Illiterate Parents Homework Guide

It’s vital that teachers make sure those at home – be they parents or carers – are aware of what goes on in the classroom.

I learned a lot about parental engagement in my job as a school improvement coach and member of the senior leadership team. As an edtech writer I often look at this issue from a digital perspective too. Millions of conversations on everything from behaviour to bullying are now happening online.

So how can technology help teachers, parents and students connect and communicate? For those unaware of what’s out there, here’s a handy guide to the best apps for engaging with parents:


iOS/Android, free

Whether it’s to impart an urgent message or a bit of fun, bambizo allows you to chat with your class’ parents. You can post messages, ask questions and share information. You can also make micro-communities within the app for niche groups. This is helpful if you want to focus on specific questions around a particular issue, such as attendance, or post a quick message to help with homework or revision. The down side is that there do not seem to be many reviews out there, so any comments you have please post them below.


iOS/Android, free

This app has more than 35 million users, which shows that parents really want to be involved with their children’s education. One in two schools in the US are now using this. It captures and generates data on behaviour that teachers can share with parents and administrators. As well as the usual comments that can be sent out, such as when a child does well in their homework, the app helps teachers inform parents about behaviours they want to encourage at home as well, for example, “helping others” and “persistence”.

If parents want a proper answer to the question, “What happened at school today?”or to know if their child has been “on task”, this app can tell them. There have been issues with the latest update (in terms of both sides getting messages), but the team are working on this.


iOS/Android, free

If you think it is just a “teaching Facebook”, you are wrong. This app allows parents, teachers and students to communicate and collaborate by sending messages, sharing photos, setting calendar reminders and much more. This webinar – one of many of the website – takes you on a journey across the whole platform so you can see how more than 50 million people use this social media platform for education.

If you teach GCSE you might find Edmodo of extra interest this summer due to their new partnership with Cambridge University. Edmodo began in the US and has recently been supporting American teachers with their preparation for the Common Core Educational Standards by launching Snapshot, a free tool that delivers a clear picture of students’ performance data. They have now turned their attention to their UK market with a partnership aimed at creating “standard-aligned content” to help with the new curriculums. This means that revision resources by Cambridge University Press will be easily accessible for both parents, students and teachers via this platform. The launch is planned for August 2015. This social media platform is upping its reach in the UK, stepping into assessment and administration, and I think that this has real potential.

Pupil Asset

iOS/Android, free

Pupil Asset has a new “Pupil Asset Parents” product that allows parents to review “attendance information, behaviour levels, current and historic school reports and progress in the core subjects.” This means that parents will be able to review information on their child at the touch of a button, making teacher-parents meetings more about exploring options than reviewing levels.

A real bonus is that teachers and parents are in control of this data – rather than the senior leadership team. It is in one place, colour coded and clear for all to see. As a result, some schools are finding this really useful to track the impact of their pupil premium work.


iOS/Android, free

The popular app Remind allows you to text both students and parents (one-way) for free. Telephone numbers are not seen (making it safe for everyone) and you can easily archive the message history.

A big plus is that you can send voice mails and icons. This is particularly helpful for parents who are not literate or have English as an additional language (EAL) as it eliminates any writing barriers. These parents can find universal images and spoken English (or whatever your chosen language is) really useful and feel more confident in discussions around learning. You can also attach photos, documents, PDFs and then see who has viewed the content. This blog post about how a school used icons for their English language learner (ELL) families illustrates how beneficial this can be for both parents and teacher alike.

The downside is that it is a one-sided conversation and, personally, I believe for successful parental partnership dialogue needs to be open for both. However if you can balance this out with face-to-face meetings and other forms of electronic communication it could work for you.

  • If you know of another helpful app, please do share it in the comments thread below.

The Working in Independent Schools series is funded by the IAPS. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labelled “brought to you by”. Find out more here.

Homework consists of teacher-assigned and monitored learning experiences that take place outside of the classroom in a variety of settings. Homework is a planned part of the education process, designed to enhance student learning, through practice, preparation, and extension. It is directly connected to The Ontario Curriculum learning expectations, learning skills, reporting guidelines and curriculum guidelines.

Studies show that students perform better in school if their parents are involved in their education.

Parents, therefore, have an important role to play in supporting their child’s learning. Parents can provide valuable support for their children’s learning by taking an interest in their out-of-school assignments. By reading the curriculum, parents can find out what their children are learning in each grade and why they are learning it. This awareness will enable parents to discuss their children’s work with them, to communicate with teachers, and to ask relevant questions about their child’s progress.

Homework provides students with the opportunities to apply learning, and experience necessary practice, and it aids in developing lifelong learning skills such as self discipline, self-confidence, task commitment, initiative, time management, responsibility, and problem solving ability. These skills contribute to improved student achievement. Homework is also a means of building a partnership between home and school that leads to academic success for the student.

Types of Homework:

- Completion – anything not completed in class

- Practice – review and reinforcement of concepts presented in class

- Preparation – gathering and organization of materials for use in the classroom

- Extension – creative activities that integrate and/or expand upon classroom learning

Characteristics of Effective Homework:

- reinforces, extends, and enhances student learning

- is clearly defined, purposeful, age-appropriate, and regularly monitored

- supports student achievement of The Ontario Curriculum learning expectations

- can be completed with minimal support

- recognizes that the amount and time required to complete homework can be modified to meet an individual student’s home situation, needs and abilities

- provides opportunities for family members to become involved in the student’s learning

Roles and Responsibilities:



- provides clear, purposeful and developmentally appropriate activities

- establishes a partnership with family and students that promotes regular communication

- monitors homework and provides regular, timely feedback, offering constructive comments

- co-ordinates assignments so students are not overwhelmed

- summarizes and reports on homework completion in the student planner, as needed, and in the Learning Skills section of the report card

- teaches skills necessary for successful homework completion



- ensures that he/she understands the homework (communicate any problems to the teacher)

- uses the student planner effectively to record daily homework assignments, upcoming tests and projects

- manages time and materials (brings home necessary materials)

- completes all homework to the best of his/her ability

- submits homework/projects when due



- demonstrates the importance of, and interest in the child’s academic progress and learning skill development

- provides a suitable environment for working at home – regular time, appropriate place, necessary supplies

- participates appropriately in homework experience (clarify expectations, establish homework routines, provides guidance, praise and encouragement as needed)

- monitors and encourages child's progress and ensures homework completion

- communicates any concerns with teacher(s)

- monitors the efficient use of the student planner which should be reviewed and signed on a regular basis

- establishes a balance between homework and other activities


-       establishes and communicates school homework guidelines

-       offers information to assist parents/guardians in helping their children learn and work at home, through interviews, newsletters, etc.

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