Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

05.15.13Parental Involvement (Video)

A bedtime storyThere’s a lot of discussion out there about parental involvement in schools.  If you ask me, the most productive forms of parental involvement are not the ones most people focus on in those discussions.

I’m not sure it’s realistic, or all that beneficial to suggest that parents can or should be “co-decision-making partners” in a school, for example.  On the other hand, helping them to take simple productive actions at home in supporting their own child’s learning, and making those actions as productive as possible might be the most effective thing a school can do.  For example, giving parents tools to effectively check homework and make sure that it’s done each night if their child is struggling to complete it regularly is a fantastically productive way to use parents time.  It’s much better—and a more efficient use of their time– than asking them to come down and volunteer in the school.   Even better than that would be getting parents to be more involved by getting them to read with their children  or, with younger kids, to work on early reading skills with them. The data is pretty clear that this form of parental involvement has the greatest benefit.

But it also happens that this type of involvement has challenges: HOW should parents read with their kids?  How do you read together in a way that fosters a love of reading? What do you do if your child makes a mistake? What does it mean to reinforce early literacy skills?   Furthermore, the challenges are greatest for families where the need is greatest—those where parents are marginal readers and therefore kids are likely to become the same.

That’s why this video, made by Katie Yezzi, principal of Uncommon Schools’ Troy Prep Charter School, in collaboration with one of the school’s parents and her daughter, is so powerful.  Katie got together with the mom and student to model for parents how they could work on sight words at home.  Some notes:

1)      The school also gives parents sight word flash cards so it’s doubly easy to practice (smart!)

2)      Katie, the mom and the daughter planned deliberate errors—the girl is actually a great reader and knows all of the words but she agreed to get some wrong so they could show parents how to address errors.

3)      They modeled positivity (warm, caring, supportive environment) and checking for understanding (notice that the mom sorts the cards to give the daughter more practice eon the ones she got wrong.

A simple, powerful and beautiful video that’s likely to maximize parental involvement.


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