My goal this year is to get parents more involved in their child’s education and literacy gains. This journey will begin tonight at Open House. Typically open house night is the one time parents in our school show up to an event that doesn’t involve free food of some sort. In the past, I have awkwardly stood in front of the room, given an overview of our school year, and then I never heard from the majority of the parents again.
This year I am determined to make a change in that routine. I want to hook the parents from open house and get their feedback on ways they would like to be more involved. One of my biggest struggles is language barriers, and the translator will be present at school tonight so I’m hoping to have support there. These are the parents that I need to somehow connect with tonight in order to keep them actively engaged all year.
My school is Title 1 and part of our School Improvement Plan is to get more parent interaction and involvement. We have very optimistic goals on our plan (which I love), but accomplishing them all is going to be a challenge. Most of them are academic and behavior goals, and I truly believe if I can connect with my parents the way that I am envisioning, the other two components will fall into place on their own.
I can remember being in elementary school and my parents reading with me every night before I went to bed, checking my homework before I was allowed to play, and quizzing me on my multiplication facts when I had a quiz coming up. The majority of my kids don’t have those “luxuries” and are continuing to fall below grade level on their reading. I don’t think its a lack of caring, or at least most of them, rather I think they just don’t know how to help their child. I had a few parents reach out to me last year and ask how they could help their child become a better reader or get back on track in math. I met with them and followed up frequently providing resources and interventions the parents could try at home, and we definitely saw results with those few students. Imagine what growth could be made if I had all 24 sets of parents doing these things at home!
Resource #1: Moby Max
We are currently in a generation run by technology and the internet. There are millions of online resources available to help with schoolwork, some being free and some subscription based. My school purchases a license to use Moby Max which is an incredible program.
The students begin the year by taking a baseline test in math and reading. The questions increase in difficulty as they demonstrate proficiency. When they start missing multiple problems or questions, it cuts them off and gives them a level where they begin. Last year, I only had one student at a fourth grade level at the baseline in math, which is where all of my students were supposed to be. I used incentives and different activities to get my students engaged and using Moby Max. In the classroom they are receiving mainly grade level content, but this program closes some of the gaps that they entered fourth grade with.
My favorite contest I did was last March and I wish I would’ve done it sooner since it had such an amazing reaction with the students. I created a “Math Madness Moby Max Bracket.” (I instantly hooked my sports fanatics!) What that entailed was a 25 team blank bracket. I randomly placed the students in the bracket so they were all teamed up against another student. Their mission was to answer more problems correctly throughout the week. The plus of this was that some of my highest kids in math were losing to some of the lowest students because it wasn’t about how good you were, just how much effort you put in. I had students going on it for hours each night just to try to beat out their opponent. One student grew an entire grade level on the program in just a month! Since it had such an impact in math last year, I really want to encourage a reading competition this year. It would be great to alternate challenges so students are constantly working on some skill at home. The point of this is showing that the resources are there, and I can get the students involved and hype them up, but it would be even more effective to have that parent support.
Resource #2: Class Dojo
If I’m going to test out different ways for parents to help their child, I need to have a way to contact them. I have read many blogs about Class Dojo, and I am also a very avid user of this app. A lot of my students are sharing bedrooms with multiple siblings, coming to school without school supplies, and complaining they’re hungry hours before lunch time. However, when I took a poll in class, every student said their parent or someone in their home had cell phones with internet on them. I sent home invitations after invitations prodding parents to sign up for Class Dojo. I can’t get them to go on things like Moby Max if I have no way to contact them.
Amazingly, I currently have 22/24 parents signed up on the site. I still don’t hear from a lot of them, but at least they can receive messages from me. Most people use the app as a way to track student behavior and while my kids definitely respond to that, my main focus with it is being able to reach out to parents. I want to be able to celebrate when their child moves up a reading level or discuss ways to improve their fluency. Some of mine never check their e-mail or answer to phone calls (especially if they don’t speak English), but are very apt to read a message that appears on their phone like a text. It’s especially great for me because I can translate all of my messages online and send Spanish to parents. If they respond to me in Spanish, I can translate that too! Class Dojo was a step in the right direction for parent contact in my class, but I know there is still a lot of room for improvement.
This brings me to tonight: Open House. I need to connect with these parents before I lose them. Sure they won’t all show up, but if ten parents do it’s over twice as many that I can reach than last year. And that’s a step in the right direction.