exciting discoveries about what your students’ behavior is communicating. Your findings can then support students academically by addressing their social-emotional needs.