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Engaging Parents Who Don’t Speak English

Found in: Parents, Language Barriers, Parental Involvement

Each year, half of my students (and their parents/families) speak Spanish as their first language. I’ve found the key to getting parents involved is for me to know what their availability is and what they are able to do or enjoy doing—volunteering in the class organizing, working with small groups, chaperoning field trips, helping in the lunch room or at recess, helping with a special school event, etc. Then I provide parents with the information on when, where, how I need volunteers in advance and then again as dates approach (in Spanish).

I communicate in Spanish/English via my classroom blog, which I print and send home for parents who prefer paper or don’t have computer/internet access. Next, I provide the option of parents being a volunteer from home. I send projects and instructions in baggies (including supplies) on Friday, and on Monday students would bring back the completed projects.

If you don’t speak the parents’ first language, then find someone who does and enlist their help. Our school has “room parents” who are bilingual parents willing to contact parents who speak their same language and share teacher information. If there isn’t a parent or person at your school, try your district—almost every district has outreach workers who speak the languages spoken by the families in their district. This can help to clear up any misunderstandings and lets parents know that you want to talk to them and took the time to seek out help!


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