7 Strategies to Foster Parental Involvement with English Learners

Parental involvement is a key component of student success in the classroom, especially for English Learners. But recruiting and engaging families can be daunting, to say the least. Here’s the good news: there are lots of strategies that educators can employ to foster parental involvement with ELs or make it easier for parents who want to get involved. 

Here are seven simple approaches that you can mix and match as needed in order to craft a unique solution for your classroom. Read on for strategies to promote parental engagement among your EL families!

#1: Create a Welcoming Environment

First, establish a warm and inviting atmosphere that encourages parents to participate and be involved in their child’s education. Decorate the classroom with culturally inclusive displays, provide translated materials, and have a designated space for parent communication and resources.  Check out my TpT store here and a fun bulletin board idea on idioms here.

#2: Build Relationships to Increase Parental Involvement

Initiate positive and respectful relationships with students and parents, too. Make an effort to also get to know them personally, learn about their cultural backgrounds, and understand their aspirations for their child’s education. Regularly communicate with parents through newsletters, emails, phone calls, or parent-teacher conferences.  Ensure that communication with parents is clear, accessible, and culturally sensitive. Offer information in their native language whenever possible, or utilize translation services. Clearly explain class expectations, curriculum, assignments, and assessments to parents so that they can better support their child’s learning at home, too.

#3: Offer Workshops and Informational Sessions

Organize workshops or informational sessions specifically tailored to the needs of English learner parents. These sessions can focus on topics such as language acquisition, supporting reading at home, accessing community resources, or understanding the education system. Involve bilingual staff, community members, or specialists to provide guidance and answer questions.

#4: Share Resources and Strategies

Provide parents with resources, materials, and strategies to support their child’s language development and academic progress. Share tips on creating a language-rich home environment, engaging in literacy activities, or using online educational resources. Consider also creating take-home kits with books, activities, or materials that parents can use with their child.

#5: Encourage Home-Language Support to Foster Parental Involvement

Acknowledge and value the importance of the home language in a child’s development. Encourage parents to maintain and develop their child’s proficiency in their native language, as research shows that strong first language skills can support second language acquisition. Provide suggestions for how parents can incorporate their native language into daily routines and activities.

#6: Involve Parents in Decision-Making

Actively involve parents in decision-making processes related to their child’s education. Seek their input, listen to their perspectives, and consider their cultural values and aspirations. This involvement can range from discussing educational goals to seeking input on classroom activities or special events.  Shift from a traditional parent-teacher dynamic to a partnership approach, where parents are also seen as valued collaborators in their child’s education. Encourage parents to share their knowledge, experiences, and cultural practices that can enrich the classroom. Consider involving them in school events, volunteering opportunities, or parent committees. For more on connecting with parents, check out my blog post here.

#7: Be Accessible and Responsive 

Ensure that you are accessible and responsive to parent inquiries, concerns, or suggestions. Also, respond to communication promptly, address questions or concerns in a timely manner, and follow up on commitments. Demonstrate your commitment to partnering with parents to support their child’s learning.

Remember that parental involvement looks different for each family and may vary based on cultural norms and circumstances. Building trust, valuing diversity, and fostering open lines of communication are key to increasing parental involvement. By actively involving parents in their child’s education, new teachers can create a supportive network that enhances the success and well-being of English learners.

Here are some resources that can assist new teachers in communicating with parents who don’t speak English:

1. Language Line Services:

Language Line Services is a professional interpretation and translation service that provides on-demand phone interpretation in multiple languages. Teachers can use this service to have phone conversations with parents who do not speak English.

2. Translation Apps:

There are several translation apps available that can help with basic communication. Examples include Google Translate, iTranslate, and Microsoft Translator. These apps allow you to type or speak phrases, which are then translated into the desired language.

3. Bilingual Staff Members:

Identify if there are any staff members in your school who are bilingual or multilingual and can serve as translators or interpreters when communicating with parents. They can help facilitate conversations during meetings or conferences.

5. Multilingual Parent Volunteers:

Reach out to your school community and inquire if there are any multilingual parent volunteers who would be willing to assist with translation or interpretation. They can provide support during parent-teacher conferences or other important meetings.

7. Written Translations:

Use online translation services or resources to translate written documents. Websites like Google Translate or Microsoft Translator can help with translating written text. However, it’s important to note that machine translation may not always be accurate, so it’s best to have translations reviewed by a native speaker if possible.

Remember, when communicating with parents who don’t speak English, it is important to be patient, respectful, and understanding. Prioritize clear and concise communication, utilize visual aids when possible, and seek assistance from appropriate resources to ensure effective and meaningful communication with parents.

Parental involvement in English learner education is key when it comes to helping students achieve their development goals. With the strategies I’ve discussed, we can create a welcoming and supportive environment that recognizes the needs of English learners and their parents while also helping them feel seen and heard. By building relationships with families, offering workshops, providing resources, and encouraging home-language support, this type of environment will help empower English learners and give them the confidence they need to become successful communicators in both their first language and English.

Let’s continue talking about ways we can foster positive relationships between educators and families of ELs so that we can work together to bridge the gaps in communication. Sound off in the comments below or follow me on social media to join the conversation!

Let’s teach!


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