May 7, 2013

ELL Family Resources

Your voices were heard!  Thanks to all of you who have commented and let us know what you want to see more of on ESL Amplified.  The overwhelming majority of our readers have expressed the desire to have more resources about involving families.  We are thrilled to be able to take this idea and turn it into our theme for the coming month's posts.  We also welcome you to email any helpful resources or websites you may have to us at

Many times family members of ELLs feel that they can't help their children at home because they may not know English or be literate themselves.  This is NOT the case!  There are many ways to empower our families to be involved in their children's education.

Ten Powerful Ways to Involve Families of ELLs

1) Invite them into your classroom to borrow books and resources, creating an open, inviting classroom.  Food and drink are always a way to make families feel welcome!

2) Start an after-school program for family members to learn English alongside their children.  (We will dedicate a post to this idea, and also give suggestions for funding, such as Title III federal funds!)

3) Model for families how to use movies/ TV/music to identify themes, characters, problem/solution, sequence, etc.  This is powerful for family members who may be worried that because they aren't literate in English they can't help their children become stronger students.  Point out the ways they can teach important concepts that students use in school.  Note that many immigrant families are literate, many are not.  Reassure them that they can be highly involved in their children's educations regardless.

4) Use their first language in any and all ways possible (written communications, translators, having books available in their first language).

5) Don't reinvent the wheel.  There are tons of schools already successfully engaging families.  Exchange ideas!  You don't have to start from scratch. Let's use this website to share!  Get started by checking out this post for a simple, printable list of questions for parents to ask their children to encourage reading comprehension.

6) Listen, listen, listen!  Our families know their students best.  They want to feel valued and affirmed.

7) Ask questions. This can help you better understand where your students are coming from and how they learn best.  It also helps you show your genuine care and interest in knowing the family.

8) Create a welcome guide and/or welcome committee for new families to help them better understand the school community.

9) Work with other staff members and community-based organizations to provide workshops for parents on academic and non-academic subjects (education rights, helping with homework, parent-teacher conferences, adult ESL, health fairs, literacy, technology).

10) Explore great websites to get more tips and resources.  Below are two of our favorites to get you started.

Want more parent resources?  Our post about parent communication offers printable forms to help parents navigate their children's first months of school in an unfamiliar language environment.