The Best Student Projects That Need Family Engagement — Contribute Your Lessons!

Be sure to check out the comments section for even more great ideas!

I’d like to create a very lengthy list of lessons that require students to engage with their parents and families in a positive way.

I know I’ve previously posted about some, but I need to track them down. I’m also hoping that lots of teachers will send in summaries of successful lessons that they’ve done. I’ll add them to list and, of course, give you credit.

You can find all my parent engagement-related “Best” lists here.

Here’s what I have so far:

Curious Homework: An Inquiry Project for Students and Parents is by Suzie Boss.

Good Teachers Embrace Their Students’ Cultural Background is an article from The Atlantic.

Here’s an excerpt:

Culturally responsive teaching doesn’t mean lowering standards, Irvine says. Take dialect, for example. Teachers need to help students speak and write in Standard English, but they’ll be more successful in that effort if they begin by respecting the way a student and his family speak at home.

Creating a link between home and school can enrich all kinds of lessons. Teachers can ask their students to interview their communities and condense the information into a letter to the mayor. Parents can be invited into the classroom to talk about their work. Students can be asked to think critically about articles and texts, exploring them for signs of cultural bias.

Interactive Homework Spurs Parent Involvement, Study Finds is the title of a useful blog post by Sarah Sparks over at Education Week. Here’s an excerpt:

Homework assignments that require help from family members can get parents more involved in middle school, a time many parents become less visible in school, concludes a new study in the School Community Journal…

…During a seven-week trial during the 2010-11 school year, 192 students in nine 8th-grade classes were given one assignment each week using the Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork, or TIPS, program, which includes assignments that require students to discuss concepts they learn in class with a family member to complete projects.

Reader Lori Lee contributes idea:

is a PBL lesson from the Buck Institute where students interview a family member about their life experiences and then create a nonfiction narrative based on a story from the interview. From here students then publish the collection of stories using an online publisher and organize a book launch event to the stores with family and public. I did project last year and it was amazing! I am in the middle of it right now and I still love project!

Maria Caplin contributes this idea:

Every year to start our measurement unit, I don’t assign any math HW except to have the students cook with their parents. Always a huge success. Here is my link.

I published a post titled The Importance Of Telling “Family Stories.” In it, I discussed an article that reviewed a number of studies that found value in parents telling their children about family stories.

The Washington Post wrote a more in-depth piece about one of those studies, and included a pretty useful “Do You Know” series of questions that teachers could easily give to students as an assignment. I love projects that require students asking their parents questions, and this one would be perfect.

Keleigh Thompson:

As an art teacher, I invite student’s families (and school faculty members) to our critiques at the end of a major unit or project! Students get to know other faculty, especially administration, parents are welcomed into the classroom, and it brings a sense of community to everyone involved!

The Beginners’ Guide to Connecting Home and School is a post from Edutopia that shares some good ideas for joint student/parent learning projects.

Keep Parents Connected in the Middle Grades is a good post at Middleweb that shares a number of good student projects that also involve their families.

The Maine Education Policy Research Institute has just published what appears to me to be a very useful study on parent engagement.

A summary of it can be found here, and the entire report can be viewed here.

I’ve only had a chance to scan it, but it looks helpful. One section that stood out to me was on student homework projects requiring family involvement. I don’t recall seeing previous research on that topic.

Highbridge Green School students present a project their parents helped design is an article in Chalkbeat NY that appeared last year, but that I just saw. It’s a short and sweet piece about a joint student/parent learning project.

Anyone who’s every listened to NPR is probably familiar with StoryCorps, and I’ve published several posts sharing their resources.

They just unveiled a new free mobile app at the TED Conference that allows anyone to record an interview with anyone and upload it their new site, They have both iPhone and Android versions, and they’re great!

The app provides multiple suggestions for questions, depending on who you are interviewing (you can also add your own). It’s a perfect tool for having students interview their parents, grandparents or other older family members (which also makes it easy to ensure students have parental consent — by the way, their policy states users must be over 13). It’s super-simple to use. Of course, classmates could also interview others, as long as teachers had parental permission.

Very Useful Excerpt From New National Writing Project Book: “Family Dialogue Journals”

The Best Places Where Students Can Tell Their – And/Or Their Families – Immigration Story

Honoring Our Families’ Immigrant Narratives is from Edutopia.

The Benefits of Oral History Projects for Multilingual Learners is from Edutopia.

3 thoughts on “The Best Student Projects That Need Family Engagement — Contribute Your Lessons!

  1. I’ve had mixed results with family-engagement student projects, ranging from delight to disgust. I required honors biology students to create a bug box and collect 50 different insects. Some parents embraced the project, finding insects in stores and collecting during vacation. Other parents said it “ruined the summer” (really?).

    Another activity was a Rube Goldberg assignment. This was to be done at home and video-taped for in-school presentation. The students enjoyed it overall, and some parents really got into it; other parents, however, did not enjoy the clutter. I am doing the Rube Goldberg again this year and trying to modify the directions so that it is smaller and more pieces can be built in school.

  2. As an art teacher, I invite student’s families (and school faculty members) to our critiques at the end of a major unit or project! Students get to know other faculty, especially administration, parents are welcomed into the classroom, and it brings a sense of community to everyone involved!

  3. I’ve come up with a project that I am using when I teach Environment and Sustainability.
    Students keep track of how much trash they produce over the course of a week (they can keep track of how many trashbags they use). Then they decide with their family ONE specific waste product that they could do without for a week, such as soda bottles or cans, food boxes, etc. They then keep track of how much trash they produce during the second week, and compare. I also include a 500 word essay.

    “Pick one thing you could do without in order to reduce your waste. Come up with a plan with your parents or on your own that would help you to remove this source of waste from your lifestyle. Write a 500 word (1 page) essay on your plan. Include what you would remove, why, and how. Include as much information as you can about the data on this type of waste (paper, plastic, aluminum, etc.), such as the amount that goes into landfills per year, the average amount used per person, etc. Your WHY needs to explain how this particular waste product is impacting the environment, and how it is harmful, as well as why you personally would want to reduce this problem.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *