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School is once again starting up so that means Back to School Night is not far behind. If you’re a new teacher or a veteran like me, here are 5 mistakes to avoid at your Back to School Night presentation to parents.
When I first started teaching over 30 years ago, Back to School Night wasn’t even a “thing.” Very few parents showed up making it a very informal presentation. But with the big push for school accountability when it comes to parent involvement as a measure of success, Back to School Night is now a much bigger deal.
In my first few Back to School Night presentations, I used an overhead projector. I handwrote some notes. It was very informal. I might have also used the chalkboard (yes, back then we still used chalkboards) to write my name. The presentation did not last long. We had absolutely NO guidance on what exactly we were supposed to present.
Back to School Night Mistake #1: Not Being Prepared
Fast forward 30 years. My district and my administrator every year gives teachers a cheat sheet of exactly what we are to cover in our Back to School Night presentation. It’s not a short list. Add to that list are items I want to cover as well makes my Back to School Night easily a 30 or more minute presentation!
This is a presentation you can not just wing it to make it through. You have to carefully plan it out in sequence to make sure you don’t go over your allotted time. Write out your presentation by thinking of a parent’s point of view. Cut down on educational jargon, use straight to the point language.
If you don’t plan it out, you’ll be rushing to finish. You might also leave out something important. So take the time to write a script if you have to. Make a bullet list. Put it together into a PowerPoint or Google Slides slideshow to use that night.
Use the Presenter’s or Speaker Notes section to write yourself notes. Only you’ll be able to see these notes.
Use the printing features in PowerPoint or Google Slides to print out a handout to give the parents. Prepare this handout ahead of time. Have it ready a few days before. Why? Everyone else is copying their handouts, too and the copy machine will invariably break down or jam!Keep reading to find out how to download my FREE Editable Flap-Book Template to create your own Back to School Night Flap-Book!
Finish your presentation the week before so that way you can begin rehearsing. Yes, rehearse it because you will find areas you can add to, delete or fine tune. Make sure your slideshow works! Use the presenter mode so you can see your notes.
Back to School Night Mistake #2: Not Having a Visual Presentation
Most people are visual learners. If you just stand up at the front of the class with index cards to speak, everyone will tune you out in about 5 minutes. In the end, you’ll get dozens of questions about items you actually covered in your presentation. But no one was paying attention.
Instead, have a visually appealing PowerPoint presentation, Google Slides slideshow or colorful charts to bring in the visual learners.
Don’t fill your slides or charts with excessive text! No one can read a 12 point font because you have too much text on the slides. Use bullets and images to get your point across. Here’s a caveat. I do have some slides with A LOT of text. But I don’t stand there and read it. I make reference to the slides while letting the parents know that they can read their handouts later.
Make sure you have enough copies of the handout! Sometimes when children have divorced parents, both may come to your presentation. Be professional by having enough copies for both parents. Make extra copies because sometimes caregivers (such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) also come to the presentation.
For the parents who could not attend, send the copy of the handout home with the student the next day with a short note letting them know that you saved them a copy. Keep parents in the loop any way you can!
Back to School Night Mistake #3: Not Having a Handout
I’ve already referenced the handout as being a very important tool at Back to School Night. Your handout should include basic information such as
- contact information (email, phone, ClassDojo, etc.)
- important dates (or attach the district/school calendar)
- your daily schedule
- type of classroom donations needed
- list of fundraisers during the year and what the funds will be used for
- your homework policy
- end of the year expectations for your grade level (ending reading level, ending math skills, etc.)
- assessment (explain your grading system and how often students are assessed)
- rules for your classroom
- discipline plan that you use (ClassDojo points, behavior chart, etc.)
I know that sometimes schools limit copies that can be made by a teacher. If you can, ask for a donation of copy paper before Back to School Night. Or maybe ask your PTA to see if they have a fund for classroom supplies.
I use a flap-book template to make my handout. It only takes three pages of paper copied back to back to make one handout. With 25 students, that would only be 75 sheets of paper to use!
Worst case scenario, you can make the file into a PDF that can be emailed to each parent!
Back to School Night Mistake #4: Not Having Parents Sign Up
You have a captive audience, so let’s get some housekeeping done! Before you begin your presentation, let parents know that they will have an opportunity to sign up for
- parent conferences
- room volunteers (if you need them)
- field trip chaperones (name to be put into a raffle)
By letting parents sign up at Back to School Night for conferences, the parent can pick a day and time that fits his/her schedule (and yours!). You can take a large poster or butcher paper and tape it to a wall with your conference schedule prewritten. Then parents just walk up at their convenience and sign up.
Alternately, you can just pass around a sign-up sheet to do the same. Let parents know that whatever day/time they sign up for, that will be their scheduled time. Have them take a picture with their phone or tell them to put in on their calendars.
This is also an opportune time to have parents download the ClassDojo and Remind Apps and sign up. I’ve blogged before how I use REMIND and CLASSDOJO. Sign up is quick and simple. Just a tip: when parents sign up, have them sign up with their preferred name and in parenthesis write their child’s name. It will save you a headache later of trying to figure out who is who when last names don’t match!
Here’s an example: Jonathan Blue (Samantha). Parent name followed by student’s name in parenthesis.
Use Online Sign-up Forms!
A quick way of getting the information or sign-ups you need is to create a Google Form to have parents complete. Once you have their emails, you can email the link to the form. Forms can even be completed on mobile devices such as phones. Google Forms will collect all the information and arrange it for your or you can export to a file.
Also, you can create a QR Code for parents to scan with their phone that will take them directly to the Google Form. Later, send the for QR code home with students whose parents were unable to attend.
When you don’t have parents sign-up at Back to School Night, you’ll be spending countless hours chasing them down trying to get appointments and needed information. Back to School Night is the perfect time for sign-ups.
Back to School Mistake Night #5: Not Letting Parents Know About . . .
Any other information critical to your school or classroom! For example, I let parents know exactly which type of donations I would need. If not, you’re going to get a lot of donations of items you may not use or need. So I make sure I include the list in my handout while making that a part of my presentation.
I also let parents know about our school and grade level fundraisers. Too many times, parents have no idea why schools need to have fundraisers (isn’t that why we pay taxes?) I don’t have time to explain the ins and outs of school finance, but I do let them know that field trips and end of the year activities are extras that can not be funded by school budgets for many reasons.
Explaining how much a field trip costs (bus, entrance fees, etc.) is an eye-opener to some parents. They really don’t know how much that bus rental costs! If you also add why you are taking that particular field trip because it is tied to a particular science or social studies unit, parents become more enthusiastic and cooperative with fundraisers.
Download a Back to School Night Template FREEBIE!
As you can see, having a successful Back to School Night presentation requires a detailed plan, handout, sign-up sheets, and more.
I’ve put together an editable PDF to help new teachers (and veterans) prepare for Back to School Night. The editable PDF document is to create a Flap-Book handout similar to the one I make for parents (see image below).
The document has form fields that you just fill in with your information. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader or Mac Preview or any PDF reader to open the document to fill in the fields.
To get the editable Flap-book Template, just subscribe to my Newsletter to get the download link!
Check out my Pinterest Board for more Back to School ideas and tips!
Share your expert Back to School Night presentation tips in the comments!
Don’t Go Yet!
Are you new to the 1:1 classroom setting? Then you’ll want to read my Valuable Tips for the 1:1 Classroom.
Check out how I use Google Classroom to present at Back to School Night for Parents.
Need some more Back to School Tips? Here are 7 more!
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