Saturday, 21 May 2011 17:45

Tip #36: Open House

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My school will be hosting its annual Open House soon, and I thought I would share some ideas this week about this important annual event.

I have mixed feelings about Open House.  On one hand, I believe it can be a valuable opportunity for teachers and students to display with pride the work they’ve done during the preceding months.  On the other hand, Open House often becomes a big show, a form of end-of-the-line inspection where visitors walk through your room to evaluate you and your students.

At its best, Open House shows the school community what you are all about.  Visitors learn about your aim, mission, goals, and what you did to bring these ideas to life.  There is a sense of celebration and accomplishment in the air as you and your students highlight the quality work you did together.  

At its worst, Open House resembles a fashion show.  An emphasis on making things look good overrides any attempt to inform observers about the important work that occurred in the classroom.  Too often, an informal competition develops as to who has the most attractive bulletin boards or the most attention-getting art projects.

For Open House to be as authentic and meaningful as possible, I make sure that everything on display arises naturally from class units and projects and represents an honest glimpse of the thinking and learning that occur in our classroom on a daily basis.  I frown upon special art projects that look great but that were created specifically for this occasion and have no connection to any larger project or unit of study.

In addition, I suggest accompanying each piece of work with a summary sheet describing the nature of the unit it represents, listing the skills and standards the kids learned during the unit, and explaining how the project promotes your larger goals and priorities and, perhaps, how the project furthers your class mission.  That way, parents and other visitors can gain a deeper sense of the thinking that occurs behind the scenes and beneath the surface.

New Teaching Tips appear every Sunday of the school year.