Tag Archives: bilingual families

Parents Night for Bilingual ELL Families

colorful stick figure people in a classroom with a chalkboard that says, "Bilingual Parents Night"Have you thought about hosting a Parents Night event just for your bilingual families? It’s a great opportunity to create a personal connection with parents who have a unique set of concerns, as well as a valuable skill set to bring to your classroom.

1. Roll Out the Welcome Mat

Don’t be shy! Use all available forms of communication (emails, letters and even phone calls) to make sure every one of your bilingual families understands how much you want to meet with them. Send multiple reminders in the days leading up to the event.

Try to remove the roadblocks that might prevent parents from attending. Offer childcare and/or dinner. Consider meeting dates/times that better accommodate their work schedules. Possibly use an alternative meeting location that is familiar to the parents, and minimizes their travel distance, like community centers or libraries.

2. Research & Prepare Your Presentation

Do your research beforehand, and look out for potential cultural expectations that parents might have coming into the meeting. In some cultures, teachers are considered the authority figure, which may keep parents from speaking up. Do moms and dads have cultural, differentiated roles in the upbringing of their children? Knowing about cultural differences ahead of time gives you a chance to address them directly, and lay down new expectations with the parents.

Find an interpreter for your Bilingual Parents Night, and meet with them beforehand to go over the main points of your presentation. Leave enough time in your speech for lengthy translations. Plan to speak in shorter bursts, to ease the translator’s burden, and improve the flow of your presentation.

If you haven’t already, proudly display your bilingual and multicultural items in your classroom. Posters, books and decorations create a welcoming and inclusive environment.

3. Celebrate Parent Involvement & Bilingualism

During your Bilingual Parent Night, encourage the use of each family’s home language. Make it clear that you value bilingualism, and see it as an asset. Emphasize the importance of reading with their children every night. Offer translated resources to take home. If you already have a bilingual classroom library, now is a great time to show it off!

Encourage classroom involvement. Bilingual parents have a unique set of skills, knowledge and experiences that can be a great benefit to all of your students. Ask them to introduce their cultural traditions to the classroom. (Traditional foods, holidays, and fables are always a hit!) Ask them to volunteer as classroom and school helpers.

Leave plenty of time for questions and discussion. You might be surprised by the specific concerns they have, so be ready to write them down for future follow up. 

Give parents the opportunity to mix and mingle. If they have a chance to meet, network and develop a sense of community, it can lead to a myriad of benefits for their children and the school as a whole.

4. Follow Up and Be Consistent

You put a lot of care and effort into planning your Bilingual Parents Night, so make sure you maintain the valuable connections you have established throughout the year.

Reach out to the parents frequently via translated emails, letters or phone calls. Offer additional bilingual resources when you find them, and be sure to follow up on the concerns they addressed.

The extra effort you put into hosting a Parents Night especially for your bilingual families can “translate” into lifelong benefits – not just for their children, but for all of the students in the class. 

Supporting Bilingualism: 4 Reasons Parents Should Speak Heritage Languages at Home

Although the United States has been dubbed “the graveyard of languages” for its lack of heritage language support, today’s children’s futures need not be so bleak. Given the right encouragement, immigrant families can pass on the best of both worlds to their children: a home language in addition to the community language.

For many decades there has been a common misconception that immigrant families will help their children most by completely switching to English in the home. The belief is that the more a family uses English together, the stronger their English language skills will become.  While it is true that family members can help one another by practicing English together, English should not supplant the native language in the home. In fact, dropping the home language in favor of English can end up having many negative consequences.

Why would a family do this? A strong desire to prepare children for a competitive education system is one very common reason. Continue reading Supporting Bilingualism: 4 Reasons Parents Should Speak Heritage Languages at Home