Friday, 16 September 2011 17:45

Back to School Night (Teaching Tip #41)

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This Teaching Tip is the second in my new “Starting the School Year in Style” series.

A Back to School Night presentation is like the State of the Union address the President delivers to the nation at the beginning of each year.  It is a chance to speak with a sense of optimism and articulate a compelling vision of the upcoming year.  Because your presentation provides such a strong introduction to the school year, it is important to have as many parents there to hear it as possible.  Do whatever you can to maximize turnout.

  Use the evening to emphasize the major ideas you introduced in your First Day Letter (Teaching Tip #2). A sample First Day Letter can be found in the Classroom Resources section of this website.  

Present your classroom aim (see this week’s blog post) and explain how it drives what you do in the classroom.  Share your Class Mission Statement and discuss the results of your first Enthusiasm Survey.  Present your year-end student goals so that parents understand what you expect of their children and how you will assess them.  Also, discuss the major emphases of the curriculum, the classroom management system, your home-school communication system, homework policy, and any other issues of special interest or importance to you.  

Be sure to leave time for questions because many of these ideas will be new to parents and may require further clarification.  By focusing on high priority issues, you will make a strong impression on those parents whom you are meeting for the first time.

Here are some other tips for getting the most out of this evening.

• Prepare for the parents a folder of handouts that includes copies of all the information you share that evening (e.g., Class Mission Statement, student goals, Enthusiasm Survey results).  These handouts will make it easier for everyone to follow along with your presentation.  Also, by putting the students’ names on the folders, you can take attendance for the evening by seeing which folders remain at the end.  (You will want to have a sign-in sheet, as well.)

• Post a parent volunteer sign-up sheet on the wall so you can recruit willing workers.

• Be careful about offering specific information about individual students to any parents.  With so many people around, this isn’t the time for in-depth, one-on-one conversations, and you don’t want to say something you might later regret.  If parents ask you about their child, offer to schedule a private meeting so you can have an opportunity to talk in a less congested atmosphere.

• Have student-created nametags waiting for the parents as they enter the room.  Placing the nametags on the students’ desks enables parents to see where their children sit each day.

• Simulate an actual school day as much as possible so that parents can appreciate what it feels like to be a student in your class.  For example, if music is playing each morning as the students arrive in class, play music as the parents arrive.  Little touches matter.

• Start off the evening with a brief ice-breaking activity to build camaraderie among the parents.

• Attach a sentence to the bottom of your next newsletter thanking the parents for attending.

New Teaching Tips appear every Sunday of the school year.