TIPS: Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork

Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork1

Researchers and educators designed, implemented, and tested a partnership process called Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork (TIPS) Interactive Homework. With TIPS, any teacher can regularly keep more families informed and involved in their children's learning and help more students complete their homework. TIPS Interactive Homework is part of a comprehensive program of school, family, and community partnerships and is an example of a Type 4—Learning at Home activity.

TIPS features homework assignments that require students to talk to someone at home about something interesting that they are learning in class. TIPS helps solve some important problems with homework:

Mr. Chris McChesney using TIPS science with his middle school students.
[Pikesville Middle School, Maryland (c. 2001)]

With TIPS, homework becomes a three-way partnership involving students, families, and teachers at the elementary, middle, or high school levels. Families immediately recognize and appreciate the efforts of teachers to keep them informed and involved. TIPS activities keep school on the agenda at home so that children know that their families believe schoolwork is important and worth talking about. Students need as much guidance as parents about how to keep their families aware of and involved in the work they do in school. Over time, as TIPS activities are used each year, students get the idea that their teachers want their families to know about what they are learning in class. 

Goals for TIPS Interactive Homework2

Why Does the TIPS Process Work?

How Do You Develop and Implement TIPS Homework?1

Teachers may develop a TIPS program in seven steps:

  1. Select the subject(s) for TIPS interactive homework
    The faculty should discuss the subjects and grade levels for which the TIPS process will be used. A team of teachers should be identified for each TIPS subject and grade level.
  2. Select one skill for each week for the TIPS assignments
    The team of TPS teachers should examine the sequence of skills that are taught in each unit throughout the school year. Teachers should identify one skill or learning objective each week that will promote enjoyable and useful student-parent interactions. These will be the topics for the TIPS interactive homework assignments.
  3. Adapt and develop TIPS activities to match the curriculum
    Teachers should work together during the summer months to examine existing TIPS manuals and prototype activities. Teachers must decide which of the available TIPS assignments will be useful for the skills they teach. Or they must design new interactive homework to match the learning objectives in their curricula.
  4. Orient students and families to the TIPS interactive homework process
    Teachers must explain the TIPS process and purposes to students and to their parents or other family partners. This may be done in letters to the home, discussions with students in class, presentations at parent meetings, and in other ways. (See sample letter.) Special attention is needed to inform and involve parents with limited reading proficiency or who speak languages other than English at home. Students need to know that on TIPS assignments they are expected to show, share, and talk about their work with a family partner.
  5. Assign TIPS on a regular, family-friendly schedule
    Teachers assign TIPS activities to students weekly or every other week on a regular schedule. Teachers may give students a few days or a weekend to complete each assignment to allow time for students to work with a family partner.
  6. Evaluate student work and respond to family questions
    Teachers grade and comment on TIPS activities just as they would any other homework assignment. Teachers also respond to questions families write in the Home-to-School Communication section to encourage open channels of communication about studentsí needs and progress.
  7. Revise and improve activities as needed
    Teachers note any problems with particular sections of assignments throughout the year and revise activities or develop new activities as needed.

The Importance of Teacher Collaboration in the TIPS Process

One way to develop TIPS is for a school or district to provide salaries for teams of teachers from each grade level to work together during the summer months. Support is needed for each teacher for two to four weeks to develop, edit, and produce the TIPS homework that will be used throughout the school year.

TIPS homework must be enjoyable as well as challenging for students. This takes careful thinking about the design of homework and about how to build in studentsí communications with parents or other family members. It helps for two or more teachers to work together discussing, writing, and editing their ideas. It also helps if this work is guided by a curriculum supervisor, department chair, assistant principal, master or lead teacher, school-family coordinator, or other individual who understands good curricular designs and who will guide the development and implementation of TIPS.

Once tested, TIPS homework designs may be shared with other teachers who follow the same curriculum objectives. If teachers save the activities on a computer, they may be easily shared and adapted by other teachers. Support for a few teachers in the summer, then, yields materials that can be used or adapted by many teachers for many years. The TIPS process is very cost effective.

1From: Epstein, J. L., et al., (2002). School, family, and community partnerships: Your handbook for action, second edition. Chapter 8, pp. 300-301. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.


  1. Epstein, J. L., Salinas, K. C., & Van Voorhis, F. L. (2001). Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork (TIPS) Manuals. Baltimore, MD: Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships, Johns Hopkins University. Separate manuals for the elementary and middle grades include details on how to develop and implement a TIPS Interactive Homework program.
  2. Van Voorhis, F. L. & Epstein, J. L. (2002). Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork: Interactive Homework CD. Baltimore: Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships, Johns Hopkins University. Includes 500 prototype assignments in math (grades K-5 and middle grades review), and language arts and science (grades 6-8).
  3. See TIPS Resources