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Reframing Family, School, and Community Engagement

A communications toolkit

The resources in this toolkit are designed to collectively build the understanding and support we need to change the narrative around family, school, and community engagement.

Why Framing Matters

Authentic and effective family, school, and community engagement is about so much more than back-to-school night. It’s more than communicating with parents when there’s a problem with their child. It is even more than simply caring for a student, their well-being, and their success.

Yet, according to research conducted by the FrameWorks Institute, the public largely thinks of family and community engagement in exactly those ways.

The FrameWorks Institute, a nonprofit think tank, maps the public consciousness surrounding social issues of all kinds. In partnership with the National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement (NAFSCE), FrameWorks researchers examined the ways the public thinks and talks about family engagement and developed recommendations for how advocates, practitioners, and policymakers can communicate differently to help the public shift the way they understand engagement. Their research spanned three years and included more than six thousand participants.

Every communication involves a set of choices—what to emphasize, how to explain an issue, what to leave unsaid. Together, these choices, called “frame elements,” form the “frame” of a message. The frame elements recommended in this toolkit include  values Values establish why an issue matters and what’s at stake. When messages are framed with certain tested values, those messages can reliably orient audiences toward a new way of considering the nature of a social problem. The research shows that the values Opportunity for All and Interdependence do this work for family engagement. metaphors Metaphors explain how an abstract, unfamiliar, or misunderstood system or process works by making a comparison to a concrete, familiar idea. The research shows that the Space Launch metaphor is most effective when explaining the benefits of family engagement. trusted messengers Messengers are the communicators who are viewed as objective, trustworthy, and reliable. When it comes to communicating about the benefits of family engagement for families, the research shows that parents are particularly effective messengers. , and  explanatory examples Explanatory examples show how complex processes work, disrupting people’s assumptions about how things work, and making solutions visible. The research shows that providing clear examples to illustrate what equity is and how equitable practices work builds public support for equitable family engagement practices. , among others.

In order to frame messages effectively, you need to:

1. Know what you’re up against by understanding how people think and feel about this issue. The You Say They Think section of this toolkit explores the assumptions and understandings that shape people’s thinking about family engagement and provides recommendations for how to address them.

2. Trigger certain ways of thinking and bypass others. It’s very hard to argue against a feeling or belief once it’s activated. See the Dos and Don’ts section for guidance on how to navigate around certain mindsets that members of the public hold and that prevent people from considering family engagement more productively.

3. Make deliberate choices when presenting information: what to emphasize, what to explain and what to leave unsaid. Each recommendation in this toolkit comes with “before and after” examples that show you how to make these choices.

The resources in this toolkit are designed to help communicators achieve these goals. Equipped with these tools, we can collectively build the understanding and support we need to change the narrative around family, school, and community engagement.

Come inside and take a look around!

We invite you to share this toolkit with your colleagues. Use it as a resource to spread the word about the importance of family, school, and community engagement.

In Brief

In a hurry? These Dos and Don’ts summarize which strategies work – and which ones don’t! – when communicating effectively about family, school, and community engagement. Use this at-a-glance resource when crafting family engagement messaging to ensure you avoid common pitfalls and help your audiences consider family engagement more productively.

For a more detailed explanation of the research behind these recommendations, we suggest that you review the Framing Brief. For examples of how to use them, check out the other resources offered in this toolkit.

When You Say […], They Think […]

Members of the public have a hard time breaking out of their own established patterns of thinking about family, school, and community engagement and related issues. As a result, what an advocacy message says may be very different from what its audience hears.

FrameWorks’ research demonstrates that members of the public and practitioners share deeply held assumptions and understandings—or “cultural models”—that influence how they think about family, school, and community engagement. These cultural models form a complex ecosystem, like a swamp, of related ideas and beliefs. Parts of this “swamp” contain ideas that are potentially harmful to your message, while other parts are rich with helpful ideas worth cultivating. Being able to anticipate what part of the swamp a message is likely to steer audiences toward can help you avoid pitfalls and instead choose the cues most likely to build people’s understanding and support.

The “swamp map” below identifies the cultural models people rely on to reason about family, school, and community engagement.

The wrong cues in a message—words, imagery, ideas—can unintentionally activate the public’s “swampy” assumptions and cause a communication to backfire. Use the “When You Say… They Think” graphic to learn more about how to make better framing choices.

Stay on Frame

FrameWorks’ research yielded seven key recommendations that, when employed consistently, help audiences access ideas and beliefs about family engagement that foster their support for more productive, expansive, and equitable engagement practices.

Note: The FrameWorks Message BriefFrom Caring to Conditions, provides detailed explanations of each of the recommendations and the research behind them.

Recommendation #1 – Stick with the big story: This is about creating the Conditions of Engagement

For your audience to appreciate that engagement takes more than intention on the part of individual teachers and parents, all of your communications must emphasize the bigger picture. Foreground the systems and conditions that can be implemented to foster engagement and collaboration consistently to move beyond the public’s default focus on individual responsibility and benefits. Below is an example of how visuals can support—or undermine—this framing goal.

Visual While the text of this post does a good job of focusing on structural barriers to family engagement, this visual—a close-up shot of two adults sitting in a classroom—is more likely to reinforce thinking about engagement as being limited to committed, individual parents and teachers. does not support the message

It’s already time to go #BackToSchool! That means it’s also time to encourage our parents to become involved by removing barriers to family engagement, for example, holding school events at different times of the day to allow for various work schedules. What is your district doing to promote family engagement this year?

Visual reinforces the framing message

It’s already time to go #BackToSchool! That means it’s also time to encourage our parents to become involved by removing barriers to family engagement, for example, holding school events at different times of the day to allow for various work schedules. What is your district doing to promote family engagement this year?

Recommendation #2 – Use the Space Launch metaphor to explain engagement concretely and memorably

Metaphors help “translate” new or complicated ideas by comparing them to familiar concepts, objects, or processes. Space Launch is a metaphor designed to highlight the essential and purposeful components of family, school, and community engagement, explain how it works, and expand appreciation for programs and initiatives that support it. Its power lies in the way that components of the metaphor map onto family, school, and engagement.

Comparing children’s education to a Space Launch helps to explain how engagement launches children’s learning, how it requires frequent, coordinated communication among a support team, and how everyone involved—educators, parents, school officials, students, and the community—has a particular role to play.

Click here to see how the Ohio Statewide Family Engagement Center uses Space Launch to promote its website.

Re: Back-to-School week!

August 28

Dear teachers, classroom aids, and learning support staff,

Welcome back! I am grateful to be working with so many dedicated professionals this year, who are all committed to ensuring that our children have the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. I know you all have a lot on your plates right now Reminding education professionals without describing how engagement can help lighten their loads is likely to invite skepticism and resistance to the idea rather than openness. , and I want you to know that I appreciate how much you care about our students Highlighting teachers’ nurturing and caring qualities is likely to cue up an unproductive way of thinking about engagement – which is that it’s an expression of care and concern on the parts of individuals, rather than a systemic practice that can be institutionalized through programs and policies. and their future success. The school leadership team and I have also been working hard to prepare for this start to the school year, and we are excited to announce a number of new opportunities for us to welcome and engage families into our school.

We need to get parents and other caregivers, as well as community members and organizations, more involved in our school programming and even our curricula. When we do, our students are guaranteed to see all kinds of benefits – from better health and development outcomes to higher test scores and retention rates. Focusing exclusively on benefits to students misses an important opportunity to help teachers see that better family and community engagement offers direct benefits to them as well.

Our new approach acknowledges the valuable contributions of families and communities, who share our commitment to ensuring a bright future for all of our young people. By adopting these approaches and implementing them effectively throughout the work we do, we will be strengthening the education system across our entire district, enhancing the quality of education we provide our students, and elevating our own role in the community. Without explaining that engagement involves a durable set of programmatic and culture changes, teachers are likely to link its feasibility to charismatic leadership, and to use the attributes of particular leaders as the primary predictor of success.

I hope you’ll join me in embracing the new engagement framework.

Gratefully yours,

Raymona A. Tillson, Ed.D.

Re: Back-to-School week!

August 28

Dear teachers, classroom aids, and learning support staff,

Welcome back! I am grateful to be working with so many dedicated professionals this year, who are all committed to ensuring that our children have the skills and knowledge they need to take off on their way to successful lives and careers.  Educators like you play an essential role in realizing this vision, but let’s be clear: it’s not your responsibility alone. Use the value of Interdependence to help educators see engagement as a mutually supportive partnership.   As we prepare to launch another school year, I am committed to expanding the team of dedicated specialists in our mission control room. Use the Space Launch metaphor to build understanding of engagement as systematic interaction, coordination, and communication.  That’s why this year you’ll be seeing a number of new opportunities for us to welcome and engage families into our school.

Parents and other caregivers are our students’ first teachers, and we know how important their expertise is for our students’ well-being and achievement. Afterschool programs and community organizations bring a wealth of experience to things like mentoring, recreational activities, creative outlets, and civic participation, all of which support social and emotional learning. Reinforce the Interdependence value throughout a communication by highlighting the valuable roles that families and community groups, in addition to schools, each play.  Enlisting these two groups to take  an active, ongoing role Be explicit that engagement involves regular, ongoing interaction, as opposed to just occasional points of contact during parent-teacher conferences or when an incident occurs.  in our schools is a guaranteed way to support the healthy development of our students, increase the relevance of the school curriculum, boost test scores and retention rates, and help  ensure that the important work you all are doing has real impact on your students’ success and is rewarding and enjoyable Highlight the benefits of engagement for teachers specifically, for example, by describing how it can make their jobs easier and more meaningful.  for you personally.

Our new framework acknowledges the valuable contributions of our families and communities, but more importantly it directs resources towards facilitating greater communication and cooperation with these groups. By laying out a coordinated strategy and identifying  small steps we can each take to support our students, these new programs taken together represent a giant leap forward for our student body. It will also increase public awareness of the value of a stellar education system within the constellation of our community, and highlight the many essential contributions of schools to our wider galaxy. Use language associated with a Space Launch – e.g., “stellar,” “galaxy,” “constellation,” and “a giant leap for our student body” – to stimulate thinking about the metaphor itself, and to reiterate the idea that skillful coordination and collaboration are required in order to achieve big goals.

I hope you’ll join me in embracing the new family and community engagement strategy and  preparing for blastoff in 3… 2… Feel free to have some fun with the Space Launch metaphor, which makes it more memorable and enhances its explanatory power.

Gratefully yours,

Raymona A. Tillson, Ed.D.

Without explanatory metaphor

Welcome to Little Schoolhouse Daycare and Pre-school!

Here at Little Schoolhouse we believe children get off to the best start when parents and teachers get to know each other well and collaborate on shared goals for their children. Let’s work together to make sure our little ones succeed!

With explanatory metaphor

Welcome to Little Schoolhouse Daycare and Pre-school!

Here at Little Schoolhouse we believe the best way to launch children’s success is when families and school staff start planning their shared mission early on. This means working together right away to set goals and coordinate, the same way the scientists at mission control collaborate to send a rocket into space. Together we can make sure our little astronauts are ready to explore!

Recommendation #3 – Focus on Opportunity for All to promote engagement as an equity issue and a policy matter

Appealing to people’s deeply held values or beliefs helps to establish why an issue matters and why an audience should care about it. To engage people in discussions about equitable engagement, advocacy messages should pair a diagnosis of current inequity with an appeal to the value of Opportunity for All. It’s a powerful framing strategy that fosters audiences’ support for making engagement inclusive and available to all. The value helps people see that engagement strengthens opportunities for healthy development and student achievement for all children, regardless of background, and explains why some children can be excluded from these opportunities.

Without an equity focus

When teachers Places the responsibility of family engagement solely on teachers.  bring parents  into their classroom, Fails to acknowledge the challenges many parents face in attending school events.  they encourage involvement that can support student success. Make your  back-to-school night Focuses on episodic activities rather than a systemic plan for family engagement throughout the year.  fun and interactive so that parents  get a good sense Positions parents as receivers of messages, rather than active participants in student success.  of how their children spend their day.

With an equity  focus Acknowledge inequity while pairing it with concrete examples of how to overcome it.

Engaging all families in our school community helps to ensure that every student has an opportunity to succeed in school and in life, but we know it can be difficult for many of our families to become involved. This year  we will work with our local communities Highlight the role communities, employers, and others can play in overcoming inequitable practices and creating opportunities for everyone to play a role in student success.  to hold a greater number of  multi-language events Provide specific examples of equitable practices.  outside of school, create opportunities for parents to get involved before, during, and after the school day, and provide transportation to and from school events.

As a new school year begins,  teachers should think about how to support immigrant students and their parents. An assertion is made, but does not lay out an affirmative, values-led vision for what’s possible and why it’s necessary.

Kalana County School District is committed to protecting  the opportunity for all children to learn in a safe, healthy, and inclusive environment. Using the Opportunity for All value primes people to engage in an issue as members of society with responsibility for outcomes, rather than as unaffected bystanders.  We are committed to  working with our students, their families, and community members Reinforce responsibility for supporting all children’s learning conditions by naming different actors who can be involved with family engagement beyond the parent and teacher.  to implement practices that support all students, regardless of their background or circumstances.

I’m always looking for new ways to engage my students and parents. This year, I’m excited to start,  “Lunch with Ms. Lynch,” The limited timeframe fails to acknowledge the challenge some parents have in fully engaging in school events.  where  parents can schedule meetings with me The narrow focus on parents and teachers limits people’s understanding of who’s responsible and what’s at stake.  to see how their children are doing in school.

We believe  all students & families should have an opportunity Remind audiences of their belief in Opportunity for All whenever possible to keep them oriented to the need for change.  to engage beyond the classroom. That’s why our school is partnering with Central Ave. Doughnuts to host “Doughnuts and Chat” events. All  Illustrate how “opportunity for all” means providing a range of accommodation for different family needs and availability. families are invited to stop by, say hello to school leaders and teachers, and learn more about what’s happening in our school. Interpreters will be provided.

Provide messages in different languages, depending on the communities you are trying to reach:

En Español:
Creemos que todos los estudiantes y sus familias deberían tener la oportunidad de participar más allá del aula. Es por eso que nuestra escuela se está asociando con Central Avenue Doughnuts será el anfitrión de los eventos “Doughnuts y Chat.” Las familias están invitadas a pasar, saludar a los líderes y maestros de la escuela, y aprender más sobre lo que está sucediendo en nuestra escuela. Se proporcionarán intérpretes.

Recommendation #4 – Provide concrete examples of equitable family engagement practices that illustrate the barriers families may face and how to solve them

To help audiences understand what equitable engagement looks like and why it’s needed, share concrete, easy-to-imagine examples. Choose examples that show the kinds of obstacles that can make engagement harder for families and what kinds of system-level policies or practices can remove those barriers so more families can engage in their children’s education. Concrete examples are an effective way to cut through people’s unproductive assumptions about why some families engage more than others.

Without concrete examples

Because we are committed to ensuring all families have the opportunity to be engaged with our school tooltip text , this year we are offering extended hours and additional locations for parent-teacher conferences. Visit us at Alameda Community Center on Friday, Oct. 1, to meet your child’s teacher and school leaders and find additional community resources. Sessions will be held from 8am to 10am and again from 7pm to 9pm. Let us know if you can’t make one of those times to arrange a time that works for you!

With concrete examples

We understand that a regular “parent-teacher night” isn’t feasible for everyone because of busy work schedules and childcare needs. We also know that our students’ needs go beyond the classroom, so we’re here to help. A better framing strategy is to take the time to be explicit about what the need is and why it exists, followed by clear examples of how to resolve it.  This year, parent teacher conferences will have extended hours and will be held at additional locations. Visit us at Alameda Community Center on Friday, Oct. 1, to meet your child’s teacher and school leaders. Sessions will be held from 8am to 10am and again from 7pm to 9pm. Let us know if you can’t make one of those times, and we will arrange a time that works for you.  In addition to parent-teacher conferences, students and parents can sign up for afterschool activities and find supportive services and community resources. Be sure to explain how the solution meets the need.

  • Happy school year! James Lee Preschool welcomes all our new and returning students to the 2019-2020 school year.
  • Here at James Lee we know that interacting in regular and ongoing ways with our parents strengthens children’s learning.
  • But we know some parents  find it harder This acknowledges that barriers exist, but is vague about what they are, who experiences them, and why.  than others to engage effectively. For instance, they may not be able to make regularly scheduled parent-teacher meetings or may not  have the time or ability Left to their own interpretation, audiences may think, “If they cared about their kids, they’d make the time,” without understanding the real obstacles some families face.  to fully read the materials our students bring home from school.
  • In order to help more of our families engage, James Lee will be trying out different outreach methods, such as an “Eat and Greet” potluck at City Park this September. Everyone is invited!
  • We hope everyone will join us for this exciting new event.
  • Happy school year! James Lee Preschool welcomes all our new and returning students to the 2019-2020 school year.
  • Here are James Lee we know that interacting in regular and ongoing ways with our parents strengthens children’s learning.
  • But we also know there are barriers that make it hard for some families to engage with schools at a level that would enable such growth. For example,  many of our students’ parents have inconsistent work schedules that make it very difficult to take time off or plan ahead. Give a clear example of what the barrier is and also why it exists.  This means many parents are unable to attend our regularly scheduled parent-teacher meetings.
  • To promote engagement that is inclusive of all family types and needs, our school will be testing different outreach methods. This September will be our first annual These very specific examples illustrate the wide range of solutions that can contribute to deeper, more inclusive engagement. Offering tangible, easy-to-imagine solutions also encourages audiences to generate ideas of their own about what kinds of inclusive practices can make a difference  “Eat & Greet” potluck at City Park, where families can stop by to check in with teachers and school administrators, meet other parents, and hear the park manager talk about the family-friendly activities the park provides year-round.
  • By creating more opportunities for our families and school to engage with one another Tie the Opportunity for All value to concrete examples of equitable engagement practices. These two strategies work especially well when used together! , we can all make sure our students have the tools they need to develop their potential. We hope everyone can join us!

Recommendation #5 – Engage education practitioners with an appeal to the value of Interdependence

Appealing to another value, Interdependence, works well to help educators think differently about engagement. Intentional, effective family, school, and community engagement depends not just on individual educators, but also on the policies and practices enacted by schools, districts, and states. Though education practitioners understand why engagement matters, they tend to see it as one more thing teachers are expected to do on their own, with little support. Emphasizing Interdependence helps practitioners situate the parent–teacher relationship within a broader context and, in so doing, helps practitioners see family engagement as feasible. It helps practitioners understand that teachers aren’t solely responsible for engagement and that effective engagement practices distribute that responsibility. Interdependence diverts practitioners’ from assuming that engagement is just another unrealistic demand on their time.

Without Interdependence

When it comes to  caring for the student This message reminds people of an unproductive way of thinking about engagement: that it is all about caring teachers and parents—not systems or broader groups.  and wanting to see them succeed, teachers and parents are already on the same page. Forging a strong bond between parents and teachers helps them both do a better job of ensuring students have what they need to do well at school.

With Interdependence

Just as a space launch relies on a  team of people Teachers and parents are not alone in this project. Use cues, such as phrases such as “team of people” or a list of the many people and organizations involved, to remind audiences of the broader circle of stakeholders who need to be engaged.  working together to plan and complete a mission, families, schools, and communities can work together to launch children’s learning. This involves collaboration at the start of the school year. And when families, schools, and communities work together throughout the year on their shared mission, student learning takes off.

Without Interdependence

Evidence shows that students succeed when their parents are involved in their education. That’s why it’s vital that  teachers Places the responsibility on individual groups, instead of the collective group of adults in the child’s life. , education specialists, and afterschool staff  ’Emphasizes  with the families of each one of their students.

With Interdependence

In our community we all rely on one another, so  everyone has a stake in the success of the children Takes the burden off one person and emphasizes the role of the community.  in our schools. This is why families, our schools, and our community all need to  work together Emphasizes collaboration and team work.  to ensure children’s success.

Recommendation #6 – Foreground the benefits to both students and teachers

Members of the public need to understand why an issue matters in order to understand why they should support change. People tend to think of family engagement as an “extra” that might help children succeed academically, but often don’t see its other benefits. Communications should consistently emphasize the benefits of family and community engagement for both teachers and students to demonstrate its importance, deepen understanding, and build support for sound, inclusive engagement practices.

Naming the benefits engagement brings to teachers and students is an effective way to answer frequently asked questions such as: “It’s great if parents want to get involved, but does family engagement really make that big of a difference?”

Family, school, and community engagement might take time, but it’s worth it.  If a student needs help, teachers need to be able to engage all the right stakeholders to make sure the child gets back on track. This message is trying to make the point that engagement concerns many people, but it still frames engagement as a burden on, not a benefit to, teachers.   Teachers may have a long to-do list, but this is more than adding a nonessential task—it’s critical. This sentence reinforces many teachers’ belief that they are being asked to do too much with too little support. Emphasizing urgency (“it’s critical”) is likely to add to their sense of being overwhelmed and push them to disengage.

Making sure there are plenty of opportunities for families and schools to work together  benefits everyone Emphasizes shared benefits from the beginning of the response. For example Specific examples of benefits to students and teachers helps make shared benefits more concrete. , when parents know what is being taught in the classroom, they can reinforce those lessons at home. This helps children do better in school, leading to better grades and a higher likelihood that they will attend college. Support from parents also makes teachers’ jobs easier and improves student test scores, which reflects well on teachers.

Recommendation #7 – Have parents talk about benefits to parents

When talking about the benefits of engagement for parents, communicators need to be sure to feature parents as the messenger. This is because people have a difficult time understanding how engagement will benefit families as well as students and educators. They worry that engagement might place additional burdens on busy and stressed parents. When parents themselves explain the benefits of engagement, however, it makes the message more credible and convincing. And when parents describe their own experiences, it helps people understand that engagement is both important and feasible.

Effective engagement benefits parents and families not only by building their relationships with teachers and school staff, but by helping them feel empowered to advocate for their children. In addition, engagement helps families connect to community resources they might not have known about otherwise.

Both my children attend a school where I’m able to interact and engage with their teachers and school staff on an ongoing basis. This has been a huge benefit for me and my family. I feel empowered to help my children succeed because the school takes my concerns and input seriously. And it’s led me to community resources I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. This is why I support family, school, and community engagement policies at all schools.

Framing Cheat Sheets

We know it can be hard to remember tips and strategies for framing your own communications when you are in the middle of writing an email, a tweet, or a newsletter. That’s why we’ve created several printable resources for you to hang on your bulletin board, stash in a drawer, or even use as your computer background!

Most importantly, these resources have been created so that you can share them with your colleagues. We need everyone to use these framing strategies in order to collectively build the understanding and support we need to change the narrative around family, school, and community engagement. We hope you’ll help us spread the word.

The Research

Frequently Asked Framing Questions

Answers to the most common questions about strategic framing.

Do I have to use the Space Launch metaphor? I would prefer to use a different one that is more […].

It is important to remember the goal of using metaphors in our communication. It is to help restructure, reshape, and redirect how our audiences think. This toolkit recommends the use of the Space Launch metaphor because it has been tested for its effectiveness in doing that. Our research focuses on metaphors’ cognitive effects, or how a metaphor changes people’s knowledge and attitudes about an issue and their support for different kinds of solutions. Whether an audience likes a metaphor is less important than using a metaphor that has the desired effect on audience thinking. We recommend sticking with metaphors that have been proven in experiments to have the desired effects on audiences’ understanding of an issue.

You can and should get creative in your use of the Space Launch metaphor. In other words, using the phrase Space Launch repeatedly is not enough … or even necessary. Instead, the point is to use the concept of launching a rocket into space to call attention to the process-oriented nature of family, school, and community engagement and the importance of collaboration, coordination, and teamwork. Space Launch also helps you to expand people’s perception of how much time and effort engagement requires by comparing it to how much planning and preparation go into coordinating a rocket launch. (Even though most of us have never worked for NASA, we still understand the time and resources that are required to put a rocket in space.)

In short, this metaphor has been proven capable of making aspects of family, school, and community engagement visible to the public in ways that other framing of engagement does not.

Are there other metaphors that I could use instead?

Yes and no. FrameWorks has developed and tested many metaphors, but each one has been tested for its ability to communicate a very specific concept. So, while there are many tested metaphors available through our research to communicate about many different education-related issues, if you want to effectively explain how engagement happens, help the public think more expansively about what engagement can be, and illustrate the transformative power of engagement, Space Launch is the best metaphor to use.

On FrameWorks’ website, you can find information about many other metaphors developed for communicating about other child development- and education-related issues, from translating the science of brain development to describing the learning process.

How am I supposed to meet the space constraints of modern communication with all these things you are asking me to add?

Using the strategies in this toolkit takes practice and a lot of editing (at least initially!), but even short messages like Tweets can pack a framing punch. Look for opportunities to use small spaces like photo captions, titles, and subheadings to reinforce your framing strategies through repetition, and choose visuals that support the ideas you want people to remember.

It’s true that change-makers’ communications tasks are harder. Strategic framing is more than a catchy slogan or buzzword. It’s about changing how people process information. Because you are introducing new ways of thinking about engagement, you are called upon to explain more. But not everything you communicate needs to be long-form. Explanation is an invaluable tool, one that is often overlooked and underestimated, and there are shorter-form ways to draw people into the longer explanations and still employ the recommended communication tactics, such as social media posts, infographics, and others.

Select the framing strategies that will move the needle for you the most in advancing your goal of changing the way your audiences think about family, school, and community engagement. Then repeat, repeat, repeat.

How do I make this sound more natural? This doesn’t sound like the way I communicate.

These recommendations and the examples used in this toolkit should not be considered a script that must be adhered to. First, do no harm. Examine your messaging to ensure you aren’t unwittingly falling into the common traps in public thinking about engagement. Then, start small. For example, try starting a routine presentation by talking about equitable engagement as a matter of Opportunity for All. Once you’re comfortable with that, try out another framing strategy, like emphasizing the benefits of engagement for teachers or using the Space Launch metaphor. Let the framing strategies help you say what you want to say, adapted for context. It is important that you make these recommendations your own. Begin by drafting your content, and then as you revise you can find opportunities to incorporate the framing strategies.

As you use the framing strategies more, focus on your audiences’ responses to your reframed messages. Pay attention to small (but mighty) differences that indicate you have planted a seed—even if it is just a “Huh, I never really paid attention to engagement in that way before!” or “Yeah, I hadn’t thought about engagement as an equity issue, but we really do need to be more inclusive.” Hearing the strategies work is one of the best ways to gain the confidence to use them even more.

Won’t it start sounding kind of repetitive if I’m using just a few frame elements?

Yes, and that’s a good thing! You are not your audience, which means that you understand the nuances and complexity of things, like the relationship between student achievement and family engagement, in a way your audiences do not. Your audience needs clarity, guidance, and a sense of how ideas or principles connect. When you clearly establish framing strategies at the top of a communication—giving them room to breathe—and then later refer back to them, these framing efforts will be reinforcing to your audience’s ears, not repetitive. That said, be creative! The framing strategies are flexible by design, and there are myriad ways to convey the themes and ideas contained in the framing strategies without having to overuse any particular words.