The University of Iowa

Facilitation Guides for Working with EL Families


Posted on: July 19, 2016

Partnerships between schools and families contribute to increased literacy outcomes for all students. This is particularly true of families and students who are English learners (EL). As part of the IRRC’s efforts to develop models for effective school, parent, and community partnerships to improve student literacy, we have created five facilitation guides specifically designed to inform the family members of EL students about web-based literacy activities. Each facilitation guide includes step-by-step directions for helping family members learn how to use the web content at home with their children. The objectives of the 30-40-minute training sessions are:  

  1. to teach participants how to navigate the featured website so they can access the information easily and use it independently.
  2. to help participants learn about effective and easy ways to help their child become a successful reader.

During the training sessions, facilitators will give the family members time to navigate the web-site and explore its features. In small and large groups, participants also will share their ideas for how they would use the website at home. At the end of the training session, facilitators will provide guidance for family members to reflect on practicing an activity with their children. Reflection questions suggested in the facilitation guides include:  

  1. Did my child enjoy the activity?
  2. Was I able to make this fit into our daily routine?
  3. What did my child learn from doing this activity with me?
  4. If the activity does not go well, do not be discouraged. Review the suggestions on the website to see if there is something that could be done differently.

The training sessions need to be held where computers and Wi-Fi are available, and facilitators will make the family members aware of where in their communities they can access computers and Wi-Fi for carrying out the web-based activities with their children. 

Although the guides are written in English, facilitators can conduct the sessions with parents in other languages. In addition, the websites either contain information in other languages or have a tool for translating the web pages into other languages. Below is a description of each guide.

  • Fun and Effective Ways to Read to Children features an overall orientation to Colorín Colorado. The site is a national multimedia project offering a wealth of bilingual, research-based information, activities, and advice for educators and families of ELs.  
  • Reading Tips for Parents features the Reading Rockets website, which provides family members tips for helping kids become successful readers. Information can be searched by age or grade, disability area, and home language.
  • International Children’s Digital Library features a collection of digital books available in multiple languages.  The resources can be searched by age groups, awards, collections, type (such as make believe or true books, country, and language.  
  • Parent Roadmap: Supporting Your Child in English Language Arts/Literacy informs family members what the typical reading and writing expectations are at each grade level. The resources also suggest ways family members can help children learn at home.  
  • Tips for Teaching Your Child About Phonemes featuring a section of the Colorín Colorado and Reading Rockets websites that offer at-home activities family members can use to help their children understand the sounds in words.

The facilitation guides were piloted in Des Moines and Iowa City with the help of family liaisons, and the final versions are now available on the IRRC website.  Please take advantage of these free downloads to help family members of your EL students support their children’s literacy development at home.