Do you want to find out how to get parents more involved in improving student literacy?
Create a study and discussion group or a “collegial circle” on parent involvement and invite parents to be equal participants in the group, says researcher Carol Yerger St. George in a recent issue of The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin.
The researcher says she stumbled on this promising idea while working on a study on increasing parent involvement in improving literacy at an elementary school. She wanted to get parents’ suggestions and thoughts and determined that the “collegial circle” would be a good way to do that. Previous efforts to get input from parents had teachers holding workshops for parents, not with them.
The Circle did generate ideas and strategies for increasing collaboration between teachers and parents. But, beyond that, the process of teachers and parents meeting to reflect on how to improve collaboration between them had its own value.
“College Circles are a familiar, nonthreatening, professional development format in my district and, as such, offered a comfortable non-intimidating, non-judgmental arena for the participants to dialogue and reflect on how elementary teachers can more effectively collaborate with parents to support literacy learning,” the researcher writes.
An announcement about the Collegial Circle generated much interest and curiosity from both parents and teachers and many more people wanted to participate than could be accommodated, the researcher writes. Ten elementary school teachers and 10 parents whose children were in various grade levels finally were selected to be in the Collegial Circle.
The Circle met monthly for 4 consecutive months. Food and babysitting were provided.
The 2-hour sessions were designed to focus on the following topics:
Session 1: How has reading /literacy instruction changed over the years and what are the implications of the changes? How is a commitment to parental involvement consistent with an expanded view of literacy?
Session 2: What research has been done in the area of literacy and parental involvement?
Session 3-4: How can teachers of grades K-5 more effectively collaborate with parents to support literacy? What recommendations can be made for our district?
It is important to first have the participants explore their own concepts of literacy and beliefs about parent involvement because these affect later decisions and recommendations, the researcher says. Members of the group bonded over discussions of past experiences with literacy and parental involvement and helped see how their own experiences, positive and negative, affected their beliefs.
The group examined evolving concepts of literacy as a practice that is not limited to reading books but that is an integral part of everyday life, from reading emails and recipes to following the scores and statistics of a favorite sports team. “This understanding of literacy appropriately situates parents as partners in their children’s literacy education,” she says.
The project resulted in recommendations for strategies that could increase parent-teacher collaboration in the district. One of the recommendations was to provide professional development for teachers on communicating with parents and on the value of parent involvement.
How Can Elementary Teachers Collaborate More Effectively with Parents to Support Student Literacy Learning?” by Carol Yerger St. George, The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, Winter 2010, pp. 32-38.“