Monday, September 12, 2011

Family-Teacher Relationships and Their Effect on Second Language Learners

Developing a rapport with families is an important step for any classroom teacher, but especially so with parents of students who are second language learners. Students are entering the classroom and combining their home experiences with school instruction to come up with their own third space; their own literate identity. To ensure they have all the tools available in the classroom to get the most out of their experience, teachers should work in a partnership with a child's family.

A family is a wealth of knowledge about their child, what practices they work on at home, and what things are important to them culturally. All of these are beneficial knowledge that is essential for a teacher to analyze to ensure abundant opportunities are had in the classroom.

Some great topics to explore with families are:
  • Find out which languages children understand, speak or are learning to be literate in. You can include materials in the languages provided and represent that part of the child's culture. 
  • Ask families for examples of songs, rhymes and jingles they share with their children and which children who are not yet interested in focusing on picture books at story times enjoy. This can be incorporated in the classroom to provide a familiar environment for the child, and to encourage interaction with the language being learned.
  • Keep families up to date with activity in the classroom. Many families want to be involved in their child's education but can not due to language barriers. If any written communication needs to be written in another language, make sure to have that available. Having a translator or assistant available in the school to mediate during conversations may also be beneficial.
  • Are any displays in the classroom stereotypical or uncomfortable for families to see? Evaluate what types of items would promote literacy in the classroom and connect culturally to the child.
When doing assessments or observations, keeping family input in mind can put a new perspective on your thinking. Supporting diversity in the classroom will promote a safe environment for the child learning a second language and allow them to enjoy their journey of becoming literate at school with the comforts of home. 

If you are interested in exploring this topic further, see the information below for a concise description of second language learners in the classroom and how families and teachers can work together to give children a richer literacy experience.

Further reading:
What the Children Tell Us: Policy Implications and Practical Strategies by Claire Kelly


  1. You do such a nice job of addressing your audience! It's informal enough to catch their attention and feel as though you are taking each individual into consideration, but you also do well with balancing some formaility, too!
    ps: i need to remember pictures--they make such a difference!

  2. I like the way you approach the subject of parent involvement and the importance of bringing the student's home life into the classroom. I think this will definitely make parents aware of their role in their child's education and also help bridge cultural barriers parents and students may have. You gave great examples on how parents and teachers can accomplish this!

  3. I really liked the importance you put on parent involvement. It is so important that parents know that we want them involved with the educational process. We want them to know that their role is so vital to success in the classroom! It is great that you brought up second language learners! This could be a potential scenario that we face and it is great that this blog is such a great resource for us to share ideas.

  4. This is a very good article because of many reasons. Two of my favorite reasons have to do with your last bullet point and a phrase you wrote that is key to being a good teacher. First, I like the last bullet point because it is something I hadn't thought of. We do want our students to feel comfortable in our class. This is why if we do look for things to display from their culture we need to get an understanding of their culture first. By doing this we can lessen the possibility of displaying something stereotypical. The other thing I liked was "promote a safe environment". Part of being a teacher is being a protector and I feel that means trying to keep them safe all around.

  5. This post really gave me the feel of acceptance and that you as a teacher are going to make sure that each child feels included and accepted. It is good to create this comfortable environment for the parents, too by making this so evident in your post.