You focus your planning on the first day of school, but back to school night is just as important. Start off on the right foot with your families with these back to school night activities.
What Is Back to School Night?
That’s a tricky question. Traditionally, back to school night is an evening before the start of school where parents attend without their children. As the teacher, you tell parents key information, such as how you structure the day and how you assess students. This is the time to start a positive, working relationship with your students’ parents.
Sometimes back to school night is more children-focused. It is a time for the kids to visit with their parents and figure out where their class is, meet the teacher, etc. If this is the case with your school, you will want to have activities for the students while you engage the parents.
There is even a third option! Back to school night could be several weeks after the start of school. This is typically a parent-only night, and it is a chance for parents to see their children’s work and converse with you about their child (whom you already know).
What to Cover on Back to School Night
Regardless of which type of back to school night your school chooses, this night is a lot of information packed into a short amount of time. Typically everyone starts together in the auditorium for a presentation from the principal, and then people break up to visit their kids’ classrooms. You will have limited time to download a lot of information, and some parents may be stretched thin as they are visiting multiple classrooms. Make sure you have all the necessary information printed out for the parents to read afterward.
As you speak to parents, here are some things you will want to cover:
Get to Know You
This is the start of a working relationship, so parents will want to get to know you. Share a little about yourself. Why did you become a teacher? What do you love about teaching? Show them your passion.
Goals for the Class
Parents want to know what their child will learn this year. Give a brief overview of what you’ll cover and what skills you hope to impart to the kids.
Every teacher has his or her own style. What’s yours? What teaching methods do you use? Do you work with small groups? Do you emphasize group learning or didactic teaching? Are you a teacher who fosters conversation and questions from your students? Get the parents on your wavelength early on.
You have a list of classroom expectations, and you want your parents on board with them. Be clear as to what you expect from your students, but be positive as well.
How You Assess
Grades are an important part of school, and they are often what parents focus on. How will you assess the children this year?
Some schools provide lists of supplies before back to school night, and parents drop them off at the classroom during this time. If this is the case at your school, have bins ready to collect and organize the supplies. If your parents get a list of supplies at back to school night, have a table set up with examples of each supply so they can see what they need to purchase.
Projects inspire students and parents, but they also take a lot of work. Often kids will need parent help at home to make them happen. Outline any major class projects so parents know what to expect.
You need volunteers, and you have them all sitting before you at once. Don’t let them leave the classroom before you have passed around a clipboard list (or write the list on the board) of all the volunteer positions you need filled for this year. This is your chance to get help, so don’t be afraid to ask for it.
Tell parents how to reach you and when to reach you. You are not a doctor; you don’t need to be on call 24/7. Set parameters now so you can tackle parent questions and concerns at a set time each week.
Making an Agenda
Back to school night is a whirlwind; it goes by fast. If you don’t make an agenda, you will waste valuable time and likely forget to cover something. Make a plan!
Think about how you can prepare your classroom for the night. What stations can you set up for parents (and possibly for the kids as well)? How will you present the information?
If you are pressed for time, evaluate what is most important and what can be covered with a take-home paper. Structure the time with your parents so you say what is vital. You may want to consider sending out this agenda ahead of time for your parents to read.
Activities for Back to School Night
Sometimes parents wander in and out on back to school night, so you have to structure your time like a ride worker at Disney (yes, it’s chaos). You may have to say your spiel multiple times to different waves of parents. If so, have activity stations for parents (and possibly kids) to wander through and work on. Here are some ideas:
Write a Note
Have paper and envelopes at the ready and ask parents to write a note to their kids for the first day of school. Children can also write a note to their parents.
Make a Parent Checklist
Give parents a checklist of all they need to do and see while they are in your class. This could include:
Station #1: Sign in a meet the teacher.
Station #2: Drop off supplies/See the class wish list
Station #3: Write a letter
Station #4: Volunteer
If your back to school night follows the start of school, have parents try to identify a self-portrait of their child.
Let your parents get acquainted with the classroom in a fun way by organizing a scavenger hunt or bingo game. Post necessary information in various places around the classroom for the parents to find and check off.
Chose Your Seat
If you have back to school night with kids before the start of school, give them name tags and let them choose their seats for the first day of school.
Enlist children to help you make a back-to-school bulletin board. They each make something to contribute. You could make a goal board: “Tim wants to learn ____.” or have the students make a craft that you will later attach to the board.
Make a photo booth for parents and/or kids.
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?
Ask parents some general knowledge questions your children will learn this year as a fun opener.
Guess How Many
Fill a container with candy or a small school supply (like crayons or erasers or paperclips) and have parents and students guess how many. Winner gets a prize!
Find out useful (and fun) information about your kids from the ones who know them best. You can ask academic-related questions about the students (strengths and weaknesses), but you can also find out about their hobbies, interests, likes, and dislikes in the survey. This information is a goldmine for establishing rapport with your students or knowing how to hook in what they love to what they are learning.
Back to School Night Plans and Activities
Back to school night is a flurry of activity, but it’s a wonderful chance to connect with the families you’ll have this year. Set the stage for an amazing year with some of these back to school night activities.