In my previous posts, I have mentioned the Parent Empowerment Project. This is my baby, an idea that has grown from a “what if?” within the tiny four walls of my classroom as a response to requests from families to have a better idea of what their students needed to be able to do prior to kinder and how they could best support at home, into a pilot program featuring monthly collaborations between our preschool team and our preschool families. It has been my leap into teacher leadership, my chance to be the change I want to see in education. It has been a whirlwind of a ride in just one short year and I have enjoyed every minute of it so far!
Back at the Teach to Lead Summit I posted about last week, we put together a plan on how we could support our families and build their confidence levels in working with students at home. Collaboration with district kindergarten teachers started the process to determine what students needed to know to be kinder ready (Power Standards), using assessment data to identify students’ present levels in relation to these areas, and then planning developmentally appropriate, hands on activities based on students’ present levels that are easy to implement and efficient for parents to use to work with their students at home.
Once these tasks were complete, we would be ready to hold our monthly trainings (8 in all throughout a school year), including dinner and childcare for the families, where we would choose one area to focus on for the month and present the activities as well as provide the resources in the form of a resource kit for the families, specific to their student’s present level, so that the families leave feeling prepared and confident to work with their student at home. These resources would be inexpensive and easy to find (Think: Dollar Tree!) so that the families could easily replace them as they used them. At the end of each meeting, the families would then fill out a goal form, where they would identify a goal for their student in the target area and how we could work together to get their student there.
Thanks to a Teacher Impact Grant provided by ASCD that we were one of only 17 chosen throughout the country for, we were able to bring this idea to life! My team, including myself, my colleague Brenda Thomas, and two amazing paraprofessionals Ms. Jen and Ms. Reyna along with the support of many others has held three family learning nights so far this year, targeting the areas of letter recognition, number recognition, and most recently, name writing. This particular meeting was near and dear to my heart, as I am a strong advocate of natural development of writing vs. learning through name tracing and worksheets. It was so exciting to share with the parents different activities using fun materials such as salt, shaving cream, qtips, etc. We also provide the families a book related to the topic we are covering, to help build their family’s library at home. This month’s book is one of my all-time favorites: Harold and the Purple Crayon!
At this meeting, we also asked the families for feedback on how they feel the program is going so far and if they feel it has been beneficial to them and their student. The responses were heartwarming.
“I like that you all provide different methods for us to be able to share with our kids so we can help them improve in their education…”
“I feel like these meetings help us parents be more involved with our student’s learning growth…”
“As a dad, makes me think how great this would have been if it would have happened in my childhood…”
“…I really feel she will accomplish this goal with the tools provided!”
Because this is a pilot year for the program, we have to wait and see the progress but we are already seeing the benefits in our classroom. We have students who were tested in October and were unable to recognize their name who are now not only recognizing their name, but know all of the letters that are in their name. When asked how they learned it, the student said “my mommy worked with me at home!” Earlier this week, while completing our question of the day writing practice activity, a student brought up her name, written correctly to vote on whether or not she liked vegetable soup. She added her name to the chart and when I looked at it again, I realized that this time last month, she had not been able to write her name. I pulled out her assessment to confirm and the results were tremendous!
In a month, this student jumped 4 levels and was now able to write her name recognizably! Did we use tedious, time consuming name tracing worksheets? Hand over hand techniques to show her the proper way to form each letter? No. We used the most powerful tool an educator has in their toolbox: the student’s family! Can’t wait to see what our end of the year results show but if this is any indication, the Parent Empowerment Project is a success!