Back to School: Meet the Teacher/Open House

It's back to school time and time to meet your families.  Every school does things a little differently.  Our school has always done an Open House night a few weeks into school when parents and children come in to see the classroom together.  This night is the first time teachers meet the families, but it is obviously not the first time the teachers meet the students since they've been in school for a couple weeks.  It wasn't until I moved to Kindergarten that we did a Meet the Teacher day (sometimes called Back to School Night), but we just call it Kindergarten Orientation.  This is a day the week before school starts when parents and students come in to meet the teacher, see the classroom, ease some nerves, and spark the anticipation.  Because this is Kindergarten, this is the first time these little ones are likely going to see the school and classroom, too.  There are so many questions that need to be answered, but of course, not time enough to answer them all face to face.  Therefore, I knew I needed to prepare the classroom for families to be able to move around, check things out, but also take care of business.  

My first step in planning out my day was to make a list of all the pieces I would need and want for this day to run smoothly.  
* Collect information for my purposes
* Distribute information to parents
* Time to explore the classroom and school
* A way to collect the classroom supplies that are brought in
* Something FUN for my students

Step 1: What information do I need to collect from parents?

* Sign-in sheet so I know who attended in case they slip in and out quickly.
* Transportation Information - how will the child go home from school?
* Student Information - This is one thing that I really love getting from parents.  I love starting the year off with a picture of each child through the eyes of their parents.  It gives me something to go from as I get to know them, but it also tells me about the parents and what they view as important.  
* Classroom Volunteers - If there are any parents of family members that would be able to volunteer in the classroom. 


Step 2: What information do I need to distribute to parents?

* Information about me to introduce myself
* Information about the school
* Information about Kindergarten (or whatever grade level you teach)
* Information about my classroom


I wanted the information about our school and classroom to all be in one place, so I created this booklet to give out to parents.  It includes tabs about our schedule, communication/contact information, school information, classroom information, and curriculum information.  At first I thought this might be time consuming to put together, but it really wasn't bad.  It probably took me about 20 minutes to get them all together once I printed them out.  First, I cut the tabs out (I cut about 4-5 pages at a time to speed things up).  Then, I set up an assembly line so I could grab all the papers and staple them together.  I was SO happy with how they came out and got tons of compliments from parents and other teachers about them -- the time put in was well worth it!

Once I had all the papers to give out, I put them all into a folder.  I labeled one side with RETURN to school and the other with KEEP at home, so it was very obvious what parents needed to do.  Again -- very much worth the time put in to create the folders.  This helped keep parents organized and myself organized as papers started coming in.  


Step 3: How can I help my families explore our classroom and our school? 

It's definitely a good idea to give families a guideline for what they might want to check out while they are there.  Not only is this helpful so they can really get to know the school, it also keeps them from just standing around in the classroom or even worse -- taking things off the shelves to play with.  And instead of just calling it a checklist, I called it a Scavenger Hunt, which of course makes it MUCH more exciting!  :-) 

Step 4: How can I collect classroom supplies in an organized way?

I used to just have parents put all of their child's supplies in their cubbies and I would sort through it later.  WHY would I do that when it is so much easier for them to sort it out as they drop it off?  You know, it's sometimes embarrassing when it takes many years of teaching and doing something one way to realize there is a much better way to do it.  Face---meet----palm!  So, I took some of my many bins and crates and placed labels on them so all the supplies could be sorted right from the get go.  You can only imagine how much time this saved me!  

Step 5: What's something FUN I can give to my new students to get them excited to come on the first day?

The most important thing for me on this day is to meet ALL of my new students and to get them excited for school to start.  I like to give a little gift for them to take with them as they leave.  Here are some of the things I have given over the years.  

The last couple years I have had peanut allergies in my classroom, so I've stuck with the bubbles to be safe.  I also leave out a coloring page to either work on there or take with them.


Some years I've attached balloons to the gift.  Balloons are a HUGE crowd pleaser!  


But this past year I had a child with a latex allergy, so no balloons.

One more thing I've done in the past (when allergies aren't a concern) is have some cookies out for families to enjoy.  

And just one more thing for fun --- set up a photo booth for kids and families to take pictures!  For this, I reused a wall decoration I had purchased from Party City for my daughter's Under the Sea birthday party.  I hung it on the wall and had photo props for the kids to hold.  

The only thing I haven't mentioned yet are the signs and table tents I use around the classroom to direct everyone where to go.  I use them both -- signs on the wall and table tents on the tables.  This sets up different Stations for the families to visit so they know when they have finished everything.  

So there it is!  After years of being much less organized, I have finally found a great way to set up and pull off a Meet the Teacher night that will knock their socks off!  If you are interested in any of the ideas you see here, you can check out my EDITABLE Meet the Teacher pack by clicking below.  Just about everything in this pack is editable so you can make it your own and make it fit your needs.  

And if you are looking for any other items as you get ready for Back to School, here are some of the things I use to survive the beginning of the year!