Every year in September, I dread having to stand up in front of the parents in my room and talk at them for 30 minutes for our school open house (or curriculum night or back to school night- it has so many different names! But just to clarify, our school open house is an adults only presentation). I hated feeling rushed to get through everything I wanted to tell them. I was nervous talking in front of them, even though I talk in front of their children all day, and I just kept thinking, “This isn’t me. This isn’t how I like to teach. I hate this”.
After giving some professional development to teachers, I thought why can’t I do this type of teaching with the parents in my room? Why do I have to do it this way if I hate it? So, I didn’t. I decided to change my curriculum night to become interactive stations and I loved the change so much.
General School Open House Logistics
I decided to do seven different stations for my families to showcase different aspects of the learning their children will do in kindergarten to really understand what kindergarten looks like today. I also wanted to model how I teach their children in the workshop model – a quick mini-lesson and then independent and group practice and exploration time.
However, the way my school open house is set up, parents have almost a 15 minutes arrival time before the night actually begins. This means that I have them start their stations as soon as they arrive and then once everyone is there, I pause to do a quick “mini-lesson” on who I am as a teacher and how the night will go. I have each family pick up a folder to get a checklist of the different stations to experience and to collect any handouts they are interested in. In the background I have a video playing on repeat of the day in the life of kindergarten, which was made from various years to show what reading really looks like, what math really looks like, etc.
I made all the signs that you see in the pictures in this post. They are all available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store and are editable so that you make the stations fit to your needs.
School Open House Classroom To-Do’s
I have several sign-ups and notices that I want to make sure every family completes while we are in the same room. The first is our Hopes and Dreams. My students complete these at the beginning of the year, and I thought, why not have my families do this too? I want to know what their hopes and dreams are for their child for kindergarten so I can best support them. I love reading these over.
The second activity that I want everyone to do is to take a sticky note and write a note for their child for the next day. I have them put it on their desk nametag. Just a quick little message to say, “I loved your classroom, have a great year in kindergarten,” etc. What if someone’s parent doesn’t come? I go around and check at the end of the night that everyone has a note on their desk, and if they don’t, I write one. All the students feel so special when they find a note on their desk the next day.
Then I have them check that they have all their back to school forms completed and I have out a volunteer sign up. The volunteer options in my room are for teaching about family traditions and holidays (one of our social studies standards) and for making playdough for the classroom. Other volunteer options throughout the year, but not listed at back to school night, are party volunteers or seasonal nature walk volunteers. If you use playdough in your classroom, I strongly recommend asking parents to pick a month to make a batch of homemade playdough. This is the recipe that I like the best. Is last so long and the kids love the texture of it. Plus having a new batch every month keeps it fresh!
Class Books Station
I always want to have out student work for parents at the school open house, but a lot of the work we do focuses on the process and doesn’t actually make a product (like reading in their books, playing math games, etc). But I always make class books with my students (check out this blog post to learn more) so I put those out so that the parents can read them and enjoy the class’s products.
In the reading station, I want my families to look at our library and see what typical grade-level texts are like so that they know what to look for in books at the store or library. I also have out a handout about supporting kindergarten reading at home. All the handouts that I have out at the school open house are ones I have found over the years from curriculum resources, colleagues, and teachers pay teachers.
At the writing station I want parents to see all the different genres of writing we will be doing during the year, so I put out different mentor texts. There is also a handout on supporting writing at home.
In my classroom, math is mostly taught and practiced through games, which is different than the traditional style of math instruction with worksheets. I want parents to see different types of games that we have, the most common ones. This will help them visualize what their children are saying when they talk about the math games at home. I also have out math tools that we use and handouts so they can see how to support their child at home.
Science and Social Studies Station
Similar to the writing station, I want parents to see the topics that we will be covering this year, so I put out mentor texts. I think this year I will add a notice-wonder, similar to what I use with the children throughout the year.
Social-emotional learning is a huge part of teaching kindergarten, in my opinion. I want to show parents that I hold it in the same importance as teaching reading and writing and math (see this blog post for more on how I teach social emotional learning). On the table, I have out a bunch of social emotional read alouds (see this blog post for a list of my favorite social emotional read alouds) as well as some parent resource books, like Yardsticks from Responsive Classroom. I also have out the different theme posters and goals for our social emotional learning throughout the year (see my social emotional curriculum and theme posters here). And I include a handout for supporting social emotional learning at home. This year I will probably include some of the tools from our control spot, or calm-down corner.
Overall my parents loved this new set-up for our school open house (curriculum night/back to school) night. And I loved it too. I have never felt so relaxed during the school open house! The parents really got a good visual and understanding of what their children will learn in their kindergarten year.