We just had our Back-to-School Night here in northern California, and I deem it successful for a variety of reasons.
First, families met their students’ teachers to find out what they can expect for their children and how they can help at home. Since I teach sixth grade at a middle school, students have several teachers. As a staff, we decided on two different settings for the families. First, we all meet in the gym where our principal introduces the staff by grade level and then gives out information important to all families.
Make it easy for families
From there, the grade level teams go to different locations and we rotate presentations. Since sixth grade is the first year in middle school and we get most of the parents, we stay in the gym and give a whole-grade presentation. Each teacher speaks on a different component of a student’s experience at our grade level. We keep it short and sweet, which is key for success.
During this time, the seventh grade teachers are in their individual classrooms meeting up with families. Their presentation begins when ours ends. This happens again for our eighth grade teachers. This way, families who have more than one student at our school can attend the presentations for all grade levels.
When we are not giving our group presentations, we are in our classrooms. Families are invited to spend the next 45 minutes visiting the classes their students have during the day. Typically, the teachers give a short presentation in their classrooms, and then families have time to ask questions and speak to the teachers individually. A second short presentation is given halfway through the evening as a new group meanders in to the room. For seventh and eighth grade, their classroom presentations are split by the team presentation in one room.
An additional event we host on our middle school campus is a sixth grade Meet and Greet. This is held the week before school starts. Every teacher on campus is on hand in the sixth grade wing. While sixth grade teachers are in their classrooms meeting families, the seventh and eighth grade teachers are passing out sixth grade student schedules, planners, and introducing themselves. Talk about a positive transition!! Families actually get to interact with almost every staff member on campus before their student has even entered their first year of middle school. We have seventh and eighth grade students on hand to tour families around campus and show incoming students the location of the classrooms noted on their schedules. Additionally, we have school sweatshirts and t-shirts on sale. We have information tables up for band, our PTO, P.E., bus route information, lunch and breakfast information, the counselors are there, and we have a table set up with examples of the supplies needed for the coming year. (Oh, and there’s music…always a bonus!) If you work at a middle school, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND hosting a Meet and Greet event.
Show Your Expertise
Regardless of the grade level, a key point not to be missed is to show your enthusiasm for the content you teach. Give the families a tidbit of the excitement that goes on in your room. Have a short blurb about a great lesson and a visual that goes along with it. This gives something positive for the families to discuss with their children.
Make Home-to-School Communication Easy and Inclusive
Families today are diverse. In my experience, many “Families” don’t include a parent. I like to honor all family situations by not using the term “Parent” in my handouts and notes. Instead, I use the term “Family”.
Have a sign-up sheet that is passed around as you speak. Families can let you know their email, phone number, and how they can help make this year a success. Since I have more than one class, I color code pens before a second group of families enters my room. This allows me to see which class their student is in. Here’s a freebie in my TPT store.
Ensure families that you want to make communication easy. Have your email address on the board, on the hand-out you give them, and on the sign-up list. I make sure they know how valued their presence is and that we want them on campus. Middle school students have been known to tell their families that their presence is not needed on the school campus. I do everything possible to dispel this myth.
Have Visual Content Up for Families
If possible, try to have some type of student-created work out for families to see. This brings an immediate connect, and they love milling around to check out what’s been going on in the classroom. In year’s past, I’ve had a hands-on activity out so families could interact with the curriculum. There are always a few who really want to absorb more of what their student is experiencing. Why not do everything possible to give them a sense of life in your classroom? Especially in the middle school setting, those first-year families are nervous about their student’s transition.
Back-to-School Night should help families feel a sense of comfort, so they will leave campus with the knowledge that their student is in good hands.
What successful strategies do you use for Back-to-School Night at your school?
Here’s to a great year,
Thanks to I Teach. What’s Your Superpower? for the graphics.