are effective methods to explain the American writing
process to immigrant families?
There is a great deal of information in
the literature demonstrating the significant benefits
in academic achievement for children whose families
are involved in their education. My anecdotal information
as well as much of the literature on immigrant families,
suggest that most families will follow through on
suggestions made from teachers to increase their
children's achievement. Both of these sources of
information suggest, however, that the families
do not seem to be familiar enough with either our
academic expectations for children or with what
roles families should, and are, expected to play
in order to encourage that academic achievement.
Parent workshops and parent reviews of their student's
journals were methods used in this research to help
families understand how we teach the writing process.
journals with questionnaires
- My observations and reflections about the workshops
and the responses from the journal reviews
questionnaire given to participants of the workshops
Flyers were sent home several times, announcing
the workshops and the reasons for them. There were
three workshops, offered weekly during the month
of February. Each was offered twice each time, both
in the afternoon and again in the evening. Childcare
was available for each session.
the workshops, I asked the mothers to act as if
they were in school and to respond or participate
in the writing process as their children might.
For example, before they were asked to write, I
read a book, and modeled different strategies which
I explained the mothers could do at home. Each parent
writing experience was prefaced by an explanation
of the steps the children use for pre-writing, writing
and revising and editing. A strong emphasis was
placed on the importance of writing ideas and understanding
concepts. Parents were encouraged not to worry about
correct spelling and neatness.
I analyzed the 3 (15) minute video portions of each
workshop. I also analyzed the questionnaires sent
home with the journals. Questions were revised after
each meeting to reflect what I learned from the
Analysis and Findings:
From the comments of the parents, it seems clear
that the mothers had had different educational experiences.
For example, one parent wrote: "Teaching of
vocabulary is more direct here."
Related to one of my objectives for the workshops,
that of demonstrating some things they could do
at home to enhance literacy, one parent responded:
"I will help him to learn by ‘playing’ with
him as practice, so as not to be so boring."
Regarding the videos, the quantity of time that
I spoke decreased each time. From the journal reviews,
an example of the responses to the question of what
the families would do to continue the progress,
in their homes, was: "write with children at
home." For the second review, the parents were
asked for their "thoughts" about their
children's progress rather than the more negatively
sounding: "What will you do next?” To this
question, one family who had not previously accepted
that their son had deficits, wrote that he did seem
to have serious problems, and noted that he had
not made any progress since the month before.
high numbers of families who responded on each of
the waves of the journal analyses (22/24, 23/25,
and 20/25) is an indication of the importance these
families place on helping their children and about
how they want to encourage their children's academic
I believe the workshops were useful in ways that
were both anticipated and not anticipated. I expected,
and it was borne out, that the participants would
learn about the different expectations we have here,
and that they would learn of some strategies which
they could incorporate in their homes as well. I
anticipated that a lively discussion would ensue
as it related to the writing process. What was not
anticipated, was the degree to which we became a
community. Mothers met each other and became friends,
driving another mother home, checking on a problem
situation of another mother, asking me for help.
And, this camaraderie with these mothers has lasted
even after the workshops, as they have become the
ones (to whom) I call if something needs to be done
outside of the classroom. The mothers now seem to
have some better idea for not only how to encourage
their children's progress but also what is considered
important to us in the US. This will be important
as their children go through the grades.
was surprised at how effective the review of the
journals was. By the second time, the parents knew
more of what to look for and so could be more discriminating
in their comments. I see this as a valuable method
of informing parents about their child's academic
Immigrant families respond much more favorably to
individual interactions. Therefore, phoning each
participant or sending a personal note home, before
each session, should encourage participation.
Offering workshops at a variety of times allows
for more participation; however, child care must
be available. There were many more moms at the afternoon
sessions than at the nighttime ones. The rationale
for doing this applies to many low income mothers
who do not work outside the home or who do not drive.
Workshops should be interactive, not didactic: parents,
just like students, learn best when they can experience
for themselves what and how their children are learning.
Parents are very busy, some have limited literacy
skills, some do not see the notes sent home from
school, while others may not understand the meaning
of the notes: therefore, sending written suggestions
to parents may have only minimal benefits.
offering parent workshops, to guide further sessions,
an "exit" slip should be used each time.
This could include reflections on the workshop,
suggestions for the next workshops, questions which
arose out of the workshops, etc. An "exit"
slip is a good way for the participant to think
about the learning and for the teacher to consider
ideas for subsequent meetings.
Teachers should send their children's journals home,
monthly, starting earlier in the school year. As
with students, with repetition, adults become more
observant, more focused and learn the process better.
This would also enable parents to better see how
their children are progressing over time. Parent
conferences would have fewer surprises and would
be more focused on what parents can do in the home.
journal review questions should be short and specific.
Questions should refer to those specific content
areas that parents should evaluate. Broader, more
open-ended questions can be asked only after parents
understand what it is they are to be reviewing.
The parent workshops are now expanding to all the
Spanish bilingual families at the school. All the
recommendations related to the workshops will be
incorporated. I will be systematic in collecting
the exit slips and will try to include the comments/suggestions
in the successive sessions.
The other classroom teachers will be encouraged
to try the same kinds of workshops, and will be
encouraged to offer them as interactive ones, NOT
as workshops about learning to write. I will also
strongly encourage the other teachers to send the
children's journals home with questions to which