Good first impressions make a difference, and the first open house of the school year gives teachers a chance to gain parents' support. It also allows teachers an opportunity to create a personal connection with parents and establish ways for continued communication throughout the school year. Included: Ideas to help make your open house a success!
It's that time of year again -- the time when most schools hold their first open house or back-to-school night. Experienced teachers know how important good first impressions are. Open house gives teachers a chance to gain parents' support, create a personal connection with them, and establish ways for continued communication throughout the school year.
When arranging for the school's open house, teachers need to think about the three P's: publicity, planning, and preparation. Be sure parents know about the open house in advance through a carefully thought out publicity campaign. And think about the real needs of parents when planning the event. Make full use of the event by giving parents a chance not only to learn about classroom and school policies but also to ask questions.
Before deciding what to do for your school's open house, look at your classroom through the parents' eyes. Pretend you are walking into your classroom for the very first time, after a long day spent either at home tending to young children or after spending eight hours at a job. Consider the parents' special circumstances.
Next, think about the event as if you were welcoming guests into your own home. First on the agenda: Clean your classroom. Then decorate it with the kind of touches that make the classroom uniquely yours and your students'. Be sure to display student work of every child. Display ungraded work so the students' grades are not disclosed to others.
After getting the classroom all set for company, think about the specific goals you hope to accomplish. Here are some tips, compiled from suggestions from several teachers and the U.S. Department of Education on how to organize a great open house:
Send out mailings early. "If you build it, they will come." Not if they don't know about it. Parents need to know about the open house in advance. And everyone knows what happens to school notices: Book bags eat them! So don't count on students to give parents notices about the school's open house. Encourage the school to mail out invitations. Or have students prepare personal invitations, which also can be mailed. Let parents know on the invitation any special help the school will provide, such as child care and transportation. Remind students over the loudspeaker that open house will take place that night.
Prepare information packets. The packet should include information about the basic subjects to be covered throughout the year, overall curriculum plans and goals, and a list of materials the child will need for class. Also supply a list of important phone numbers pertaining to the school, information on how to reach the teacher and providers of other services offered by the school, and a calendar of upcoming events such as class field trips and future parent-teacher meetings. Mail the packet home to parents who do not attend the open house.
Prepare home-school handbooks. Prepare handbooks (better done in advance by a group of teachers) to provide parents with a clearly written explanation of school policies. Translate the handbook into languages spoken by the school's parents. The handbook should include the following:
Meet real needs of parents. Involve parents in the planning process, and find out what they want to get from the open house. Often parents come to open house so they can meet the school principal and their child's teacher, and learn about the school's philosophy. They want to know what their child will be learning and what kind of progress their child should make.
Make it fun and enjoyable. Parents don't want to be bored. Remember, like yourself, they have already put in a full day, so make the presentations fun, enjoyable, and brief. Don't drone on for 20 minutes about classroom rules and procedures. Instead, provide classroom handouts with the details about classroom policies and highlight only the main points in your presentation. Invite parents to conduct a few learning activities, and let them see unfinished student assignments so they will know what their children are working on.
Education World Staff
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