Open house, also known as back to school night, is just days away for some of you, and this is your opportunity to make a great first impression. We just had ours—yes, some schools start in early August—so I thought I’d share a few tips to help you with yours.
Create a Friendly Invitation
As they say in theater, “You gotta get butts in the chairs!” With that in mind, you (yes, you!) as the teacher need to start with a personalized invitation to each of your student’s parents or guardians. This is easy with so many general email delivery options on programs like Skyward. I designed an invitation containing the who, what, when, and where, but also the cool—special things to know specifically for their student’s class with an extra credit opportunity only found during the open house. With a couple of clicks of the mouse, my personalized open house invitations were sent to students’ parents for my biology and ecology classes.
Our school ambassadors use sidewalk chalk to write inspirational messages on all of the entry sidewalks to the school. In addition, the school’s jumbo screen in the main entry hall displays welcome messages to both parents and students, and the bulletin boards in the cafeteria area are fully decorated with welcome back themes.
Decorate your classroom and/or classroom entrance (yes, I even do this for high school!) to provide visual stimulation. You could hang welcome banners, write “Welcome Parents” on the white/chalk board, and have special treats like a bag of popcorn labeled “Thanks for Popping In” or a prize box for younger siblings who tag along. Hint: The aroma of freshly popped popcorn really draws in the crowds!
Ask your principal if energetic music can be piped over the school’s PA system as the doors open, position Student Council members with welcome signs at the first doors, fire off confetti cannons, and give out raffle tickets for free prizes like a school T-shirt with winners announced over the school PA system—the sky is the limit!
Show What Will Happen in Your Classroom
I take photos and videos throughout the school year at various times to showcase on our class Facebook page. At the open house night, which occurs the Monday before school starts, I put all of these into a video and set it on a loop displayed on a computer outside my classroom door. That way, if parents stack up outside my classroom waiting to greet me personally, they are engaged by seeing something about my classes.
Have a checklist printed for each class to remind the student of what to bring the first day, as well as any special class rules and/or instructions they may need to know right away. Don’t have too many items on the checklist as it may be overwhelming—think in bite-sized pieces, focusing only on what is needed for the first couple of days. You can get into more details later.
Display your schedule—especially your planning period—near the entry to your classroom, and have your business cards out on the table for the parents to take. Send out a “Welcome to My Class” letter to parents and copy their student’s email before the open house date (in addition to the special invitation). Be sure to list your teacher website address, teacher telephone number, and email contact information in the letter.
You should have already submitted your summer print jobs that includes items like the class syllabus, class rules, and any forms, such as a lab safety agreement, computer/internet agreement, and code of conduct in class agreement (including cell phone usage). I have these copied and collated into sets of one per student ready to go before the first day of class.
Relationship development is extremely important for a successful school year, so think about the type of interactive activities (okay, games) you can do to engage the students into getting to know one another in class. There will time in the next few days to review the student handbook and syllabus. That first contact with each student is so important, and you should continue to build your relationship with a variety of activities along with the must-do stuff that can get boring after it is covered from class to class throughout the day. Good luck and have a great open house!
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