As an educator you know that families are an invaluable source of information about their child as an individual. You also have a lot to share with families. In addition to periodic formal conferences and regular newsletter updates, you can give parents the particulars about what their child said and did that day and what s/he is exploring, learning, and achieving in the class. Teacher-parent communication is important in achieving a degree of consistency in the ways that the significant adults in the child’s life guide and support the child in their development.1
Your students benefit when you frequently share simple, clear, non-judgmental and culturally responsive updates with families. Whenever possible and appropriate, recognize the joint efforts of the school and the family when providing evidence of student progress. Consider pairing information shared with families that is less positive with helpful support and/or suggestions. These brief, informal teacher-family exchanges are also opportunities for teachers to gain understanding about the family culture.
Suggestions for Sharing Formative Assessment Information and Observation with Families
- Use daily drop-off and pick-up as opportunities to share quick, but specific comments about a child’s day. For example, “Jorge had a great day! He enjoyed building a block airport with the other children. I’m sure he would enjoy telling you about it.”
- Because drop-off and pick-up times are frequently very busy, consider creating a “communication box” that is conveniently located and supplied with pens and paper. Encourage parents to jot down requests or comments.
- Jot a sticky note about something you observed about what the child is exploring, learning, or achieving and place in the child’s cubby. Consider targeting a few children each day for a note.
- Create a file box with a folder for each child and use it to keep extra work samples that are not part of your on-going portfolio collection. Papers stuffed into backpacks might not receive as much attention as this more formal work collection. Encourage parents to visit the student’s file during the week. Consider posting parent/child discussion starter sentences above the file box or quick notes pointing out something special in the file, for example, “Be sure to talk about our transportation pictures.”
- Use communication notebooks for quick progress updates. The notebooks might go home each night or be kept at school in an accessible location (for example, on a shelf near the door). Tell families that you will check it each day for any comments from them, although you might not write something each day.
- Consider using quick snapshots to capture the child “in action” and take a moment to share them. You might focus on certain students each week or day.
1National Association for the Education of Young Children, Position Statement: Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8 (DAP), 2009, p.44.