Today, record numbers of English Language Learners are being educated in classrooms across our country. In California alone, there are approximately 1.196 million English Learners in CA public schools – which constitutes about 19.3% of total enrollment (CDE, 2019). How, then, do we ensure that ALL learners – including our ELLs – are getting what they need to be successful in the classroom?
Simple – make it a family affair.
In a recent Edutopia article, author Louise El Yaafouri provides a list of tips to help encourage educators to engage with families of English Language Learners. Parents are critical stateholders in their child’s education – research even says as much. However, non-English speaking parents often feel left out of the process. El Yaafouri offers key tips to help get parents participating:
1) Schooling is a reciprocal relationship. For it to work in the best interest of the child, both educators AND parents need to do their due diligence in the process.
This includes, as El Yaafouri suggests, “Parents can also be encouraged to monitor engagement, limit distractions, build consistency, and celebrate periods of concentration. They should also take time to discuss school matters with their child, asking questions about the school day: friends, concepts learned, struggles and discomforts, successes and achievements.”
2) Authenticity is key. El Yaafouri states that efforts aimed at engaging diverse parent groups should be “authentic and meaningful.” Skip the fluff.
3) Use a culturally responsive approach. Being mindful of culturally relevant dates and holidays is important – avoid scheduling important events on these days. El Yaafouri adds, “Ensure that school-based activities, language, and school menus reflect cultural considerations. Be critical of trivial displays of culture. Openly communicate norms for parent engagement, and work to share this information in a variety of ways.”
4) Simplify language. No one likes being misunderstood or failing to understand – not even native English speakers. Make sure to that any communications you’re sending home to families are free from jargon, educational acronyms, and figurative language.
5) Increase capacity. El Yaafouri recommends building capacity in the diverse parent community by providing a range (NOTE – more than one) of low-risk opportunities for parent input, feedback and cultural sharing.
6) Find your way home. In the journey of building substantial relationships with students and families, El Yaafouri solicits the importance of home visits.
She states, “They provide essential insight into a student’s home life and unique learning needs, and ‘support academic gains and positive social integration for ELLs.’ They are linked to improved academic progress and attendance rates. Perhaps most importantly, teacher home visits lay a foundation of trust as the frontrunner to school-based parent engagement.”