Building a Classroom Community by Having Parent Parties

Engage parents any time of the year with these strategies. Parent parties are fun, exciting ways to help parents and improve relationships. You can do this any time of the school year.

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Building a Classroom Community by Having Parent Parties

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Date: April 26, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking to Dr. Tisha Shipley from Ashford University about building family relationships and having parent parties.

So, Tisha, what is the secret for building effective family relationships within your classroom?

What’s the secret?

Tisha: I would say that the secret to building effective relationships is to start before you even meet them.

So I liked to send out a postcard. We know that snail mail — it’s starting to become extinct, but today I would still send out a postcard welcoming that family to my classroom.

The next thing I would do is make a phone call home. I think both of these are two things that you can do before you even meet them to show that you care, to show that you want to build that relationship, and to show that you back what they believe, and that you care about their child.

Vicki: So we want to connect before. What happens when a student starts in the middle of the year? How do we build that relationship? We don’t really have an opportunity to kind of set the stage before they walk in the classroom.

What about students who join in the middle of the year?

Tisha: Most definitely. And this happens all of the time.

So my favorite thing to do was to invite the family the day that the child got there to invite the family as soon as they could come in to have a night with me after school.

So that I could show them around the classroom, so that I could introduce them to the principal and so that they could get to know me. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first day of school or if it’s after Christmas. I still want begin building that relationship, because when you have that relationship at home with your families, they’re going to support everything that you do in your classroom. They’re going to give you ideas, because they know their child best.

Vicki: So you’re really talking younger grades, here, though, right? What grades?

Tisha: Most definitely. My expertise is Pre-K to 3rd grade, but I think that this all the way through high school. You just have to implement it differently. You have to think outside the box, how can you get your families involved where they care and know that you care about their child just like they do.

Vicki: Now so many teachers feel overworked. And they’re like, “Oh my goodness! Tisha, you’re just adding something else to my list! How am I going to have time to do this?”

What’s your advice?

How is a busy teacher going to find time to do this?

Tisha: Well building community should start from Day One, and it’s something that you’re teaching right along with your curriculum. So it shouldn’t be anything added. Because classroom community is differentiating for each child, just like we do anyway. Making sure that they know the rules, and the transitions, and the expectations, and the policies, and the procedures.

Once you teach all of these things, then your curriculum happens automatically. Everything runs smoothly like a well-oiled machine. If you have a substitute teacher, they come in and your community is already built.

So, you really don’t have to do anything extra. It’s that differentiation it’s that building that community of learners that’s engaged all the time.

Vicki: OK. So Tisha, let’s say a teacher’s new to this. It’s kind of the middle of the school year, and it’s a disaster. It’s not going like it needs to.

What do you do? Can you reboot?

If the classroom community is a disaster, do you start over again?

Tisha: Yes. I think you definitely do. I think you do this every single day. We all know that we’ve been walking down the hall, and our procedures have been broken.

I like to stop. We turn around, and we start over. You have to do this every single day. After Christmas, you have to reteach your procedures.

I think right now is a great time to start parent parties.

That is a breakoff on your classroom community.

Parent parties can be started any time. I love to start them the first day, but why not start them right now? Teach them the classroom community. Teach them how you are supporting their students. Why are we teaching these procedures? Why are we doing these transitions? What can you do at home to help us?

And so yes, I think you start tomorrow. If you’re listening to this podcast right now, start tomorrow. Start that classroom community of learners. Go in. Start from Day One and teach your procedures again. Teach your transitions again.

Give each child a job to perform as they come into the classroom. What is their responsibility in that classroom community? How can you get that child involved?

And that parent party is just another aspect to get the family involved into your classroom community.

Vicki: How would you define a parent party? Is that when you’re bringing in a parent, you know, or two parents, or however many parents — just at night? Or how does that work?

What does a parent party actually look like?

Tisha: Yes, a parent party — again, I like to start from the first day, but you can start it right now — you have a parent party once per month. The parents know the agenda — it has to be very organized. It has to be efficient. You always provide a snack of some sort, music, and fun.

When I say that, you bring the family in. You have a relationship building time. Everybody talks because it’s not just you the teacher building that relationship with the family. Each family member needs to build relationships with the other families in the classroom. That’s how you start beginning to build that community of learners and that community outside that then transitions into your classroom.

So at your classroom community party, it’s just parents. You have to have somebody that’s in another classroom playing games with students, showing a movie — that’s completely fine. But you have a strict agenda, and you stick to it.

So one month, you may have a guest speaker, like a dentist that’s in the community. The dentist comes in and visits with your families, and maybe gives a checkup to everybody. Or you send home family bags with healthy recipes, and you send home a meal with hamburger and different ingredients that go into it. So they’re always leaving with something, too.

And I like to do door prizes. So those are some things that you can do.

You also could teach a math concept. So one-to-one correspondence. I noticed when I was teaching, some of my parents didn’t know what that vocabulary was. They didn’t have that background. So I brought them in and taught them a simple thing like one-to-one correspondence. How do you teach your child this at home? What are we learning? What are we learning to write in school this week?

Those are some things you would do at your parent parties. I almost had 100% participation in these because when they come, they know it’s one hour long. They know that they’re going to eat. They know there’s going to be relationship building. There might be a guest speaker. There’s going to be a skill or concept taught that they need to be doing at home, and they really enjoy it.

What about families who cannot attend?

For the parents who can’t come to those? I always videoed them and put them on my YouTube channel, so that they could watch them later. You are going to have parents who have prior obligations or jobs that they have to go to, but you need to provide a way for them to watch that.

Vicki: So, Tisha, what kind of feedback did you get from parents? What did they say that they liked or didn’t like about these?

What feedback did you get from families about the parent parties?

Tisha: Well, obviously, time is a huge thing. I tried to make it at about 8:00 in the evening so they could go home, make sure that their family was fed, and try to have somebody there with their child. If not, they could bring them. They were just in another room playing games or something with another teacher. My teacher’s aide was in there, or I had a teacher come in and volunteer.

So that was a big thing. It was always the time. I tried to make a time that they could all be there.

The things they loved were my guest speakers. I brought in resources from the community that I thought would really help them — eye doctors, human resources, places they could get education, the dentist, veterinarians. It depended. You know, I always sent out a newsletter and I have social media, so I asked them, “What are some things you want to see at parent parties?” I think that parent feedback is important. They get to, like in your classroom community, give an idea. If you are doing that at your parent party, [they’re] going to want to come because they’re interested in the topic. So I think that’s very important. And they did like when I did that.

Vicki: OK. So, we have a fantastic idea for having parent parties and building those classroom communities.

And remember this: you can start any time you need to. We can reboot any day that we choose. If we wake up one day and realize our classroom is not what we want it to be, we do not have to take this for the rest of the school year. We can reboot. We can restart.

And if you’re struggling with those parents, then perhaps a parent party might be a great idea, because you know we’re all on the same team, and it’s all about educating the kids.

Contact us about the show:

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Bio as submitted

Dr. Shipley is a the chair of the Bachelors of Arts in Early Childhood Administration Program and a full time Associate Professor as Ashford University. Dr. Shipley has written and published many articles and has social media to reach her students and families. She has been in Education for over 15 years and still has a passion for helping teachers, families and children. Her personal website where you can find her social media, other presentations and articles is:


Twitter: @tishashipley

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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