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Back-to-School Ideas: Host a Successful Open House

Janelle Cox

Open house, or "Back to School" night, is your opportunity to make a great first impression. In order to have a successful open house, you must first plan out the night. Here are a few tips to help you address all the issues you want to cover, among your other back to school ideas, and get parent questions answered in the short time you have.

Create a Friendly Invitation

The first step to having a successful open house is to get the parents to attend. This starts with a personalized invitation in addition to the school’s invitation. Each teacher is going to have a different agenda for the evening, and a personalized invitation provides parents with specific information for their child's class. In this letter, it's essential to stress the importance of attendance. There will be parents that are unable to attend due to their busy work schedules, so in this case you should stress that any child's relative that has an interest in their education is welcome.

Make it Welcoming

Create an inviting atmosphere by displaying a "Welcome" sign and offering refreshments. Encourage students and parents to get acquainted with the classroom by providing popular activities, like a classroom scavenger hunt, or a trivia contest. Another favorite activity among visitors is to guess what picture their child has drawn. Any activity that encourages active participation is a great way to welcome visitors.

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Additional open house activities and ideas:

  • Pass out gift bags of popcorn with a label, "Thanks for Popping in."
  • A recipe card for how to make the perfect class.
  • Student cutouts of themselves placed on their desks.
  • A parent wish jar.
  • An open house raffle.

For more back to school ideas and open house activities, see the Pinterest board "Open House Ideas for Teachers."

Provide a Brief Presentation

Whether you are going to present your information by Power Point, Whiteboard, or iPad, it is imperative that you display the evening's agenda in some way. You can even pass out a printout of what the parents can expect for the night's events. When presenting to parents it's important to include the following information:

  • A brief description of yourself, including your education, work experience, and interests.
  • A typical class day, including procedures and routines.
  • An overview of the curriculum.
  • Class rules and consequences.
  • Important school dates and events.

Make sure to pause after each topic discussed to allow time for parents to ask questions, or be sure to leave enough time at the end of the presentation for questions and observations.

Take Your Time

The worst thing that can happen at an open house is that the parents leave with the notion that their child's teacher did not clearly define their expectations. Make sure to take your time and clearly state your objectives, rules, and expectations for the school year (as well as other back to school ideas).  Do not worry that you are keeping the parents too long: They would much rather leave knowing all of their questions were answered than not having any answered at all.

Open the Lines of Communication

An open house is a great way to open the lines of communication, but it's also important to keep them open throughout the school year. An easy way to do this is to provide a variety of volunteer opportunities for parents. Engage parents throughout the year by encouraging them to get involved. Offer parents who have a busy schedule unique ways to get involved, such as donating items to the class library, or volunteering their time to help cut craft projects on the weekends. Establishing a good rapport with parents even after open house will help their child continue to succeed in school. It's also important to give parents a variety of options to get a hold of you at any given time. Creating a class website and providing parents with contact numbers will let them know you are open to all communication.

The key to having a successful open house is to first get the parents to show up, and second is to make a great first impression. Once you have the parents in your classroom all you have to do is keep their attention and give them the time and opportunity to ask questions.

How do you hold a successful open house or promote other back to school ideas in your school? Please share your ideas in the comment section below. You never know, you may inspire someone! 

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