Helping teachers talk to parents about A2 Key for Schools, B1 Preliminary for Schools and B2 First for Schools
When we think of the people involved in teaching and learning, we tend to think of the teachers and the learners. Yet, in the context of young learner and teenage education this leaves out a very important stakeholder – the parents or carers!
Parents have a very keen interest in what happens with the learning of the children in their care. As a teacher, having open and constructive channels of communication with parents is essential. Having an effective strategy to bring them into the classroom and the learning process is very often the key to success.
Follow our seven-point checklist when you plan, write and revise your communications. It will help you explain to parents exactly what you need them to know so they become your partners in their child’s learning journey.
It is important to be clear about our aim and message when we are communicating with someone. Clear communication explains complicated ideas in ways that you can understand using simple and familiar language. It leaves no doubts or ambiguity about the purpose of the communication.
Tip: Start with a list of the things that you need parents to know, agree to or understand. Then eliminate anything on the list that you think they will not be familiar with. Do they know what ‘communicative competence’ or ‘B1 on the CEFR’ mean? Probably not … so don’t include it!
Once you have removed jargon, how do you fill in the gaps? Good communication is essential: your challenge is to find a new way to say these things that gives a clear and specific picture. An explanation can help, but an image or a comparison is even better!
Tip: Imagine that learners are football players – we want them to know the rules of the game, but we are not interested in how well they can recite them. Instead, we want to see how they use them in a real match, and how they can use them to solve the problems they face on the pitch. That is what we call competence.
Stick to the point. Be brief. This shows respect for our audience (you appreciate that their time is valuable), but it also helps to keep us clear and precise.
A good example of concise information is the Can Do statements that we use to describe learner competence. When we say that a B1 Preliminary candidate ‘CAN understand routine information and articles’ and ‘CAN understand straightforward instructions or public announcements’ we create a simple image.
Tip: The descriptors in our handbooks for teachers will give you plenty of examples ready for when you talk to parents about what their child CAN do at each level. Search to find all our resources for teachers.
Tone and register are important. Too formal and you will come across as distant and unapproachable; too casual and you will not sound professional. Consider the age, style and expectations of the parents – look at yourself through their eyes and meet their expectations.
Tip: Imagine what the parents will ask you about their child’s progress and prepare what you are going to say. You could use the results of homework or practice tests to show parents how their child is progressing and that they are ready to take an exam.
Coherent communication is about being logical and effective. A good argument must feel like the shortest, easiest line from idea A to idea B – no detours and no gaps. If you are talking about why taking an exam at the end of a course is important, be sure that all your points are connected and relevant to your main argument.
Tip: For example, you could structure your points as follows: ‘The national curriculum says that by the end of secondary school learners should reach a B2 level of English. It is very important for the school and the families to feel confident that our students are on track to meet that very important goal. Taking a Cambridge English Qualification is an excellent way to increase their confidence. We recommend that your child takes A2 Key for Schools and B1 Preliminary for Schools at the end of years 2 and 4.’
Correct communication is appropriate and error free – especially in writing. This includes proofreading, but also making sure that any details (such as names of exams, dates and addresses) are correct and consistent throughout your message.
Tip: It helps to have a second, fresh pair of eyes. Ask a colleague who does not know what you are trying to communicate to read the message, highlight any issues and then explain it back to you. If they can do it, then the parents can too!
Good communication will tell parents everything that they need to know, and also what they are expected to do next. Have you ticked all the items on the list in the tip in the first point? If you need parents to do something, did you mention exactly what it is?
Tip: Remember the Rule of Three. No message is complete unless you have mentioned the main ideas three times: once at the introduction (‘I am going to tell you about B1 Preliminary’), then in the development (‘This is what you need to know about B1 Preliminary’) and once more at the end (‘Now that you know this about B1 Preliminary, remember to …’).
Learn more about how you can talk to parents about their child’s progress in our recent webinar for teachers by Pablo Toledo.
Watch our webinar
Find lots more support and resources about talking to parents about Cambridge English Qualifications.