You report back to school on your first teacher work day and immediately are faced with the biggest to-do list. You have to get your classroom in working order after being packed up for the summer. You have to get new curriculum prepped and ready. You have to get a handle on your class list and anticipate any special needs. And perhaps the biggest, most imminent task to accomplish: the dreaded Open House!
This event goes by different names. Open House. Meet the Teacher. Kindergarten Round-up. Back to School Bash.
Whatever you call it, the stress level is the same. You have one opportunity to make a first impression, and this is it. You are presenting yourself, your teaching style, and your classroom.
Here are some tips and resources to make your open house more manageable, so you can breeze into the new school year! Enjoy!
- Keep it simple.
Yes, simple. You do not have to have everything pinterest-perfect. You do not have to have every poster on the wall or every book on the right shelf. Focus on the basics, the essentials, and leave the cute stuff for later.
The essentials to me were:
-nametags on cubbies/lockers and tables
-forms that needed to be filled out prepared and set out
-scavenger hunt ready to go (see below for more info)
-small gift in student cubbies/lockers (see below for more info)
-boxes and bins generally put away
That’s it. No need to put your whole philosophy of education into a formal letter. No need to coordinate themed posters and name tags. No need to clean out every shelf. Keep it simple.
- Have something for students and parents to accomplish.
Sometimes an open house gets a little too… open. Do you know what I mean? Parents and students wander around, wondering what to do, hoping for their questions to be answered. To keep some focus, I always prepare a scavenger hunt for families to complete together. You can access my scavenger hunt on my Teachers Pay Teacher store and edit it to your specific needs.
Some of the items they will be asked to check off include:
-finding their desk and cubby
-filling out the necessary forms
-finding the important places in the building- bathrooms, office, nurse, etc.
How I use this is so helpful. I stand by the door and greet families, introducing myself. Then I hand each family a scavenger hunt and say this is what I hope they accomplish tonight, and that I am available for any questions. Then, off they go, scavenger hunt in hand, to do all their tasks. I see them about 20 minutes later, and get a chance to connect, answer questions, and say goodbye.
- Forms, forms, forms
Yes, I know this seems to go against my “Keep It Simple” step, but unfortunately it is usually a necessary evil. I have always counted on open house time to get a jump on the forms. Each school has their own specific forms they need to fill out. But there are two general ones I always like to have parents fill out, so I can know some information before the first day.
– Bussing. There is nothing more stressful to me than not knowing where a student is going at the end of the day. We had a lot of students who had alternating schedules (Monday and Wednesday they go to Spanish, Tuesday and Thursday they go to the afterschool program, Friday they are picked up.) I always had to have a clear way of knowing where everyone was going. I used this bussing schedule and the parents could fill it out before school started.
-Birthdays. There is always a kid with a birthday either the first week or the second week of school. I need a heads up for this or it might get lost in the business of the first few weeks! I have parents fill out these little birthday cake cards to help me. They are handy because they fit perfectly into a regular calendar pocket chart, so you can save them and use them for the child’s birthday month.
- Prepare for their questions.
There is a lot of anxiety around starting a new school year for both kids and parents. One way you can alleviate the stress is by preemptively answering their most pressing questions.
– “What is our specialist schedule?” So glad you asked! Here is a handy schedule you can keep on your fridge!
– “What does a typical day look like?” How did I know you were going to ask that? Here’s an hour-by-hour break down of a typical day!
-“ What about lunch?” I know that’s going to be the most exciting time of the day! So here’s your lunch number and a handy keypad handout so you can practice punching it in at home!
Now, don’t you look like such a prepared teacher?!
- Give a gift
It is fun to send the students off with a little gift so they can remember you and get excited about being in your class. I have done many different gifts over the years. One year my team felt ambitious and melted old crayons into new number-shaped crayons and gave each kid their room number in crayons. Tons of work, but a super cute gift!
Another year, we simply gave each student bubbles and a note saying something like “I’m going to pop with excitement to have you in my class!”
This is another fun gift. I print this out and attach it to a small gift bag filled with a pencil, eraser, Band-Aid, sticker, and Smartie candy. The note has a cute saying for each item. For example, with the eraser, it says “We will make mistakes, but we will try again!”.
You could make personalized pencils or treat bags. Anything to get the year off to a great start!
Here you go! You’re ready! I hope this helps you enjoy, and not stress, about your open house!