open house

5 Tips for Having an Outstanding Open House

Open houses tend to be informative, but are often dry and a bit monotonous. Engage parents by shaking up this year’s open house!

For both parents and teachers, open house can be a night that is dreaded. Families are herded from classroom to classroom, listening to the same boring speech about rules, expectations, and the syllabus. Teachers are repeating themselves and talking quickly as they watch the clock. Often both are left wishing they had made better connections or representations of the class. Why stick to the same script year after year? Shake things up and make open house a valuable experience for everyone!

1. Get Parents Thinking

open houseModel how you get your students engaged by presenting parents with a mini PBL or genius hour during open house! Present a driving question and allow parents to get to work solving the problem. A fun way to do this could be the Marshmallow Challenge. I love using this activity with families to discuss encouraging perseverance and risk taking.

2. Make a Gallery Walk

Rather than sharing the units you will cover this year in a rehearsed speech, set up stations around the room for open house. This could include tri-fold posters of student work, mini lab activities, hands-on materials, posters, and any other eye-catching display. This will allow parents to move around your room, socialize, and break any tension. Stand in one place in the natural rotation of this gallery walk so that parents have an opportunity to say hello. This causal atmosphere will be a welcome change for all involved.

open house

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

3. Break Down Walls

Open house is a wonderful opportunity to talk about your subject area and any negative feelings parents may have due to past experiences. Create an open discussion and share how this can impact their students. You may even want to extend this discussion to include fixed versus growth mindset and Amazon’s With Math I Can initiative. This is a great way to set up students for success starting at home.

4. Ask for Help

In middle and high school, parents aren’t always as involved as they were in elementary school. Sometimes this is just because they don’t know what they can do! Open house presents an opportunity to ask for help. Share some projects you need funded on sites like Donors Choose. Post supplies you need in your classroom on sticky notes, and encourage parents to grab one on the way out. Ask for parents to come in to your classroom to share their expertise. Creating opportunities for parents to feel they can contribute to your classroom will build positive relationships for the rest of the year.

open house5. Keep the Conversation Going

Be sure to end open house by keeping the lines of communication open. Share how to best get in touch with you, along with your classroom webpage. A great way to keep parents up to date is with Remind. Check out more ideas on how to communicate with your parents here.

Don’t let open house be a bore this year. Move away from the traditional syllabus reading and try out one of these ideas. Show your parents just how engaging your classroom can be. This will make the night more valuable for everyone involved!

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Alexandra D. Owens

Alexandra Owens is a STEM Education consultant based in Charleston, SC. She taught middle school science for many years and is now completing her doctorate in STEM Education at Texas Tech University.
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