8. What should a TWI program do to promote home-school connections? What can I do as a parent to get involved?

As in other education programs, strong home-school connections are essential to the success of TWI programs. There are many things that programs and parents can do to help foster these connections.

First of all, programs can promote positive home-school connections by ensuring that all communications with parents, oral and in writing, are in both languages of instruction. This accomplishes the dual goals of ensuring clear communications with parents and promoting the goals of the program.

Programs can also sponsor periodic meetings to educate parents on TWI related topics such as program design, language acquisition, helping with homework, biliteracy development, and assessment practices. In addition, programs may offer ESL classes for parents of English language learners and classes in the partner language (e.g., Spanish) for parents of native English speakers. Ideally, these language classes should be structured to bring the two groups together on a regular basis in order to allow parents to practice the second language with native speakers.

Finally, programs can foster good home-school connections by recognizing the skills and strengths that families bring to the school and by seeing them as valuable resources that provide critical information about their children. TWI teachers and administrators can visit students’ homes and communities, in order to develop firsthand knowledge of students’ funds of knowledge (Moll, 1992a, 1992b).

There are many things that parents can do to strengthen the home-school connection. Calderón and Minaya-Rowe (2003) provide a detailed list:

  • Volunteer in the classroom.
  • Share with students aspects of the home language and culture such as music, dance, literature, and foods.
  • Attend parent education workshops on dual language programs.
  • Participate in TWI family social gatherings.
  • At dual language conferences and meetings, co-present with teachers, administrators, and students.
  • Assist with ongoing recruitment for the program by sharing experiences with prospective parents and students.
  • Contribute to the section of the school newsletter that deals with dual language issues.
  • Serve as chaperons for program class trips, both domestic and international.
  • Keep in touch with other dual language parents about program developments. For example, two volunteer parents (one representing each language background) can help get the word out to other parents about potential budget cuts or an important upcoming event. In some programs, parents have formed an electronic email list along with staff, and they use that forum to discuss all sorts of issues. Parents without home computers are able to use the school’s computer lab to join in on the discussions that take place bilingually. Parents help each other with the translations.
  • Support their children’s language and literacy development in two languages, as well as their emerging cross-cultural appreciation. They can do this by exposing their children to books and movies in both languages; attending cultural festivals; and providing opportunities for authentic language exchanges.