Back-to-school night is an exciting event for teachers, parents, and students. But as a first-year teacher, planning your first open house can be overwhelming. After 20+ years of back-to-school nights, I’ve tried a multitude of different formats, and open house ideas. Here’s a list of 23 back-to-school night ideas for new teachers to try that will help make your first open house a stress-free and memorable night!
After leaving, your students will be so excited about the first day of school and their parents will feel at ease leaving them in the best hands!
1. Set up parent stations
The easiest way I have found to help things along and make sure the night runs smoothly is to set up stations for parents so you can collect the information you need from them. Place a sign at each station with directions for parents, then after greeting each family, have parents stop at each station.
I make the first station a sign-in sheet where parents can quickly provide their preferred contact information and an easy way for you to see which families attended. Other stations can include a basket to turn in student information forms and volunteer sign-ups, a classroom donation & wish list table, and a transportation list for parents to tell you how their child will go home.
I place all other handouts on each student’s desk and a reminder to please fill out the papers and turn them in before leaving.
2. Create a PowerPoint presentation
If you’re plannning a more teacher-directed back to school night, or you are required by your principal to give a presentation, create a PowerPoint that showcases all the information you need to communicate to parents.
Typically Back to School Night is the open house where students meet their new teacher, and Curriculum Night it the event where parents can come to learn about curriculum and ask any questions they have. But if your school combines the two, a good way to cover both events together is to create a presentation. This could include information about classroom schedules and specials schedules, classroom rules, homework expectations, and curriculum highlights. Learn what to include in your parent presentation in this blog post.
Doing a presentation works best if all parents/guardians will be attending at the same time, but that isn’t always possible. One of the benefits of making a parent presentation is that you can upload your PowerPoint to Google slides and share a link for a virtual back to school night with families who aren’t able to attend.
3. Print student forms on different colored paper
Organize student forms, such as emergency contact information, medical and allergy forms, and transportation forms by printing them on different colored paper. This not only adds a touch of fun but also makes it easier to organize and sort the forms at the end of the night.
4. Help parents log on to a communication tool
Dedicate a station where you can assist parents in setting up and accessing your preferred parent-teacher communication tool, such as Class Dojo, a classroom website or a district communication app if your school has one.
Providing this guidance at Back-to-School Night ensures parents are able to be connected and informed throughout the school year.
5. Share your classroom behavior plan
Clearly explain your classroom behavior plan and expectations to parents, so they understand your approach to discipline and positive reinforcement. Add a slide to your presentation if you do one, or include it in a back to school brochure you give to parents. Making parents aware of classroom policies at the start of the year will make any behavior-related phone calls much easier as parents are already aware of the behavior expectations.
6. Provide volunteer opportunities
Set up a station where parents can sign up for volunteer opportunities in the classroom or for school events. For parents who aren’t able to come into the classroom, provide things they can do from home that you can send home with their child. Cutting out laminated items, prepping activities, and labeling classroom library books are a few of the jobs I’ve had parents do from home.
My teammates and I let parents know that volunteering starts after the first month of school. Of course, you can make your own policy, but I’ve found it distracting to have parents in the classroom when students are still learning our routines and procedures and I’m trying to get beginning of the year assessments done.
Whenever you do decide to start volunteer times, you’ll greatly appreciate the help and support!
7. Display a wish list
Create a “Giving Tree” or another fun display where parents can choose items from a wish list that would benefit the classroom.
This allows parents to contribute in a meaningful way and helps supplement classroom resources. Some of the items I place on the giving tree are boxes of tissues, extra glue sticks, Ziplock bags, copy paper, or hand sanitizer.
8. Plan storage for community supplies
Make a plan and create space for all school supplies before families arrive to back-to-school-night. Although not all students will bring their supplies to open house, a lot will… and you will become quickly overwhelmed by the sheer number items!
Place labeled containers or bins out for students to sort community supplies they bring in. Explain where to to store the Kleenex, paper towels, and other community supplies. Let parents know what students should do with their individual supplies.
9. Create a Back-to-School Night brochure
Create a back to school brochure that includes important information about your classroom, office phone numbers, daily classroom schedule, your contact information, and upcoming events. Put together an easy-to-read resource to serve as a quick reference for parents throughout the year.
10. Put contact information on a magnets
Another fun idea (in addition to the above brochure) is to make magnets containing your contact information to hang up in a convenient place at home. This practical item serves as a helpful reminder of your availability and encourages open lines of communication.
11. Provide an activity for siblings
Provide a simple (easy to clean up) activity like a basket of favorite books, coloring pages, or drawing paper for siblings who may accompany their parents. This ensures that all family members feel welcome and included during your back-to-school night. Plus, it will allow parents to focus more on the information and less on entertaining their other children.
12. Personalize student spaces
If you have access to your class list before your open house, it’s a great idea to include every students’ name their desk when setting up your classroom. There are several places you can include each child’s name and they love to look for their name around the room! Student name tags on desks, labels on cubbies, and their name on back to school bulletin boards creates a sense of ownership and belonging. This small touch fosters a positive classroom environment and tells each child ,”You are part of our classroom family.”.
Take a quick photo of each student and glue it to the center of the “grape”!
13. Have simple student gifts
Prepare small, inexpensive gifts such as bookmarks or classroom-themed trinkets to express your excitement for the new school year. While it is certainly optional, placing a welcome treat on each desk sets a positive tone and delights your new students! I like to buy a large bag of suckers (or popcorn) and then attach them to fun back-to-school tags.
14. Accomodate different languages
This tip often gets overlooked, but it’s important to plan for languages other than English if you have students and families that will require translation. Consider providing translated materials or having bilingual staff members available to assist parents who may require language support. This ensures that all families can fully participate and understand the information being shared.
15. Provide a parent checklist
Families that have more than one child at the school and have other classrooms to visit will often ask to take the forms home to fill out. If after a few days the forms aren’t returned, send home a checklist reminding parents about paperwork you still need completed and returned. Back to school season is a busy time for parents as well as teachers, and paperwork can easily get lost in the shuffle.
16. Set up a photo booth
A photo booth is a fun addition to any back-to-school night. Create a designated area with props or a backdrop where parents and students can take memorable photos to celebrate the beginning of the school year. This adds a relaxed element to the event and allows families to capture special moments.
17. Make a Meet the Teacher Newsletter
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.
18. Collect Notes From Parents for Students’ Desks
Set up a basket where parents can leave positive notes for their child’s first day of school. Ask parents to write an encouraging message on a sticky note for you to place on their child’s desk . For families unable to attend, write a message yourself and place it on the desk of each student that was absent.
19. Have a Snack!
Although completely not necessary, providing a small snack is a thoughtful gesture to help create a welcoming atmosphere and adds a touch of hospitality to the event. Be mindful of possible food allergies when choosing the snack. Individually wrapped items are easiest and often required when having any food in your classroom.
20. Student Interest Surveys
Provide parents with a survey that asks about their child’s hobbies, interests, and the learning preferences the parent notices. This information will not only give you insight into your new students, but can help you form relationships with each one.
You’ll of course learn more about each student as the year progresses, but it is helpful to learn about your students from their parents’ perspectives.
21. Classroom Scavenger Hunt
Design a simple scavenger hunt where students and parents can explore different areas of the classroom while completing fun tasks or finding important information. Create a simple checklist for students to roam the room and check off items on the list when they find them.
22. Play Back-to-School Bingo
Another option is to make up a bingo board with something to “find” in each box. Some examples could be, How many desks are in the classroom? What color is your chair? Find the classroom calendar and write today’s date. Name one thing hanging on the wall. What color is the pencil sharpener? How many book baskets are in the class library?
23. Place Parent Poems on Students’ Desks
Some years I make simple gifts for my parents. I wrap small apples in clear baggies (found in the baby shower section of the dollar store), tie it with a piece of red curling ribbon. Next, attach a simple poem. Download my FREE Parent Poem gift tags for Back to School Night.
Remember to personalize these ideas to fit your teaching style, grade level, and classroom environment. Choose a few of the ideas that work for you. Don’t try to use all of them at once!
Know that whatever you plan, it will be perfect and enough! Have fun, enjoy your excited students, and take the opportunity to get to know your new families!