As a teacher, you know that learning doesn't stop at the classroom door. Research shows that family engagement is critical to a child's academic achievement and social development.
Active learning is the heart of the HighScope Curriculum. But parents may have trouble seeing and understanding the difference between "just playing" and the learning that takes place in the HighScope classroom. By communicating and providing meaningful opportunities to participate in the program, teachers can help families to extend children's active learning throughout the day.
- Create a Welcoming Atmosphere
- Share Information About Children
- Welcome Families to Participate
- Strategize for Home Visits
- Prepare Parent Workshops
Create a Welcoming Atmosphere
A family's first encounter with an educational setting makes a lasting impression. When walking into an early childhood program, a parent may ask him or herself, "Is this a place where I feel comfortable?" The following strategies can make a positive and lasting impression on the families in your program.
- Reflect a nurturing and respectful environment in your arrangement of the physical space. As you enter your classroom, think about what the environment suggests to families.
- Arrange the space to make family members feel welcome. Think of ways to invite parents into the classroom.
- Greet parents cordially. Don't underestimate the importance of a personal and individual greeting.
To explore more, download Cultivating Family Connections.
Share Information About Children
Communicating specific information to family members about their children is an important component of cultivating family connections. There are many opportunities during the typical day to communicate with parents about their children, even if only briefly.
- Share observations with parents. Be certain to share one positive observation with each parent about his or her child each day, and invite parents to tell you something about their child, as well.
- Make sure arrival time supports parent-child and home-school relationships. Do you have a plan for child arrivals? Is a teacher available to welcome children and families?
- Make sure departures at the end of the program day support parent-child and home-school relationships. Think about your end-of-the-day routine — departure time is an important part of the daily schedule for communicating with families and sending children home on a positive note.
To explore more, download Cultivating Family Connections.
Welcome Families to Participate in the Classroom
Inviting families to participate in the classroom's routines offers benefits as well as challenges for the teacher. One benefit is that children know that they are important when they see adult family members enjoying time with a group of children and taking an interest in their education.
- Explain expectations to family members ahead of time. If you invite family members into the classroom, it is important to let them know what you expect of them.
- Clarify and model for parents how adults and children interact in an active-learning classroom. Parents learn about adult-child interaction when they see teachers interacting with children at eye level, holding two-way conversations, and respecting children's intentions even when they need to set limits for safety.
- Debrief with parents after the visit. If there is time at the end of the day, talk with parents about their experience in the classroom. Or follow up with a phone call or e-mail.
Strategize for Home Visits
Home visits are another way to establish connections with the families in your program. Most programs have an "entry" home visit before or near the beginning of the year as a way for teachers to learn about the child and family and welcome them into the program.
- It is important to establish a regular pattern for what happens during each home visit so parents and children know what to expect.
- Discuss both parents' and children's interests and strengths to help you tailor activities so parents will feel comfortable and be successful while participating.
- Acknowledge parents' feelings about the joys and challenges of raising children.
- Acknowledge parents' willingness or attempts to engage with their children during your visit.
- Keep each visit positive by talking about the strengths of the child and family during each visit.
- Avoid using educational jargon, and adapt your communication style to match the tone set by the family.
- Follow up with families after the visit.
To explore more, download Tips for Home Visits, or visit our store for the Activities for Home Visits: Partnering With Preschool Families book.
Prepare Parent Workshops
Children's family members often picture learning as going in one direction — an adult providing information to the child — and it's a challenge for many to think of learning as a partnership between an "intentional teacher" and a child who is pursuing his or her initiatives. For many adults, the HighScope Curriculum is a departure from the more traditional school experiences they remember. Therefore, families and teachers alike benefit when teachers articulate Curriculum content clearly and demonstrate how children learn in a HighScope classroom. One way to do this is through parent workshops. Below are some tips for successful parent workshops.
- Announce workshops at least a week in advance and include an e-mail (or phone) reminder on the day of the meeting. In the announcement, give a brief description of the topic to be covered.
- Set up your training room in advance, with tables that seat five or six in order to facilitate small-group discussions and provide work space for activities.
- Check your materials list to be sure you have everything you need. (This includes any sample materials you are bringing from the classroom.)
- Provide nametags for adults (including all staff members) and for children, so everyone can greet one another by name.
- Give workshop participants an opportunity to introduce themselves to one another. You can do this as a whole group or at individual tables, depending on how many family members are attending.
- Provide paper and pencils at each table to allow participants to take notes on important information, such as phone numbers or addresses.
To explore more, download Workshops for Parents, or visit our store for the Bringing Active Learning Home: Workshops for Preschool Parents book.
The 27 workshops in this book are filled with adult group activities and hands-on encounters with active learning — key aspects of the HighScope Curriculum. These fun, easy-to-lead workshops teach practical strategies for interacting with children in everyday situations outside the classroom. Download sample pages with an activity included.
All teachers know that learning doesn't have to end when children leave child care for the day! The 30 infant-toddler activities in this book are designed to help children and their families keep active participatory learning going at home as well. You can offer family members copies of these activities, along with tip sheets and how-to instructions at parent meetings, pick up or drop off times, or during other interactions.
Parents and children will have a blast with the fun, varied games and projects in this book — activities that align with key areas of child development in HighScope’s approach. Also available in Spanish. Download sample pages with an activity included.
English P1429 $30.00
Spanish P1430 $30.00