12 Ways to Provoke Supportive Learning Conversations at Home

I wrote a blog post last week about home conversations about school.  It ended with a question  of sorts,

I wonder how a school or classroom might start that dinner table conversation by sharing everyday glimpses of teachers and learners exploring, experimenting, discovering, and sharing passionate and inventive learning.

So I thought I would compile some of the responses I got, with just a few of my own insertions into this 12 Ways to Provoke Supportive About Learning at Home.  The items are re-phrased in my own words.  Please return to that original post (So What did You Do in School Today?) to read comments in their original wording.

(cc) Flickr Photo by Flatbush Gardener

Edited with Pixelmator

But I want to start off with something that my nephew, Ethan Warlick, student at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, wrote:

Three years ago, when I was a senior on high school, I had nothing to tell my parents when they asked what I had learned in school. After graduating from high school though, I have noticed that I want to tell my parents what it is I have learned in college classes. I think one of the issues with my high school experience was that I was being taught rules and principles instead of life relevant problem solving tools. (Ethan Warlick)

I still don’t know how he found my blog, but his comments feed wonderfully into the first item of this list.

  1. The first thing to do is to ask yourself the question, “What happened in my classroom today that the parents of my students would be genuinely curious about?” (Ecaterina)
  2. Find creative and effective ways to share with parents (and the community) what is being learned this week in my class, how it is being learned, why it’s being learned, and what my students are doing with it. Suggest questions that might be asked of children at home to provoke dinner table ((I’m using “dinner table” as a generic term for any chance family members have to talk. For me, it was riding home from a family visit, in the back seat of Dad’s ’52 Ford Wagon, with my chin resting on the back of my parent’s seat (before we had seat belts))) conversations. This can be done via letters and newsletters. But most of today’s parents are probably more accustomed to getting information via their computers, tablets or mobile phones. Consider a Facebook page for your class (observing safety policies), a Twitter feed, or daily updates to your classroom Web site. (Christina C & Alfonso Gonzalez)
  3. Ask students (periodically or on a daily basis) to take inventory of their newly gained knowledge and skills and to write a letter to someone at home describing how they are growing through learning. (Christina C & Cary B. Todd)
  4. Make learning more engaging for students by integrating the creative arts. Asking learners to express their learning through art, music, or performance helps to grant them ownership of their learning, and it gives them something to take home on paper, a thumb drive, or a web link. (Christina C)
  5. Encourage students to engage their younger siblings in dinner table conversations about what they are doing in school and to share what they remember about their experiences in those grades. (Jennifer T.)
  6. At open house, encourage parents to periodically excavate their children’s book bags for homework and test papers, letters home, unfinished art work, etc. The artifacts that they find can raise useful entry points for family conversations about school. (Jennifer T.)
  7. Integrate social networking into classroom and school operations (observing safety policies). Encouraging students to engage in networked conversations, within the context of curriculum, and then making those conversations available to parents, can give those parents a window on the learning experiences of their children. There may also be opportunities to invite supportive participation from parents. (Ashley Bitner)
  8. Engage students in edgy classroom activities that will not only inspire their curiosity, but also the curiosity of their parents and the community. (Sean Wheeler)

    Sean’s high school English class just built a chair as part of a quarter-long project. I’m curious as to why!

  9. Record (video or audio) students working or performing, engaging in discussions, and other learner-active experiences, and share with parents through the classroom web site, blog or via email. Update publishings frequently (observing safety policies).
  10. Look at the PBS and BBC web sites, how they often include text and other media to extend specific programs. Here is an alphabetical listing of PBS programs linking to web pages that expand on the issues of the program. If students could enhance some of their reports and presentations, utilizing a full range of media, and publish these multimedia expansions as an integral part of your classroom web site, parents (and community) would want to come in and see, learn, and engage at home.
  11. Set up an ongoing online survey or Tweet out questions to parents (and grand parents) asking how the current curriculum topics connect with their work or personal experiences, drawing that information into the classroom through their children. “Have you ever seen a volcano or experienced an earthquake?” “What were your grandparents doing during World War II?” “Do you ever use algebra?” “Do you use chemicals in your work?”
  12. Enable and empower learners to necessarily, resourcefully and responsibly teach themselves. When they earn their knowledge and skills, they own it — and students will take home with them what they own. (Heather F)

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.