Have you found yourself wondering how your child is doing in school? Or maybe you were on the late end of discovering that your child is struggling and you wondered, when did this start? This is precisely why the Parent Teacher Communication Folder is so important.
All research shows that the Parent Teacher Communication Folder sets your child up for success in school! It is a simple, cost-effective management tool that is easy to set up and maintain with proper planning and organization.
As a teacher for over 20 years, I’ve been using this with my students in a variety of forms and know it is a critical piece to school success. Understanding its significance will help you as the parent appreciate it and be more apt to support your child’s teacher’s use of it, or use it yourself if you are your child’s teacher! Let me share with you my 5Ws and 1H of the Parent Teacher Communication Folder.
Table of Contents
Who Uses the Parent Teacher Communication Folder?
This portion, though it seems straight forward, should be addressed for clarity’s sake (and because it IS part of the 5Ws!).
The home-school communication folder was most probably set up (based on research findings) as a means for increasing and improving parental engagement. That being said, it is truly for everyone: parents, teachers, AND most certainly, for students.
It is absolutely effective for engaging parents. It is also quite helpful to teachers. It is a simple way to make sure information (small and large) is relayed to parents.
It benefits students for many reasons as well, but most significantly, it keeps students ‘on their toes’ so to speak…when kids know their parents know, well they are more likely to do what they are supposed to do, aren’t they? As well, students benefit from the goal-setting that is attached to communication folders.
What Is the Parent Teacher Communication Folder?
The parent teacher communication folder is a method of communication from home to school and back again. In the most simplest terms, teachers provide school-related information about the student for the parent to read. The parent signs that he/she read it and can either comment back, or send after signing back to school.
There is a myriad of ways to differentiate the communication folder. From type of folder to frequency of use to what information to include, the parent teacher communication folder is quite flexible, making it a tool easy to tweak depending on your circumstances.
Origin as Means to Engage Parental Support
Probably one of the earliest mentions of the importance of establishing a home-school/ parent teacher communication folder is in a 1982 study partially funded by the National Institute of Education called The Home-School Connection: Selected Partnership Programs in Large Cities.
This study concluded students saw school improvement (such as higher test scores and less discipline problems, among other things) when a parent teacher communication source (such a a folder, log, phone calls…) was regularly and consistently implemented because it effectively engaged parental involvement.
ReadingRockets.org says “substantial evidence exists showing parental involvement benefits students,” that is, by raising academic achievement, increasing student motivation, and improving behavior and attendance of students.
As long as the contact is direct, success was inevitable.
Jump ahead to today’s school era, you’ll find the use of a parent teacher communication folder is a staple ingredient of the school success recipe along with Back to School Night, Open House, and Parent Teacher conferences as standard practice to motivate parental support.
Types of Parent Communication Folder
As stated before, there are multiple types of folders to use as vehicles of communication from home to school. Depending on your, or your child’s teacher’s, focus and preferences, you’ll want to select what works best for you. After all, choosing the best method for YOU and YOUR STUDENT/CHILD will result in consistency and thus, be even more successful.
In my 20 plus years as an educator, I have used a parent teacher communication folder in some way from the very beginning. Some years I’ve used a simple manila folder with a paper stapled on one side; other years I’ve created in depth binder systems. I can tell you that some certainly proved more effective than others, but ALL were better than nothing.
|Pocket Folder with Prongs||2||4||2||2||3||13|
*scored times 2 due to importance
Parent Teacher Communication Manila Folder
In my early days, as well as when teaching middle school and high school age students, the manila folder was my go-to form for communication from school to home. The manila folder was simple, easy to carry (didn’t take up much backpack space & is light weight), and cost effective method to implement and replace when lost, because let’s face it, students often accidentally on purpose lose things.
I would staple a document to one side and that is it (other than a name label on the front). The document was a one sheeter with date, a few columns for information, and a space for parent/guardian signature. Depending on your particular circumstances, the information columns might display behavior, grade, or assignment details.
The main benefits to using the manila folder are that it is quick, easy, and cheap! The drawbacks are that it is limited in space and thus, information and details. The manila folder might be preferred by your child’s teacher and now you’ll understand why.
If the drawbacks are more than you want, you should talk to your child’s teacher about switching to one of the other forms. Even if it means you’ll be required to purchase the ‘new’ communication vehicle, I wager your child’s teacher would be agreeable!
Parent Teacher Communication Pocket Folder
The pocket folder is the next step up from using a manila folder. It has everything a manila folder holds, plus extra space for storing worksheets, student work, handouts and forms to take home. One side of the folder may be used for the communication log and the other side for loose paper. Or, you may modify it by stapling in a sheet protector to hold the signature sheet.
I liked using the pocket folder because the extra space was worth the minor up charge in price. It is still light enough to not cause issues in transportation and cheap enough to replace. I found that often you’ll replace these not only because of loss, but because they are prone to tears and rips; more so than the manila folder, surprisingly.
Parents like purchasing these because stores like Target and Walmart often have big back-to-school sales prior to each school year and these are always included, sometimes as cheap as 10 cents a piece, whereas you’ll rarely find manila folders in these promotions!
Teachers usually like these because they’ll use them for several subjects and will usually color-code them to make it simpler for parents and students. For example, the blue ones were always my Parent Teacher Communication Folder color. Designating a color helped parents recognize the correct folder each evening after school pick up. Did you see the blue folder in her backpack? That’s the one!
Parent Teacher Communication Pocket Folder with Prongs
The pocket folder with prongs, now two steps up from manila folders, is very similar to pocket folders without prongs as far as benefits and limitations. It has the same detail space, BUT includes a middle section to grab hold of paper using the brads option. This way both folders are used for loose paper and the brad section can hold the signature document.
Personally, I liked these best because they were highly efficient, holding student work and forms in the pockets while containing the signature space in the middle. I included a sheet protector to keep the log page clean and it was easy for students to slide the log in and out, rather than undoing the brads each time.
The folder with prongs was a bit more costly than folders without and these were rarely included in the back to school promotional events. Teachers highly regarded the prongs folder while most parents would ignore this request, opting to instead purchase stacks of the folders (on sale) without the prongs.
If you are able to select the Parent Teacher Communication Folder for your child, you might really like this particular form, so try it despite the lack of a sale. It is still relatively inexpensive, but the prongs addition will be much more useful in the long run.
Parent Teacher Communication Folder- Binder Style
The binder is the uber communication tool. It holds the most information, since its rings can contain multiple sheets of paper (as well as folders!) with ease. Most binders have pockets on the inside and outside too, so there are other options for storage and personalization.
Many students do not like the binders because they take up more backpack space and are heavier/cumbersome to use. Younger students may also struggle with opening and closing the rings, too. A few sessions of pinched fingers are no fun!
However, the binder lasts longer and could possibly be used multiple years, making its higher cost negligible in the end.
If your child is in a nontraditional school setting such as a home school, you may want to use the binder, too. Sure, it’s not necessarily the same usage as a ‘parent teacher communication’ tool since you ARE the parent, but it is still an excellent method for collecting and documenting student work throughout the year.
When Should You Use the Parent Teacher Communication Folder?
Now if you’re child is in a traditional school setting, it may not initially be up to you as to when the communication folder is used. Yet I can virtually guarantee your child’s teacher will be using one, so it is important to look for these details at the beginning of the school year as routines and procedures are rolled out.
Let’s say your child’s teacher does a daily log/communication folder, this will probably be a simple one with behavior and/or quick notes to keep you updated to current school events.
If your teacher does a weekly Parent Teacher Communication Folder, there will probably be schoolwork included. In my later elementary teacher days, I would use a hybrid of the two. That is, I had a daily log with behavior and quick notes like ‘tomorrow is the spelling test’, as well as included on every Thursday, a homework packet, graded work, and any scored tests and school flyers.
If your teacher doesn’t include as much detail as you need, or send home the folder as often as you would like, simply request a modification. Most teachers are so eager for parental support, they’ll gladly make a change in your favor.
Set A Routine for Folders
Regardless if your child is in a traditional or nontraditional school setting, routines are critical for success. Students need routines for sleeping, eating, and naturally, school.
Your teacher might set guidelines about how often the communication folder is used; when you’re expected to sign it; when she or he responds; what is included and so on. However, you should set a routine at home for this, too.
You should have a designated time and place for looking over the folder. Whether it’s early morning at the breakfast table, in the evening in the family room after dinner, or some other time and space at home that works for you, doesn’t really matter.
You should select the most opportune time and place to review the Parent Teacher Communication Folder that works for your family. The key is being consistent with it!
If you slack off or review it at random times, you may not be as consistent in the long run and it won’t be as effective a tool as it could (it is still MORE effective than NOT reviewing it at all, however!).
Another time to use the Parent Teacher Communication Folder is when problems or special circumstances arise. This won’t be an every day situation, but it will occur every month or so.
Perhaps your child is struggling or expresses a problem about school with you. Often you as the parent are the first to notice or hear of an issue from your child. After all, they are most comfortable with you.
Depending on the sensitivity of the issue, you will use the log to inform the teacher about it. It could be a simple, ‘please call me’ note or if space allows, you could write a brief explanation such as ‘my child needs help with understanding common denominators.’ The folder (or binder) is a quick way to let the teacher know of the problem.
Or maybe you have a special circumstance happening. You can put this in the communication folder to let your child’s teacher know about it. ‘We are traveling out of town and Liam will be absent for three days’ or ‘Kayleigh’s little sister is in the hospital with pneumonia, so we’re a bit out of sorts right now.’
You’ll find the Parent Teacher Communication Folder quite useful and easy, the more consistent you are with using it. Problems, questions, out of the ordinary times of stress all can be address in this manner.
Where to use the Parent Teacher Communication Folder?
As part of the 5Ws, where to use the Parent Teacher Communication Folder is the next to be addressed. This is primarily in relation to the age of the student/child and type of school your child attends.
Elementary-High School Setting
As a teacher of all ages, starting in elementary, then moving to middle and high school and back to elementary, I can attest that the communication folder is needed at all levels. It may surprise many, but the communication need is just as great, if not more so, as your child grows older!
It is easy to see that a communication folder is necessary for first graders, or really any elementary age, because your child is more apt to misinform or misunderstand details. The folder is a way to take the validity of the communication out of the narrative of the child. However, the need is even greater as a child grows.
Academic expectations rise as students move up the grade ladder. It is so important for parents to stay connected to school and on top of ‘grades’ in middle and high school. These are the grades that will effectively shape your child’s future opportunities. High school is definitely NOT the time to relax communicationally speaking!
If your child’s teacher is truly effective, he or she will instill a regular communication tool. If he or she does not, I suggest YOU do it. A simple manila folder will probably work best in this situation.
A traditional setting implies public or typical private school. It is almost certain that your child will have some sort of home-school communication folder in place and if so, you should by now recognize how critical this piece to the education success puzzle is!
A nontraditional school setting is anything else such as online/virtual school or home school. If your child is enrolled in a virtual school, you won’t receive a physical folder for communication. More than not, you’ll have a virtual folder. It might be a part of the school online platform or something your child’s teacher designs specifically.
For a year when we lived in Southern California, all four children were enrolled in a virtual school (California Virtual Academy, aka CAVA). In this case, our students work was accessible online and we could review assignments (complete and incomplete) daily. We also had our children video record their work on a weekly basis. This was a great way for us to check their progress, and we used a simple pocket folder to keep track.
No matter what your child’s school environment, it is important to set aside a time and space for reviewing school communication and work. I suggest you also create a physical folder to use at home, if you don’t have one from a teacher otherwise. You can simply decide on the ‘vehicle’ (e.g. manila folder, pocket folder, etc…) and house printed documents, as well as a checklist or something to keep track of each time you review it.
Why use the Parent Teacher Communication Folder?
Lack of or misrepresented communication can cause a multitude of problems in any environment, so it is paramount that it be reduced in the school setting, where minds are being shaped academically, socially, and emotionally.
Research supports parent engagement for school success. Pearson’s study says, “It is important for teachers and parents to have meaningful communication with one another because doing so increases parental engagement in student learning.”
Furthermore, parental engagement translates into “(1) higher academic achievement; (2) increased attendance rates; (3) positive student attitudes and behaviors; (4) increased student readiness and interest in their work; (5) increased parent satisfaction with teachers; and (6) higher teacher satisfaction ratings.”
The question isn’t why would we use parent teacher communication folders, but why would we NOT.
The Parent Teacher Communication Folder is an effective method for maintaining and promoting accountability among all stakeholders, too. Teachers must be accountable in keeping parents/guardians informed of school happenings; parents must be accountable to keeping the school informed of home issues and concerns. Students are accountable to not only being the ‘go between’ in transporting the folder, but ultimately, it keeps students accountable in their school work and performance-the real end game here, right?
How to Use the Parent Teacher Communication Folder
Our ‘1H’ in this article is the HOW TO piece. Yes, by now, I hope everyone is convinced as to the importance of the actual PARENT TEACHER COMMUNICATION FOLDER, but let’s look at the how.
Teachers are usually the ones who decide what to use and when, but they may also be the decision-maker of ‘how’. That is, how do you put it together? If not, parents should also play a part, whether in the nontraditional setting or as a participant to suggest an alternative if need be.
The details should be addressed/discussed/determined as part of the beginning of the new school year procedures either by the teacher, parent, or some form of both. Then the student participation should be explained. Students should certainly be involved!
You or the teacher will need to purchase materials and keep them updated. If loss occurs, materials should be replaced promptly to minimize problems.
There should be clear details for communication expectations and norms set. As well, expectations and norms should be revisited throughout the year to address any challenges and tweaks should be made when necessary to maintain and uphold the process.
One relevant feature of the communication folder is that it serves as a ready-made, anytime-needed record piece. Teachers, parents, and students are able to review the folder at conference times and any time in between. No one should wonder, ‘how is Ginny doing?,’ if a communication folder is being used properly.
Parent Teacher Communication Folder Wrap Up…
Let’s look back at what we’ve learned about the Parent Teacher Communication Folder by revisiting the 5Ws and 1H:
- Who: that’s you, your child, and your child’s teacher (if not you)
- What: we learned its meaning & origin
- When: we learned WHEN it should be looked at (opportune time as long as consistent)
- Where: all ages need home-school communication, in all school settings
- Why: RESEARCH BASED
- How: get organized, but don’t be afraid to tweak it as you go
I hope my teacher perspective has helped! With the right plan in place, the PARENT TEACHER COMMUNICATION FOLDER will be simple, but prove invaluable for your child’s school success!