Last week, I was working with a group of teachers who were discussing how challenging it is to find the time to communicate in meaningful ways with all families on a continuous basis. As secondary teachers, they serve over a hundred students a semester, and they were asking how to find the time to share updates about student progress outside an email that reminds them to check the gradebook. As educators, we know that sharing student progress with families is critical, but logically, how can we pull it off? Well, we shift to student-led!
Encouraging students to personally communicate their progress to their parents or caregivers has sooo many advantages. If you are not already doing it, do yourself a favor, bookmark this page, and start 🙂. When we allow students to lead conversations about their progress in the classroom, it helps promote personal growth, self-awareness, responsibility, communication skills, and strong relationships, all of which contribute to a student's academic and personal development. Staples & Diliberto (2010) emphasize that student initiation helps to create greater parent involvement, which is more important than any family characteristic in determining participation and further impacting elements such as school-level governing, participation in learning activities, and parental assistance at home.
So, where do you start?
Student-Led Progress Updates
Empower your students to update their parents and/or caregivers on their progress in class. Weekly or bi-monthly, designate time for students to review their work or grades and then share progress with their parents/caregivers. The “Glow and Grow” approach is a great strategy for students to share their progress (make a copy of the template). All you need to do is create a template, build a routine for students to reflect on their progress at regular intervals, and then share it with families. Whether through a handout, a shared document, or a slide deck, the "Glow and Grow" framework is adaptable. And if you lean towards a digital version, there's the added advantage of enabling students to update using voice-to-text, incorporate visuals or hyperlinks to their work, or embed a short video update. For those working with early elementary learners, consider incorporating visual prompts or symbols in the template to guide their reflections more effectively. As an added bonus, you can provide families with commenting permissions so they can leave feedback or ask questions.
Think of all the benefits! By integrating a regular practice where students reflect on their grades, their journey, and their individual strengths and challenges, you're weaving a social-emotional thread throughout your curriculum, fostering self-awareness. Beyond that, you're encouraging students to be reflective learners and inviting them to share these insights with their families. Believe me, I would LOVE the opportunity to hear more about school from my kids!
Heading into parent/teacher conferences? The reflection template can guide meaningful dialogue (check out this elementary template (make a copy) for inspiration!). And when grading deadlines and report cards need to be posted, send a friendly reminder to families to delve into their students' reflections for a more comprehensive view of their progress. And the best part? At the end of the year, students have a reflective portfolio of their learning journey.
We know it’s critical to engage families in student learning. That being said, we all know it’s easier said than done. And to be honest, keeping up communication with hundreds of families throughout the year is too much to expect. So, as I shared, put those babies to work. Provide students with the scaffolds, skills, and routines necessary to own progress updates. Just try it and see!
Discover more strategies and templates in the Shift to Student-Led: Reimagining Classroom Workflows with UDL and Blended Learning.