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September 5, 2013 4 Ways to Add Student Voices to Back-to-School Night By Kriscia Cabral
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    Classrooms are set up. Kids have settled in. What’s next? It’s only one of the most important nights of the year; the one snapshot parents have into the everyday life of their child at school. Back-to-school night is an event to remember. Teachers work hard to have rooms spiffed up and presentations primped for one 45-minute session of F-U-N! The mantra I repeat over and over again is, “Parents are here to make sure their child is in good hands.”

    As I shared in my previous post, my goal this year is to focus on student learning. This goal was at the forefront of my mind when planning for the big event. Here are four fabulous ways to incorporate student voice at back-to-school night, without them being present.


    1. Video Creations

    I asked students from my class to share with me why we have rules and what they think our class rules should be. I gathered their clips and put them in an Animoto slide show to share during the presentation. I originally started recording kids in more of an interview situation, but found when they were talking with a classmate, they were more open and honest. It was interesting to see their reasons for rules and what rules they believe we should have in the classroom. Many of the responses were repeated by many students, which I thought added more meaning to that rule. This idea is great for introducing your classroom expectations based on what students feel they should be.


    2. Word Cloud Fun

    The first day of school I introduce myself to my students and share two things: my purpose and my goals. Every year I ask them to do the same. They create a beautiful art project for their goals and I hang them up, very teacher-like.

    I wanted to do this activity again, but I wanted their goals to stay up all year long. I also wanted my students to see how similar their individual purpose was to each other’s. I created a Google form with my two questions, highlighted their responses, and put them into Wordle. We now have two pieces of framed classroom art we can refer back to throughout the school year.


    3. Photo Booth Excitement

    Being a mother of two allows for many opportunities to enjoy the festivities of friend’s birthday parties. What I have learned in the age of Pinterest is, go big or go home when it comes to parties. What I have also taken away from these sugar-fest events is the wonderful world of photo booths. I love photo booths! They are an excellent way to send a message without having to pull out a recorder.

    Over the summer, I picked up these adorable speech bubble whiteboards from Really Good Stuff. I glued popsicle sticks to the back and posted a question for my students to answer. I wanted the question to be something original versus a typical question where they would all have the same answer. I wanted a question that could define them as a person. “If you could be or study anything in the world, what would it be?” Students brainstormed first on paper and then went off to the photo booth for their picture. A wonderful connection with this lesson is to ask students about their goal they shared in Wordle and see if it connects with the dream they wrote on the speech bubble. These pictures would be a great visual to have either on the wall or in a slideshow presentation as parents walk in.


    4. Pop Quiz Parents

    I can take no credit for this, but I absolutely love it. Rachel Lynette from Minds-in-Bloom, created a Parents Night Kid Quiz. It’s a short, get-to-know- you type quiz about their child. Parents answer the questions and then the kids grade their parents on how well they know them.

    I love this idea because it builds anticipation for finding out how well their parents know them and even more excitment over giving their parents a grade. It also gives me an opportunity to go over testing procedures and expectations with both my students in class and my parents that night.

    Back-to-school night is an evening filled with many activities and learning opportunities. I know that I try to make everything as perfect as pie for my parents. I want them to feel like their child is in a safe place. I have to remind myself of what is truly important. It isn’t about what’s up on my walls, or how cute my welcome sign is when they arrive. I have to remind myself of my reason for doing what I do: the students. And that’s what back-to-school night should be about.




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Susan Cheyney