Parents play an essential role in the education process. They can help students understand difficult concepts and motivate them to keep going when learning new ideas gets hard. The National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education has found that involved parents, regardless of their income level and family background, give students a leg up in their grades, social skills, and overall well-being.
From a teacher’s perspective, involving parents in the classroom requires a delicate balance. You want parents to be engaged but not controlling. You want them to care about the learning experience while also allowing their kids to grow their independence.
You are not alone. Here are a few ways you can involve parents and families in student progress tracking, whether you teach kindergarteners or high school seniors.
Always Start With a Positive Note
Digital communication makes it easy for teachers to reach out to parents. However, many parents will still worry when they hear from you. You are an authority figure to the child and (in some ways) to the parent.
Start your messages by stating something positive about the student. Talk about how they are improving in certain areas or highlight one of their accomplishments for the week. Make the positive comment meaningful and truthful. This is an opportunity for your to connect with the parents.
A positive comment can help you ease into bad news. If you have concerns or negative feedback, it helps to start on a good note. Also, end your message with an actionable item with a positive tone. For example:
- Positive comment: Tommy is doing great in math - he earned an A+ on his last test!
- Feedback: However, he never does his homework, which hurts his grades.
- Solution: Let’s work together to make sure he completes his homework.
Naturally, the email would have more details, but these three steps can create a basis for your parent-teacher communication.
Image Credit: School Voice
Develop a Weekly Report Template
You might not have a reason to communicate with individual parents, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to hear from you. If you have a class of 30 students (or six classes of 30 students for middle school and high school instructors) you don’t have time to send dozens of emails to parents at the end of the week.
Instead, look for a template you can use to create progress reports for students. Some schools have software tools where you can send out individualized reports. However, you may want to develop something less formal.
Teachers Pay Teachers offers multiple templates for educators who want to send student progress updates. These range from weekly behavior reports for younger students to advanced reports for older learners.
Establish a system where you can quickly fill out and submit these reports. They shouldn’t take up more than an hour of your time each week.
Explain What Certain Data Points Mean
If you decide to include meaningful data points in your student progress report, make sure you define them. You may need to add a guide at the bottom of the report explaining what each number means. You want parents to get value from the reports your send. If they can’t understand the data (or are too afraid to ask what it means) then how will they know how their kids are doing?
At the start of the year, explain what data you collect from students and how you track student progress. You can go over these data points again when you have your parent-teacher conferences as well. It’s also worth the time to explain why you collect data, rather than just focusing on grades.
"Sometimes grades don’t show progress but data shows even the little progress that is being made," says Maureen Holt, a teacher and reading specialist.
Sharing this data can give parents and students hope that they are improving and it can alert parents when there is an issue that you want to work on.
Include Updates on What Students Are Reading
Your school may require certain progress reports that fit specific formats. However, you can develop your own progress updates that keep parents engaged.
In your weekly updates, highlight the books that kids are reading – either in class or on their own. For example, if a particular student is drawn to books about science and outer space, their parents might be interested.
This level of qualitative involvement allows parents to have discussions with their kids and stay involved in their education. Using the space example again, the parents can ask their kids why they like space while eating dinner or the family could watch a live-streamed SpaceX launch. The learning continues after your student leaves the classroom and the parents can feel like they are part of the process.
Share the Tools and Games That You Use
The COVID-19 pandemic introduced teachers to countless new tools and games that can be used in the classroom. While some tools were happily left behind when in-person learning returned, other apps and games remain. Whatever tools you use, consider sharing them with parents.
Student progress isn’t just measured in grades. It’s also found in the level of engagement that kids have in the classroom and their excitement to learn and try hard. You can show parents how much progress their kids are making by letting them see the apps and games they use each day.
At eSpark, we let parents test out our software for free. They can get to know the Quests we have set up and see how the activities get more challenging based on student progress. If you are a teacher who uses eSpark, consider letting parents explore our tools so they can see how their kids learn and apply concepts in the classroom.
Use eSpark Data for Easy Student Progress Sharing
At eSpark, we want to engage students while helping teachers improve the educational experience. We want to be part of your team helping kids develop a love of learning. This is why we let teachers sign up for free and why students can continue learning with eSpark at home. As students progress through our program, their data is collected and relayed to their teacher, showing, down to the exact standard, where a student needs additional support. This actionable data can help teachers and parents connect on how to best help their students. Try out eSpark today to see if our activities can benefit your classroom.