Image of a Hispanic family and an image of a teacher on phone speaking in English and being translated into Spanish

6 Tips for Communicating with Emergent Bilingual Families

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By SchoolStatus 4 min

Educators agree that students who have engaged families tend to have better attendance in school and performance in the classroom. 

Engaging all families can be challenging for both families and the district, but it’s necessary to ensure equitable classroom practices and the highest possible learning outcomes for each student. Engaging with teachers can be challenging for families who aren’t native English speakers, while engaging all families regardless of their home language is a challenge for districts. According to the Texas Education Agency, Texas is second only to California in the number of Emergent Bilingual (EB) students enrolled, serving just under 20% of the nation’s total population of English learner students. While Spanish-speaking families make up about 90% of the Emergent Bilingual population, there are over 120 total languages represented in Texas.

While EB students receive much support inside the classroom, communicating with their families at home can be challenging. Often campuses have Spanish-speaking translators available to assist non-Spanish-speaking teachers and administrators; however, for languages not as common as Spanish, it can be difficult to find translation services.

With that as background, there are good solutions to working effectively with EB families.

1. Use a Communications Platform with Automatic Translation

When communicating with EB families, it is essential to use a platform that automatically translates the conversation into the home language of the family. This will ensure that both the families and the educator can have a 1:1 conversation they fully understand and participate in.

Graphic showing a Family and a message being translated to their preferred language
2. Use Direct and Simple Language

When communicating with EB families, try to use clear and simple language. Avoid using slang or highly technical words that may be difficult to understand and difficult for the system to translate accurately.

Use multiple channels of communication
3. Use Multiple Types of Communication

Different families may have different communication preferences. For families who work multiple jobs or shift work, text messaging might be the easiest way to communicate, while other families may prefer telephone calls. Using multiple ways to communicate can ensure that all families can participate in the conversation with teachers in a way that is convenient for them.

4. Involve Families in the Learning Process

Involving families in the learning process can help to build a strong relationship between home and school. Teachers can involve families by providing regular updates on their child’s progress and performance, inviting them to school events, discussing attendance or discipline issues, and asking for their input on their child’s learning. This can help to build trust and support student success.

5. Encourage Open and Frequent Communication

Asking families to reach out to you with questions or concerns will help them to feel comfortable developing a relationship with teachers. Let them know that you are available to discuss their child’s progress and offer suggestions for ways to support their learning at home. Choose a platform that allows teachers to set working hours so that they are not receiving communication from families when they are not available.

Recording conversation between teacher and Family
6. Share Specific Examples of Student Progress or Challenges

Use a communication program that also displays student data to provide specific examples of a student’s performance or areas for growth. For example, if a student is struggling in math, share specific math topics they are having problems with and what the family can work on together to help improve math understanding and performance.

Including All Families in Your Communications

As Emergent Bilingual families become a larger portion of our student population, it is important to include their families in the conversation. By making it easy for EB families to communicate with teachers in their preferred language, all families will feel supported by both the teacher and school district. And research shows the more we communicate with families, the more successful their children become.

SchoolStatus Connect can help your district to communicate effectively with Emergent Bilingual families in their home languages.

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SchoolStatus is a unified K-12 platform that enables districts and schools to engage more families and improve attendance with our easy-to-use communications hub and data-driven attendance solutions. We support an integrated and impactful educational experience, from district leadership to families at home. With more than two hundred million successful school-home interactions, and millions of users, SchoolStatus drives meaningful results for districts and schools across the US.
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