by Karen N. Nemeth
“Parents of DLLs just don’t want to get involved – and it’s hard to know why because many of them don’t speak much English!” Language Castle Fast 5 Gamechangers gives you five fast changes you can make now to start seeing better results. If your goal is to just get some of the parents involved, then keep doing what you’ve been doing. Just keep in mind: the families that don’t show up may need you the most – so small changes can have a big impact! Here are strategies that work to get ALL parents of your diverse students to engage with the school community and with their child’s learning.
photo by Bigstock.com
1. Make “multicultural day” a part of every day! Arrange many opportunities, large and small, to share traditions, talents, and activities throughout the year at different times and days to give every family a chance to participate.
2. Offer a variety of options for family members to participate in the child’s classroom (not everyone is comfortable reading stories in front of a group). With a range of choices, more parents will participate with confidence. They can use their home language to help children plant a garden, prepare a recipe, have conversations on a neighborhood walk, develop soccer skills, care for a class pet and more.
3. Host workshops on topics the families are asking for rather than topics the school staff thinks they should have. Try these: ESL classes where parents learn by translating traditional stories and rhymes for their children’s class; workshops on applying for jobs by using computers at the library so you can also introduce parents to multilingual family literacy resources; quick and easy cooking night with free grocery coupons and ideas about science and math learning in the kitchen; or family sport night in the school gym with free book giveaway to promote home literacy.
4. Reorganizing your music collection? Need the bookshelves painted? Need the play foods cleaned and updated? Need new clothes for the dolls? Need the classroom books repaired? Parents may not always feel they need you, but they will usually come in if they feel you need them! Get to know their skills and talents and ask them to help make their child’s school a better place. Feeling needed and valued is the best kind of motivation for parent engagement in any language.
5. To get parents more engaged in the school community, your most effective tool is other parents! Ask experienced parents to serve as welcoming ambassadors for new families who speak the same language. Arrange phone chains so experienced parents can explain events, rules and changes to new parents. Match parents up on small teams to support classroom activities. Working together makes everyone feel more included and fosters that deep sense of community that is great for each child and great for the whole school!
(Language Castle Gamechanger secrets: Parents who feel needed will come to school. The more parents come to school and see what’s going on, the more confident they will feel about supporting their child’s learning. The more contact teachers have with parents who speak different languages, the easier it will be to overcome language barriers, so find ways to be with parents often. When parents feel connected with other parents and involved in the school, they are less likely to feel isolated when they face challenges and may need help. With these few simple gamechangers, schools report extraordinary success engaging parents of ALL students – so please share your success stories too!)