Once again, summer went by in a flash, and here you are, ready to head back to school once again. With the start of school comes back-to-school nights, meet-the-teacher days, and open house events. These are a fantastic opportunity for teachers to get to know students and their families, and vice versa. The whole situation can sometimes feel a bit stressful, though. Fortunately, these 19 back-to-school-night ideas and tips will make the experience fun, easy, and meaningful for everyone involved. Take a deep breath … it’s time to dive in!
1. Set up a series of stations.
Back-to-school night is a time to gather information from parents, let kids see their classroom and desks, drop off supplies, and more. There can be a lot to get done in a short amount of time, so set up clearly numbered stations to make it easy for parents and kids to see and do it all.
2. Provide a back-to-school-night checklist.
Give parents (or kids) a checklist when they walk in the door. This way, they can do the stations out of order and remember which ones they’ve been to and which they haven’t.
3. Make it easy to collect papers.
Oh, the paperwork! As parents turn things in, have baskets ready to accept each form. This will save you time sorting things later on.
4. Create teacher contact info magnets.
Got business cards? Stick a magnet to the back and hand out them out. This way, parents can stick one to the fridge at home rather than tossing the card in a desk drawer and never seeing it again. (See more clever ways to use magnets in your classroom here.)
5. Put together a flip-book to send home.
There’s so much information for parents and kids to absorb at back-to-school night. Rather than handing out a stack of papers that can be lost, assemble everything into a simple flip-book that keeps everything all in one place. It’ll take some work up front, but you can use it year after year. Get a free flip-book template here.
6. Help parents and students get to know you.
For most kids, the most important part of back-to-school night is getting to meet their teacher. Put together a brief but informative letter that lets families know a little more about you and your teaching style. Here’s how to make your meet-the-teacher letter absolutely amazing.
7. Send them on a scavenger hunt.
Exploring the classroom is always fun. Make it a targeted activity with a scavenger hunt kids can complete with their parents. Include important parts of the classroom and even the school itself, like bathrooms, the lunch room, and more.
8. Let students choose their seats …
“Where will I sit?” It’s a question on every kid’s mind. If you’re feeling up to it, let them choose their own seats (you can always change them after a few days if needed) by putting out name tags for them to use. They can drop off their supplies at their chosen desk too.
9. … or help them find their seats.
If you’d rather choose your students’ seats in advance, make sure it’s easy for them to find their place. We love this teacher’s idea of using balloons, which kids can take home with them when they go.
10. Find out what kids want to learn this year.
You’ll be the coolest teacher ever right from the start when you let them write on their desks! Use dry-erase marker to write their names followed by “wants to learn.” Have kids fill in the blank when they find their seats.
11. Create a back-to-school-night photo booth.
Back-to-school-night photo booths are always a big hit. They don’t necessarily need to be fancy; just a few props and a sign indicating the school, grade, and year can do it. Tip: Have parents text you the photo they take of their child, and you can easily build your parent contact list on your phone.
12. Share your wish list with parents.
It’s no secret that teachers get stuck buying a lot of their own supplies. If it seems appropriate, ask parents to help you out. The Giving Tree is a fun way to make your wish list known.
13. Collect and sort communal supplies.
Don’t wind up with a pile of bags full of supplies you have to sort at the end of the night. Instead, have a series of boxes or bins for parents to drop off any communal classroom supplies, one by one. (Wind up with too much of one thing and not enough of another? Get tips for managing classroom supplies here.)
14. Learn what your students need from their teacher.
Kids or their parents can answer this question, giving you a heads-up about what the students in your class need in the year ahead. (Sticky notes are amazing in the classroom; click here to see why.)
15. Have parents write their kids an encouraging note.
How sweet is this idea? Tuck these parent notes away for a day when a student needs a little extra encouragement or motivation.
16. Give parents tips on helping their students succeed.
Back-to-school night is also a good time to help parents understand what they can do to support their child in the year ahead. Try the free reading tips brochure available here or put together your own suggestions for ways parents can help their kids with this year’s goals.
17. A-maze them with a fun back-to-school-night gift.
A take-home gift isn’t necessary, but Pinterest is chock-full of ideas. There’s no need for gifts to be expensive; even a pencil with a cheerful note attached is enough to say, “I’m glad you’re in my class!”
18. Thank parents for their commit-“mint.”
Parents will appreciate a little something too. Snacks are nice, but can be expensive. A bowl of mints will set you back just a couple of bucks!
19. Get them excited for the year to come.
Before they leave, have kids and parents share what they’re looking forward to in the year ahead. Keep it up for the first day of school as a reminder of all you’re about to share together.
Come share your back-to-school night ideas in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
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