Depending on the format of your school’s Back-to-School Night, planning out your evening meeting parents can be tough.
Some schools follow an open house format where parents are free to roam the halls of the campus and pop into their child’s classroom at any given point during the evening. Other schools follow a more structured Back-to-School Night format that mimics the day’s bell schedule.
I’ve worked at schools that followed both types of formats, and there are pros and cons to each format.
My current school follows the school’s bell schedule for Back-to-School Night. After the initial presentation at the start of the night, parents go to each of their child’s classes for a ten-minutes, and they also have a seven-minute passing period to make it from one class to the next.
To prep the room for Back-to-School Night, I always make sure that I clean up my room, put student work up on the walls, and display the textbooks, close readers, and novels that we will be using throughout the year. I also purchase (Amazon affiliate links) blank notecards and Sharpies for the parents so they could write an inspirational note to their child. I collect the notes at the end and hand them out throughout the year. For my students whose parents don’t come to Back-to-School Night, I write them an encouraging note to hand out during the year. The student note idea is always a huge hit, and I feel like the parents enjoy it.
I also create a parent folder in my Google Drive, and I share that folder with a bitly link. The folder contains a digital version of my syllabus and my Google Docs planning calendar which has hyperlinks to classroom assignments and notes.
Usually, I prepare a Google Slides presentation for the parents that informs the parents about the class, the various accounts we use, and my classroom policies. However, this always feels a bit awkward to me, and I feel like the parents sit down to almost identical presentations for all six classes.
So, this year, I switched it up. I played Kahoot with my parents instead of running through a Google Slides presentation with them. And while I liked it and feel like it was a success, I am not entirely sure if I will keep that format for next year.
While I loved the gamification of Back-to-School Night, I feel like I lost out on some of the personal connections with parents that Back-to-School Night fosters. Between classes, I was busy resetting the game and loading the new code for parents rather than walking the parents out of the door and greeting the new batch of parents at the door. It felt a bit rushed.
However, I enjoyed the interactive format of the Kahoot. After each question, I explained a little bit about the information. It was more engaging for parents, and it facilitated an active, rather than passive, presentation. However, I did not anticipate some parents running out the time by not answering questions, so it took longer than I was hoping. During some questions, it felt like I was waiting for the results to show. An easy fix for this would limit all of the questions to 10 seconds rather than 20.
I also loaded too many questions in my presentation. Per the issue I encountered above, and also it takes a bit longer than I anticipated for parents to log in, I didn’t get the timing just right. I didn’t get to all of the questions, and I feel like some of the parents missed out on important information. If I choose to do this in the future, I think I would limit it to the most essential 5-7 questions. I think I had nearly 13 questions, and that was too many for the 10-minute time I had per class. Also, I would take out all of the personal questions if I were to do another Kahoot for Back-to-School Night. While I liked sharing that information, it wasn’t vitally important for parents to know.
My Kahoot Questions
- From which institution did I receive my Bachelor’s degree?
- From which institution did I earn my Master’s degree?
- How long have I been teaching at this school?
- Do I accept late work?
- How can students submit late work?
- What is the timeframe for late work?
- How much is late work worth?
- Where can students find what they missed when they were absent?
- True or False: Students have a new vocabulary assignment every week.
- True or False: Students have a new grammar assignment every week.
- True or False: I am available to meet with students most days before or after school.
- True or False: I allow essay resubmissions.
- What is the best way to get in contact with me?
- Did you enjoy this Kahoot presentation?
So, I’m really torn on how it went. On the one hand, I think it went well, and playing Kahoot enabled me to run my Back-to-School sessions more like how I run my classroom: casual, engaging, and interactive. I also felt like I wasn’t talking at my parents the entire night, which is a positive. On the other hand, I felt like I didn’t make the same connections with parents as I had done it the past. I’m not entirely throwing Kahoot out for Back-to-School Night; however, if I move forward with it for next school year, I’ll be making some changes.
Lessons for the Beginning of the Year