Wednesday, August 17, 2016

How to Keep/Get Parents Involved

Depending on your classroom makeup, you most likely have parents who are interested in different level of parent involvement.  I am a firm believer that students are most successful when their parents and teacher are on the same page...and this is the first thing I told parents in our beginning of the year letter.

And since this is so important to me, I wanted to share with you a couple of the ways I encourage parent involvement in my classroom. Click on links throughout the post for other posts that go more into depth on these topics.

1.  Back to school letters.
In the first days of the school year, I send home one (rather large) packet including permission slips, general information about my classroom, supply lists, etc.  Depending on the year, and how long it takes to figure out student schedules, within the first couple weeks, I also send home a copy of the student's schedule along with a letter describing all of the activities in the day.

2.  Monthly Calendars and Newsletters.
To keep parents aware of important dates, field trips, cooking activities, I send home a monthly calendar and newsletter.  We also used these calendars daily in our classroom as part of our morning group to keep track of important events and work on calendar skills.

3.  Surveys
In my beginning of the year packet, one of the forms I send home is a general student survey covering information such as student preferences in activities/foods, family situation-sibling names/ages, parent goals for the year, medical information-medication/allergies, etc.).  I also ask parents what their preferences are for communication with me.

At the time of each student's annual IEP, I also send home a parent input form to gain some insight into what the parents' goals are so I can make sure that they are being addressed in the IEP.  This picture is hard to see, but each box has a different area for parents to give input on (reading and writing, math, self help skills, social skills/communication, behavior/emotional development).

4.  IEP goals and minutes.
At the IEP meeting, I give parents a user-friendly copy of all of their child's goals as sometimes the official documents we send home have tons of extra/confusing information.  I also include a spreadsheet of IEP minutes to show how much time at each activity their child is working on each IEP goal.

4.  Home visits
Our school district has 2 report card pickup/parent conferences day each year.  For the first round, I offered home visits where me and another special ed teacher would go out to the child's home. Before going, we would send some forms to see if there were any specific concerns (that way we could bring materials/visuals if applicable).  Most of our families chose this option over coming into the school.  It is often more convenient for families and it allows us teachers to be a guest in our parents' home whereas usually they are the guest in our "home" at school.  I think it shows a lot of respect for the parents and honors them as the expert in knowing their child.

5.  Family field trips.
We were lucky enough to have a family connection to a camp about an hour outside of the city we lived in.  Through their fundraising efforts, we were provided with a full day (on a Sunday) family field trip to their camp.  This included transportation, meals, games, activities (nature walks, crafts, scavenger hunts, campfire), etc.  We invited all of the students in 2 self contained autism classrooms plus their families.  We had awesome turnout on this field trip every year...up to 2 full school busses full of families.  This was always one of my favorite days of the is a place where everyone is accepted and free to be themselves.  Watching our students and families all together and sharing in this special day of escape outside the city makes me tear up annually! Even since I have left this school, I continue to go back every year for this trip!

6.  Communication.
A lot of parents are used to only getting phone calls or having meetings when their child has done something wrong...I love to communicate the positives about my students' day through sending home photographs (either printing them our texting them), sending text messages about great accomplishments (as well as reminders),  and making phone calls regularly to parents.  We also used a "My day at school" sheet that students filled out to bring home.

Some parents are looking for more involvement than what is offered in my above suggestions...and that is great.  Welcome them to share their ideas with you, but it is ok to let them know what expectations are realistic/do-able and which are not.  Other parents don't know how to advocate for their child or what information they should even be asking for.  I had one parent who moved from my classroom to a new school district and she told me that all of the ways that we had kept her included and informed about her son's education helped her advocate for him and ask questions at his new school.  I love success stories like that which make us feel like all the little things we do make a difference in our students' and parents' lives after they leave our classroom!


  1. These are great ideas! Since I teach resource, some of those things will be done by the general education teachers, but I do want to at least do the communication survey and start a newsletter!