Connecting With Families
Solid home and school partnerships provide children with a firm foundation for success in their school years. These partnerships can give you important insights into children and signal you regarding what to watch for and build on. Here are some ways to develop strong communication with families in the beginning of the year.
Health and Medical Information
Health conditions affect a child's development. To get to know children better and respond to their needs, ask a family member to complete a health questionnaire at the beginning of the school year. Ask: Has your child had any operations? Hospitalizations? Allergies? Does he take any medications?
Learn more about children's interests, strengths, and needs by speaking with parents and other close family members. Invite communication through informal personal or telephone conversations or home visits. Ask: What are some things your child does well? How does your child feel about school? Do you have any concerns about your child you'd like to share? What language is spoken in your home? What would you like to see emphasized in our program? Check in with family members regarding which communication systems work best for them to ensure a close connection during the year ahead.
Encourage regular communication with families by setting up a message board outside your room. Have each child keep a parent-teacher journal (a small spiral notebook works fine) in a backpack. At least once a week, jot down a brief entry about the child's progress, something special the child did that week, or something that needs work. Children can also have personal journals. Try to jot down a few observations to send home at the end of the day. Parents can respond in the journal, and the child can return the journal back to school.
Invite family members to participate in your program. The structure of families has changed, so you need to be sensitive to the circumstances, schedules, values, and diversity of today's families. They can help in the classroom, discuss their occupations, prepare snack, chaperone and facilitate field trips, or make or repair classroom materials and furniture at home. Welcome families who speak other languages by sending home notices in their language. Find staff members and community volunteers to translate during meetings and conferences.
Discuss with parents what children will be learning during the school year. Explain that a developmentally appropriate early childhood program responds to the needs and strengths of each child, rather than trying to "fit" the child to the curriculum. Also explain that play is important to healthy development and that children learn many skills through play.
Playful Home-School Connections
To build language, literacy, and social skills, suggest that parents provide prop boxes that children can use at home, on weekends, or on vacations. For example: Children can play "school" with parents and siblings with props such as alphabet books, chalkboard, writing supplies, and paper. Another prop box could contain items for a shoe store, such as shoes, boots, slippers, rulers for measuring feet, shoe boxes, shopping bags, play money, telephone book, and toy phone. If materials at home are in short supply, devise a simple lending system so that children can take turns borrowing items from school for their prop boxes.