Parents are integral to schooling for any child, and one of the key opportunities to discuss how a child is developing is during parents evening (Macbeth, Pg 362). However; how do you support parents of an EAL pupil during parents evening? Many questions come to mind, “Will the parents understand me?”, “Do I need to find a translator?”, “What questions will they ask me” etc. No doubt for the parents, the experience of parents evening, is even more daunting and they may be feeling a little worried too, concerned about either their own English and, of course, how their child is progressing in English. Perhaps, for some parents one of the questions they may want to ask is why their child’s grades look lower than other children, or in fact maybe why they have not been given a grade for a certain subject.
Consider how your school currently informs parents about your language support and methodology, in addition to the curriculum (Brewster et al, 2002). Prior to the parents evening, find out if the parent will need a translator. Often parents will either rely on their child or ask a friend to join. The problem with relying on their child is you may feel their English is not quite at the level to translate for their parents; however, remember that in the parents eyes, their child’s English is very good, as they will no doubt compare it to their own. Ask the pupil prior to the evening if their parent will be bringing a translator, or if you need to get one. Pim (2011) explains that having a translator available is a vital strategy for building home and school communication. If your school has a teaching assistant who speaks the mother tongue, then you can ask the Teaching Assistant to be available during the meeting. As Pim (2011) explains “Parents may worry that their level of English will be a barrier to effective communication with the school”.
Secondly read the student reports. Highlight any areas that seem a problem, or any grades that seem low. If a student is getting a lower grade in a Humanities or Science subject, explain that this is likely to do with the level of language required. The parents may have unrealistic expectations in terms of results, therefore it is your role to help parents formulate realistic expectations (Brewster, Ellis, Girard, 2002).
Have examples of the pupil’s work, to show the parents the progress they are making, nothing can demonstrate to a parent more effectively than examples of the work the student is able to produce. Brewster, Ellis and Girard (2002) explain that by sharing and explaining to the parents what you are doing you will develop mutual respect.
Finally suggest ways in which they can help at home. Scott (2012) gives an example of a remember book being used as a means to support language learning at home, explaining that this type of homework will motivate them, and help parents and students to identify what they need to learn and support progression. You may want to give examples such as; looking at their English books, asking their child to teach them some English; praising their child; showing interest in their work etc.
In order to prepare for the parents evening, click here to download a form to make sure you have everything you need ready for meeting with the parents.
Author: Gemma Fanning, EAL Co-ordinator
Brewster. J, Ellis G, and Girard, D. “Working with Parents.” The Primary English Teacher’s Guide. Harlow: Penguin English, 2002. Print.
Macbeth, Alastair. “Involving Parents.” Teaching and Learning in the Secondary School. By Bob Moon and Ann Shelton Mayes. London: Routledge, 1994 Print.
Pim, Chris. How to Support Children Learning English as an Additional Language. Cambridge: LDA, 2010. Print.
Scott, Caroline. Teaching English as an Additional Language, 5-11: A Whole School Resource File. London: Routledge, 2012. Print.