Back to School Night can be somewhat overwhelming and dry for teachers and families.  Teachers try to squeeze as much information as possible into a brief period of time, while trying to meet new students and answering parent questions.  But you don’t have to focus on just school business during this time.  Instead, have some handouts and packets ready for parents to grab, carve out a short time for some Q&A, and then start having some fun with students and their families.  We’ve compiled a list of some ideas that will have you, your students, and their parents excited about the upcoming school year!

Scavenger Hunt (Angela Watson – The Cornerstone for Teachers)
Families can complete this activity while they wait for you to begin the presentation, and/or afterward while they wait to talk to you. One parent sent me an email afterward saying how much she enjoyed it because she had a purpose in walking around the room and knew what she was looking at.  The scavenger hunt can end with the parent at the child’s desk, waiting for you to begin talking.

Guessing Games (Livestrong.com)
Guessing games add an entertaining twist while helping parents get to know the teacher and classroom better. A bulletin board display with pictures of teachers as babies or kids is a classic game option. The parents try to match the teacher with the childhood picture. If the open house happens after school starts, the kids can get involved in the game. Each child draws a self-portrait for display. Each parent tries to guess which self-portrait belongs to her child.

Parent Bingo (SignUp.com)
Create a BINGO card with slots full of things parents have done relating to school and have them try to get BINGO by finding other parents in the classroom that can initial off each slot. For example, one slot on the card can have “Majored in business.”

Name Alliteration Game (SignUp.com)
Go around the room and ask parents to say their name accompanied with an adjective using alliteration (i.e. Marvelous Miranda). After each person says his or her name, the next person has to recite every person prior to him or her and build to the chain of introductions.

Student/Parent Journal Entry (Angela Watson – The Cornerstone for Teachers)
The kids write on a topic such as “The Hardest Part/Best Part of Being a Kid”.  They then set up the page across from that page with the title, “The Hardest Part/Best Part of Being a Parent”.  The families complete the journal entry at Back-To-School night and children read them in the morning.  (Have another morning warm-up for kids whose parents did not come.)  This is a good activity if you use journals and workbooks a lot: it lets parents see how much work the child is doing in class, even though it may not all come home because it’s not on loose-leaf paper.  Be aware that some parents may not feel comfortable with their own reading or writing skills or may be preoccupied with their young children or the papers you have handed them, and may not take part.  I have had moderate success with this activity in that regard, but the parents who did do the journal entry absolutely raved about it.

Parent Quiz (SignUp.com)
Create a small quiz relating to the designated class and have parents participate by testing their knowledge on the subject.  Make it extra fun by having the students grade it.

Academic Games (Livestrong.com)
An academic theme to the games allows the teacher to introduce some of the concepts she’ll teach in class. If estimation is on the schedule for math class, an estimation game with objects in a jar is an option. The parents use estimation skills to guess how many of the object are in the container. For a language game, parents might receive letter tiles to make as many different words as possible using only those letters. If the teacher uses games in the classroom to teach concepts to the kids, those games can go out during the back-to-school night for parents to play.

Significant Item (SignUp.com)
Ask parents to look into their handbag or wallet and ask them to choose something significant to them. Then they have to share why that item is significant to them with others.

What are your tricks to get students and families feeling eager about the new school year?

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