Written by Tisha Shipley
I decided that Family Forums would become a normal part of building successful relationships with the families in my classroom. Family Forums should be just what the name says. My forums were a party for my families, not a meeting but a place to come and have fellowship with others and to learn about what their child is doing at school. What are these parties all about?
I invited anyone in the family that felt they contributed to the child’s school success to be a part of each party. I did not allow children at my Family Forums, so that did keep some families from coming, but a place for the children to play with adult supervision is an idea that could be used so all families can be involved.
Family Forums may include:
- Getting to know other families
A Family Forum can be anything you want it to be. Here are some of the Family Forums I had.
- Getting to Know Each Other: This Forum was held the first month of school. I provided food, and music. I gave hand-outs on how my classroom ran (procedures, the snack calendar, schedule etc). I gave a tour of the school building and my classroom. I showed the centers and how they ran and gave an example of how the day would be spent. I allowed each family time to get to know each other. We played an “Ice Breaker Game” and I handed out prizes and at the end always handouts on community resources, events for children in the community and places for families to be involved or receive help.
- Social Media and Families: I acclimated families with my professional and educational Twitter, Pinterest, blog, Youtube and classroom website. I also helped families set these tools up for themselves.
- Understanding/Curriculum/Concepts: Teach families how to help their child with any concept you are learning at school. Many families are not familiar with terms and vocabulary such as one to one correspondence. Add this to your classroom website or YouTube channel so they can rewatch.
- Understanding how Children grow and Develop: Give handouts, professional knowledge and or even invite a child development specialist that can provide families with ideas to help their child develop. Teach families about developmentally appropriate ideas and practices.
- Healthy Ideas for the Family: Give ideas and games on how to keep the family active. Have families take pictures and send to school. Make a family bulletin board in your room showing families incorporating these ideas into their family time.
- Recipes and Cooking Ideas for Families: Collect recipes and make them at your parties and send them home with your families. Have families take pictures and send to school. Make a family bulletin board in your room showing families incorporating these ideas into their family time.
- Large Motor and Small Motor Development: Teach games and ideas on how to help a child develop these skills.
- Understanding Literacy: Teach literacy concepts to families that you are learning in the classroom. Teach them games that they can play with their child at home.
These are only a few ideas that a Family Forum can incorporate. You can change your Family Forum to include any ideas, concept or knowledge you feel is important. You can also video the forum in case a family member is unable to attend. A forum should be one hour in length and not waste time. Be prepared and organized so they will want to attend the next one planned.
I believe that Family Forums are important and build a reciprocal relationship with the teacher and family. They allow a trusting relationship to form that is helpful in and out of the classroom. Give Parent Parties a try! They may just give you a new outlook on teaching!
Tisha Shipley received a doctorate of education in curriculum and instruction from Northcentral University and a master’s degree in elementary education/administration and a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Northwestern Oklahoma State University. She has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including preK and gifted 3rd through 6th graders, and served as a cheer sponsor and a principal. Most recently, Shipley served as director of preschool programs at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. Shipley presents at early childhood conferences and helps teachers in their classroom.