I teach 1st grade in urban Los Angeles. My students are English-language learners. Despite language barriers and varying degrees of education, my students' parents want their children to be successful and actively seek ways to support learning at home. As a classroom teacher, I feel like I have the responsibility to inform and provide resources to help parents do that.
Here are some of my favorite strategies for helping parents learn about the Common Core State Standards:
Talk about the new standards face-to-face. I don't rely on a letter or memo sent home to communicate about the new expectations for student learningr. I make sure to weave the standards into our interactions in events like back-to-school Night, parent-teacher conferences, and PTA meetings.
Keep it simple, and focus on how parents can help. Choose key concepts and skills to highlight. I start by sharing a few simple home strategies for having conversations that push students to practice critical thinking and communication skills. In my students' homework folders, I list examples of open-ended questions for parents to reference and some of the common-core skills we will be working on throughout the year.
Use real student examples. Providing parents with concrete examples of student work makes it easier for them to understand the standards. I keep authentic writing and work samples on hand that show both students and parents what "progressing toward," "meeting," and "exceeding" standards looks like.
Give parents opportunities to engage with the standards alongside their children. I'm a true believer in learning by doing. During student-led conferences, I set up stations aligned to common standards. Students can demonstrate their knowledge and competency with standards, parents can experience the kinds of activities we do in class, and I can link each station to at-home activities to help the kids progress. (See photos below for what these stations look like.)
Provide access to the common standards. I find it's not necessary to print out the standards for parentsthat can be overwhelming. However, I definitely provide links to the standards and school-district resources about them on our class homepage, weekly newsletter, and back-to-school packets. It is important to make sure non-English speaking parents have access to the standards in their native languages when possible.
Parents and teachers have a shared responsibility to help students succeed. Informing parents about common core may not officially be part of our job descriptions, but to me, partnering with parents is something teachers should always do, new standards or not.
How are districts, schools, and teachers informing parents about the Common Core where you are?
Jane Fung is a National Board-certified teacher in urban Los Angeles, where she currently teaches 1st grade. An active member of the Milken Educator Network, she has a master's degree in curriculum and instruction and 25 years of teaching experience.