Strong parent-teacher partnerships are key to student success in the classroom. In fact, parental engagement is very effective at predicting student achievement. When teachers and parents are in regular contact about students’ needs, progress, and successes, students feel supported and motivated to try their best in school.
However, teachers find it challenging to build strong relationships with their parents, mainly due to language, technology, and perception barriers. TalkingPoints (talkingpts.org) is a non-profit organisation working to help teachers overcome these challenges through its free parent-teacher messaging app with translation. Teachers can compose a text message in English and send it to parents in their home languages. Parents can text back in their home languages, because TalkingPoints will translate their messages into English for teachers – allowing for seamless 2-way communication.
Here are three best practices that have helped their teachers radically improve parent engagement:
1. Taking on accessible technology
Many low-income families do not have access to computers or WiFi at home, so they can’t view school information that is emailed or posted to websites and parent portals. However, most families do own a mobile phone with an unlimited texting plan. 92% of families can send and receive text messages.
Teachers who use TalkingPoints have started communicating with families using text messages and are thrilled with the result. They are hearing from parents they haven’t been able to reach before, building stronger home-school connections, and helping students thrive in the classroom.
If you’re adopting a new tool to communicate with your students’ families, check to make sure they have the required technology and Internet connection to receive and respond to your messages.
2. Use of parents’ home languages
Student demographics are changing rapidly across the country. In the U.S., 5 million students are English Language Learners, and that figure is projected to triple by 2030. Engaging non-English speaking parents is key to helping ELL students thrive in the classroom.
Language barriers can get in the way of parent involvement. By providing all parents with the same information in a language they understand, they have an equal opportunity to be involved in their children’s education.
Teachers who use TalkingPoints communicate with parents in their home languages through translated text messages. They have seen that non-English speaking parents are just as responsive as their English-speaking counterparts.
3. Getting parents involved
All parents want to be involved in their children’s education but don’t always know how to help at home.
Why not send weekly messages home with:
Questions parents can ask their child regarding their learnings at school
Activities parents can do at home to reinforce classroom instruction
Prompts for parents to have more conversations about school at home
By using TalkingPoints, teachers have found that working in partnership with parents improves student development both in and out of the classroom. By opening channels of regular communication with parents, they feel welcome to ask questions, express their concerns, and share what they’re seeing at home.