Mother and son.David Jones (image modified). Creative Commons.

Family Engagement – Bringing the Classroom Home

The possibilities for bringing the classroom home are endless.

Family involvement in the classroom is a great way to extend the day-to-day lessons and activities that comprise the school day into a child’s home life. Whether a family member has presented on Career Day, helped students construct pulleys for a science experiment, or gathered a barrette, baseball, and banana in a basket to send in on B Day, this active participation reinforces the importance of making school a priority. Having families in the loop about topics of study and school activities means children can talk about school over dinner or on the way home from cheer practice to help make connections to education outside of the classroom walls. Encouraging these conversations between students and their families means that children will start to see school and learning as part of daily life, no matter what the setting. Shifting some of the educational discovery outside of the classroom and subsequently bringing the classroom home will shed light on a variety of new perspectives and ideas.

When families are given the opportunity to become active participants in learning experiences outside of the classroom, students will start to see education as a lifelong journey. A child’s learning experiences at home don’t have to be limited to the traditional homework activities of old: a worksheet or list of problems that reiterates the topic of study of the day. Finding creative and intriguing ways to facilitate family engagement with topics of study outside of the classroom will generate lasting educational experiences for all those involved.

In a perfect world, all families would be able to actively engage in every facet of the learning process, but we also have to be realistic. The at-home opportunities we devise should include a variety of extensions that could be completed with or without help from an adult. Choosing one or two activities that must be completed and allowing families to choose a set number of additional selections would be a feasible starting point. As with any new endeavor, it will take some preparation on the front end, but you will be creating a great resource to use for years to come. Setting up a monthly or quarterly calendar with a variety of ideas that revolve around your unit or topics of study will be something you can continually update as new ideas come to mind or new resources become available. If a calendar seems like a more elementary way of communicating the information, an at-home syllabus could be created for the upper grades. If you utilize a system like Edmodo, you can post ideas and/or links there; email or newsletters are also an option. Once students start bringing stories of home learning time back to the classroom, it may encourage classmates to work at getting their more skeptical families involved.

Your treasure trove of activities should take on a variety of formats and encourage a cross-curricular examination of the topic(s) being studied. Virtual field trips are always an engaging way to learn new information. Global Digital Citizen Foundation has compiled a list of Ten of the Best Virtual Field Trips. For students with limited Internet access at home, you can work with your media specialist to create a packet of materials that students can check out and take home to explore. With either format, families could be asked to write a postcard sharing what they learned on the adventure. Families could work together to create word problems that are relevant to their everyday life and involve the current operations being studied. For younger grades such as kindergarten, alphabet activities would be a great addition to any list. For older grades,Creating a Venn diagram to compare and contrast family life then and now when studying different time periods would generate conversations about societal changes. Multiple subject areas can be intertwined to help draw in resistant at-home learners of any age.

The possibilities for bringing the classroom home are endless. Supporting families with at-home opportunities for learning will help solidify the concepts being taught in the classroom and encourage discussions about the topics at hand. From amphibians to the American Revolution, finding meaningful ways to make a school to home connection can only foster positive learning outcomes.