In carrying out the William F. Goodling Even Start Family Literacy Program at the state level, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) has made steady progress toward achieving its ultimate goals of supporting the language and literacy development of children and providing children with a solid foundation for success in school.
Helping Parents Guide Children’s Learning is both a culmination and a beginning. It is a culmination in that it brings together ideas from three major initiatives: the Parent Education Profile, the Parenting Education: Promoting the Literacy Development of Children and Their Parents workshop, and the Reading and Talking Together training event. As a beginning, it brings parent education and interactive literacy together in the form of lessons to be contributed by, and shared among, parent educators.
The lessons are aligned with the organization of the Parent Education Profile. Prior to implementing the lessons, please use the links to the left to learn more about this project and the design of the lessons.
The lessons are presented in Microsoft Word and may be accessed using the links below.
One of our goals for this project is to encourage educators to share lessons. Click on the "Share Your Lesson" to learn about submitting a lesson.
The New York State Education Department (NYSED) supported the development of the Parent Education Profile (PEP), a groundbreaking instrument for assessing parents’ roles in:
- supporting children’s learning in the home environment
- interactive literacy activities
- supporting children’s learning in formal educational settings
- taking on the parent role.
NYSED then designated a Parenting Education Workgroup to develop a series of training modules. Participants who completed this training would have the content knowledge, research, and tools to deliver parenting education that focuses on the role of parents in children’s language and literacy development. In other words, parent educators would have the "what, why, and how" of teaching parents to become the primary teachers of their children. The resulting four-module Parenting Education: Promoting the Literacy Development of Children and Their Parents set forth seven key parent behaviors that are identified in research as contributors to the development of language and literacy in young children:
- warm, sensitive, and responsive parenting
- having appropriate expectations for child’s learning and development
- providing predictable settings and routines
- guiding the child in problem solving
- providing supports for literacy in the home
- facilitating quality language interactions with child
- facilitating shared book reading with child.
In May of 2005, NYSED hosted Reading and Talking Together: Promoting Research-based Practices in Parent-Child Interactive Literacy Activities. Through this training offered by the United States Department of Education, participants:
- learned about the applicability of current research to parent-child interactive literacy activities
- examined best practices related to reading
- planned program improvements in parent-child interactive literacy activities, parenting education, and other core instructional components.
As a result of these efforts, parent educators understand the rationale for providing parenting education and interactive literacy as well as what to assess. Repeatedly, however, the question still posed is, "How do we actually teach parents?" Helping Parents Guide Children’s Learning responds to this question by providing sample lessons that integrate the information from these three major initiatives. It is anticipated that practitioners will also contribute locally developed lessons to this "living" document so that they can be shared with the broader Even Start Family Literacy community in New York State, and perhaps beyond.
Helping Parents Guide Children’s Learning is essentially a toolbox filled with the tools necessary to present a lesson, namely:
- Goals and Objectives
- Special Considerations that may influence lesson delivery
- Materials needed
- Discussion Points that provide key points or brief reviews of research relevant to the lesson
- Activities for both teaching parents and practicing with parents. The former component explains how practitioners can present the lesson to parents, while the latter provides opportunities for parents to apply their learned knowledge through interaction with their children, either at home or in the center.
- Observations Over Time presents questions for practitioners to consider in determining the impact of the instruction.
- Handouts and keys to handouts used in the lesson.
Drawing on the work described above, each lesson plan within the tool box includes indication of the PEP scale, subscale, and level, as well as key parenting behaviors most closely addressed by the lesson.
Two core beliefs serve as underpinnings of all of the parent behaviors identified as contributing to children’s literacy development. These concepts are that 1) children need to consistently receive warmth, sensitivity, and responsiveness from parents, and 2) parents’ sense of personal efficacy will develop from successful, positive parenting experiences. The lesson plans presented in Helping Parents Guide Children's Learning assume that both of these concepts are operational within Even Start instruction, with parent educators continuously assessing and supporting how parents feel and interact with their children and how parents feel about their roles as parents.
Warm, Sensitive, and Responsive Parenting
Healthy parent-child relationships are highly dependent on how securely attached a child is to a parent. Research demonstrates a correlation between secure attachment and:
- better performance on literacy tests during childhood
- measures of cognitive functioning during both childhood and adolescence
- higher self-esteem and social competence.
Warmth, sensitivity, and responsiveness are three key attributes that promote secure attachment.
A parent educator can identify "warmth in parenting" by closely observing the typical emotional climate that parents provide for children. Parents who routinely show healthy affection and attention, as well as express positive regard for their children, are cultivating a warm environment.
Sensitivity to children requires an understanding of their behaviors and needs. Parents should be knowledgeable about where their children fall within the domains (language, intellectual, motor, and socio-emotional) of generally accepted child development. Sensitive parents are also flexible in their child-rearing practices so to respond appropriately to their children’s changing needs as they mature.
Responsiveness, the third critical attribute, calls upon parents’ ability to perceive and interpret children’s cues, no matter how subtle, and to respond to those cues in meaningful ways. It is often described as though the parent’s mind "joins" the child’s mind – a process coined "contingent communication." To be effective, responses must be both appropriate and timely to the situation and to the child. Again, responsiveness will evolve as children mature.
In every encounter with parents and children, Even Start staff can carefully observe how parents manifest the three attributes of warmth, sensitivity, and responsiveness. Based on their observations, staff should provide parenting instruction that help parents interact comfortably and appropriately with their children. Warm, sensitive, and responsive parenting should be practiced in every lesson provided in Even Start programs; any lesson that fails to do so ultimately fails the child.
The second core belief underlying the key behaviors is that successful parenting experiences will lead to a growth in personal efficacy. Efficacy is the belief in one’s capabilities to know how to organize and execute the sources of action required to manage prospective situations. A strong sense of parental efficacy can positively influence the choices parents make about their children, the effort they put into their parenting, their ability to persist when challenged, and their feelings about parenting.
It is, therefore, important for parent educators to foster the efficacy of the parents with whom they work. There are several ways to achieve this; perhaps the most powerful is to provide opportunities for success. Achieving a goal – whether small or large – results in a sense of satisfaction and, if achieving that goal required the parent to overcome certain obstacles, a sense of triumph. "I do have what it takes to succeed!" When planning instruction, parent educators should focus on lessons that will challenge, yet be within the reach of, parents.
Another way to promote efficacy is to connect parents to role models. Seeing people similar to themselves persevere and succeed can empower parents, suggesting that they, too, can succeed. Parent educators might consider inviting successful graduates of the program to talk to or visit with students. Another idea is to incorporate videos of people to whom students can relate into lesson plans.
In the course of effective teaching, parent educators will naturally be heightening their students’ sense of efficacy. Subscribing to the Even Start family literacy principle of building on strengths means that educators will be continually reinforcing to their students that they do possess what it takes to succeed. Verbal support during home visits and lessons can be a very important tool for parent educators seeking to convey their belief that parents are the experts about their children and know what is best for them.
In considering any lesson plan, including those contained herein, parent educators should ask themselves a series of questions:
- How can this lesson help promote parental efficacy?
- Will parents experience some degree of success through this lesson?
- How can I serve as a "coach" or "cheerleader" during this lesson?
- Is there any way to incorporate role models into this lesson?
- Does this lesson draw on the strength of the parents?
- Will parents feel more positive about their ability to parent as a result of this lesson?
- Will parents interact with their children any differently as a result of this lesson?
Although this resource offers "ready-to-go" lesson plans, parent educators must ensure that the instruction is appropriate, relevant, and meaningful for their respective families. Parent educators should, prior to first use, review each lesson and its attachments for their suitability for their students. This review should take into account:
- reading level of parents
- number, age, and educational setting (if any) of children in the family. (Please note the term "school" is used generically within this document, encompassing elementary school, pre-k, day care, and any other formal education setting in which learning takes place.)
- PEP intake assessment scores
- English language proficiency
- culture and ethnic background of family
- language spoken in the home.
As necessary, parent educators are free to modify the lesson plans and handouts according to the needs of the families with whom they work. Early users of this resource noted several modifications they would make for their particular Even Start Family Literacy population. For example, those working primarily with parents who are English language learners would spread a single lesson over three or four sessions, so they had ample time to discuss unfamiliar vocabulary. Allocating plenty of time will also allow the educators to explore their learners’ cultural traditions around the topic in question. They may want to consider, for example, how well the family understands the norms of their children’s school and, vice-versa, how well the school/teacher understands the norms of the family.
At a more basic level, communication between school and family might require facilitation, perhaps translating school handouts and teachers’ notes to the native language of the parent. Finally, in preparing lessons for parents who are English language learners – or, in fact, for any learners – be open to alternate methods of participation. Non-writers might be able to draw pictures, rather than writing, about their goals. Parents who are quiet due to language barriers may feel more comfortable talking one-on-one, rather than in a group setting.
These modifications are examples for one population; other populations will require their own set of modifications. It is hoped that as Helping Parents Guide Their Children’s Learning is used more and more frequently by more and more programs, educators will share their modifications with their colleagues. These lesson plans are merely a framework from which to start. Tailor them according to the needs of families with whom you work.
For writing the lessons, "thank you" is extended to Mary Haust, Lynnette Pannucci, and Marci Manberg. Kay Peavey is commended for her extensive editing of the entire document. Patricia King and Joanne Jill are a superb formatting team. Scott Jill provided his overall support, guidance, and more specifically, his flawless organizational ability. DeSylvia Dwyer is credited not only for her vision and prompt responsiveness, but also for her dedication to the families of New York State and to this project.
121 Mosher Road Ÿ Glenmont, NY 12077 Ÿ www.hudrivctr.org Ÿ (518) 432 – 4005
Developed with funds provided by New York State Education Department,
Early Education and Reading Initiatives Team
under William F. Goodling
Even Start Family Literacy Programs Statute, Part B, Subpart 3 of Title 1
of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Contract # C006526
© This document is the sole and exclusive property of the New York State Education Department.
All of the Helping Parents Guide Children’s Learning lesson plans may be downloaded and used within your program. The following ZIP files contain lessons and attachments for the four scales.
Scale II: Parent’s Role in Interactive Literacy Activities (ZIP File, 216KB)
Scale IV: Taking on the Parent Role (ZIP File, 327KB)
One of our goals for the Helping Parent's Guide Children's Learning project is to encourage educators to share lessons. Lessons may be creative approaches to strengthening performance in one of the identified areas or a modification of an existing lesson to more appropriately work with parents. Use the template (38KB) and submit lessons, along with attachments, to the New York State Education Department's Early Education and Reading Initiatives Team. Completed lessons may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each lesson will be reviewed. If selected for inclusion, the lesson will be edited and formatted.