Thursday, August 8, 2013

Family Visits


Thank you for checking out my posts on Engaging and Connecting with Families!  It is so important to begin the school year on the right foot by building relationships with families!  Today, I am going to share with you some tips for using Family Visits in your classroom.  



Have you heard of Family Visits?  I know several schools require Home Visits, but Family Visits are something different!  Family Visits are a great way to connect with your students and their families, and establish a positive relationship from the very beginning.  I know many people have not heard about Family Visits- myself included- or are just really scared of the idea.  But I promise you, Family Visits are not scary, and they will give you some great insight into your students and valuable information about their families.

If you have never done a Family Visit, then the idea seems daunting, especially if you teach in a low income area, Title 1 school, or your students live in a dangerous area.  The first time I did Family Visits is when I did my student teaching.  It seemed scary to me when and I wasn't sure what to expect.  However, I really enjoyed them and have done them in my own classroom.

Tips for Successful Family Visits:

1.  Choose when you want to do your Family Visits.  You can do them before school begins or after school starts, depending on what works best for you, your school, and your students.  I choose to do mine after school begins, because sometimes a child on my roster may not end up in my classroom.  This way, any children who are added at the last minute still get the opportunity to have a family visit.  I usually do 3 visits a day and choose 2-3 days a week to carve out time to go.

2.  Send a letter home, explaining Family Visits.  I sent my letter home a few weeks after school began and we got into a classroom routine.  I chose a few dates that worked for me, and gave parents options of times to choose from.  You could also send home a postcard before school begins, greeting the students and welcoming them to the class.  You could assign a time and date for the Family Visit on the postcard, or just invite their students and families to schedule a visit before school begins.  I personally prefer to allow the families to choose a time that works for them.   

3. Make your Family Visits non-threatening!  Explain in the letter that you just want to get to know the students and their families better!  This is NOT a visit to check out their homes or judge the families.  It is not a parent-teacher conference!  I make it clear in my letter that I want to get to know them better and they will get to learn more about me too!

4.  Offer alternatives to visiting the home.  This also helps make the Family Visits non-threatening.  Some families are homeless, or live in shelters, or with other family members.  Some families are embarrassed to have their child's teacher visit the home.  So you can offer them the option to meet elsewhere instead.  I always suggest something like a local park or a restaurant like McDonalds.  This allows all families to participate, regardless of their living situation!

5.  Keep it short!  My visits are less than 20 minutes long.  In just a 20 minute visit, you can meet the family members, talk to the parents about what they expect from their child this school year, and answer any questions they have.  If the students want to, and the family is OK with it, they will often show you around their house- their rooms, toys, favorite books, pets, etc...  

6.  Bring a Friend.  I've been on Family Visits by myself, and I've also brought along a coworker.  You need to find out what the guidelines are for your school and follow those.  But you need to do what makes you feel comfortable!  If you are worried about going alone, you can ask a teacher friend, a grade-level colleague, a counselor, or your Principal to go with you.  Safety first!

7.  Take a Picture!  During the visit, I always take a picture of myself with one of my students.  The student gets to choose where the picture is taken.  I get the pictures printed up and create a "Family Visit" book.  The students can write a bit about their visit with their teacher in their home.  This helps each student to feel special, and also helps drum up interest from the other students when they see that another child had their teacher visit their house.


Here is another great resource online with some more information about Family Visits!   


I have also created an example letter you can send home to your students.  This one has my name and information on it, but if you click on the picture, it will take you to my Dropbox, where I have an editable PDF freebie for you.  I hope you will consider downloading the letter and going to visit your students in their homes!

So would you consider doing Family Visits?  Does the idea scare you?  Have you done them before?  Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking!

For more great posts about Engaging Families and building positive relationships, check out these posts!




7 comments:

  1. Thank you for your contest I am enjoying the products I received. I did not see that I won on your website. I love the items from Growing Firsties, Tori's Teaching Tips, the Common Core Picnic Packet from Katie King and Parts of Speech packs. Got Ink? :-) Best of luck on your 2nd year blogging.May you be blessed richly.

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  2. I have done family visits since the first year I started teaching! Teaching students with disabilities, I like to get to know them a bit before I am required to know their needs in my classroom. It relieves a lot of my stress and their "jitters" for the first day. I also like to offer the parents a visit to the classroom. I know some parents do not want me to see their homes and I understand and respect that 100%. I also like to offer a classroom visit so the student is aware of where they are coming the first day and gets a "sneak peak" of what is to come! Thanks for sharing your letter! :)

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    1. Awesome! I'm so glad to see that someone else does Family Visits too! I like to get to know my students as well, but it is difficult trying to schedule visits before school. We have a Back to School celebration before school starts, and I allow the parents and students who ask to come to the room and see it and meet me. :-) This will be my first year doing them on my own. I'm waiting to see how long it takes for me to get in trouble! :-)

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  3. Family Visits are the VERY BEST way to connect with your students. The behavior problems go way down during the school day, because they know you will go to your home and they are thrilled that you made that personal connection. I go to EVERY birthday party I'm invited to and EVERY football or baseball game. Once they see you happy and relaxed, no matter their financial situation, they work hard to please you! I love your blog, I'm your newest follower and Bloglovin' follower. Please return to TBA's Freebie Friday since you're my Featured Blogger tomorrow! :)
    ~Fern
    Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas!
    Fern Smith's Pinterest Boards!

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    1. Opppss! your home, should be THEIR home!

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    2. I always like going to birthday parties and just generally getting to know my students. I like them! :-) I am excited to do Family Visits this year! I have wanted to do them every year, but I just haven't done it for various reasons. I am so glad I made a public pledge, because now I HAVE to do them! And I can't wait!

      Thank you so much for following me! And um, OMG, I about had a heart attack when I read that last line! I had to read it again! Are you serious?! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I am so excited! I will definitely check out your blog tomorrow! Thank you again! :-) :-) :-)

      Erica

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  4. In my many years of teacher I have only been on one home visit. I must admit, though, I was secretly relieved that the family was not home (or at least didn't answer the door). That was many years ago. Now, if home visits are needed, our school counselor and parent liaison go together. After reading your post, I've decided to at least consider this option. I definitely would not go alone. And I believe our district policy/procedures would not allow that either. But I'm sure it would be permissible with another staff member. So thanks for the "nudge" to make the effort. I do have one request. If it is possible (without too much bother), could you extend the editable box for the contact information? I'd like to include both my school phone number and email. But currently that is too much information for the provided space. Again, many thanks for a thought provoking post.

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