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Tool: Learning about family life

Family life in each home looks a little different from the life that may go on next door, down the street, or in the next community.  Many things that happen from day to day in the home are likely to affect students’ participation and learning in school. The more teachers know about their students’ family lives, the better chance there is of finding appropriate ways to support their students in the classroom.

Below are two charts that could help you learn more and reflect on what you are learning:

1 of 2. How do I select appropriate and feasible approaches at my grade level and in my subject matter for learning about family life? 

There are many routines and practices that can become part of your routine to help you listen attentively for details about your students’ family lives. The point of using these practices is not to be nosey, but rather to listen for details that might impact your students' classroom participation and learning. Use the chart below and add ideas of your own:

Ways to learn about family life

Learning from students

Learning from parents

  • Morning meetings
  • Journals
  • Dialogue journals
  • Class discussions that allow for family issues to be shared
  • Talking with students outside of class
  • Phone calls
  • E-mail exchanges
  • Notes home
  • Dialogue journals
  • Parent conferences
  • Home visits


2 of 2. If I have information about family life that could impact a student’s classroom participation and learning, what should I do with it? 

There are no easy answers to this question, and there is no “one size fits all” approach. The following chart is designed to help you reflect on what you have learned. Talk with your mentor, a colleague or your principal about:

  • What the law requires of you as a professional
  • What next steps, if any, might be taken
Analysis of information about family life

Type of information

Likely impact on student participation and learning

Classroom supports and/or school/community resources that could help the family

Family interactions

  • Communication
  • Discipline
  • Relations with siblings
  • Student responsibilities in the home
  • Student responsibilities outside the home
  • Family events (e.g., birth, death, divorce)
  • Homework routines
  • TV watching

Health and safety issues

  • Nutrition
  • Medical care
  • Sleep
  • Exercise
  • Suspected drug use
  • Suspected abuse, neglect
  • Homelessness

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