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Effective communication for family-school partnerships

Effective communication is essential for family-school partnerships. Here are some possible ways for teachers and school administrators to build effective communication with families.

Guidelines for effective communication

Strive for a positive orientation rather than a deficit-based or crisis orientation.

  • Good news phone calls.

  • Invite and incorporate parent reactions to policies and practices.

  • Contact parents at the first sign of concern.

  • Communicate an “optimistic” message about the child.

Consider the tone as well as the content of your communications.

  • Reframe language from problems to goals for the student.

  • Focus on a parent’s ability to help.

Develop and publicize regular, reliable, varied two-way communication systems.

  • System-wide family-school communication/ assignment notebooks.

  • Shared parent-educator responsibility for contacts.

  • Handbooks.

  • Newsletters.

  • “Thursday folders” including relevant home and school information.

  • Telephone tree.

  • Electronic communication technology.

Emphasize a “win-win” orientation, rather than placing blame.

  • Discuss and focus on mutual goals and interests.

  • Use words such as “we,” “us,” and “our,” vs. “you,” “I,” “yours,” and “mine.”

Keep the focus of communication on the child’s performance.

  • Bi-directional communications about classroom activities, progress, and suggested activities for parents.

  • Home-school notebooks/notes.

  • Family-school meetings with students present.

  • Shared parent-educator monitoring system (e.g., educational file and contract).

Ensure that parents have needed information to support children’s educational progress.

  • Several orientation nights with follow-up contact for non-attendees.

  • Parent support groups to disseminate information on school performance.

  • Home visits.

  • Home-school contracts with follow-up.

  • Curriculum nights.

  • Monthly meetings on topics of mutual interest.

Create opportunities to communicate and build trust between home and school.

  • Multicultural potlucks.

  • Grade-level bagel breakfasts.

  • Family fun nights.

  • Committees designed to address home-school issues.

  • Workshops where parents and school personnel learn together.

  • Principal’s hour.

Call attention to all communication with a shared responsibility between families and schools.

  • Communicating the essential nature of family involvement.

  • Sharing information about the curriculum of the home.

  • Discussing co-roles (e.g., co-communicators) and implementing shared practices (e.g., contracts and common language about conditions for children’s success).

  • Back to School Night — establish shared goals.

Kathleen A. Olson, Colleen Gengler, and Jo Musich, Extension educators in family resiliency; and Madge Alberts, Program coordinator with children, youth and family consortium

Reviewed by Kathleen A. Olson, Program director in partnering for school success

Reviewed in 2018

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