My name is Jessica Bell, and I work with ESL students in high school in a large urban district in Indiana. Our High School has 4,000 students, from more than 20 countries speaking 10+ languages. Communicating with families has been difficult and one of my goals for the year is increasing family engagement. I have recently begun using Talking Points to facilitate communication.

What is Talking Points?

Family engagement

Talking Points allows teachers in the U.S. and Canada to enter a message in English in their dashboard. The message is sent and translated into a language you have selected for the family as a text message. They respond in their language, and it is sent back to your dashboard in English.

Why did I choose Talking Points?

Parent communication is the most challenging aspect of my job. I have been thrilled to use Talking Points to make it easier to communicate. The first day I sent a message, I had 20 families respond in three hours. Talking Points allows me to interact with families who previously didn’t have a quick way to engage with school. Family engagement is a key factor in student success.

tech to help with supporting families


How can I get started?
  • Go to and sign up for a free account.
  • Create your account and a class.
  • There are three ways to add student.
    • Send an invite code paper home and families can opt to join.
    • Send a contact form home (translated forms are available that explain what Talking Points is and how it works) and enter the information when returned
    • Add student and family information in from your school database
  • Send an introductory message to your parents/guardians.
  • If a parent/guardian wants to opt out, they get a message that explains how.
What languages are available?

Updated 2020. When I first wrote this post, there were only 20+ languages. Now it is 100+ languages.

talking points languages

What kinds of messages can I send?
  • Announcements to all families about school/class information
  • Messages to individual families about student performance
  • Answers to families when they message you with questions
  • EL teachers or lead teachers can be point of contact and share information about multiple subjects if needed
  • Polls – send multiple choice questions and get responses back
    • Set up a meeting day or time with family input!
    • Ask how families can be involved

tech to help with supporting families

Have I seen any benefits?

  • Talking Points brings equality to family information – English is an option as well so every family can receive the same information.
  • Students are more accountable because they know it’s easier for me to reach out to their family AND they know their families are more likely to reach out to me.
  • Families are more informed – they ask more questions about school information, student grades and behavior.
  • Communication is easier. We are starting a series of family education nights and the poll option allows us to schedule meetings when we will have the most attendees.
  • Your received messages and sent messages are stored like a text conversation, so you can easily scroll back to look at previous messages.
  • Individual teacher accounts are free, or districts can request a quote for additional services.
Are there any drawbacks?
  • Like any translation service, it’s not 100% accurate. Talking Points uses machine + human translation, so it’s more accurate than just a translation page. To make translation easier, use simple sentence construction.
  • As messages are sent via SMS text, families need a cell plan to receive messages.
  • Families receive messages as you send them (unless you schedule a specific time, which is an option) so you need to be cognizant of timing.
Parent Feedback

Through Talking Points, the mother of a student that moved from Mexico two years ago said, “I like the program because I can still communicate through the language barrier. I can still know when something happens. I appreciate your interest.” Another family recently moved from Cameroon, and the father said, “I like the program because it keeps us updated.”


Talking Points allows me to communicate with all of my families from my computer – without calling a translator or scheduling a bilingual aide to make a family phone call. It also allows families to feel comfortable messaging me with questions or information about their students. Across the US,  EL student populations are growing, and that means there are more families that could be disconnected from schools. As educators we strive to engage with all families, and Talking Points equalizes ease of communication.