Getting Parents Involved in
Your Program Cynthia Carbone Ward
When a new teacher asked me if I could suggest ways that he might
interest and involve parents in his 8th grade social studies curriculum,
I suggested that he start with a basic weekly update to the parents.
A short bulletin should let them know what interesting aspects of
history are being covered, the kinds of activities the kids will be
doing, and ways that parents can support the educational process at
home. The bulletin might include a weekly challenge question regarding
a historical character or event - preferably something colorful or
amusing. Variations of all of these ideas can be applied to almost
Check out Cynthia’s Book, How Writers Grow: A Guide for Middle School Teachers,
published by Heinemann.
Another great way to involve parents is by requiring your students
to interview them. The topic, of course, depends upon the unit you
are currently teaching. If it's about immigration, have them find
out about their own family roots, who made the journey to this country,
and stories that have been passed along. Perhaps one of their parents
IS an immigrant and still remembers life in another country and
the migration here. If you are teaching about the Constitution and
the founding of the nation, have kids interview their parents about
their understanding of what it means to be a citizen, or their recollection
of the civil rights movement. This is just the tip of the iceberg
-- with a little creativity, you can think of a provocative line
of questioning which relates to just about any topic in the curriculum.
I often try to weave themes of tolerance and understanding throughout
social studies curricula at the middle school level -- this lends
itself to many interesting discussions and activities which might
be enlightening to parents as well as students. Or how about having
the kids create and enact skits of scenes in history and perform
these for the parents? Or maybe famous debates or speeches, depending
on the abilities and propensities of your students. Parents are
always eager to see their kids perform. When I taught 8th grade,
we enacted a mock trial, complete with lawyers, juries, and a presiding
judge. It was quite a show, and very educational for the kids. Perhaps
you could have the students work on dioramas or other projects relevant
to the unit of study, and then these could be on display for the
You probably have some parents in your community with special
skills or knowledge to share -- you could coordinate a sort of speakers'
bureau; this diminishes the barrier between the parent community
and the classroom. Or maybe you could orchestrate a colonial-style
potluck, or an ethnic festival to celebrate the "e pluribus unum"
nature of our country? Invite the parents! They will love it.
Even at the middle school level, you are on the right track if
you are inclusive of parents: keep them informed, and get them actively
involved and interested. The benefits to your students will be significant.