Strategies & Activities for Family Engagement in Schools

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Family engagement events are hosted at schools to help parents and students develop strong connections with the school team. School events targeted to families can be fun, educational and support school systems. Family engagement events can give parents key information about school policies, orient parents in navigating school systems and provide a great opportunity to showcase student work, extracurricular programs and parent volunteer opportunities. Additionally, family engagement events are a great time to collect parent feedback.

Family engagement events are hosted at schools to help parents and students develop strong connections with the school team. School events targeted to families can be fun, educational and support school systems. Family engagement events can give parents key information about school policies, orient parents in navigating school systems and provide a great opportunity to showcase student work, extracurricular programs and parent volunteer opportunities. Additionally, family engagement events are a great time to collect parent feedback.

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Here are some family engagement events and activities that can support your school systems.

Summer Enrollment Day 

Hosting a summer “Enrollment Day” event is a great way to get student records and give parents key information about school policies before the new year starts. This event can be structured as a family-fun day with food and music to encourage attendance. Think of this as a station-focused event where parents attend multiple booths instead of one whole-group facilitated session.

Parents can check in at the registration table, get an enrollment packet and earn an enrollment passport. The passport will identify which centers parents need to attend. Station leaders then stamp the passport to show when a station has been completed by the parent, and the completed passport can be used as a ticket for food and games. Raffle tickets can be given as an additional incentive for families to stick around and mingle. Whole-group announcements can be made in between drawings to highlight key information that school leaders and teachers want to reiterate.

Here are a few stations to consider having at an Enrollment Day: 

Key Policies: At this station, schools can share key documents such as a school supply list, uniform policy, school schedule, teacher contact list, discipline policy, etc. Schools may opt to make a comprehensive student handbook that includes all of this key information.

Transportation: Here, parents can get a bus route and schedule or learn about other transportation options.

Student Records: Schools need extra information for new students. At this center, parents can share past report cards, test scores, immunization records, etc.

Special Education: Many parents with students with special needs may have student-specific questions to ask providers. This station is a great way for the school and family to touch base before school begins.

Teachers: Here, a representative from each grade level can be present to meet and share key information with parents.

Parent Survey: This station can include a computer-based survey where schools can ask pivotal questions they have for parents.

Open House 

Open House is a great event to host a few weeks after school has started. It gives teachers the opportunity to introduce themselves to teachers, tour the classroom, showcase student work, and go into detail about classroom systems and expectations. This is also a great opportunity for the school leader to address parents and talk through school goals.

Schools can offer raffle prizes, free books, refreshments or family-style dinner at the end of Open House as extra incentive to participate, especially after a long work day.

Parent Volunteers

Parents bring a very essential knowledgebase to schools. They understand student needs, community assets and they bring professional expertise. There are multiple ways parents can be a support to schools, and ensure that there are structured volunteer opportunities can keep parents engaged.

Here are a few ways schools can use parents as volunteers:

Parent Teacher Organizations: A parent-teacher organization is a formal association of parents and teachers to facilitate parent engagement. PTOs are an equitable practice that provide parents the ability to commune, discuss school policies, provide feedback to the school and strategize to improve school culture and systems. Teachers and leaders can work alongside parents to plan special events and set collaborative goals that impact student happiness and achievement. Parents in the PTO are often school ambassadors and do a great job helping other parents get involved in what’s happening on a school level.

Room Parents: Teachers often need a day-to-day support system that can help organize field trips, classroom parties, etc. Room parents are parent volunteers that partner with a classroom to provide strategic support and organize additional parent help when needed. Room parents can change each quarter to give more parents the ability to provide an intimate level of classroom support.

Field Trip Chaperones: Field trips are typically planned far in advance, giving parents enough time to plan their attendance. With sufficient volunteers, parents can be responsible for small-groups of students to help ensure that students are safe and able to have a great time.

Invite Parents to School Events 

It can be easy for a teacher or school leader to forget to inform parents about school events due to the busyness of the school week. Having a school calendar that is disseminated to parents at the beginning of the year gives parents the heads up when events are happening. But schools should always send out reminders so that parents are informed and can plan to attend if possible. Flyers, newsletters, eblasts, mass phone calls/text messages, social media and school websites are all ways that parents can be invited to school events efficiently.

Casual Parent Events 

There are many events that parents can attend in order to learn more about school systems or to celebrate their child’s successes. However, schools should consider having events that are parent-specific. Parents do so much to ensure that their children have a positive school experience. It’s always an added benefit when schools take the time to show parents appreciation for their work and collaboration. Parent-specific events can be casual, simple and efficient since parents are often very busy. Schools can host a quick breakfast just for parents or schedule an intimate lunch where parents can chat with the principal. Of course, schools can also go big and host Daddy-Daughter dances, Moms and Muffins Mother’s Day celebrations, and so much more. There are plenty of simple and elaborate ways to host parents and to show appreciation.

Report Card Conferences 

Report card conferences offer parents and teachers an opportunity to have an in-person meeting about student growth and areas of development. These events can be hosted quarterly or once per semester where parents come in to get student report cards and talk through results in detail.

To make the event logistically manageable, schools can schedule 15-minute check ins for parents to meet with teachers. Teachers can be split by subject and speak on behalf of the grade level. Schools should consider having a range of hours to accommodate parent work schedules, as well as virtual meeting options for parents who can not get to the school in person.

Parents that need more time with a specific teacher can request more time during conferences or schedule another time.

Other Ways Schools Can Keep Parents Informed 

Keep website updated

Schools websites are a great way to keep parents up-to-date. Include a school calendar, important announcements, teacher contact info and links to helpful parent information such as the Kickboard family portal. Just be sure to keep everything up to date!

Automated family messaging 

Automated phone calls to families can help get urgent messages to the entire school. This is a great way to send schoolwide reminders especially for students that tend to forget to give parents paperwork.

School newsletter 

It can be challenging for a school leader to send out a newsletter regularly. However, identifying a manageable timeline and a framework for the messages will ensure that school leaders are prepared. A quarterly newsletter might include announcements about upcoming school events and academic and extracurricular highlights. These can be administered via paper or digitally.

Hosting events that help parents stay abreast to school policies provides a platform to share information and build culture. The more positive touch points schools can have with the parents, the more engaged a parent can be, which will positively impact a student’s school experience in the end.

Here at Kickboard we have seen many schools improve parent-teacher relationships by using our family portal and messaging, PBIS mobile app, web platform, and professional development services to support their initiatives. Kickboard helps teachers to communicate with parents, track student behavior, identify cultural trends and implement systems to improve student results.