There's no doubt about it: when parents are involved, students do better. According to the Family Engagement Collaborative of the Miami Valley, family engagement in schools leads to higher student achievement and graduation rates, fewer behavioral problems, better self-esteem, and stronger performance by students from diverse backgrounds.
In a recent study by Christina M. Hall, she found that families want to be a part of their child's education, but many don't know how to support learning. Too often, educators rely on parents as partners for behavior issues.
While parents are comfortable engaging in this form of involvement, it doesn't provide any insight on the academic support that is so essential for their child's success. When academic support is sought from parents, it tends to fall into two categories:
The parent/teacher conference:
The note home:
While these methods are implemented with the best of intentions, relying on parent signatures, parent/teacher conferences, and phone calls to build parent involvement usually results in frustration in school staff who assume that parents just don't care.
In her study using Class Dojo with families, Hall discovered that families are engaged when using simple, accessible methods that allow them to see their students’ growth. In fact, family engagement expert Karen L. Mapp asserts that student learning and development must be at the heart of any parent initiative.
To be successful in engaging parents, schools need to help families see their roles in education differently. One effective way to do that is to use goal-oriented initiatives rather than "random acts of parents involvement." Identifying areas where students are struggling and producing family engagement events that will improve student learning is an important way to help families begin to relearn their own role in supporting their children. And, to move away from passive involvement on an individual basis, Mapp encourages schools to adopt the term "family engagement" in place of "parent involvement" to develop an active partnership between schools, caregivers, and community who support students.
There will always be barriers to family engagement, but framing it as an "opportunity for all" can help schools move beyond the barriers. The Framework Institute advises that promoting family engagement as an equity issue and policy matter focuses the initiative on inclusivity and opportunities for achievement for all children and will help schools look at how current practices may exclude some students and families. Tips for building an opportunity for all in family initiatives can include
In the 21st Century, most people want what they need in fast, short bursts. We rely on our mobile phones for a great deal of our daily goals - work, play, and family. INFOhio is Ohio’s PreK-12 digital library, available anywhere, anytime. With a cell phone or internet connection, the quality free content from INFOhio is available to all Ohio schools and families. INFOhio’s key values are equity and student success from high quality resources and instruction. INFOhio’s resources and services can be an integral part of building family engagement in your school or district offering opportunities for all Ohio communities, schools, and families.
Because using goal-oriented initiatives in your school or district leads to more family engagement, consider how you can use INFOhio to support the initiatives of literacy, inquiry, and STEAM. Each of these initiatives might be a target for your school or district that will help you achieve results in your OIP, strategic plan, or yearly goals.
Families reading together every day is beneficial to all literacy stakeholders. Giving families options of how and what to read is important for equity and access To support your school’s literacy initiative, INFOhio has many free, quality resources for families. BookFlix is a popular resource which offers over 140 pairs of fiction and nonfiction eBooks in Spanish and English. The popular titles can be viewed from any device with an internet connection. BookFlix is engaging and informative, providing readers in PreK-3 grade with important digital text features such as having text read aloud and highlighted. This resource can be used by the whole family and is best when two or more people view the eBooks together to talk about, question, and laugh with the details of the books. The BookFlix on the Go flyer is perfect to send home to parents to help them set up their mobile device for easy access to the resource. Using the steps outlined, adults can bookmark the eBook platform on the home screen. With two taps, families can browse or search for the just-right book to meet their reading needs! Download the flyer to print, email, or attach in other family outreach, or share it at your next family engagement event.
Reading on a screen is different than reading print. INFOhio has developed research-based Best Practices for Digital Reading to help educators and families help students engage, comprehend, and create when reading on a screen. One of the best practices is to communicate with families when using digital text in the classroom. A series of Best Practices Lesson Plans were created by INFOhio’s Early Literacy Task force. These lesson plans use quality digital text from INFOhio’s premium content aligned with the Best Practices for Digital Reading. Each lesson contains a Home Assignment, an activity to promote the use of digital reading platforms with adult/child interaction to help students connect and think when reading on a screen. Communicating with families by sharing the resources used in classrooms is important for engagement.
Research shows that having books in the home is a surefire way to affect a child’s literacy gains in life. While digital text is not the same as print books, is does provide families from diverse backgrounds with opportunities to read together on a device or by printing out an article or magazine story. INFOhio’s ISearch is a discovery platform that searches almost all of the content from its licensed premium resources. Families can find articles, eBooks, short stories and even print books from their school libraries if their school uses INFOhio’s Library Services Platform. If a parent has a cell phone or tablet, there are a many topics to explore from thousands of sources like Scholastic’s classroom publications, Highlights for Children, Ranger Rick, and Sports Illustrated.
Using the tabs across the top is a great way to choose the best text for families, with eBooks and videos from INFOhio, to Encyclopedias, to Basic Sources which contains content from many popular magazines. The limiters on the left are also helpful and will allow families to find the right publication for their readers. To learn more about using ISearch as a literacy tool, visit our Learning Pathways and review the ISearch for Librarians class’s lesson on Finding the Right Text.
Another great resource that features INFOhio’s digital text as well as links to other literacy support is the Day by Day Ohio Family Literacy Calendar. As the title implies, this resource has literacy activities for each day, usually theme-based, and always engaging.
Inquiry promotes critical thinking, project-based learning, media literacy, and many other key skills in not just students, but their families as well. Inquiry is at the foundation of what INFOhio is and how we can support learning. If your goal-oriented initiative is to build these skills, consider these resources and tools from INFOhio.
INFOhio provides the World Book suite of products at no cost to schools and families. These online encyclopedias for learning at all ages have webquests on a variety of topics. You can browse the collections here:
Inquiry is process-based, and one step in this process is locating information. World Book’s webquests help learners develop skills to find, use, and evaluate information which is an important 21st century skill. Providing these for use at home is easy. These webquests can be printed or sent digitally in an LMS. In addition, the corresponding articles from the World Book encyclopedia can also be printed. For the next family engagement event in your school, use the webquests as a scavenger hunt in the computer lab. This activity is a great way to introduce INFOhio’s quality resources to families.
Inquiry, project-based learning, or the familiar term, research paper, can cause families alarm when there is not enough support or if students procrastinate. Using INFOhio’s Go! Ask, Act, Achieve as a resource to support learners during the inquiry process will help not only the student, but their families. This resource has a comprehensive teacher guide which will facilitate the process and provide input on how to break down the steps. Work with parents and share Go! Ask, Act, Achieve before and during the project to help them access and follow the work that is being done in class.
Science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics = STEAM. Many schools recognize the importance of this initiative. INFOhio has many resources to support engaging families in student learning for STEAM. One of those resources is Science Online which has articles, videos, online modules, charts and graphics, and interactive experiments to support subjects such as biology, physics, algebra, and chemistry.
Remote learning has been difficult for many families as they struggled to help their children with topics they knew little about. However, the interactive experiments on Science Online contain explicit directions that families will find useful and applicable. This resource is an excellent source of information on topics that students may be struggling with. There are also hands-on experiments for teachers and parents using simple and easily found materials. Providing parents with this accessible resource will help them engage with their children’s learning.
Open Space is Ohio’s OER repository where educators can create and collaborate to share resources to promote innovative practices. One new addition to Open Space is a collection of STEM Kits from Hamilton County ESC.
A kit with family engagement components is available for grades K-6. These Family Stem Cards can be downloaded and printed to encourage families to work together to develop science, technology, engineering, and math skills.
Building, creating, making, and designing are part of STEAM. The INFOhio resource Hobbies and Craft Reference Center has a wealth of content that will support families in all situations - from high tech to low - to discover and access projects that will develop student learning. Browsing is easy with this resource and families can find tutorials and plans to help them work together to discover these critical skills for STEAM. These can be printed or shared in an LMS for work at home.
World Book Kids also has activities that will lend a hand in STEAM projects. Many of these can be printed as well. Use a World book Kids activity as a weekly STEAM family challenge.
In addition to our resources, INFOhio has other tools that can help you promote your goal-oriented initiative and engage families. INFOhio’s Educator Tools provides you with the best of INFOhio and the web. You can find family engagement tools from INFOhio - bookmarks, flyers, and other materials by choosing the INFOhio resources limiter in the Item Type limiter in the left. Or, search the best of the web. Educator Tools contains high-quality content to help you make family engagement a reality in your school and district.
Using INFOhio’s resources and tools in the classroom and with parents will be more effective after you learn about them. INFOhio Campus is the place for INFOhio’s flexible, personalized training and PD. To find out more about any of the resources shared in this blog, use the INFOhio Learning Pathways. The Pathways contain self-paced, online classes about our tools and resources available at no cost. Participants will earn contact hours after completing a quiz on the class.
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