A school's open house can offer teachers the chance to gain parents' support, opening doors for a good first impression. Use the following ideas to create a personal connection with parents and set the stage for continued communication throughout the school year.
At our Pre-K Open House this year, we took pictures of each child and his or her family outside our classroom door. Some parents were dragging their feet, but everyone ended up having their picture taken. We made two copies of each photo. One copy was sent home with the students on the first day of school and the other copy is displayed on our Friends and Families Board. The students love seeing the pictures of their families. This also helps at the beginning of the year as a distraction for those sad "I don't want Mommy to go" moments and it helps the teachers remember which families belong to which children at the beginning of the year. This is the first year I have tried this in the classroom, and I plan to continue it in future years.
–Submitted by Julia Laverack, Grade PreK, Family Resource Center, Kansas
As a team, my fellow 5th grade teachers and I put together a PowerPoint presentation that gives an overview of the curriculum, our team homework and behavior policies, the daily schedule, and special team events for the year. Following a question-and-answer session with parents, we have a slide show. During the first week and half of school, we snap photos of students in all subject areas, working with other students, participating in team building activities, and during recess and lunch. Our 5th graders are coming from four elementary schools so it is a big transition for them. The best way for parents to know that their child is happy is to see them engaged in meaningful activities and surrounded by new friends. They also feel comforted knowing that the four teachers are all on the same page with expectations and routines.
–Submitted by J. Buckle, Grade 5, Westwoods Upper Elementary School, Connecticut
My entire curriculum revolves around the reading/writing workshop, so that's what we do at Open House. I want my parents and guardians to experience what their children experience the first day they enter my class: writing. After a short introduction, I pass out pens and colorful paper and ask the parents/guardians to write a letter of encouragement and love to their child. I tell them that this is a secret to be given as a surprise the next day. Boy, are they surprised! The first question is usually, "How long does it need to be????" Sounds just like an 8th grader!
While the parents are writing, I walk around the room snapping pictures. The next day I print the pictures and put them on a bulletin board in the hall to show students that their parents are writers, too. The children love the letters they receive and enjoy looking at the pictures of adult writers they know. They think it's interesting that adults ask the same questions about writing that they do. This has become a very successful way for me to connect with parents and invite them into the world of 8th grade English in Mrs. Jackson's class.
–Submitted by Selina Jackson, Grade 8, Wall Middle School, Texas
One of the goals I have for my first graders at the start of the school year is to take ownership of their classroom. To know that everything in our classroom has a learning purpose and to be able to take advantage of the resources they have independently. By the time open house rolls around, most of the students know where to get the writing paper for their stories, how to find and use the dictionary to look up words, and when to get bingo chips when they need help counting. My classroom has quickly become THEIR classroom...GOAL! The students are the "tour guides: for open house. As a class, we decide what they want to show their parents, and what we can do to make our classroom more inviting. We decide, as a class, what work we feel we want to show the parents, and what works in progress we want them to see. The things they usually feel are important or that they have learned from this year are surprising! They are very insightful. They design the tour and we even make fun hats for them to wear.
On the day of the open house, I sit back and watch my independent little ones do my job for me. They take it very seriously and see it as their chance to show mom and dad who they are in the classroom, which can be very different than their home personalities! It is amazing to see how much they have changed and how proud they feel when they are the ones showing their parents around. At the end of the tour the students leave with their parents and take with them a card from me telling them what a wonderful job they did and how proud of them I am. The next day they return all smiles, and their parents have a better appreciation for what we do in our classroom!
–Submitted by Nicole Suppa, Grade 1, Robert L Bradley School, New York
This year we tried to get more participation in our Middle School Back to School Open House by giving it a Mexican Theme. We decorated the cafeteria and halls with Mexican decorations and displayed student expectations and upcoming events all within that theme.
We sent out letters to all the parents and made posters to hang in the local store windows giving the details which included a contest and prize for guessing how many Mexican Jumping Beans were in a jar (jelly beans), and that we would be serving Nachos for $1.00. We set up stations to hand out student planners, schedules, locker assignments, textbooks, book covers and all that necessary paperwork. We had members of student organizations giving guided tours of the building and PTO sign-ups. The principal spoke briefly and we created and ran a short video with information about the school and some of the programs and organizations that are offered. We had a fantastic turn-out with about 90% of all students and parents showing up. This made the first few days of school go much more smoothly!
–Submitted by Sheree Taylor, Grades 6-8, Tom Bean Middle School, Texas