When I was a school principal I had many students whose parents did not speak English. It was especially hard for them to understand the computer and to be able to help, support and monitor their child’s computer use because of the language barrier.
Our task as educators is to always reach out to the parents with limited English language skills and then help them to feel welcome in the school and classroom. Blogging can help accomplish this goal.
- The best way to start encouraging parents to use the computer is to first to make yourself as available as possible during first few months and weeks of school. It always helps to have a warm friendly greeting and smile in the family’s native language to touch base with parents when they come to pick up and drop off their children.
- Next start initiating contact with the parents that can be done via the blog or website. Include your email address and encourage them to write it down and send e-mails to you. Try to learn and include key phrases if not the entire message in their native language.
- Use the classroom or school blog to ask the parent to write about school topics that interest them or areas they need more information about. Help by making them select the project from three or four possibilities or to select a place where to take the students for a trip. Have each selection or question written in English and in a few of the most common student languages in the class.
- You can also ask them to help plan activities and invite a few parents with good language skills to carry out the plans.
- On the blog keep updating a few things about the kids at least on a weekly basis. This will actually involve the parents and encourage them as well to check the site regularly. The parents will get more acquainted with the sites and blogs and of course with the language. If the updates are written in English, include a sentence at the end in other languages where they can click to read the comments in their native language if necessary. You can also consider a translator program for your blog but often it is best for the parents to be slowly and incrementally exposed to the English language.
- You can also write instructions on your blog about your teaching method in upcoming units, the sources available online that will offer information for a lesson or unit and also about the places where they can do projects with their kids. This will require the parents to check blogs regularly and have knowledge about the lessons. It will also encourage them to communicate with you. Again, include English and Bilingual sources.
- Do not forget to also send regular paper reminders home asking the parents to check the blog. If you send the message home in English, include a familiar symbol and/or picture related to the class blog. Whether they can read the reminder or not, the parents will associate the symbol with the blog. When using English phrases in the reminder, be consistent and always use the same phrases.