Parent-teacher communication ideas are always helpful for schools to be aware of and for this month’s best practice classroom tip, let’s imagine you are a parent! One day, you receive a message from your child’s teacher:
BEFORE EXAMPLE ABOVE
While this message goes over the assignment as the teacher intends, it lacks warmth and requires too much effort to absorb! To improve messages like these, here are some useful tips on how to write messages that spark engagement and connection, curated from our K-12 community.
Review the tips below and then see how we use them to transform the message above!
Tip 1: Adjust Your Mindset and Improve Your Tone
Do you see parents as adversaries, impediments, workaholics, or even critics? What if you wrote to them as if they were your classroom cheerleaders or partners in growth, ready to support you and their student(s)?
Setting a welcoming and encouraging tone in your communications home will automatically help parents feel more engaged. Get into a resourceful mindset before you draft your communication home.
One simple way to express warmth and support in your communications is to use the word “we” rather than “you,” when describing assignments or the classroom! For example, write “we are going to learn about ecosystems today” rather than “students are going to learn about ecosystems today.” This small change communicates that you the teacher consider yourself on the same team as the students, rather that separate.
Dr. Constantino also points out in his book, Engage Every Family: Five Simple Principles, that often, parents may lack confidence helping their children with assignments because they they don’t know the material themselves. Teachers can make it clear that parents don’t have to be experts on the topic or remember how to simplify complex fractions! Reassure parents that they’re not expected to be subject matter experts – what you need from them is encouragement and support for their student as they tackle the assignment.
Finally, set a positive tone in your messages with phrases like “you can do this!” and “I am excited to work with you”. Shifting your mindset can make a world of difference in how you come across to parents in your written communications.
Tip 2: Keep It Simple
Overly complicated words and sentences are difficult to follow and are often skimmed over. To make sure parents are engaged with what you are sending home, keep it simple and to the point!
Patricia Weinzapfel, K-12 communications consultant, trainer, and author of No More Mumbo Jumbo, offers dozens of tips in her book to help teachers (and school staff) communicate in a way that parents will appreciate and actually absorb.
One of our favorites is to avoid unnecessarily big words, acronyms and lengthy, complicated sentences. They take extra effort and energy to process and understand. Your goal is to communicate with parents, not to showcase writing skills in a brilliant essay!
Consider, too, that some of your parents may not be native English speakers. Using an academic writing style can create a barrier to understanding. Simple sentences and clear words make for great messages home.
Finally, to ensure your message is clear and simple, always re-read it before sending, asking yourself, “what can I remove without losing the meaning of what I want to communicate?” This will help you identify unnecessary words and complicated phrasing. Busy parents will appreciate your efforts.
Tip 3: Structure Your Message for Understanding
Structure your message in a way that is easy to read and understand. Kathleen Morris is a primary school teacher with a passion for helping teachers integrate technology into their classrooms. She shares some powerful tips for how to write great emails home to parents.
To make message easier to read, Kathleen suggests:
Breaking large paragraphs into multiple short paragraphs,
Using bolded words for important ideas, and
Organizing with bullet-pointed or numbered lists (like this one!)
Bulleted lists are especially easy to absorb and should only include the most pertinent information for readers.
Tip 4: Use a Call-To-Action
Do you want parents to sign-up for something? Take action to read at home? Send in photos?
Melanie Corona, Public Information Officer for the Gilroy Unified School District, recommends always using a call-to-action in communications home. A call-to-action is a term used extensively in marketing and communications, and simply refers to whatever it is you want people to do in response to your message.
The call-to action should be easily identified, not buried in the middle of paragraph or an attached pdf! Make your call to action stand out in your message, to increase the likelihood that parent will find it and take action.
Tip 5: Use a Clear, Detailed Subject Line
If your message is going out as an email, it’s important that your subject line attracts attention, so parents will open it. Pay attention to your subject line that details exactly what the email is about. Some examples are:
Subject: Helpful tips for tonight’s multiplication assignment
Subject: More information about tomorrow’s virtual science fair check-in process
Subject: Room 20 needs 2 more volunteers for Tuesday’s food drive
Now that we have these great tips for sending messages home, let’s apply them to the example messages we started with:
AFTER EXAMPLE ABOVE
We hope you find these tips for communicating with parents useful, please let us know what you think! Do they include steps that you feel are actionable? Anything more you would add to the list?
PS: Thank you to Steve Constantino, Patricia Weinzpafel, and Kathleen Morris for their incredible school-to-home communications insight.