Back-to-school night, like the first day of school, can be a stressful time. You’re trying to get a lot of information across quickly, and it can feel like the only way to get that accomplished is by talking fast and furiously for the eight or so minutes you have with your rapidly moving parents.
A colorful presentation that you love is great, if that works for you, but if you’d prefer to go interactive, why not try stations? It takes a lot of pressure off you, and it’s easy to repeat in session after session without losing your voice or sweating through your fancy schmancy parent meeting clothes.
With stations, you can get parents up and moving around your classroom, get them the information they want, and even create a chance to chat and answer questions informally.
If you want to try this method, here’s how I’d break it down.
Have your stations set up around the room before parents enter. Throw a welcome slide up on the board with your name, a fun photo (or collage) from classes past, and your contact information. Once parents are all inside, welcome them and invite them to move around the room to the different stations, letting them know how much time they have to move around so they can pace accordingly.
At each station, they should find an obvious sign telling them what to do, as well as any supporting papers they need to pick up or fill out.
Here are some ideas for stations:
#1 Info Sheet + Q & A With you
At this station, parents can grab a paper with your name, course description, contact information, and a QR code that takes them to any website or LMS you’d like them to have access to. You can hang out here and chat with them, answering questions and getting to know them a bit.
#2 Slideshow + Examples of Student Work
At this station, set up a computer or iPad to run a digital slideshow of student work from past years. Scatter a few great projects here too. This will give parents a sense for the type of work their kids will do in your class.
#3 Tour the Library
Invite parents to browse the shelves in your library. Maybe they’ll find a title they once loved and it will inspire them to talk books with their students. By focusing on this important space in your classroom, they’ll realize that reading is going to be an integral part of your class.
#4 Learn how to Support Students
If there are certain things you wish parents would do, like set their kids up with a library card, ask them what they’re studying, remind them to leave their cell phones in their lockers, etc., create a station with these tips. Then leave out some post-its and invite parents to add their suggestions of what has worked well for them in supporting their child’s learning.
#5 Write a Note
At this station you could go one of two ways. Invite parents to write a note of encouragement to their child that you can then share at a key moment. Or invite parents to write you a note letting you know how they feel you can best reach their child. That might mean telling you about a project their child loved in the past, about their favorite books, about their favorite subjects, about important events in their lives that are impacting their school time, etc.
You can always add more stations or choose just a few of these. You could also pair the stations with a short talk from you at the beginning. There are lots of recipes for a successful parent night – just choose what makes you feel comfortable and confident introducing them to all the wonderful work their kids will be doing during the year with you.