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Involving parents in middle school science

Most research indicates that parental involvement improves the quality of student education. However, a new teacher may dread the first parent/teacher conference. The keys to success are building positive relationships and keeping excellent records of student progress.

Conferences

Prepare for the first conference by having examples of student work available for the parents to view. A student-maintained portfolio of all work is an easy solution. A simple format would be as follows:

  1. Assignment sheet with grades received—kept by the student
  2. All graded returned work
  3. A parent signoff sheet

Have the portfolios available for the conference. Spend time during the first conference teaching parents about the portfolios, and later they will become routine.

Beginning teachers may want to consider interviewing other staff members about how they handle conferences.

Newsletters

Writing a newsletter is important and can let parents know what is happening in the classroom. What can be more effective is to have students design pages for the newsletter emphasizing lessons that have been taught during the reporting period. Students love to illustrate their work, and the drawings and text reinforce learning. This is a very effective method of involving parents in the results of student learning.

Parent lab days

Parent lab days are another means of getting parents involved in the classroom. A typical set of steps that might be followed are:

  • Clear the plan with administration.
  • Send invitations to the parents to attend. (Students could design these).
  • Plan a lab that is on-task but not complicated or difficult.
  • Greet the parents warmly as they arrive.
  • Have a fun icebreaker. A good one is to have everyone arrange themselves chronologically by birth day—month and day only—by using only nonverbal, non-written means of communication.
  • Do the experiment with parents and students working in cooperative groups.
  • Report out orally—students or parents.
  • Serve light refreshments.