Family with child

Content Area:

Family Engagement & School Readiness

This Content Area Covers:

  • What is the role of family and community engagement in fostering healthy child development and school readiness?
  • What strategies (including transition strategies and goal setting) can I use to understand each family's view of their role in their child's learning? What strategies can I use to partner with families to support their child's school readiness?
  • How can I integrate PFCE and school readiness strategies throughout my program's systems and services?

Introduction

For parents and families, working to achieve their child's school readiness means being engaged in their child's long-term, lifelong success. A systemic, integrated, and comprehensive approach to family engagement can help programs partner with families to prepare their children to learn and thrive.

In the first months and years of life, children learn primarily within their families, and in all their earliest interactions. Children develop self-regulation, joint attention, and executive functions, as well as other cognitive, social, and emotional skills both at home and at school. Head Start and Early Head Start programs can strengthen families' positive influence on their children's early learning and school readiness by partnering with families to make progress on the PFCE Framework Family Outcomes.

Helping families overcome challenges such as poverty, homelessness, family and community violence, lack of access to health care, and social isolation is vital to children's learning. Through partnerships with Head Start and Early Head Start programs and other community resources, families can play an active role in their children's learning, advocate for quality education for their children, and create the collective power to improve their children's educational opportunities.

OHS PFCE Framework

At-a-Glance

A
Learning Extension A
Families as Lifelong Educators
B
Learning Extension B
Research to Practice: Family Engagement and School Readiness
C
Learning Extension C
Begin with Parents' Perspectives
D
Learning Extension D
Connecting the Dots: Family Engagement and School Readiness
E
Learning Extension E
Family Engagement and Transitions
F
Learning Extension F
Integrating PFCE and School Readiness
G
Learning Extension G
Teaching and Learning: Partnering with Fathers
H
Learning Extension H
The Foundations for Life and School Readiness Begin in Infancy
I
Learning Extension I
Video: Engaging Families in Transition to Kindergarten
J
Learning Extension J
Video: Engaging Fathers
K
Learning Extension K
Video: Program Environments: Responsive Programming for Migrant Families
Learning Extension A
Families as Lifelong Educators
  Estimated Time: 45 minutes

Families are their child's most important teachers. Beginning with a healthy pregnancy and sensitive early interactions, they create the positive bonds that give children the best chance at success. Explore how we can partner with families to create an environment that fosters learning. Learn ways you can help families build foundations that promote success in learning and life.

Guiding questions: What strategies (including transition strategies and goal setting) can I use to understand each family's view of their role in their child's learning? What strategies can I use to partner with families to support their child's school readiness?

Resources you will need:

Before you begin:

  • Review the directions.
  • Review the documents.
  • Print copies of the documents as a handout for your group. Share with group members to read before the session, or include time for reading during the session.
  • Prepare a short PowerPoint presentation to introduce the key points from the Research to Practice—Families as Lifelong Educators document.
  • Prepare a flip-chart with the following headers (one header per page):
    • Tackle Multiple Stressors with Comprehensive Services
    • Partner with Parents to Learn What Is Working and What Isn't
    • Engage Parents to Build Consistency between Home and School
    • Provide Opportunities for Cross-Cultural Learning and Open Communication

Directions:

  1. Begin by sharing the PowerPoint presentation to review the key points from the Research to Practice—Families as Lifelong Educators brief with your group.

  2. Post the four labeled flip-chart pages (see "Before you begin") around the room.

  3. Review the directions with your group, as follows. Ask the group to listen to all the directions before starting.

    • They will be divided into four small groups.
    • Each small group will begin at one of the posted pages.
    • They will have 4–8 minutes to briefly discuss the topic on the chart and write examples and ideas of what their programs are doing or might do in the future. Provide an example to help group members understand the activity.
      • For example: To tackle multiple stressors, a program might partner with a child care program to provide extended-day services. This provides access to child care at one location for parents who work.
    • At the end of the allotted time, each small group will rotate to the next chart. They will have 3–6 minutes to review what is on the chart and add to it.
    • As the small groups rotate two more times, reduce the amount of time at each chart based on the groups' needs.
    • At the end of this session, each small group will have had an opportunity to review and add to the examples on each of the four charts.
  4. Divide group members into four small groups and assign each small group a chart to start with. Remind them that you will let them know when it is time to go to the next chart. Start the timer and facilitate the small groups rotating until each group has visited all of the charts.

  5. After all the small groups have visited the charts, provide the whole group with a few minutes to walk around the room and review what is on the charts.

  6. Debrief with the whole group by asking what "aha!" moments the group members had during the activity. Ask group members to consider:

    • How are all family members lifelong educators? What does this mean for fathers, mothers, siblings, grandparents, and other relatives?
    • When is it hard to see families as educators? What might be some examples of when this occurs?
  7. Consider the role of families in educating their children about their own cultures and about negotiating across multiple cultures.

Reflective practice opportunities:

  • Using the Reflective Practice tool, review the last three questions and write your reflections in the space provided.
  • Use the notes from the chart to continue reflecting on and planning for opportunities with families to strengthen their roles as lifelong educators.
  • Review the fourth competency from the Head Start and Early Head Start Relationship-Based Competencies: Parent-Child Relationships and Families as Lifelong Educators.Reflect on your knowledge, skills, and actions. What are your strengths? How do your own experiences with family well-being and families as learners in your work? What opportunities can you find to increase your knowledge and strengthen your skills and actions?
Learning Extension B
Research to Practice: Family Engagement and School Readiness
  Estimated Time:

Learn how family engagement contributes to children's healthy development and school readiness. Explore the research on the link between family engagement and school readiness.

Guiding question: What is the role of family and community engagement in fostering healthy child development and school readiness?

Resources you will need:

Before you begin:

  • Review the directions.
  • Review the documents.
  • Print copies of the documents as handouts for your group. Share with group members to read before the session, or include time for reading during the session.
  • Prepare a visual of the calculation of hours spent per year to display during Part 1, if desired.

Directions:

  1. Ask your group members to review the Research to Practice Series—Family Engagement and School Readiness document prior to the session.

Part 1

  1. Walk the group through calculating how much time Head Start and Early Head Start programs spend with children, and how much time children spend with their families or in other settings in one year. Example calculation:

    • 128 program days each year × 4 hours per day = 512 hours of program time per year. (Adjust this figure to reflect the program your group works with.)
    • Total hours in a year is 365 days × 24 hours per day = 8,760 hours per year
    • 512 hours of program time / 8,760 hours per year = 6% of the time is program time
    • Share the pie chart below, or create one of your own that illustrates the results of your calculation of hours.
  2. Ask the group to make this calculation for their program model.

  3. Reflect with the group on the amount of time children spend in programs and in other settings during the year.

    • What does this bring to mind?
    • What does this allocation of time mean for our work with families?
    • What does this allocation of time mean for our work with community agencies or others who work with families?

Part 2

  1. Direct your group members' attention to the Research to Practice Series—Family Engagement and School Readiness document. Explain that they will have an opportunity to discuss what they read about in the document. (If group members haven't read the document, reassure them the document will be available to refer to during their discussions, and allow additional time for small groups to review their section of the document prior to discussing it.)

  2. Divide the whole group into four small groups.

  3. Assign each of the following sections to a small group:

    Group 1: Infants and Toddlers: Learning from the Beginning (p. 2)

    Group 2: Preschool: Developing the Skills for Success (p. 2–3)

    Group 3: Promoting School Readiness (p. 4)

    Group 4: Conclusion: Bringing It All Together (p. 4) and What Can Programs Do? (p. 5)

  4. Review the directions for the small groups as follows:

    • Review and discuss their assigned section. Identify two or three points.
    • Prepare a short presentation, no more than five minutes, to share the two or three points they identified with the whole group. (This might be a song, poem, or skit that highlights the key points from their section. Or small groups might use a flip-chart and draw or write a summary of the key points to share with the whole group.)
    • Present their sections to the whole group.
  5. Give the small groups time to discuss and develop their presentation.

  6. Have the small groups present their sections to the whole group. As each small group shares, invite other group members to comment on the reading and information in the presentations.

  7. Lead a discussion using the following guiding questions:

    • In what ways can you connect family engageme> nt and school readiness in your work?
    • How would you tailor these to individual families' cultural beliefs about their roles in their children's learning?
    • What ideas have you gathered from the Research to Practice Series—Family Engagement and School Readiness to help you do this?
  8. Wrap up the session by summarizing the discoveries made by the group members from the readings and presentations.

Reflective practice opportunities:

  • Using the Reflective Practice tool, review the last three questions and note reflections in the space provided.

  • During a reflective practice or reflective supervision session, explore ways you might connect family engagement and school readiness in your work. How would you tailor these to individual families' cultural beliefs about their roles in their children's learning? How can you use Research to Practice Series—Family Engagement and School Readiness to add to your ideas about how to do this?

Acknowledgment: Special thanks to the National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning, whose staff developed and shared the activity in Part 1.

Learning Extension C
Begin with Parents' Perspectives
  Estimated Time: 30–60 minutes

The partnership between parents and Head Start (HS) and Early Head Start (EHS) staff is fundamental to children's current and future success in school readiness and beyond. Discover how programs and families can share information with each other about children's learning and development. Staff may use this resource to identify specific strategies that support discovering the parents' perspective.

Guiding questions: What strategies (including transition strategies and goal setting) can I use to understand each family's view of their role in their child's learning? What strategies can I use to partner with families to support their child's school readiness?

Resources you will need:

Before you begin:

  • Review the directions.
  • Review the documents.
  • Print copies of the documents as a handout for your group. Share with group members to read before the session, or include time for reading during the session.
  • Prepare a flip-chart with the directions for the small-group activity given in Step 6.

Directions:

Part 1

  1. Share with the group that perspective taking is key to being able to build relationships with families that allow us to have open and honest conversations about children's learning and development.

  2. Tell the group that they will have an opportunity to practice having a conversation with a parent about the child, with the goal of coming to understand the parent's perspective about the child's learning and development.

  3. Have your group members pair up.

  4. Once everyone has a partner, explain that one person will take the parent role, while the other person will take the HS/EHS staff member role. Ask them to decide who will take which role.

  5. Provide your group with the scenario below, in which a parent and staff member have a conversation about the child's learning and development. (Or you can let the pairs choose one of their own scenarios.) Encourage group members to think about a specific child and parent during this activity.

Scenario: A conversation with a family member who has a 4-year-old enrolled in the program with some language delays. (The child has the vocabulary that is typical for a 3-year-old.)

  1. Review the following instructions. Refer to a flip-chart on which you have printed the instructions. Ask your group to wait until you have reviewed the all instructions:

    • The person who is playing the provider begins by asking the person playing the parent to tell you about the child.
    • The "provider" listens to the "parent" for two minutes. Explain to the pairs that listening means that you listen without using any words. You can use body language, but no words.
    • The "provider" then has one minute to reflect back to the parent what he/she heard.
  2. Have the pairs begin, giving them two minutes.

  3. At the end of two minutes, prompt the pairs to shift and have the "provider "reflect back to the "parent" for one minute.

  4. Have a discussion with the whole group using the following questions as a guide:

    • Parent role:

      • What was it like to talk about your child?
      • What was it like to be listened to in this way?
      • What was it like to hear what the other person heard?
      • What did you discover?
      • What came up for you?
    • Provider role:

      • What was it like to listen to the parent talk about the child without talking or interrupting?
      • What was it like to say back what you heard?
      • What did you discover?
      • What came up for you?
  5. As you debrief this listening experience with your whole group, highlight the following key points:

    • How we approach families and ask them to share matters.
    • An essential piece of engaging families in their child's school readiness is our authentic valuing of parents' views, coming to understand their perspective about their child—what they think about their child's skills, behaviors, abilities, personality, and temperament.
    • We can use the information parents share about their children to help us adapt and adjust our teaching and family support, so that we foster a partnership with families in support of their child's healthy development and school readiness.
    • Allow parents to share their perspective. Then use it to inform what we, as staff, do. This builds trust, which leads to families communicating honestly with us.

Part 2

  1. Review the key points from the following sections of the Family Engagement and Ongoing Child Assessment document with the whole group.

    • See Program Opportunities to Engage Families in Children's Learning and Development (p. 7–10). Ask your group members to share strategies they use to engage families in children's learning and development (e.g., portfolios).
    • See the ideas for programs on sharing child information (p. 11). Ask your group members to describe strategies they use to share information with parents. Encourage them to consider whether they would modify any strategies based their experience in the listening exercise completed earlier in this session.
  2. Ask the group members to consider how these strategies might be incorporated into their school readiness and program plans.

  3. Conclude this session by asking group members what they are doing to share information with families and what they might want to try in the future.

Reflective practice opportunities:

  • Using the Reflective Practice tool, review the last three questions and note reflections in the space provided.
  • Ask group members to practice listening as part of their daily interactions with families. Reflect on what happened during reflective supervision, or as part of a group reflection time.
  • Reflect with families:

    • Invite input (formal or informal) from families about communication about their child with staff.
    • Have a joint discussion between staff and families about what is working and what could be improved.
  • Review the second and fourth competencies from the Head Start and Early Head Start Relationship-Based Competencies: Self Aware and Culturally Responsive Relationships and Parent-Child Relationships and Families as Lifelong Educators. Reflect on your knowledge, skills, and actions. What are your strengths? What opportunities can you find to increase your knowledge and strengthen your skills and actions? What can you do next to strengthen your work with this competency?

Download Individual Resources
Family Engagement and Ongoing Child Assessment
1MB PDF
Learning Extension D
Connecting the Dots: Family Engagement and School Readiness
  Estimated Time: 30–45 minutes

Learn about how home-school consistency supports families and programs working together to reinforce children's learning everywhere that children are. This begins with staff respecting individual family culture and the family's views of their role in their child's learning. Explore ways to create this consistency by partnering with families to connect their interests, strengths, and priorities with your program's school readiness goals.

Guiding question: What is the role of family and community engagement in fostering healthy child development and school readiness?

Resources you will need:

  • Document: Family Interests and Strengths chart (see Appendix)
  • Document: Family Interests and Strengths Aligned to School Readiness Goals chart (see Appendix)
  • Document: Reflective Practice Tool (see Appendix)

Before you begin:

  • Review the directions.
  • Review the documents.
  • Print copies of the documents as handouts for your group.

Directions:

  1. Explain to your group that you will be thinking together about what families want for their children, their hopes and dreams, and their strengths and priorities. Then you will explore the connections between what families want for their children and program goals for school readiness.

  2. Ask each group member to identify two particular families with whom they work in their programs.

  3. Have group members list what they know about the families' interests and strengths on the Family Interests and Strengths chart or a piece of paper.

  4. Ask group members to consider the following questions and add to the notes they have for each family:

    • What does the family like to do with their child?
    • What are their hopes and dreams for their child?
  5. Have your group members identify how the families' interests, hopes, and dreams for their child connect to school readiness goals, using the Family Interests and Strengths Aligned to School Readiness Goals chart.

  6. Lead a whole-group discussion by asking the group:

    • How could you communicate with families about how their interests and strengths, and hopes and dreams for their children help their children to be ready for school?
  7. Wrap up the activity by providing time for the group to reflect on this activity and what they discovered or are wondering about.

Reflective practice opportunities:

  • Using the Reflective Practice tool, review the last three questions and write your reflections in the space provided.
  • In reflective practice sessions, continue to consider how families' interests, strengths, hopes, dreams, and priorities for their child connect to the school readiness goals. Encourage the further discussion of how these connections can be highlighted and strengthened in school readiness and program plans.
  • Reflect with families:

    • Invite input (formal or informal) from families about communication about their child with staff.
    • Have a joint discussion between staff and families about what is working and what could be improved.
  • Review the fourth competency from the Head Start and Early Head Start Relationship-Based Competencies: Parent-Child Relationships and Families as Lifelong Educators.Reflect on your knowledge, skills, and actions. What are your strengths? What opportunities can you find to increase your knowledge and strengthen your skills and actions? What can you do to learn more about and respect each family's culture and their view of their role in their children's education?

Download Individual Resources
PFCE Fillable Framework
1MB PDF
Learning Extension E
Family Engagement and Transitions
  Estimated Time: 30–45 minutes

Discover the importance of the PFCE Framework Family Outcome: Family Engagement in Transitions. Learn about the how the transition to kindergarten affects children and families, including feelings of separation, loss, and change. Explore examples of how the PFCEFramework Program Foundations and Program Impact Areas are linked with successful program practices.

Guiding questions: What strategies (including transition strategies and goal setting) can I use to understand each family's view of their role in their child's learning? What strategies can I use to partner with families to support their child's school readiness?

Resources you will need:

Before you begin:

  • Review the directions.
  • Review the documents.
  • Print copies of the documents as a handout for your group. Share with group members to read before the session, or include time for reading during the session.
  • Prepare six flip-charts with the headers listed in Step 2, below. Write one header per flip-chart.
  • Optional: Prepare a PowerPoint presentation to help you present the highlights from the document.

Directions:

  1. Begin by highlighting the key points from the document: Research to Practice Series—Family Engagement in Transitions. (If you prepared a PowerPoint presentation, use it to help highlight the key points from the document.)
  2. Post six flip-charts around the room with headers for each of the items in the "Promising Practices" section on p. 3 of the Research to Practice Series—Family Engagement in Transition document.

    • Program Leadership
    • Continuous Improvement
    • Professional Development
    • Family Partnerships
    • Teaching and Learning
    • Community Partnerships
  3. Review the directions with your group as follows. Ask the group to listen to all the directions before starting.

    • The whole group will be divided into six small groups.
    • Each small group will be assigned one of the posted flip-charts.
    • In their small group, they will discuss what they notice about the examples provided in the Research to Practice Series—FamilyEngagement in Transitions "Promising Practices" section. Note the examples on the flip-chart.
    • Add to the flip-chart their own examples of how they are supporting transitions in their programs.
    • Each small group will need to assign a reporter to share highlights from the small group's discussion.
  4. Divide group members into six small groups and assign each group a chart.

  5. Provide the small groups time to discuss and add examples to their charts.

  6. Have each small group's reporter share with the whole group the highlights of their discussions.

  7. Summarize the themes that emerge during the small-group discussions with the whole group.

Reflective practice opportunities:

  • Using the Reflective Practice tool, review the last three questions and write your reflections in the space provided.
  • During reflective supervision or coaching sessions discuss how you can apply your ideas to your work on transitions with families.
  • Review the fourth competency from the Head Start and Early Head Start Relationship-Based Competencies: Parent-Child Relationships and Families as Lifelong Educators.Reflect on your knowledge, skills, and actions. What are your strengths? What opportunities can you find to increase your knowledge and strengthen your skills and actions? What can you do next to strengthen your work with this competency?
Learning Extension F
Integrating PFCE and School Readiness
  Estimated Time:

Explore how specific PFCE and school readiness strategies can be carried out in ways that reinforce each other across the Program Foundations and Program Impact Areas.

Guiding question: How can I integrate PFCE and school readiness strategies throughout my program's systems and services?

Resources you will need:

  • Document: OHS PFCE Framework
  • Document: PFCE Fillable Framework (see Appendix) OR chart paper labeled with the Program Foundations and Program Impact Areas of the PFCE Framework (one per chart page)
  • Document: Reflective Practice Tool (see Appendix)

Before you begin:

  • Review the directions.
  • Review the documents.
  • Print copies of the documents as handouts for your group.

Directions:

  1. Introduce the activity to the group by reviewing the work they have done in previous learning extensions to explore how family and community engagement is essential to healthy child development and school readiness. Remind your group that the PFCE Framework provides a way to think about how systems and services work together to achieve family and child outcomes.

  2. Remind your group that the PFCE Framework document can be used a reference throughout this activity as needed.

Option 1

  1. Post the seven elements (three Program Foundations and four Program Impact Areas) of the PFCE Framework on chart paper around the room.

  2. Explain to the group that this is an opportunity to identify ways PFCE and school readiness can be integrated across the Program Foundations and Program Impact Areas.

  3. Have the group divide into seven small groups. Assign each small group a chart to begin with.

    • Explain to the small groups that they will have five minutes at the first chart, and then will rotate to the next chart, where they will have three minutes to review and add comments. (You will need a total of 23 minutes, plus transition time, to allow each group to visit each chart.) Adjust the times to meet your group's needs.
  4. Invite the small groups to post strategies and examples for family engagement aimed at school readiness on their chart.

  5. After five minutes, have the groups rotate to the next chart. Continue to have the groups rotate until each of the small groups have visited each chart. Note:

    • The first round will need more time than the following rounds.
    • Remind staff to review what is already on the chart and add to what is there.
  6. When all the small groups have had an opportunity to add to each chart, invite the group members to walk around the room and review what is on the charts and then return to their seats.

  7. Lead a discussion by asking the whole group what they discovered during this activity. What questions do they still have, or what are they still wondering about? How do specific strategies in one program element reinforce and/or rely on strategies in other areas?

Option 2

  1. Provide each group member with a copy of the Fillable Framework.

  2. Explain to the group that this is an opportunity to identify ways PFCE and school readiness can be integrated across the Program Foundations and Program Impact Areas.

  3. Have group members individually list examples of strategies that engage families in school readiness in the Program Foundations and Program Impact Areas on their Fillable Framework.

  4. Divide the group into small groups of three to five people. Have them share what they noted on their Fillable Frameworks with each other in these small groups.

  5. Lead a discussion by asking the whole group what they discovered during this activity. What questions do they still have, or what are they still wondering about? How do specific strategies in one program element reinforce and/or rely on strategies in other areas?

Reflective practice opportunities:

  • Using the Reflective Practice tool, review the last three questions and note reflections in the space provided
  • Use the Fillable Framework template to continue to reflect on how staff can support family engagement as part of their roles.
  • Review the eighth competency from the Head Start and Early Head Start Relationship-Based Competencies: Data Driven Services and Continuous Improvement.Reflect on your knowledge, skills, and actions. What are your strengths? What opportunities can you find to increase your knowledge and strengthen your skills and actions? How can you best use the information (data) gathered in during this learning extension to support Data Driven Services and Continuous Improvement?
Download Individual Resources
OHS PFCE Framework
1MB PDF
Learning Extension G
Teaching and Learning: Partnering with Fathers
  Estimated Time: 30–45 minutes

Explore ways to engage fathers in teaching and learning partnerships with your program. Learn how staff can ensure that fathers are welcome and viewed as important partners in their child's healthy development and school readiness.

Guiding questions: What strategies (including transition strategies and goal setting) can I use to understand each family's view of their role in their child's learning? What strategies can I use to partner with families to support their child's school readiness?

Resources you will need:

Before you begin:

  • Review the directions.
  • Review the documents.
  • Print copies of the documents as a handout for your group. Share with group members to read before the session, or include time for reading during the session.

Directions:

  1. Introduce the activity to your group by explaining that they will have the opportunity to explore and learn about ways to engage fathers in teaching and learning partnerships.

  2. Divide the group into four small groups.

  3. Assign each of the following sections of the Head Start Father Engagement First to Five Programming Guide to a small group:

Group 1: Teaching and Learning: Teacher-Father Partnerships (p. 35-36)

Group 2: Teaching and Learning: Sharing Information about Children's Progress (p. 37)

Group 3: Teaching and Learning: Bridging Home and School (p. 38-39)

Group 4: Teaching and Learning: Supporting Transitions (p. 39-41)

  1. Review the directions for the small groups with the whole group. Ask them to wait to start until you have reviewed all the directions.

    • Review and discuss their section. Identify two or three points or ideas they want to share with the whole group.
    • Provide each small group a flip-chart and ask them to draw or write a summary of the key points to share with the whole group.
    • Identify a reporter for the small group who will present their small group's two or three points or ideas.
  2. Give the small groups time to discuss and create their charts.

  3. Have the small groups present their sections to the whole group. As each small group shares, invite the whole group to comment on the reading and information in the presentations.

  4. Wrap up the session by summarizing the discoveries made by the group members from the readings and presentations.

Reflective practice opportunities:

  • Using the Reflective Practice tool, review the last three questions and write your reflections in the space provided
  • Review the fourth competency of the Head Start and Early Head Start Relationship-Based Competencies: Parent-Child Relationships and Families as Lifelong Educators.Reflect on your knowledge, skills, and actions. What are your strengths? What opportunities can you find to increase your knowledge and strengthen your skills and actions? What can you do next to strengthen your work with fathers?
  • To continue your reflective practice, use the activities on p. 55–58 of the Head Start Father Engagement Birth to Five programming guides:
    • Reflective Activity: Testing Assumptions
    • Reflective Activity: Past Experiences Reflection
    • Reflective Activity: Understanding Adolescent and Young Expectant Fathers and the Prenatal Experience
Learning Extension H
The Foundations for Life and School Readiness Begin in Infancy
  Estimated Time: 60–75 minutes

Brain development starts at conception. The mother's and father's emotional and physical well-being are critical for a baby's healthy brain. In work with expectant families, Head Start (HS) and Early Head Start (EHS) staff have an incredible opportunity to influence children's brain development at a crucial time. Explore how early learning is rooted in family well-being and positive parent-child relationships. Gain insight into the many factors that affect long-term health and learning.

Guiding question: What is the role of family and community engagement in fostering healthy child development and school readiness?

Resources you will need:

Before you begin:

  • Review the directions.
  • Preview the webcast, viewer's guide, and Family Outcomes list.
  • Print copies of the document Webcast Viewer's Guide as a handout for your group.
  • Print copies of the Family Outcomes list on a single page and the Reflective Practice Tool as handouts for your group. You may also create a flip-chart or PowerPoint slide to display the list.

Directions:

  1. Introduce the webcast to your group. Explain that healthy development and school readiness begin before a baby is born. The baby's interactions with his or her caregiver influence attachment, regulation, communication, and the ability to engage in cognitive learning and development experiences. In this webcast, Dr. Joshua Sparrow talks about the amazing growth that occurs during the prenatal period, and the importance of engaging with parents during this period to support healthy child development and school readiness.

  2. Explain to the group that you will watch this webcast in segments, pausing to reflect and discuss several times.

  3. Provide each member of the group with a copy of the viewer's guide and the Family Outcomes list on page 5 of the PFCE Framework document (or prepare a flip-chart or PowerPoint slide with the Family Outcomes list and definitions). Encourage your group members to take notes on the Viewer's Guide during the webcast.

  4. Watch the first section of plenary presentation by Dr. Joshua Sparrow, beginning at 04:37 minutes and ending at 16:28 minutes.

    • Summarize this section by reminding the group that genes play an important role in brain development. Experiences also play an important role, even before birth. Dr. Joshua Sparrow states: "Healthy fetal brain development depends not only on expectant parents' health, habits, and well-being, but also on the community and environments in which they [family members] live and work."
    • Ask the group members to review the description of the first Family Outcome: Family Well-being. Then, discuss in pairs how achieving the Family Well-being Outcome contributes to healthy child development before and during the prenatal period.
    • Debrief with the whole group, by asking group members to share highlights from their partner conversations with the whole group. As group members share, highlight connections between achieving the Family Well-being Outcome, healthy child development, and school readiness.
  5. Watch the next section of the plenary presentation by Dr. Joshua Sparrow, beginning at 16:28 minutes and ending at 19:12 minutes.

    • Remind the group that this segment focuses on how the baby's (fetal) behavior might be used to help parents connect to their babies before they are born and highlights the studies that show how fetuses respond to their environment.
    • Ask the group members to review the second Family Outcome: Positive Parent-Child Relationships. Lead a short discussion by asking the group members to share their reflections about what they just heard about how Positive Parent–Child Relationships contribute to healthy child development and school readiness.

Option 1:

  1. Wrap up the discussions by highlighting the connections between Family Engagement Outcomes (especially Family Well-being and Positive Parent-Child Relationships), healthy child development, and school readiness.

Option 2:

  1. Continue watching the webcast to learn more about specific strategies that can be used to make progress towards Family Well-being and Positive Parent-Child Relationships.

  2. Watch the next section of the plenary presentation beginning at 19:12 minutes and ending at 38:53 minutes.

    • Remind the group members that in this section Dr. Joshua Sparrow talks about the need to take into account the tension parents feel between focusing on the unborn baby with other demands in their lives, including other needs in their families and potentially survival.
    • Divide the group into four small groups. Assign each small group one of the four areas identified in the webcast that HS/EHS staff can focus on to help build strong, trusting relationships with families. The four areas are:
    • Gatekeeping: The natural competition between any two adults who care passionately about the same child, such as a mother and father, mother and mother-in-law, mother and home visitor or teacher or caregiver. (Reflect on your perspective and on the family's perspective.)
    • Advice (Reflect on your perspective and on the family's perspective. How might we support Family Well-being and Positive Parent-Child Relationships?)
    • Fetal behavior and relationships (Use behavior to open up communication. Focus on Family Well-being and Positive Parent-Child Relationships.)
    • Individualizing (Support competence, value passion, and focus on Family Well-being and Positive Parent-Child Relationships.)
    • Have each small group discuss the area they've been assigned using the prompts below. Remind small group members to use the Viewer's Guide as a resource during their discussions.
      • What stands out for you about this area?
      • How might you use this information in your work with families to build strong, trusting relationships with families that positively contribute to healthy child development and school readiness?
    • Ask each small group to report two or three highlights from their conversations. As small groups report out, look for opportunities to highlight how building strong, trusting relationships contributes to healthy child development and school readiness.
    • To wrap up a discussion: Ask the whole group what relationship-based practices they use or could use to build strong, trusting relationships with families that contribute to healthy child development and school readiness.
  3. Watch the last section of the plenary presentation beginning at 38:53 minutes and ending 40:25.

    • Highlight how HS/EHS programs can help babies grow and thrive by building strong program/family relationships.
    • Ask group members to share examples of strong program/family relationships from their own work.
  4. Wrap up the webcast and discussions by highlighting how healthy child development and school readiness begins before and during the prenatal period. Emphasize the critical role families play in this process and the important role HS/EHS staff can play in building Positive and Goal-Oriented Relationships that contribute to Family Well-being and Positive Parent-Child Relationships.

Reflective-practice opportunities:

  • Using the Reflective Practice tool, review the last three questions and write your reflections in the space provided.
  • Use the three questions Dr. Joshua Sparrow posed in his panel presentation to guide individual reflections, journaling, or group reflections.
    • How can I introduce the topic of prenatal brain development in a way that will help me understand what it means to an individual family?
    • What kinds of experiences and beliefs, or hopes and fears might affect how expectant families approach this topic and how they understand conversations about it? Remember to consider both the provider and the family perspectives.
    • How can I individualize discussions about prenatal brain development to respect each expectant parent's individual culture and place on his or her path to parenthood? (Reflect on your own perspective and on the family's perspective. Value passion and focus on the parent-child relationship.)

Acknowledgments: Special thanks to Early Head Start National Resource Center, who produced and shared the webcast Prenatal Brain Development: Nurturing Babies in a Healthy Environment.

Learning Extension I
Video: Engaging Families in Transition to Kindergarten
  Estimated Time: 30 minutes

See how one Head Start program prepares children and families for the transition to kindergarten. Learn how this program builds strong partnerships among families, programs, and schools. Explore how these partnerships lead to greater success for children. Find specific strategies that support children and families during this important transition.

Guiding questions: What strategies (including transition strategies and goal setting) can I use to understand each family's view of their role in their child's learning? What strategies can I use to partner with families to support their child's school readiness?

Resources you will need:

Before you begin:

  • Review the directions.
  • Preview the video.
  • Print copies of the Reflective Practice tool as handouts for your group.

Directions:

  1. Explain to your group that you will be watching a video about how one program works with families and children to prepare for the transition to kindergarten.

  2. Have your group look for the following while they watch the video:

    • What transition strategies did this program use?
    • How did these strategies contribute to the Family Engagement Outcomes Successful Transitions for Families and Children, School Readiness, and Families as Lifelong Educators?
  3. Watch the video.

  4. Debrief the video using the following questions:

    • What strategies did you see being used?
    • How did the strategies you observed work together to contribute to family and child outcomes?
    • What family engagement strategies around transitions do you use in your program?
    • What new strategies might you try?
  5. Summarize the discussion by highlighting themes and ideas that were shared.

Reflective practice opportunities:

  • Using the Reflective Practice tool, review the last three questions and write your reflections in the space provided.
  • During reflective supervision and/or coaching sessions, reflect on what you are doing with family engagement in transitions. How can you apply the strategies you identified in your work with?
  • Reflect with families: Ask families about upcoming changes for their children and how everyone can work together to help their children make these transitions successfully.
  • Review Head Start and Early Head Start Relationship-Based Competencies: 5. Family Connections to Peers and Community. Reflect on your knowledge, skills, and actions. What are you doing now to support family connections to peers and community? What opportunities can you find to increase your knowledge, and strengthen your skills and actions? What can you do next to strengthen your work with families and transitions to kindergarten?
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Engaging Families in the Transition to Kindergarten
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Learning Extension J
Video: Engaging Fathers
  Estimated Time: 30 minutes

Explore the strategies that staff at Early Education Services in Brattleboro,VT,use to engage fathers in their children's learning and development. In this Head Start (HS) and Early Head Start (EHS) program, dedicated fathers learn from one another and make connections. Learn to build a community that helps fathers fulfill their role as one of the most important people in their children's lives.

Guiding questions: What strategies (including transition strategies and goal setting) can I use to understand each family's view of their role in their child's learning? What strategies can I use to partner with families to support their child's school readiness? ****

Resources you will need:

Before you begin:

  • Review the directions.
  • Review the documents.
  • Preview the video.
  • Print copies of the document Engaging Fathers Viewer's Guide as a handout for your group.
  • Print copies of the Reflective Practice Tool as handouts for your group.

Directions:

  1. Introduce the video by explaining that you will be watching a video about how staff at one program are engaging fathers in their children's learning and development.

  2. Highlight the following strategies, practices, and outcomes to watch for in the video with your group.

    • Strategies and Practices

      • Committed Program Leadership
      • Supportive and Welcoming Program Environment
      • Creating and Sustaining Family Partnerships
    • Outcomes

      • Strong Positive Parent-Child Relationships
      • Parent and Family Connections to Peers and Community
  3. Watch the video.

  4. Use these guiding questions to lead a discussion about what the group observed in the video.

    • What specific strategies did you see the program use to engage fathers? How do the strategies work together to create a father-friendly environment?
    • How did these strategies support healthy child development and school readiness?
    • Did you observe any missed opportunities for engagement? What might you do differently?
  5. Summarize the discussion by highlighting the themes that emerged during the discussion.

Reflective practice opportunities:

  • Using the Reflective Practice tool, review the last three questions and write your reflections in the space provided.
  • Review the fifth competency from the Head Start and Early Head Start Relationship-Based Competencies: Family Connections to Peers and Community.Reflect on your knowledge, skills, and actions. What are you doing now to support family connections to peers and community? What opportunities can you find to increase your knowledge, and strengthen your skills and actions? What can you do next to strengthen your work with fathers?
Learning Extension K
Video: Program Environments: Responsive Programming for Migrant Families
  Estimated Time: 30 minutes

See how one Head Start (HS) and Early Head Start (EHS) program is fostering strong relationships and partnerships between families and staff. Explore how effective partnerships support parent-child connections, family well-being, goal-setting, and school readiness.

Guiding question: How can I integrate PFCE and school readiness strategies throughout my program's systems and services?

Resources you will need:

Before you begin:

  • Review the directions.
  • Preview the video.
  • Print copies of the Reflective Practice tool as handouts for your group.

Directions:

  1. Explain to your group that they will be watching a video about the work of staff at one HS/EHS program to foster strong relationships and partnerships between families and staff.

  2. Have your group look for the following while they watch the video:

    • What strategies did staff use to foster strong relationships between families and staff and create a welcoming Program Environment?
    • How did these strategies contribute to making progress towards Family Outcomes and school readiness?
  3. Watch the video.

  4. After viewing the video with your group, lead a discussion using the following guiding questions:

    • What specific strategies did you see program staff use to engage families?
    • How did the strategies foster strong relationships between families and staff and create a welcoming Program Environment?
    • How did these strategies contribute to making progress towards Family Outcomes and school readiness?
    • What strategies do you use in your program to foster relationships between families and staff and create a welcoming Program Environment?
    • How do these strategies support school readiness?
  5. Summarize the discussion by highlighting connections between your group members' observations and reflections to ways Program Environments support family engagement in school readiness throughout the program in the video.

  6. Wrap up by asking group members to identify which strategies they want to strengthen or use in their own programs. How can they integrate these strategies into existing program plans?

Reflective practice opportunities:

  • Using the Reflective Practice tool, review the last three questions and write your reflections in the space provided.
  • Provide time during your program's planning sessions to reflect on Program Environments and what strategies might be incorporated into your school readiness and program plans to strengthen family engagement in school readiness.
  • Review the second and fifth competencies from the Head Start and Early Head Start Relationship-Based Competencies: Self-Aware and Culturally Responsive Relationships and Family Connections to Peers and Community.Reflect on your knowledge, skills, and actions. What are your strengths? What opportunities are there to increase your knowledge and strengthen your skills and actions? How can you respect each family's individual culture and view of their role in their child's learning?