You made it through the first month of school…there’s much to celebrate!
You’ve memorized and practiced how to pronounce a long list of names, learned a bit of each student’s life story (or at least their interests and hobbies), and you’ve started to make note of individual strengths and challenges.
It’s the perfect time to reach out to students’ families to share your observations and elicit parent/guardian support for the learning you begin in the classroom. In case our intuition and experience weren’t reason enough, one 2012 Harvard study found that regular teacher-family communication:
“…immediately increased student engagement as measured by homework completion rates, on-task behavior, and class participation. On average, teacher-family communication increased the odds that students completed their homework by 40%, decreased instances in which teachers had to redirect students’ attention to the task at hand by 25%, and increased class participation rates by 15%.”Kraft, M. A., & Dougherty, S. M. (2013).
While the benefits of regular parent contact are clear, with some teachers having upwards of 125 students every year, it can be tough to communicate with each student’s family consistently.
So, inspired by Catlin Tucker’s idea of having students email parents about missing work, I periodically ask my students to update their parents & guardians about their progress in class via email. While I regularly contact parents to share successes and areas for improvement, partnering with students to help me more consistently reach out to families has several benefits.
Allowing students to reflect on what they have learned, what they’re proud of, and what they want to keep working on helps them develop their self-reflection and goal-setting skills. Also, asking students to share their reflections with their parents/guardians can increase their support at home towards their growth as students and responsible young adults.
Below are the general instructions & template I provide students. I hope they can help you partner with your students to increase communication quality and consistency with families.
- Write an email to your parents/guardians and cc Mr. Chokshi. Here’s a guide on how to cc in Gmail.
- Your email should be a few short paragraphs addressing all of the following prompts:
- What is one topic we have discussed this year that you have found most interesting or memorable? Then, briefly explain what insight you gained from that activity or assignment.
- What are some academic skills you’ve developed or improved upon during this class? Give specific examples of a particular assignment or activity that demonstrated that skill. For example, consider discussion, argumentative writing, annotation, note-taking, analyzing pictures/maps/charts, debating, moral/ethical/philosophical reasoning.
- What is one academic skill you would like to focus on improving? How might you go about doing so?
- What is one aspect of your habits as a student that you are proud of? Give an example from a specific activity or assignment that demonstrates that habit. Consider: attentiveness, asking questions, helping classmates, completing assignments, facilitating discussions?
- What is one aspect of your behavior as a student that you would like to continue improving? How might you go about doing so? If you are missing any assignments please list them here and share what you will do to complete them and by when.
- Share one fun fact about you, your friends, or one thing you are grateful for.
Dear (mom, dad, uncle, aunt),
I want to share what I have been learning in World Cultures with you.
One topic we’ve discussed recently that I found especially interesting was….I found it interesting because it made me realize….
Also, two skills I’ve gained in this class are….For example,….. Also,…A skill I want to get better at is….I’ll work on it by….
One habit that I’m proud of and that has helped me be successful is….For instance,…An area I want to improve on is….I’ll improve by…
I wanted you to know….about……Overall, I’m grateful for….
Sounds like a great plan, Arpan! If I’m going to do this, I would do so after a unit. I feel as if my seventh graders go from day to day and often forget what we did the day before, so I feel as if remembering some of those things you ask may be difficult. We do reflect at the end of each term in order to come up with a grade, so you’ve inspired me to blog (it’s been awhile – good to see yours!) about how I’m changing that up a big this year. Thank you for sharing!! Student / teacher / parent connections for the win!