Besides the great fall weather and beautiful colors, fall is also the season for the first round of parent conferences. Whether you’re expecting them to go very well or you’re expecting to have a few rocky ones, this is a great time to think about how to partner with parents so that they are not only on your side when you have to call about a concern, but you can garner their academic support at home as well.
I so often hear parents say that they are unable to help their students at home because the math has changed and is no longer the way it used to be. Many parents want to help but do not know where to start or how to help in a way in which the student will not respond, “That’s not how my teacher did it!”
Today’s post offers a few ideas for ways to partner with parents so that they feel comfortable supporting all of the hard work you are doing at school when their students arrive home each day. Making parents feel as though they are part of the equation for the success of their student will come back to you tenfold.
1. Send weekly communication about big ideas and current standards.
One of the best ways to keep parents in the loop is to communicate with them on a regular basis. Sending home a weekly newsletter to let parents know about the big ideas their students are learning will provide them with the opportunity to work with their students at home. You may also want to include the standards on which you are working but in non-educator friendly language. Consider going paperless by sharing a weekly Google Doc or using an email newsletter platform, like Mailchimp (It’s free!).
2. Let parents know that math today looks different than before.
Many of your parents are accustomed to a procedural-driven curriculum; however, the majority of the math standards today are conceptual-based and emphasize understanding the meaning. You can support parents with this transition by providing some rationale for the change and how understanding the meaning will help students better make sense of the math which will ultimately lead to success with the procedure.
3. Provide resources.
Most parents want to help their students, but they do not know how to do so. Be sure to include links to resources, such as tutorials, web games, and online skill practice where families can look for support. Consider using a class website or shared Google doc to provide a consistent way to share math resources with parents. Referencing them in your weekly communication with parents is also a good way to help parents support students at home.
4. Provide examples of the type of work parents should expect to see.
Along with the resources, be explicit with parents about the type of work that you would like to see. If you want the students to show their work, prove their answers, or draw pictures, it’s important to articulate that expectation to parents. You may even want to consider making some anchor charts to show examples, take pictures of them, and then include the images in your weekly communication.
5. Let parents know how they can support students at home and consider how homework can be beneficial if parents are unable to help at home.
If you ask a group of adults what subject they enjoy the most, they probably are not going to excitedly say “Math.” For many, a phobia of math began early-on and never went away. For this reason, many adults feel that they are unable to help their students, even if they want to. Considering assigning homework that is a review of the previously learned material, like from last week’s lessons, will give students more confidence to complete the work alone and will take some of the pressure off of families to help.
6. Encourage communication.
I often hear from friends who are parents that they are uncomfortable helping their students with their math homework. Encourage parents to ask questions about the concepts and skill their students are learning so that they can better support the work being done at school when students are working at home. Providing resources and being available to support parents as they are learning/re-learning the content and skills will help parents feel more comfortable helping with homework at home.
7. Host a Math Night for parents.
One great way to communicate the year’s content and skills is by hosting a Math Night where parents have an opportunity to experience the concepts and skills the way their students do and then have a chance to ask questions. Hosting a Math Night each semester will allow an opportunity for parents to explore the math concepts in advance and be better equipped to help their student at home.
8. Send home family math activities.
Periodically during the school year, send home games and activities that families are able to do together. Providing families with the opportunity to complete math activities together not only helps parents better understand the math their student is expected to do but also provides an opportunity for students to communicate mathematically with others.
9. Use videos to provide support for parents and students when working at home.
What’s a great substitute for being in the classroom for the lesson? A video! You can easily create your own videos with software like Screencastify. It’s a Chrome Extension available from the Google Chrome Store. For a video up to 10 minutes long, it is free and you can record both your computer screen or record from your webcam. If you have a document camera in your classroom, you may be able to make videos from that device as well. If you’re new to video, consider reaching out to your campus or district instructional technologist for help with video-creation capabilities.
10. Use a classroom website to provide useful information.
Creating a classroom website will give both students and parents a consistent way to communicate with families and a place to store helpful resources. You may want to organize the page by skill or content standard or even by grading periods. Using a class webpage to store math resources and weblinks also provides a location that is easy to access when students need to use the links during math stations. My personal favorite classroom website creator is called TeacherWeb (http://teacherweb.com/). It has a lot of great features and is super kid-friendly, but it does have a $39 annual fee. As an alternative, Google Sites is a free program that can be used to create class webpages and is adaptable to a lot of formats or designs.
Student success is based on many factors; however, support at home can be a major determining factor of success in mathematics. Partnering with parents and taking the time to provide them with opportunities to better support their students at home will pay off for students in the long-run and help parents feel more comfortable and encouraged to help at home.
Sound Off! How do you support parents who want to help their student with their math homework at home? Respond in the comments below.