Promoting Family Conversations in Multiple Languages

Samantha Coupland, Monett Elementary, Monett

Promoting Family Conversations in Multiple Languages

Introduction

There is a need for deep conversation, even at a first-grade level. The purpose of the project is to promote conversations between students and their families via play, read-alouds, and everyday activities through literacy kits that students can check out. The kits include books, phonics games, strategy games, flyers/pamphlets for parents, and more! Families can utilize these materials in multiple languages so that they can have discussions that promote their cultural backgrounds and conversations around educational goals.

 

Main Objectives:

  • Facilitate discussion among students and their families via books and games. 
  • Enhance foundational reading skills for students struggling with vowel sounds, initial/ending word sounds, and increase letter/sound awareness. 
  • Provide opportunities for families to have access to books in their home language and English that they may not otherwise have.

 
 

Monett Elementary School is a pillar in the community for students and their families. The district prides itself on promoting diversity, languages, and learning styles. The Monett district has an approximate 48% minority enrollment (30% in the ELL program). According to district data, 88% of our EL students are Spanish speaking (or a Spanish dialect). 6% of our EL students speak Burmese, Karen, or Karenni (or a combination of languages). There are over 20 different languages/dialects represented within the district. Our district has a 40% free or reduced lunch population. The purpose of the project is to identify targeted audiences, and support families who are struggling to help their students with initial reading skills. We strive to foster a sense of belonging and pride within each individual.

Step-by-Step Plan

  • Send home surveys to determine the needs of individual families. 
  • Use current student needs to determine which materials would best suit the project.
  • Order materials to be housed in the school for parents as needed. 
  • Provide families with suggestions for working with their students at home. 
  • Create a multilingual flyer to share with the grade-level so other families are aware of the opportunities for their young readers. 
  • Send books and materials home with students on a "check-out" system.
  • Gather feedback from families about effectiveness of resources as conversation starters. 
  • Ask students to share some of the things they learned by using the kits, for example, words in Spanish that may have different connotations in English. 

Timeline

Begin your project after understanding the individual needs of the English Learners in your classroom. Then invite families to participate in the project. You might send home an activity or book once a month, or more if requested! Encourage families to participate for most of the school year. 

August- Take time to get to know your EL students and their families! You can send home an interest survey, have phone or face-to face-conversations, or invite families in for a conference.

September- Order materials based on the interests of the students. 

October- Begin to send home kits and gather survey information to determine effectiveness of activities.

November/December- Study returned surveys, and determine where changes can be made to program in order to adjust as necessary.

January-April- Continue sending kits and gathering data.

May-July- Order additional materials for following school year. Check in with school ELD specialists to share data and ask for growth opportunities. 

Budget

25 Easy Bilingual Nonfiction Mini-Books Scholastic
English-Spanish First Little Readers: Guided Reading Level A (Single-Copy Set) Scholastic
English / Spanish 1 Grades PreK-2 Scholastic
Uncovering Our Roots Grades K-2 Scholastic
Family Fun Bilingual Grades K-2 Scholastic
Social Emotional en español Grades K-2 Scholastic
National Geographic Readers: National Geographic Readers Spanish Collection Levels 1-3 Scholastic
Junior Learning Blends Dominoes Amazon
Junior Learning Short Vowel Dominoes Educational Action Games, Multi (JL493) Amazon
Teacher Created Resources Word Shark: Short Vowels Game Amazon
Orchard Toys Moose Games Shopping List Race to Collect Your Groceries in This Fun Memory Game. Age 3-7. 2-4 Players Amazon
Torlam Elkonin Boxes Phonemic Awareness Phonics Games, Reading Spelling Sound Manipulatives Sight Word Flash Cards, Speech Therapy Toy Kindergarten Elementary Classroom Must Haves Homeschool Supplies Amazon

What did it look like?

Sustainability

The project and its materials are meant to be used from year to year. With proper care and organization, the project could last for multiple years. Enough texts were ordered to ensure that students had access to literature in their home language. When students/families share they may not be able to afford books to be bought for the home, teachers may use discretion and offer to supply one or two to be kept at no cost to the family.

Reflections

I think the most important part of this project, personally and professionally, was the feedback I requested from families. I truly wanted to know how they felt supported from me and from our district. It was interesting to see what suggestions families had for ways to support their family and their children. Using a small survey allowed me to learn about more ways families wish their school would incorporate home languages and cultures. 

Through the surveys, I learned about how each family wishes to be included in our district’s plan, and the goals they have for their children. One family shared that their goal was “for our son to read this year.”  Another family hoped that “my kids can read or do well at school.”  Lastly, another stated “Goals for my student this year would be sight word recognition and improving fluency in reading. My feelings about this year are good, with the help of Mrs. Coupland, we are finding my child’s learning style and improving on her learning difficulties.”   

Families are asking for more teacher professional development on cultural awareness and diverse linguistic backgrounds. They were also thankful for the opportunity to have these items as a “reminder for our family of the importance of speaking Spanish to our children at home.”  

Not knowing any other language, I was able to utilize a translator and Google Translate to communicate with families during the process. One suggestion would be communicating with families via ParentSquare, Remind, or another application. I felt more connected than if I were to ask a translator to make a call. This allowed me to chat with families directly. 

Families appreciated that I sent the items home in a sturdy bag with Velcro and handles. This allowed families to take the bags to practices and other events to utilize during downtime.

This project allows teachers to truly get to know students and their families. Families are able to share the importance of their culture as well as the importance of literacy in their home language and the language of the classroom setting.

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