How to Use Google Docs to Promote ESL Parent Involvement

Dr Chris Craft
We recently reached out to one of our education partners, Dr. Chris Craft, to get his take on special technology tips & tricks that are often overlooked by educators.
His response came back almost immediately. He was surprised that many schools didn’t use Google Docs to translate school documents for ESL parents (English as a Second Language).
By translating important student documents, schools can bridge the language gap and promote ESL parent involvement.You can read more of Chris’ thoughts below, but let’s start with the details on how to translate school documents for ESL parents.

Use Google Docs to Translate Documents for ESL Parents

  1. Make sure your school is signed up for a free Google Apps for Education account.
  2. Go to
  3. Click the red ‘Create’ button and select ‘Document’ from the drop down menu.
  4. Create your document. You can copy-paste from other text editors like Microsoft Word or create it from scratch.
  5. Go to the ‘Tools’ menu, and click ‘Translate document….’
  6. Type the name of the new document, select the native language of the ESL parent, and press OK.
  7. A translated copy of your document will be created. You can now access this copy in your Google Drive.

Once the document is translated, you may want to print the translated copy and staple it to the English version for the student to take home to their ESL parent.

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 How Translated School Documents Promote ESL Parent Involvement

Translated book reports and writing assignments give ESL parents a chance to review their child’s work in their native language so they can offer feedback and encouragement.
Translated copies of permissions slips, medical waivers, and photo rights releases let ESL parents have a fuller understanding of their students’ risks and rights before signing.
Translated progress reports and reports cards make it possible for ESL parents to monitor academic progress and reinforce the importance of scholastic achievement.
Translated open house invitation, fundraiser notifications, and graduation announcements can foster a spirit of inclusiveness and increase participation from ESL parents.

Definition of ESL Parent

ESL Parent – Parent who speaks English as a Second Language; also known as English Language Learner, or ELL parent. ESL Parent and ELL Parent are often used interchangeably.

Expert Take: Dr. Chris Craft on Translating School Documents using Google Docs

As I travel around and meet with Google Apps for Education users around the world, there is one feature that I feel like is seriously underutilized. The ability to instantly translate any Google Doc is a feature that can and will allow schools to communicate with parents and community members through documents.

Schools in my area seem to be experiencing an increase in students for whom English is a second language. Language barriers can make communicating with a student’s parents difficult. For many schools and districts, there is no easy way to handle this, and they resort to copying and pasting blocks of text into a translation website. This process is cumbersome, to say the least. Google Apps for Education offers a quick and easy way to handle this need. Let’s assume that a school or district has made the switch to GAFE and have adopted Google Docs for collaborative document editing. They already experience data security, ubiquitous availability, mobile editing, and more. Now they can also translate documents quickly and easily by simply clicking Tools –> Translate Document. A copy is created and is instantly translate into the chosen language.

Here’s a scenario. Let’s say a family enters the school having recently arrived from Croatia. There is likely no one on staff at the school that speaks Croatian. If the school has their documents in Google Docs, they simply go into the Doc, click Tools, Translate Document, and select Croatian. In moments, they have a document to give to the parent in his/her native language. Thanks to Google Docs translate a document feature, the communication barrier is effectively lowered.     – Dr. Chris Craft

Dr. Christopher Craft is an award-winning educator and speaker based in South Carolina. He has been recognized both locally and nationally for innovative teaching with technology.
Dr Chris Craft
Most recently he was named to the National School Board Association’s “20 to Watch” list for 2013. He has a B.A. in Spanish, a M.Ed in Educational Technology, and a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Research from the University of South Carolina. Chris is a Google Certified Teacher, and a Google Certified Trainer. 

Find out more about Chris at or follow him on Twitter @crafty184.

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