Home school collaboration

Parents play a crucial role in the life of their children. Indeed, the family is a primary social unit in which parents represent the most fundamental relationships for children and serve as a link between children and the wider society. That is why the involvement of parents in different aspects of children’s life is important, especially when it comes to their education. The involvement of parents in the education of their children, in particular, pre-school children, has a range of positive outcomes for children’s school experiences and social skills.

In relation to academic achievement, parent’s involvement has a positive effect on children’s academic success, commitment, and motivation. The involved parents emphasize the value of the school, and this leads to children being more motivated and engaged, resulting in better academic success. In return, children’s better academic performance leads to more motivation and commitment to the school. At the same time, the involvement of parents positively influences children’s social and emotional adjustment.

Meetings and conversations with teachers provide parents with a model of accepted behaviour for a child in the classroom, which eventually helps the child to meet the expected standards. Additionally, through parents’ involvement, children get a feeling that they are important to the parents, which validates them and builds their self-esteem. This positive feeling of appreciation and good self-esteem help the child to stay on track and not fall into crime. Social and emotional adjustment have been identified as essential for a later transition into adulthood.

Unfortunately, not all parents can fully participate in children’s education. Parents with an immigrant background sometimes face language and cultural barriers or a feeling of being unwelcomed into and uninformed about the rules of an unfamiliar school system. Isolation due to low socio-emotional status and jobs is another factor that influences the parents’ involvement in the children’s schooling. It has also been found that different cultures communicate very differently, that is why they have different visions of the home-school collaboration and the roles that parents and teachers are entitled to in children’s life.

Despite different factors, these parents often have a strong wish to be involved in the education of their children. The professional development course offered to teachers by the TRANSLA project provides a range of activities that help to involve parents and improve the home-school collaboration.

Barger, M. M., Kim, E. M., Kuncel, N. R., & Pomerantz, E. M. (2019). The relation between parents’ involvement in children’s schooling and children’s adjustment: A meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin, 145(9), 855–890.

Celic, C., & Seltzer, K. (2011). Translanguaging: A CUNY-NYSIEB guide for educators. New York City, NY: The City University of New York.

Chumak-Horbatsch, R. (2012). Linguistically appropriate practice: A guide for working with young immigrant children (2nd ed.). Toronto, CA: University of Toronto Press.

As a starting point, teachers introduce their multilingual class to parents by sending them a welcoming letter. The letter contains information about the languages spoken by children in the class as well as lists the languages that teachers speak, underpinning the teachers’ positive stance on multilingualism. Additionally, the letter informs parents about the language-oriented curriculum and invites them to participate in different language-related activities organised by teachers throughout the school year. All in all, the letter to parents exposes a favourable attitude of teachers to home languages and emphasises that home languages and thus parents are welcomed in the classroom.

Teachers invite parents to join a language committee which is a parent group consisting of parent representatives from each home language of children. The main aim of the language committee is to bring home languages to the classroom. Participating parents are offered such tasks as participation in language-related classroom activities, translation of classroom materials, provision of resources and materials (brochures, CDs, DVDs) in the home language, and updating a classroom news board with information about community events.

Teachers organise workshops where they provide parents with information about the advantages of multilingualism, raise an important topic of the role of the parents in children’s learning of the mother tongue, and, in general, answer parents’ questions about languages and language learning. This involvement of parents occurs either at the level of a single classroom or the level of the school, depending on the demand.

It is very natural that for children in a host society, the languages and cultures of children with an immigrant background seem unknown and foreign. To help children break the language and cultural barriers, parents are invited to the classroom to introduce their languages and cultures. There is a variety of ways that parents can do this.

Parents can be invited to organise culture-oriented workshops in class in which they explain the meaning of different traditions and engage children to try them out themselves. For example, parents bring objects that represent their home country and culture such as traditional clothes, teach children traditional dances, sing traditional songs, or introduce traditional crafts such as henna body art.

Parents can also be invited to the classroom to present their home languages and in this way raise children’s linguistic awareness. Parents can teach children how to introduce themselves orally in a new language and how to write their names in a new script, teach children basic vocabulary of the language, tell or read stories in their home language (while the teacher tells/reads the same story in the language of instruction), use visual materials such as flags that represent their home country.

Teachers ask children to interview their (grand)parents and bring their life stories to the classroom. The possible questions concern a place and date of parents’ birth, places they lived and languages they spoke in their childhood, their favourite activities, toys, food, their school experiences, family activities, everyday life, and chores they had in their childhood. Based on these and many other questions, children discover more about the lives of their parents and bring these experiences to the classroom. As a result, this makes the parents’ experiences and involvement in the child’s schooling credible. It is especially important for parents who cannot always actively participate in classroom activities because of work or language barrier. Therefore, this activity can help to give enough credit to parents of the working class and parents with an immigrant background in the classroom. A book of parents’ stories is made as an outcome of this activity.

Parents’ involvement can occur even without parents’ presence in the classroom. One of the activities that connect the family to the classroom is the creation of a family crest by each child together with their parents at home and its presentation in the classroom. Eventually, the family crest is made into a poster and is hung in class.

Teachers invite children to bring an artefact from their home country that is of personal or national importance for them. The artefacts are then hung or set up in class. Children are also invited to bring calendars in their native languages.

eachers introduce children to the concept of genealogy and explain the notion of a family tree. In this activity, children are familiarised with the relevant terms such as family, generation, surname, mother, father, sister, brother, grandchild, grandparents, father, mother, grandmother, grandfather, father, uncle, cousin, and other terms denoting kinship and family relationships. An important step here is the invitation of parents to the classroom to help and add descriptions and terms in the home languages of children. Additionally, children are encouraged to put photos in their tree.

Children are asked to fill in a table that summarises the information about their grandparents. Children state their name and age and then write the name and age of their grandfather or/and grandmother. A key component of the table is the last column in which children are invited to write the word “grandfather” or “grandmother” in their home language.

Teachers ask children, with the help of parents if needed, to take photos of multilingual institutions and signs or take pictures of institutions and signs in the children’s mother tongue and bring them to the class. Children can also bring multilingual newspapers or newspapers in their native language.

With an aim to encourage parents to collaborate and to get to know them better, teachers can ask questions related to parents’ social background. These questions concern parents’ professional and social life, family’s leisure activities, interests, preferences in media and press. After gathering this generic information, teachers ask parents if they are willing to share their hobbies, skills, or interests with children in the class.

In this activity, children are asked to draw a flag of their country using a model from the Internet. After that, they colour it in.

Being related to the previous activity, in this one, children associate the name of the country with its flag and language(s) spoken in it. Apart from this, children are asked to name a national flower, animal, and sport of the country to complete the information about the country.

This activity serves as a visualisation of multiculturalism in the classroom by emphasising the difference in the origin of children in the class. This may be done in different ways. For example, teachers pin or glue a photo of each child and write his/her name, next to a flag of his/her country of origin; children coming from the same country are grouped under the same flag. In this way, it is very easy to see how many different countries and thus languages are present in class. Another way to organise this activity is to mark the home countries of different children on the actual map of the world. In this case, teachers pin or glue children’s photos to the corresponding countries directly on a map. One can also use threads to link each country of children’s origin with a country they now live in (Luxembourg) on the map.

Teachers find the pictures of real banknotes and coins that are used in the home countries of different children on the Internet. Using them as an example, children craft the play money.

Being related to the previous activity, in this one teachers suggest children to fill in the columns of a table with a country name, a name of banknotes that are used in this country, a symbol of the currency, and a name of coins that are used in the country. In this activity, parental support is needed when speaking about the names that are used for the currency. Parents are also asked to provide additional information about the peculiarities of the currency and, if possible, bring real banknotes and/or coins to the class to showcase to children.

Teachers invite (grand)parents to the classroom and ask them to tell about the phone habits from their countries of origin. In particular, parents can tell about the rules of answering phone calls and finishing phone conversations that are common in their countries of origin, which may differ for different countries and cultures. After learning the words from the home languages that are used on the phone, parents and children can play out the phone conversations.

This activity has several components which, when put together, compose a short biography of a child. Teachers take a photo of a child, write his/her name next to it, and ask the child to write the information about his/her favourite activities or hobbies, languages he/she speaks, languages his/her parents speak, and countries of origins of his/her parents, as well as to paint a flag of his/her home country. The information then can be composed in a form of a poster and hung in the classroom.

Annually, on February 21, the whole world celebrates International Mother Language Day that was established in 1999 by UNESCO. On this day, activities that involve a larger number of parents can be held in the classroom. Teachers can invite several or all parent representatives of different home languages to gather for celebrations and discussions of language-related topics. Children can make posters for the classroom as well.

(In connection to point 11) In order to ensure fruitful collaboration with parents, teachers need to know about the linguistic background and language habits of parents. To obtain this information, teachers should ask parents about the languages spoken at home, in particular, when addressing the child, languages that the child understands and speaks to different people (family members, friends, neighbours, etc.), other means of communication the child uses (gestures, objects), languages the child writes and reads in, languages in which parents sing, read, and tell stories to the child, ways the child learned Luxembourgish (television, siblings, crèche, etc.), and again, parents’ interests and their wish to share this with other children in the classroom.

When a new child comes to class, there are several steps that teachers should follow to integrate the child into the classroom fast and efficiently. First, teachers need to build an emotional connection to the child and to understand the difficulties the child may have because he/she does not speak and/or understand Luxembourgish. To smooth the transition to a new school environment for the child, teachers can find other children or adults who speak the same language and, in general, encourage the use of the child’s mother tongue in the classroom. Teachers should also encourage (grand)parents to spend some time in the classroom when bringing the child to class and picking him/her up and to use their home language in these moments. To strengthen home-school collaboration, teachers should invite parents of the new child to the classroom activities, for example, to make a name tag in the native language for the child. After the first day of school, teachers should contact parents to update them with the information and welcome them to future activities in the classroom.

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