Asking parents to create a representation of something as abstract as how one feels about their child going to the next grade seems absurd. Or does it? Every color chosen, bend in a pipe cleaner, effort made, and sticker stuck was done on purpose. Along with those decisions comes a story to tell, a fear to share, a win to celebrate, and many other possible connections to make with other people.
Before a recent “rise up” meeting, my third grade team and I gave baggies with pipe cleaners, craft sticks, rubber bands, some colored stickers, and a marker to rising third grade parents and asked them to perform the task above. The results were amazing. While some parents were thinking deeply on what to make with the contents of the baggie, others immediately started making something. All of them began talking to people around them about their creations and their feelings.
As the room filled up and the conversations began to quiet, we began our presentation about what the third grade experience was all about. We introduced ourselves, showed them pictures, had them choral read a few slides and opened the floor to questions. We could tell that some parents were a bit hesitant about asking the first question. So we asked them to turn and talk with their neighbors to reflect on what we had presented. Then had them to share their creations. We walked around the room and heard stories, exchanged joyful criticism about what was made and regrouped after a few minutes. This is where the “make” enhanced the presentation again. We shared tidbits from the conversations we had while walking around the room. Creation explanations included representations of teachers from their youth, feelings of excitement, celebrations of their children, and the unknowns of the coming school year. Then, the parents began sharing stories and asking questions.
This event may not seem like much but it was the “make task” that began conversations. It was also the “make task” that connected the new information from our presentation to how they felt and it also got the parents talking again. Their engagement was high and we were able to establish a relaxed atmosphere with open communication. This parent-teacher interaction was much more than a one-way delivery of information one can find on our website; it was an experience we teachers were able to share with our upcoming parents and new families.