Drawing parents in for positive experiences with school is key to making a successful connection between the classroom and the kitchen. My school has sometimes struggled with positive parent involvement, but we’ve started a series of math and literacy nights that have been very successful. Our first night for the year is coming up on September 24. And this year we will get a hand from Clifford as we celebrate his 50th birthday in conjunction with our back-to-school night.
To get families involved, the students must first be excited by the school activities. We use schoolwide themes that have students begging their parents to come and participate. In the past we’ve hosted a Circus Night and a Johnny Appleseed Night, and now we are getting ready for Clifford’s Birthday. Each classroom will create projects and decorations ahead of time, but save hands-on, interactive activities for that special night. For example, Clifford Night will feature read-alouds, whiteboard activities, birthday counting, and more. When students plead with their parents to come to school, we get a higher turnout with happy families.
Our Parent Nights are held right after school to accommodate most of our families. Maybe your event would be better after rush hour or on a weekend morning. We offer food tickets when parents attend at least one classroom event, which they can redeem for take-home spaghetti plates. This keeps cleanup to a minimum, and also helps families out on those busy weeknights. For Clifford Night, we will feature cupcakes for everyone along with their dinner to help keep the birthday celebration theme rolling.
Each grade level works together to plan a few center-type activities that students and parents can work on together in the classroom. This lets parents visit at their own pace and go to several grade levels in one evening, so parents of multiple children can make it around the school without set time limits. I always try to stay very positive on these nights and will even let my students know that I don’t intend to do any serious conferences. Our goal is to get parents to the school for a positive experience. This sets the foundation for a good working relationship, and we can always set a conference date for the serious stuff while they are visiting.
Even if you aren’t planning a parent event, you can get in on the Clifford birthday celebration. A special live birthday webcast will take place on September 24 as we sing “Happy Birthday” to our favorite big red dog. There are a multitude of online activities and printables for Clifford available at a variety of grade-appropriate levels. Make a pair of ears, grab a cupcake, and join in as Clifford turns the big 5-0!