There are lots of reasons to encourage parents to get involved in their child’s learning of English. I won’t go into detail here but in my experience, the children who gain practice and reinforcement at home are more likely to remember what they’re learning and their levels of motivation are usually higher. When parents show interest and consider learning English to be fun as well as useful, their children normally follow suit. I’d like to share here some of the ways I try to get parents involved in their child’s experience with English.
Possibly the best way to include parents is to invite them to class. At the end of each trimester I invite the parents of the pre-schoolers to attend and observe our class. We do a demonstration of the songs, activities and stories that we’ve focused on during the trimester. It’s difficult for children at this age to remember what they’ve done in class once they’re out of that physical environment, so these ‘Open Days’ give parents a chance to see what they’re learning as well as how. Most parents seem to really enjoy these observation classes and they usually all attend. At the end of the class I hand out the progress evaluations and chat a bit with parents about how the class is moving forward. Inviting the parents to class has been a great way to let the kids show off their English as well as touch base with parents about their progress.
Another way I encourage parents to get involved is through our web page. For every unit I create a glogster page (check out gloster here) and post it to the web page. On a side note, I’ve taken precautions as far as internet security goes: all parents have signed authorization forms allowing their children to appear in videos and pictures posted on the internet and the class pages on our web page are password protected. If you’re considering posting videos and pictures of your students on the internt, I strongly recommend carrying out similar steps.
Creating glogster pages for every unit for my classes is time-consuming and at times tedious but I’ve noticed that some (definitely not all) parents follow and really enjoy what I post. It’s for the sake of these few that I continue to do so. I’ve also noticed that recording the videos in class with the kids has become part of their learning process. For the little ones, it’s a way for them to show off for their parents and enjoy sharing what they’ve done in class at home. For the older ones, it’s become a way to monitor their progress as well as showcase what they’ve accomplished with the target language. Recording the videos has turned into a sort of consolidation of what we’re focusing on and it gives them a sense of purpose in using the language, which is difficult to do with young learners.
On each class page I also post numerous links to websites and videos that are relevant to that age group. They include sites with games, stories, printable activities, information, videos of songs to sing along to, etc. If they are so inclined, parents can help their children continue to enjoy learning and practising English at home. I’m not sure how many parents actually take advantage of these links but they are posted for those (probably) few that do.
Workshops are another way to involve parents and I’ve just started introducing them this year. I had noticed that quite a few parents had questions about how to play with their kids in English, how to encourage the kids to practise what they know as well as technical questions on pronunciation. I began thinking that workshops could be a way to deal with these issues in a more effective way: instead of on a one-to-one basis, we could meet and discuss them as a group with the parents who were interested.
In the first trimester I held a very practical workshop for parents on how to register their children in the digital course. I had quite a decent turnout and I think it was just what some parents needed to get their kids signed up and using the course at home. I think some parents shy away from registering their children because they’re not sure how to do it or whether the course is worth the hassle. Showing them what the kids can do with the course and going through the registration process step-by-step seemed to motivate quite a few parents.
In my experience, the parents of pre-schoolers tend to be the ones most involved in their child’s learning. For that reason I decided to hold a workshop each trimester for pre-school parents. In the first trimester I explained and showed them a number of simple games they can play in English with their children. I think it went over well and I even had parents who couldn’t make it to the session ask me for the handout. The workshop for this trimester was on useful phrases and pronunciation. I prepared a list of vocabulary and phrases/questions that parents could use at home with their children. The workshop went off really well. I tried (and I think succeeded) to keep the atmosphere light and fun so that parents felt comfortable speaking in English. We looked at the items on my list, drilling each and practising in pairs. There was a lot of laughter during that session and everyone participated more than I had imagined they would. Afterward quite a few commented that they had had a great time and had learned at least one new word or expression. In the last trimester I’m thinking of exploring the links that I’ve posted to the web site in the hopes that they’ll be more motivated to use them. I hope that workshop goes as well as the first two.
It’s sometimes difficult to get parents involved in their child’s learning but I think it’s important to at least give them a number of opportunities to do so. In my opinion, the benefits outweigh the time and effort that needs to be put in. Please share your thoughts and suggestions on how to get parents involved. Thanks for reading!