Whether your school calls it Meet the Teacher, Back to School Night, Curriculum Night, or something else, new families flocking to your classroom all at once can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. These ten tips for a productive open house will help you organize, communicate, and manage Meet the Teacher Night like a pro.
1. First Impressions Are Everything
Many schools hold open house just before school starts so students and parents can meet their new teacher before the first day of school. While your classroom doesn’t have to be perfect, or even completely set up and decorated, you do want families to feel comfortable and confident that their child will be spending their school day in a happy environment.
In the primary grades, make sure you have a name tag and desk or table space for each child. Put away piles and unfinished projects until after your open house. Empty spaces are better than cluttered ones, and bare bones bulletin boards are okay, too. (Yes, we start school in July!)
2. Connect and Communicate
Do your best to not only greet and spend a moment with each family, but to make a connection and begin a relationship. Help students make connections too. Ask each child to look at the class name tags to see if they know anyone in their new class. If they do, I always make sure to point out, “Wonderful! You already have a friend in our class!”.
3. Manage Your Time
With many families arriving at once, your time with students and parents is limited. Make the most of it by making eye contact with each child as they arrive. If you are busy with another student, give them a big smile and an “I see you and I’ll be right there” signal.
Meet the Teacher night is not a time to hold individual conferences with parents. Most schools hold open house for 60-90 minutes with families continually coming and going during this time. If I find a parent needs to speak with me more in depth, I set up a time when I can call them and ask them to be sure to include information for me on a “Help Me Get to Know Your Child” sheet.
4. Post Parent Procedures
Ensure that all parents know what to do and where to put supplies with step-by-step procedure posters. Use signs to set up a system that runs itself so you are free to spend time with parents and students. This gets parents started while they wait to see you.
Place table tents on groups of student desks to remind parents about the forms that need to be completed.
5. Collect Parent Contact Info
My first priority during Meet the Teacher Night is to welcome my students and to make them feel comfortable. My second priority is to collect key information I need from parents and to provide parents with information they will need from me. I highly recommend a parent sign in sheet as the first thing parents do when they arrive.
Have important parent forms to be completed out on each child’s desk. While the front office has parent contact info, it’s always handy to have a copy in your classroom. These additional forms will give you insight into your new students, offer volunteer opportunities, and ensure that you know how your students will get home at dismissal.
I try to collect as many of these as possible while parents are in the room. Once the forms go home it can be difficult to get them returned. Of course, parents don’t always have time to complete them all, especially if they have more than one child at the school and other classrooms to visit. But do the best you can.
6. Share Your Expectations, Policies, and Procedures
Provide parents with information they will need too. I put together a welcome newsletter and other important pages to provide parents with our classroom rules and procedures, behavior management plan, birthday policies, and important school phone numbers like the health office, school counselor info, and the attendance line.
Our school provides health forms, technology use permissions, PTO information, and school code of conduct packets that we hand out as well.
7. Provide Something For Younger Siblings
Lay out baskets of books, crayons, and paper to keep younger siblings busy while you meet your students and speak to parents. It can be difficult for parents to talk when they have little ones scurrying around the room. Giving younger siblings something to do helps give parents a chance to talk during your already limited time.
8. Offer Volunteer Opportunities
Studies show that parent involvement is a key factor in student achievement. Provide as many opportunities as you can for parents to volunteer in your classroom or be involved from home. Many families have young children at home and can’t spend time in our classrooms. Be sure to have a sign up sheet at your Meet the Teacher event for parents to let you know of their interest in volunteering either in the classroom or from home. There are many things you can send home with students for parents to cut, prep, or plan from home to support your classroom.
9. Provide a Space For Extra Supplies
Make a space for extra supplies and community items that students bring or parents donate.
Be sure to label your bins so that parents can sort supplies right then. This saves you a lot of time that would otherwise be spent sorting and organizing supplies later.
10. Display A Classroom Wish List
Many parents ask what they can do to support the classroom besides volunteering. Set up a classroom wish list with extra supplies you know you will need throughout the year. Kleenex, glue sticks, sanitizing wipes, and pencils are like gold come March or April.
I made this one by scrunching an 12″ x 18″ sheet of construction paper and wrapping it around a paper towel holder. Next, I drew a tree top shape on the same size sheet of green before scrunching it. Open the papers, and smooth them out. Cut out the tree top. Wrap the brown around the paper towel holder and tape the back edges together. Lastly, I stapled on the tree top and added the labels.
Download the templates to make this Free Classroom Giving Tree.
Most of All, Make Students Feel Welcome
I like to place a small welcome gift at each child’s desk. Depending on how much time I have, I’ve even made simple gifts for parents some years.
Create a back to school bulletin board that includes the names of all of your new students. Adding pictures is even better. This tells children, I’ve been expecting you, I value you, and you are part of our classroom family. Here’s one I did using purple paper plates.
I used the plates to make two bunches of grapes with student’s names on them. I added student pictures during the first week of school.
You may even want to set up a back to school photo booth to take pictures of each student. I leave mine up for the first day of school and take pictures of any students I didn’t get at open house. I’ve also made my back to school bulletin boards serve double duty as a photo backdrop.
Which reminds me…One year, this sister just didn’t make it. At the very last second, I pinned this up on the board outside my door.
It turned out to be one of the most effective things I’ve ever done. Every.single.child. asked me about that book. It created instant connection, instant anticipation, and instant excitement about the first day of school. And you better believe I’ve capitalized on that for every Meet the Teacher since! Ha!
See a few other boards I’ve done centered around the most perfect first day book ever, and how I use it (and love it!) for our first week of school.
I hope you’ve found some ideas to help you organize, communicate, and manage meet the teacher like a pro! You can find the resource I use in a few different color schemes by clicking the link below. They’re all completely editable so you can customize them for your classroom.
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Need help planning your first week with students? See my first week of school in this post and how I get my kids excited before school starts!
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Happy teaching friends!