Will Rogers once said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” which is one of the reasons we want to make our school’s Open House a huge success every year.
It is the first opportunity we have to get off on the right foot with our new group of students and their parents, so here are three ideas I use to help make the Open House experience successful for everyone involved.
1. Give Them a Mission!
It can be a scary time for students (and teachers), so I want to ensure we make everyone feel as comfortable as possible. To help avoid awkwardness, I have my new students do a scavenger hunt as they walk in. This hunt help give them purpose, which helps free me up to chat and take pictures.
One idea I’ve used on the scavenger hunt is to take “photo booth” pictures of the families. I bought three different brightly colored table cloths at the dollar store and I hung them up as a backdrop. Then I added the year on a large pencil I made out of bulletin board paper. It made an adorable memory for me to email home as a thank you for coming to Open House.
Another idea I’ve used is to display brochures my students from the year before made. I do this in the hopes that it alleves some anxiety. My new students can read what my former students said about me, my class and our school.
Click here to see my scavenger hunt checklist for families, and feel free to adapt it so you can use it in your own class.
2. Gather Information.
Typically for me, more parents come to Open House than any other school event throughout the year. I use this time that I have parents captive to get important information.
Parent communication is key for a successful year, and within minutes I can collect information that makes all of our lives easier for the rest of the year. I do this in two ways at Open House:
- Make a Google Form with a few questions for parents. I try to have several computers set up and I also make a QR code with the link for parents so they can fill it out from their phones if they prefer.
You want to keep this form simple–I only ask for names, numbers and emails (you can see mine here). I cannot stress how helpful this one form is for me. Even though it saves automatically, I still screenshot this for easy access for parent contact information.
One of the first things I do after open house is to copy and paste the parent emails to my address book. Having parents type these in has saved me hours of time deciphering handwriting over the years.
- Have parents sign up for the parent communication tool Remind. This is an amazing tool that helps bridge the gap between school and home. I simply display the instructions from the site and make it a part of the scavenger hunt, which really raises the participation rate compared to just sending the paper home. Plus I am there to assist with any technical difficulties.
3. Help Them Feel at Home.
This is going to be our home away from home for the next nine months. So something I used last year to make my classroom feel more like home was flexible seating. This was a huge success, as on any given day you would only find a few of my students sitting at an actual desk. They loved the chairs and couch I added. It was a privilege to use them and it really helped students stay on task.
Please know that doing this in your classroom does not need to break the bank–almost every piece of furniture I have is second-hand. Just let people know what you are looking for and they will help. My 17-year-old even called me to pick up the couch he saw on the side of the road (note: we did ask permission).
Another thing that can help students feel at home is to label their desk so they will feel comfortable in knowing where to go when they come in on their first day.
One last thing that can help in giving a warm welcome is to give a treat. I mean, really, who does not love something sweet? Two of the ideas I love are to make (oh who am I kidding? buy) cookies and add this poem to hand out with them. Or just buy a bag of mints and add this note. I have seen both of these be a big hit.
All of these things can help your new crew feel welcomed, but don’t forget that you are the most important part in helping your student feel wanted and loved. These are just a few simple steps that can help increase your chances for a great start to your school year. Remember, this is your first impression–make it great!
For more, see:
- 7 Ways to Build Better Relationships with Students
- 7 Game Changer EdTech Tools to Personalize Your Classroom
- 7 Things I Wish I Could Go Back and Tell My Not So Tech-Savvy Self
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