Back-to-School Night is one of the most important nights of the school year for teachers. This is the night you get to make an impression on parents that sends the messages: “I will do a great job educating your child,” “You can trust me with your scholar,” “We are partners in your son/daughter’s academic success.”
These messages, which parents want to hear, should reassure them that their child is being well taken care of and getting an excellent education. To do this, you will need to plan thoroughly for the long-awaited Back-to-School Night. A picture-perfect classroom for this big night is a mix of a clean student-centered space with engaging parent activities and information presented in a fun and clear manner.
Here are my Back-to-School Night ideas—based on what I learned when I was a classroom teacher—on how to plan for a successful and memorable experience for parents.
Back-to-School Night Activities and Tips
1. Teacher Cards
This first tip I offer is simple—but I promise it’s worth doing! For Back-to-School Night, I always created what I refer to as teacher cards. These basically have the look, shape, and format of traditional business cards but with a twist for teachers. I listed my name, classroom number, and contact information like email, school phone number, and any apps or websites used for instruction (like Google Classroom). On the back of the card, I listed the times and hours I was available for tutoring, extra help, or parent conferences. These cards were colorful, engaging, and made my information easy and quick to hand out to parents during the sometimes madness of Back-to-School Night. The twist for teachers? I put magnets on the back of each teacher card, so that parents can place the business-like card on their refrigerator for easy and constant access!
Doing this made my information accessible to parents, family members, and guardians. Also, as a result of the constant reminder hung on the fridge, I heard from many parents—and often at that! This simple Back-to-School Night tip for teachers is a step in the direction of building relationships with the parents and guardians of the students you’re teaching.. When families and teachers are on the same team and in constant touch, student achievement is extremely likely. One more tip: make sure to use cardstock paper for your cards so that they are durable and hardy. And to ensure your teacher cards last all school year? Laminate them!
2. “On a Trip” Brochure
Learning is an adventure. A school year is a journey. This means that you need to share the trip you have planned for the students with their parents and family members. Just like a brochure would sell a destination trip to a customer, you need to “sell” the fun, engaging, and adventurous school year you have planned for students to their parents and family members.
In your brochure, make sure to highlight the themes and learning goals planned for each marking period as well as the major projects, benchmark assessments, and milestones. This way, parents and family members know what to expect, what to keep an “eye” out for, and when to jump in and help their kids on upcoming projects and tests! Another very important purpose of this brochure is to list the online resources that you plan to use throughout the year and that are available to students. This may include online textbook information, classroom login information for apps, and any platforms that will be used like Google Classroom. Be sure to also include the website addresses and any usernames or passwords where students will need to log in.
I also include pictures that I’ve taken from previous years (with the permission of the school and parents or guardians of former students). I aim to show groups of students working together and overall to simply illustrate the fun that the students will have in my classroom. The more laid out the “roadmap” is for parents, the more comfortable both they and their student will feel to jump right in and get on board!
3. Positive Family Notes
One of the most special activities for Back-to-School Night that I always made sure to include was what I called positive family notes. These notes are written by family members or parents for their student with motivating, positive, and encouraging words. Instead of using loose-leaf paper, I made several copies of letter templates ahead of time with fun patterns, pictures, and designs for family members and parents to write a loving note on. Doing this just makes the positive family note seem more special for both the family member and the student receiving the note.
Family members can write as many notes as they’d like for their student, which I would collect and keep at my desk. The best part of this Back-to School Night activity is that these notes are unknown to students! Students had no idea that I assigned this little project to their family members. I handed these notes to students throughout the school year when they seemed to be having a challenging day. No matter the age of a student, there are times when a student just needs some reassurance from someone from home. Giving students these “secret” notes from their parent, guardian, or other family member really helped to cheer them up and put a smile on their face when they needed it most!
4. “You Should Know . . .” Form
I would always end the night by giving parents the opportunity to provide more insight into their child through a “You Should Know . . .” form. This form allows parents to share aspects about their child’s learning, personality, habits, and routines, which is helpful for me—as their teacher—to know about them. The form can say things like:
- You should know my child likes to learn __________. (in groups, independently, in pairs)
- You should know my child like to read ___________ genre of books. (fiction, adventure, mystery)
- You should know that my child struggles with _________. (comprehension, sentence structure, multiplication)
- You should know that after school, my child ______________. (comes home, plays sports, goes to tutoring)
You can create the “You Should Know . . .” form to fit the grade and subject of your classroom. Parents really enjoy talking about their shining star, and this activity provides an efficient way for parents to do that while offering valuable insight on the students sitting in your classroom.