|Principles of Effective Practice|
Principle 2: Teachers and programs engage families in two-way communication
What it means: Communication takes multiple forms and is responsive to families’ linguistic preferences. Communication is both school- and family-initiated and timely and continuous, inviting conversations about the child’s educational experience as well as the larger program.
Creating truly welcoming and engaging environments for families is at the heart of establishing effective communication. When families feel welcomed and accepted by a program, they are more likely to become actively engaged. Programs often ask families about their preferred mode of communication, then communicate with families in the way that works best for them. Several programs document their formal and informal contacts with families—for example, The Family Schools uses an “Orange Book” documentation system to help catch families who may be falling through the cracks.
Face-to-Face Communication. Meeting face-to-face is one of the best ways to forge a relationship. Some of the most common methods the programs use include
Many programs go above and beyond to ensure that families have both the time and the desire to spend time in informal conversations with staff and with other families. Some programs provide free or low-cost meals and child care at meetings or schedule events at times that are convenient for families—often right at pickup, or sometimes midday. Many programs create a welcoming space families can use. For example,
Written Communication. At times, of course, early childhood education programs communicate in writing through letters and forms sent home in the child’s backpack. Programs emphasize use of open-ended terms inclusive of all family constellations, such as adult/guardian or domestic partner. If requested, some programs provide separate mail pockets and duplicate communications for divorced or separated parents who share child custody.
To keep families informed about what their children are learning, programs use
Online Communication. Many staff and families also rely on the convenience of online communication like e-mail and online communities to support family engagement goals. Programs determine whether families have easy access to the Internet or e-mail before relying on this method. Some of the most common forms of online communication include a detailed website sharing information about the program, regular e-mail to families, listservs, blogs, social media, and photo sharing. For example, The Family Schools keeps a digital camera and a laptop in each classroom. Near the end of the day, teachers upload photos, which parents view as a slide show at pickup time. At the end of the year, teachers give families DVDs of photographs documenting the school year documenting the children's activities, or they print and place photos in a keepsake album.
When English Is a Family’s Second Language. For families whose home language is not English, programs ensure that staff and families can communicate effectively. For example,
Developed for NAEYC's Engaging Diverse Families Project through a generous grant from the Picower Foundation.
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