Engaging Families in the VKRP Part I: Tips for successful conferences with caregivers!

In our last blog, we focused on reviewing your students’ VKRP data. Click here to link back for another look! This week we are focusing on how to effectively communicate your students’ VKRP data with caregivers. The VKRP team has developed a Family Information Report and Family Resources (you can access PDFs here) for caregivers.

We recommend using these in the context of a conference with caregivers, giving you an opportunity to share your classroom observations and engage in a collaborative conversation. If you need to send the Family Information Report home to families, the VKRP team has developed a companion letter that you can download and personalize (click below to download a copy now!).

We often hear some concerns from teachers about sharing students’ social skills and self-regulation data with caregivers. Remember that by reviewing your data and asking yourself questions about the skills and behaviors that you have observed in the classroom, you have already done a large part of the work! It can be helpful to share these observations with caregivers because they are grounded in specific examples of behaviors that can help caregivers understand the contexts where their child succeeds and where they might need additional support. For example, you might share with a family that their child does a great job keeping their body calm during structured activities like morning meeting but that they tend to need more reminders and support during unstructured times such as transitions or lunchtime. Using a specific example like this also naturally allows for you to engage caregivers as partners in supporting their child at school by asking them if they observe similar strengths and areas of challenge at home and how they have supported their child at home. And, even if a student’s behaviors are different at home and at school, be curious and ask caregivers why they think this might be the case—you will encourage partnership with families and also might learn important information.

A recent Edutopia article (Minero, 2018; full article link Edutopia) also suggests keeping caregivers informed on a regular basis so that you and families can work together to provide students with appropriate and consistent supports both at home and at school. To help facilitate communication with tech-saavy caregivers, we recommend some fun and interactive apps through Common Sense Education. We highlight here a few apps that we like, and that are free and easy to use. First, Remind is a safe and classroom-friendly communication website and app that allows teachers to send out mass messages to caregivers and/or to send targeted, individual messages to specific families. And, it is available in over 70 languages. We also like Talking Points, which provides automatic translation and helps you to communicate with caregivers and remove language barriers. Lastly, many teachers have shared with us that they use  ClassDojo to document student behaviors and learning, and you can also use this tool to send messages to caregivers—many teachers find it easy and useful to have everything in one app.

Finally, from our VKRP feedback survey data from last year, we found that 44% of teachers across the Commonwealth reported that they shared the VKRP data with their students’ families! A huge kudos to each and every one of you fabulous teachers! Collaboration with families is so important—in this post we focused on taking the first step to opening the doors of effective and collaborative communication with families! In a future blog, we will dive deeper into resources to help track students’ progress in your team meetings and PLCs that foster a culture of positive data use and how to share this information with families.

This is a busy time of year, with lots of teacher/student conferences, field trips, and days getting shorter. Take some time to take care of you! Click HERE for some ideas for self-care.

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