Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Open House

Open House makes many a new teacher shake in her shoes! All those eyes looking at you - so how can you make the experience less stressful? Below are suggestions from some veteran teachers.

Suggestions from 5th Grade teacher Tom Ruark: By far, the most productive Open House "routine" that has worked for me, as a math teacher, is to have the parents participate in a scaled down version of our Math Workshop. I have a Problem Of the Day (probably Every Day Counts Calendar Math) activity followed by a Math Investigations mini-lesson and accompanying student sheet. I advise the kids that they cannot do the work for their parents, but that they may help if their folks get stuck.

This allows the less "needy" parents to work with their kids in a real math environment, and allows the more "needy" parents to search me out and ask questions that allay most of their fears. At any rate, most seem to like this operation (they would stay for hours if we let them:-} ), and those who don't leave without saying a word, which always leaves me feeling great. I have officially entitled this "A Day in the Life".

From 3rd grade team teacher Jenny Nash: We usually send the children on a scavenger hunt or guided tour of sorts through our classrooms. However, there is one thing I wanted to share. I take this time to teach a little manners and social skills to my students. We have a lesson the day of Open House on introductions. (One of the items on their agendas/tours is to introduce their parents to me.) We role play in the classroom and I, of course, get silly and encourage them to introduce me as the best teacher in the whole world, etc. But on a serious note, I teach them the concept of waiting politely when I'm engaged in a conversation with another family, using eye contact and proper hand gestures, introductory language ("I'd like you to meet..."), what names to call adults by, what details to include in a personal introduction, etc. I LOVE DOING THIS. First of all, I think this is an area MAJORLY lacking in our children today (appropriate social manners). Secondly, I love to see the students pride in themselves when they have the opportunity to shine in front of their parents that night! Just a little touch from the mommy (and traditional, Southern girl) in me! :)

From 2nd grade co-teacher Vicky Sharpe: Brooke Brown and I usually do a video, "A Day in the Life of Your Second Grader". It has all the kids in it singing their transition songs and explaining what they do in all their workshops. We also have Eric Blair put the opening of the announcements at the beginning. The parents love that! Before the video, we have all the students come down to their carpet spot. They know the CHAMPs for the carpet and will be much better behaved. After the video each child has a check sheet at their desk which tells them all of the places to go and look in the classroom and also items and work to show their parents in their desk. Usually after this, open house is over! It is easy and fun for the kids! The parents love to hear what the kids are doing from the kids themselves. :) Brooke and I roam around the room helping out with anything that we may need to and talking to the parents.

From 3rd grade co-teachers Cheryl Chascin and Cynthia Rice: For the past several years we have created a PowerPoint slide show of a typical students' day. We begin taking pictures on the first day of school and try to keep a camera at the ready for photos of the students in action. We even include recess and lunch. Parents love seeing their children working and enjoying school. They are often amazed that we fit so much academic time into the school day and cover so many subjects. The best part about this is that we don't have to talk too much - just a brief introduction and a question and answer at the end. We get to stand back and watch the smiling faces of the parents. The kids get a kick out of seeing themselves, too. One thing we learned the first year we did this was to preview the slide show in school with the kids before Open House. That first year, the student reaction to the slide show was so vocal that it disturbed the Open House happening in the class next door!

I hope one of the things that you noticed in all these suggestions is that the teacher is NOT at the front of the room doing all the talking! Now, that's the way to relieve the stress!


Anonymous said...

Great ideas! I love getting the "peek" into the creative minds (& Open Houses) of my colleagues. I can see incorporating many of your suggestions in my Open House! Thanks for sharing!

Patti Bass

Anonymous said...

This is a stress-relieving blog :D!
Thank you!

Rachel Bridges

Mrs. Nash said...

Here are some added thoughts...I'm revising some things this year. I truly enjoy allowing the students to be the stars at open house, but I wonder, too, how accurate their descriptions/explanations are for their parents. So, I've decided to prepare my students for open house this year via a carousel activity. Each table will get a blank chart with a topic, such as "reader's workshop", "standards", "CHAMPs", etc. They'll get x number of minutes to brainstorm and record what they know about their topics. Then, the groups (or charts) will rotate. They'll have to first review and discuss what the other group listed and then add to it in their own, unique to their table, color marker. After each group has had a chance with each chart, we'll discuss/share as a whole group. I might also choose to display these charts around the room for open house -- as an artifact for parents to see the ideas that were generated from their children.

Finally, I've had a few parents tell me they've been reading our class blog. However, just yesterday a mother told me that she has only been reading once a week -- on the weekends -- and found this week that she could have had some questions answered had she read it mid week, too. (I've been trying to post more days than not.) SOOOO...I'm adding to the student tour sheet that the students help their parents SUBSCRIBE to my blog using the classroom PCs (I'll teach the students how to do this and leave a step-by-step guide at the computer). BINGO! Kill two birds with one stone! :)