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Engaging ESL/ELL Parents with FreshGrade

How do you engage ESL/ELL parents? This is something I struggle with each year as I learn about my students and their families. I work in a community that is diverse. My students speak at least two languages, and most are first-generation Canadians. My classroom is full of many languages, cultural traditions, and religious backgrounds. I have parents who need a translator, students who are cared for by grandparents that don’t speak English, and parents that work long and difficult hours and can’t meet me to discuss their child’s learning. Sometimes I don’t meet a child’s parents at all in a school year. So I’m often left with the question—”How do I engage with them?”

Opening Communication Channels

FreshGrade has helped me bridge that gap between myself and my students’ parents more effectively and efficiently. Rather than sending home a paper announcement/letter, I can easily post an announcement to both students and their parents. There, students can read the message and translate it for their parents, or parents can copy the announcement and translate it with Google Translate.

Now my parents are informed and feel a part of our classroom community. Through FreshGrade, I have been able to answer parents questions readily and if need, set up parent meetings. This has allowed me to engage with more parents more often which keeps the lines of communication open and clear.

Creating a Body of Work

Another amazing thing about FreshGrade is my student’s individual digital portfolios. Students can share their pictures, videos, and marks with their family. Students can ask questions, comment, and write for their parents if need be. This gives students the opportunity to share their digital portfolio which creates dialogue within a family about what is happening in the classroom.This feature gives parents the gift of being in the classroom and a better understanding of their child’s progress.

Here are my top 3 recommendations for using FreshGrade and ELL/ESL Learners and their families:

1. Keep It Simple

Write simple announcements that are easy to read and understand so students can translate it to their parents or parents can copy and paste it into Google Translate.

2. Make it Visual

To encourage dialogue, post pictures in individual student digital portfolios so students can explain to family members what they are doing in class. Students can then speak in their first language to their parents about what they are learning.

3. Invite Activity

To engage parents, let them know that they are welcome to respond or comment in their first language in their child’s portfolio.

Parents know their child best, and I need them to be a part of their child’s learning, and FreshGrade helps me make that happen. This year I have more parent engagement, and the feedback has been positive because parents are informed and feel a part of their child’s journey and not just on parent/teacher interview day.


Tamra Walji is a Primary School Teacher, based in Ontario, Canada and a FreshGrade Champion. Her students love using FreshGrade to capture their learning so they can share it with their family members.

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