- Grades: 3–5
In Chippewa Valley, and most of Michigan, the first day of school is the Tuesday after Labor Day. As we prepare for the arrival of the students, we also need to gear up to meet the parents. Schools do this in a variety of ways. Some schedule a casual Open House while others schedule a more formal Curriculum Night. Below are some tips that may help you make a positive first impression.
This year my school, Miami Elementary, is doing an Open House the week before school starts. Parents are invited to school to find out which teacher their children have, to browse the classroom, and to meet the teacher. To make this evening a success I do the following:
- Decorate the classroom. One quick and easy way to dress up a room is to turn on any computers and display a welcoming PowerPoint slide.
- Play background music that fits the class theme (for example, "Hooray for Hollywood"). Alternatively, play a video of some engaging lessons from prior years. I like to share this "Boom de Yada" video.
- Have something to munch on. I have chosen to make fresh popcorn to go with my entertainment theme. I make one bag with each student's name on it plus several other unlabeled bags. When students arrive, they must find their name. In the bottom of their bag is an extra credit coupon. Any leftover popcorn bags with names on them indicate a child's absence, so it is a great way to keep track of which families showed up to meet you.
- Distribute a handout or packet of important information. For easy reference, and in the interest of saving a few trees, I have all major topics listed on www.mrvasicek.com under the policy tab. My packet has been condensed to a double-sided, one-page handout. The parents find this much more digestible. Side one tells them tasks they need to accomplish while visiting the room (provide an email address, fill out an emergency card and photo release forms, etc.). The second side is the top 10 items they need to know to start the year. Let’s face it, in today’s text-crazed society not many people will take the time to read your entire packet. Give them their information in short bursts. Some of my top 10 items include a list of field trips, money collection procedures, essential supplies, a short summary of the behavior system, and expectations for an upper elementary student.
- Greet each parent with a firm handshake, eye contact, confidence, and a smile. Leave no hand unshaken!
- Answer every question, or at the very least give them a date as to when they will hear more from you. And then follow through!
In years past we had a more formal evening called Curriculum Night. During this night I presented for about 30–45 minutes. The two main topics were the structure of the class and the curriculum that would be covered. I find that most parents trust that I know what to teach. What they want from a Curriculum Night is to know that you care about their child. My goal during an evening like this is to give the parents a flavor of what it is like to learn in Studio 24. I present the curriculum in a fun and interactive way. Here are two ways I have done this in the past:
Miami Millionaire — I come up with questions that hit the major topics I want to cover and plug them into a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? PowerPoint template. I call one parent volunteer up. Parents are usually shy at first, but offering an extra credit coupon for their child usually is enticing enough to get them involved . . . especially if their child is there putting on the pressure. After each question is answered, the parent returns to his or her seat with some applause, and I do a little talk about the topic. Tip #1: The funnier the multiple choice options, the better. Tip #2: This is a great opportunity to show off the use of an interactive whiteboard as it is probably foreign to many parents.
Bingo — If you want to keep things low-tech, yet fun, bingo is a good option. I give each parent a blank bingo card. On the front board I put a list of 40 things I would be willing to talk about. They fill in their bingo card with the topics they want to hear. I start by calling on a parent, who chooses a topic. Anyone having that topic on his or her card gets to mark it off as I talk about the topic. We continue until time is up. What I like about this game is it gives the parents a chance to direct the conversation. Sometimes the topics they want covered most are not the ones I would have chosen as high priority. Of course, the winner gets an extra credit coupon for their child.
If the parents leave saying, "Wow, I want to be in your class. You are knowledgeable and fun!" then you have done an outstanding job. Good luck!
That's a wrap.