5 ways to use family engagement to support classroom management

During my tenure and experience as an educator, I learned that I must believe that all families want the best for their children, regardless of how that may manifest itself. However challenging it may be engage productively with some families, educators must begin to incorporate all families into the school.  They should capitalize on the fact that many families – when welcomed to engage – are more than willing do so. I feel that educators miss daily opportunities to harness the energy and the commitment of families, which ultimately makes the mission of educating students easier and a more shared experience.

Here are 5 ways that family engagement supports classroom management, and some ideas for how to make them happen:

1. It increases attendance and reduces behavioral events. Maintaining consistent family engagement will aid and support teachers with classroom management and behavioral challenges.  When students understand that there is a direct connection between their teachers and their families, attendance increases and behavioral incidences are reduced.

  • How to make it happen:
    • Create incentive programs around attendance, and let parents know about the program with a take-home announcement. At one of my schools the class with the highest attendance won a trip to our local amusement park at the end of the year.
    • Provide parent incentives for their child’s attendance. When my school didn’t have much of a budget, we provided certificates of recognition for parents and students with good attendance. At another school of mine, we provided a special breakfast for parents of high-attendance children.

2. It makes families more likely to hear and act on “bad news.” When families are in regular communication with their child’s teachers – rather than only hearing from the school when a problem occurs – they are more likely to accept that problems exist when they do arise, and help teachers and staff address those problems, making classroom management less difficult. 

  • How to make it happen:
    • Use technology to provide weekly updates to parents about the positive academic and behavior achievements of their child
    • Share the results of frequent classroom assessments to show academic progress and achievement
    • Train teachers on how to find at least one great thing about each student, and email parents about that one (or more than one) thing.

3. Families can be utilized to support academic instruction in the classroom.  While it is not necessary for families to understand all of the content being taught in the classroom, families can assist at home by providing students with a quiet place to read and do homework. Parents can take  in addition, to helping student plug academic gaps by using flashcards or by asking thoughtful questions about reading, writing, and math concepts.

  • How to make it happen:
    • Provide parents with information about the importance of Sustained Silent Reading (SSI) in a dedicated quiet space at home.
    • Train teachers to ask students and engage with families about where students do their homework and emphasize the importance of a quiet space

4. Family engagement can result in additional support for classroom management.  During my tenure as a school leader, many families began to support the school by chaperoning events, serving as “room parents” for their children’s teachers, and by providing additional support during our morning breakfast program and at dismissal in the afternoon.  Families that participate throughout the school have a greater sense on connectedness to the school overall and more willing to support.

  • How to make it happen:
    • Provide families with a copy of classroom rules and accountability measures
    • Create a classroom weekly newsletter for families detailing behavioral (SEL) and academic goals for the week or month

5. Lastly, there is the ‘network effect’ of family engagement: Families who regularly participate in school have the ability to attract and support “hard to reach” families, which will ultimately benefit all stakeholders. Engaged family members can be instrumental in conducting tours to new families, explaining information about how the school operates, highlighting important meeting dates throughout the year, and providing support on how to obtain additional services for their children.

  • How to make it happen:
    • Host back-to-school nights
    • Host International Nights where families share cultural traditions with other students and families
    • Create a Room Parent Program, in which a dedicated family member is the point person for communications with the other families of students in the class.

In conclusion…

As a school turnaround leader, I faithfully incorporated families into my school improvement planning and in the educational experiences of their children.  I knew that neither I nor our school community could fully educate our students without active family engagement. I modeled for staff how to engage with challenging families and I was willing to take on challenging student behavior issues with families, to enlist their support in the disciplinary process.  In addition, I allocated funding to support family education programs that constructively trained them in strategies to support their children at home and I also provided them with structured opportunities to assist throughout the school. By engaging with families in this manner, they began to learn how to become constructive advocates for their children.

Educators, stop working alone!  Begin engaging your families today!

Family engagement survey download

About the Author

Marlon Davis is a school turnaround specialist who trains principals on leadership, parent involvement, change management, and data-driven instruction. A former teacher, school principal and charter school executive director in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Mr. Davis holds an M.Ed. in education leadership from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.