Make and they will come

Making a representation of how you feel can do a lot for a parent-teacher meeting.

Photo of Chris Andres
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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.

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Photo of Charles Ellenbogen
Team

I've had what I think is a related idea for the population we serve. What if we combine parent conferences with the services our students need - getting eyes checked (and getting glasses if need be), a dental check, etc.?

Photo of James Campbell
Team

How Might We transfer this to all grade levels?

Photo of Ellen Deutscher
Team

Nooooorm!!!  So happy to see you!!  
I love so many things about this idea.  Simply the making part and getting parents to think about their kids in a creative way.  I also like the idea of giving parents a learning experience so that they are gaining empathy for what their kids are doing in the classroom.  Could be interesting to repeat this several times throughout the school year. 

Photo of Chris Andres
Team

Noorm!! Thanks for the love! This worked out very well. The "shares" after our presentation were great. I'll see if I can find some pics of the things made. I was most impressed with the conversations surrounding the making; whether "what are they asking us to do?" or "my child is really excited about..." or even "what does this have to do with 3rd grade?" It definitely got people talking, asking questions, and connecting. It made the morning more of a conversation rather than an info dump.

Photo of Ellen Deutscher
Team

Howdy Norm!
It'd be great if you could create a doc and move forward with your idea.  This could build out the idea more so others can have a clearer picture on the steps you took to do this. :)

Photo of Donna Teuber
Team

Hi Chris, This is a powerful idea to use the "build to learn" concept to engage parents in meaningful conversations. I imagine that this could be intimidating to some of the parents. Did you find that parents helped each other with the activity? Is there a role that students could play in the process? Great idea to build out!

Photo of Lisa Yokana
Team

Chris:
As an art teacher, I LOVE that you centered the experience around making. And of course it got people talking-because they had made an abstract representation of their feelings and then wanted to explain it. And the turn and talk is brilliant as it's not as scary as sharing your creation with the room. Also you choice of materials is great-so that nothing really concrete or representational could be made! I wonder, did you have the parents leave their creations for their children? Or take them home and share them? That could be a cool add-on. Check out this idea just posted: https://collaborate.teachersguild.org/goto/challenge/rsa-teachers-guild-parent-teacher-collaboration/through-the-child-s-eyes. It could be an interesting way to have parents share their creations and memories of their own experiences with their children!