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Working with Parents

Source: InTouch, December 2011

The National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy among Children and Young People 2011-2012 (pp19-25) highlights the vital role that parents play in supporting their child’s learning. Parents need to know how in a practical manner they can work in partnership with the school to contribute to their child’s learning, particularly in the areas of literacy and numeracy.
In working with parents there are some key guiding principles:

  • Being mindful that at all times the child is the centre of all our considerations.
  • Building and maintaining respectful relationships – at the heart of effective partnership.
  • Using empathy – putting yourself in the shoes of the other person to enable understanding.
  • Working with professional integrity – being fully up-to-date with appropriate curricular content, methodologies and assessment tools.
  • Ensuring that relevant, meaningful information is shared with parents.
  • Communicating in an honest and genuine manner using key skills e.g. listening.
  • Working with care and being sensitive to the various social contexts.
  • Guiding parents in supporting the development of literacy and numeracy with their children.
  • Building hope – it is most important that when parents leave a meeting they have a clear picture of where their child is at in terms of improvement made, relative to their age and stage of development, and most importantly that they know what steps to take to move their child’s learning forward.
  • Co-operating and collaborating within the school to ensure whole-school continuity of strategies/ approaches.

In preparation for meetings with parents it is really beneficial to have a tailored list of strategies/approaches compiled on how parents can support their child’s learning, especially in the areas of literacy and numeracy. Depending on the age-group you could begin by compiling a list of:

  • Stories/novels suitable for the particular age-group.
  • Action rhymes/songs/ poems/counting rhymes.
  • Key skills to aid talking about pictures and photographs e.g. questioning, predicting, summarising.
  • Examples of labelling/ signage for use in home environment.
  • Ideas for environmental walks looking for shapes, colours, patterns, following directions.
  • Age-appropriate books.
  • Activities such as sorting and matching e.g. sorting the washing in the clothes basket.
  • Activities to do together when going to the shop.
  • Activities to encourage children’s free writing.
  • Activities for word-building and making sentences for fun.
  • Games such as I Spy, What’s the time Mr Wolf? 
  • Meaningful use of ICT.

When compiling a list start with a few essential ideas and build on the list as you move through the various curricular areas. The What, How and Why of Children’s Learning in Primary School published by the NCCA is an excellent resource on how parents can support their child’s learning at home, before and during primary school. There are also very useful tip sheets on in the following areas: Helping your young child to read and write; Helping your young child with Maths; Helping your young child with subtraction: tens and units and Division as sharing.
Next month’s article will focus on preparation for the parent-teacher meeting.

Mary Burke is Co-ordinator of the National Induction Programme for Teachers.