Monitor Elementary in Springdale, AR, expands winning family-outreach program with Keep the Dream Going Grant

Monitor ES bilingual books

Springdale, Arkansas is home to the largest community of Marshallese families outside the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. At Monitor Elementary, Principal Maribel Childress and ESL Specialist Julia Crane used funds from a 2012-2013 Sharing the Dream Grant to organize a series of Marshallese Academic Achievement Nights to make parents feel welcome, and to involve them more fully in their children’s education.

The initiative was so successful that this year, with funding from a 2013-2014 Sharing the Dream–Keep the Dream Going Grant, the school started a similar program for Hispanic families. Families read books together, work on projects, and are trained in using mini iPads pre-loaded with educational apps that they can “check out” on weekends to support learning at home.

“Nearly 300 of our students are from Mexico and El Salvador, speaking Spanish as their primary language,” Julia Crane said. “Many of our students are migratory, as they move with the family in order to follow work. Parent involvement has been such a challenge for us.”

Monitor’s Family Digital Literacy Project was introduced to families at a school-wide evening academic night in February and parents were quick to sign up. “At least one participation form has been turned in daily,” Crane said.

She believes, “Successful schools with high numbers of English Language Learners have one key component in common: parental involvement. Adding the Latino parent class this year will allow us the opportunity to build trusting relationships with these families as we learn from each other how to celebrate their culture and the academic success of their children.

“Hearing that we won a Keep the Dream Going Grant for this new facet of the program was an exhilarating moment for us!”

Example of Parent Session: Picture Walks

–Julia Crane, ESL Specialist

Our parent classes focus on techniques and strategies that are supported by current research. For example, it is suggested that parents are taught specific strategies that they can use to help support their children with school-related learning.

In a recent class, parents observed a lesson taught in a classroom, where the teacher covered all of the words in a book, only discussing the pictures with the students by asking questions such as ‘what do you notice?’ and ‘what do you think is going to happen next?’

The teacher was able to clearly demonstrate to parents that reading a book was about more than words on a page. After visiting the classroom, I guided the parents through an exercise doing these ‘picture walks.’ The parents then partnered up and practiced this new skill with each other, walking through a book asking simple questions to engage one another in the story.

The object of the lesson was that parents did not need to be able to read in English, or any language for that matter, to facilitate comprehension of the story and enjoy reading with their children.”

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Sharing the Dream

Grants for pre-K-8 school projects that create global classrooms where children—and families—can safely connect, exchange ideas and learn together.

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