No homework on nights you want families to participate in an event.One of the best strategies our staff followed was not to assign homework on nights with a PTA meeting, a performance, or anything at which we hoped families would attend. The dinner, homework, bath-time, bedtime routine is just too full with an evening meeting added. Give everyone a night off and ditch the homework!
Feed 'em!Yes, it sounds overwhelming, but taking care of another piece of the busy evening routine is to provide dinner when you want families to come to school. I've seen PTAs provide a simple hot dog/chips/drink for as little as $1.00 per person. I've even seen simple meals provided for free. One year, a goal of my PDP was to have a mini "curriculum night" once a month. My principal agreed to pay for a bag meal from a local hamburger place. It did take some organization, order-taking, and picking up, but parents did show up. More about this below.
Offer parents a time where the agenda is their own.Continuing with the mini curriculum night mentioned above, my goal was to give parents a time when they could talk to me about their curriculum questions and concerns. Parents quickly learned that we were not having parent/teacher conferences, discussing personal issues, or having a gripe session. I guided them to share the questions that came up at home about homework or classwork. "What does 'modeling' mean?" "How do you explain the process?" "Will my child be penalized if they try but the answer is incorrect?" "How can there be more than one right answer in math?" It was exhilarating to help bring together what parents knew about a subject with the concept-building that we were doing. They almost always went home feeling a little clearer and less stressed.
You might also plan a night when kids can share with their parents a science experiment or other activity. Having moms and dads working alongside their kids makes great home-school connections. For example, if you provide a light dinner, you could make ice-cream-in-a-bag for dessert!
Assign low-stress homework activities where parents can be involved.Parents are so eager to know what their children are learning. Worksheet after worksheet can be dull and stressful, especially if it may be graded. Consider sending home a simple game that parents can play with their student. To include a little accountability, parents might fill out a short feedback form asking if they like the game, what changes could be made, and what content they thought their child learned from it. This works really well with math.
Create a "wish list" that parents can fill.So many parents simply cannot come to school to participate in activities, but they want to be involved. With administrative OK, keep a wish list on your website or newsletter of materials your class needs. From tissues to items for science experiments, it feels good to a parent to be able to contribute.
Find a format for easy communication.Parents can only be involved when they're informed. There are so many ways to keep parents aware of what is going on. From paper newsletters to texting apps, there is something for everyone. If you haven't revisited your current format, consider doing a little "shopping" and see if something new might serve your parents better.
There are so many ways that parents can be involved in their child's education. I hope some of these give you food for thought. How have you had success increasing positive parent involvement?
Want to read more about increasing parent involvement? Check out these blog posts from some of my amazing teacher friends!
All Things Special Ed - Increase Parent Engagement
Carrberry Creations - How to Create Powerful Parent-Teacher Communication