Language Barriers and Parent Involvement

I have a diversely populated class. Many of my students’ parents speak little or no English at home. I can see they are interested in their student’s progress and would provide more support for their child if language were not a barrier. What are some options for enlisting their help with their student or in the classroom?

A: Some options:
• Find a “parent buddy” who is fairly fluent in English, is comfortable helping an adult, and speaks the same language to serve as a resource. They do not have to have children in the same grade. This person could help acclimate your parent to homework and school routines, translate or even volunteering in the classroom.
• Meet the parent with a translator to “break the ice”. Maybe your student or an older student in the school could help translate if an adult isn’t available. You would want to be sure you aren’t discussing anything confidential about the student. Limit this ice-breaker to small talk. This first meeting could be a great investment in the rest of the year
• Using a “buddy parent” or the student to help with language you could have a parent training demonstration for parents who would be willing to file informational flyers that get sent home from the school, copy materials, create folders, file books, etc.
• Find a way to have your Back to School Night materials translated in your major languages. Keep the text simple. A college or high school student may be able to do this as a service project at no cost to you. Your city, county, or library may also be good resources for translation services.
• Remind parents that their first language is important to maintain at home. Students who can speak, read, and write in more than one language have great educational and employment opportunities as adults.
• Good luck!

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