Parental Engagement: Communication with Parents Speaking a Language Other than English

Parental Engagement: Communication with Parents Speaking a Language Other than English  
Parents of English Language Learners can serve as the most important resource that teachers have in connecting to their ELL student and ensuring their success in school.  Parents are able to provide teachers with important information regarding the characteristics of the child and their culture.  Working alongside the parent, will give the ELL student tremendous support academically, in order to learn the skills and knowledge needed. However, teachers must make a conscious effort to learn about the families and their cultures, in order to best serve their needs.
There are more than 5.3 million ELL students in U.S. schools.
English language learners make up around 10% of the primary school population.
7 Teacher Tips for Communicating with ELL Families
1. Make yourself visible as much as possible, especially during the first weeks and months of school. Try to touch base with parents when they drop off or pick up their children. Greet parents.  Make them feel comfortable!

2. Create a list of bilingual speakers. Have a list of older children at your school who are fluent in English and their native language so that they can translate for other students and parents in emergencies. 

3. Enlist children to translate. Ask bilingual children to help translate during any special program with performances that bring parents to the school. 
4. Send home correspondence in different colors. As simple as this sounds, it can save time and confusion. If each piece of correspondence is in a different color, when parents call you about a flyer or a form they must sign and return, they can cite "the yellow paper" or "the pink paper" and make it easier for you to identify to what they're referring.
 (especially if the different colors are different languages.)
5. Recruit bilingual staff as parent liaisons. This is especially helpful if translators cannot be present.

6. Explain the value of educational activities.  As you send home permission slips/important information, you might need to send a flyer which students can translate explaining why these activities are so important.

7. Try to schedule meetings when parents can come. Many immigrant parents work at jobs with hours that conflict with parent-teacher conference times. Try to schedule meetings on parents' days off or during a time which the parents can attend. 
Connecting with ELL Families
·      Learn about your ELL population
·      Integrate cultural traditions of your ELL family throughout school
o   Interactive ESL games for classrooms-
·      Create a welcoming environment for families
o   Be sensitive to the needs of ELL families
·      Make a personal connection with families
·      Show that you value families’ native languages
o   This website allows the teacher to create individual study guides and worksheets for students-
o   Introductory course in German, French or Spanish for a whole class lesson-
o   Allows students to practice pronunciation in 10 languages including English-
·      Learn what you can of their native language
o   A few words won't help you explain to a parent what an individualized education plan is, or explain geometry to a student, but they will show that you recognize the home language and welcome it in school. This will then help release the tension in the exchange. People communicate better when both parties are relaxed and comfortable with each other.
·      Don't be embarrassed!
o   The people who are most successful at communicating with parent without a shared language are those who are not afraid to look a bit foolish.  
Communicating Important Information
·      Find ways to communicate with ELL families
o   Interpreters are most effective means of communicating providing immediate communication between the teacher and parent
o   May be available through church, high school, or university programs
o allows the teacher and parents to communicate through 30 second voice messages-
o   Change text into speech in emails, websites, and blogs-
o   A translator allows teachers to send home newsletters and write emails to parents in their native languages-
·      Make the enrollment process manageable for ELL families
·      Provide opportunities for parents to learn more about important topics and skills
o   Learn American English Online-
o   Online Broadcasts that improve oral comprehension and knowledge of English vocabulary-
·      Helpful apps to aide in communicating in another language.
o   Itunes provides a multitude of translators to use with iphones or ipads.
o   Top free apps for iphones and ipads:
1.     Google translate
2.     itranslate
3.     free translator
·      Helpful website to aide in communicating in another written language.
o   Google translator
·      Use online resources to help communicate specific dialogues during parent teacher confrerences.
o   Benvita Eduaction Solutions has a "kon-ver-SAY-shun Kit" for communicating with parents and with students.  These kits provide teachers with picture cards of easy phrases for teachers to use with conversational phrases.
o   These kits also provide teachers with a dialogue for conferences on several different topics such as attendance, homework, tests, and much more.
Parent Participation
·      Look for ways that ELL parents can help with children’s schoolwork
o   Interactive Games for home-
o   Used for additional reading practice and support-
o   Printable games teachers can print and give to families to practice speech and language-
o   Multimedia website to help students and parents improve their English-
·      Look for ways that ELL parents can participate and volunteer
·      Literacy Backpacks
o   Teachers provide students with backpacks full of literacy activities to do at home. These activities promote language learning in the house while also encouraging parent involvement by allowing the parent a chance to be part of the students language learning.
o   Many ELL parents do not know how to speak or read English. The backpacks give the students a chance to “play teacher.” Often times these backpacks provide parents with English language development also.
·      Encouraging parents to speak their home language with their children.
o   Research confirms that a solid foundation in the home language helps children learn English. Encourage families to sing songs, tell stories, and talk with each other in their home language. Looking at books in the home language is important to help children's pre-literacy skills.
o   Home language development is also important to help maintain children's sense of identity and self-esteem. Language is an integral part of culture and the more children know and learn about their home language, the more they will stay connected to their culture and ancestry. Encourage family members to come into the classroom to sing, tell stories and play with the children. This supports home language development as well as the social/emotional development of the child and the home/school connection.
Parent Leadership Opportunities
·      Encourage ELL parents to take on leadership roles
o   Ask parents to volunteer within the classroom and school.
·      Look for ways to make parent leadership more sustainable
Connecting with the Community
·      As a teacher, it’s important to gain and understanding of needs of immigrant families in your community. 
o   It’s important to be aware of health services, shopping, basic living tips, migrant services, and translator services.
·      Encourage parents to build partnerships with the community
o   Communities may have ministries for the immigrant group
·      A weekly drop-in coffee hour may be a comfortable way for family members who are new to the school to connect with others.
·      Buddy System
o   A family member of a child is paired with a family member who may be new to school or may not speak the language fluently.  Having a personal connection or familiar face of someone other than the staff can help ease the transition for new family members and make the experience less overwhelming.
Ways to accommodate parents of ELLs
Updated resources to use with children at home to reinforce language skills, and resources for 6ttteachers to begin to use in school and share with parents.
Great resources for incorporating technology with ELLs
20 strategies for engaging with ELL families
Head Start gives Strategies for Communicating and Working with Families of English Language Learners
Seven easy strategies for reaching out to immigrant parents
The ELL Outlook provides 3 principles for communicating with ELL parents and resources to aide in the communication.
The Mid-Continent Comprehensive Center shares some helpful information on the parent involvement of ELLs.