Open House: A Time to Shine
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
As the end of the school year sneaks up on us, open house will be here before we know it. Open house is a time for students to show off their best efforts and accomplishments to their families, fellow students, and incoming students.
Saving Student Work
Do you ever find yourself worrying about what to display for open house? In past years, I forgot to save pieces of my students’ best work for presentation during this event. But then I got smart and started saving a few things that I felt truly showed off my students’ personal best. I snagged an empty paper box from the office and used it to secretly stash items for future display.
Showing Off Student Work
Clotheslines — If you have a classroom with limited wall space, be creative. I hang two clotheslines that from wall to wall. With the help of some colorful clothespins, I can hang classwork overhead, out of the way, and yet still on display.
Desks — Use the students’ desks or table space to show their individual work, such as journals and writing folders.
Windows — Windows are a great way to showcase work. I usually reserve this space for art. This way our class looks beautiful from the outside, too.
Walls — The typical place to hang student work in a classroom is on the walls. I like to dress up my display areas using fabric, decorative borders, and name tags. I made these tags using clothespins, wooden flower shapes, and chalkboard paint.
Choosing What Work to Display
Deciding what to show off can sometimes be overwhelming, especially if you have lots of work and little space. I try to find a balance between art, writing, and math. Artwork always makes a room pop with color and creativity, but let’s face it, with standards, art can sometimes take a back seat to other subjects. And to be fair, a roomful of artwork doesn’t accurately reflect or represent all that really goes on in a class.
Writing — Several times a year, our students are given a writing assignment. I like to show their beginning-of-the-year results alongside their spring samples to illustrate the progress they have made. Writing folders or portfolios provide wonderful examples to help parents to understand this growth.
Art — Pick a fun art project that emphasizes something your class has been learning.
Math — I like to showcase our math journals. Not only do our journals illustrate the different strands of math we have focused on, but they also show my students' progression with writing numbers and their ability to express themselves mathematically.
Throughout the year, I take many photos that I later incorporate into a movie for open house. Using iMovie, I am able to import my still photos into a movie template. After adding some kid- friendly music by artist Jack Johnson to play in the background, I've created an adorable movie to show off our year of hard work and adventures. These movies also make a great end-of-the-year gift for the students and families.
Putting Students in Charge
Open house is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of my students. Rather than me being the tour guide and showing off our classroom, I leave that up to the students. I provide them with a checklist of various classroom areas and items to show their families; they are the tour guides. I want my students to engage in conversation about their daily school life with their families. Usually, the last item on their list is to visit the classrooms they will be moving to. It's good for the families to see what types of academics will be in their child’s future.
Additional Activities to Drive Attendance
Sometimes, a simple open house with an opportunity to view student work isn’t quite enough. In years past, we have combined our open house with a quermesse (Spanish food dinner) and our Ballet Folklorico. We have an after-school program in which our students practice dancing in preparation for the Ballet Folklorico show at the end of the year. Our families prepare the food and donate it to the school. The dinner and dancing occur before the classrooms open.
In other years, we have had the Scholastic Book Fair. It is always a hit with the families. Sometimes they are so busy buying books, they leave little time to visit classrooms. Other years we have had a school-wide art show, an ice-cream social, or even a dessert night. The bottom line is that we want parents to attend. Each year we try to find a creative way to bring them in.
I hope I have offered a few new ideas for you to try during your open house. What does your school do encourage families to attend?