Tips for Creating a Great Start-of-School Open House

Connexeo - 08/20/2018

Open house season at the start of the school year can be an exciting time. Parents have their first chance to really get to know the teachers who will influence their children’s lives for the next nine months – and hopefully beyond. Meanwhile, teachers gain insights into their new students by talking with the parents.

That’s assuming both teachers and parents approach the open house with the right attitudes. If everybody involved has a positive outlook and sees the interchange as helping to establish a solid foundation for the year to come, half the battle is won.




Here are some tried and tested ways to ensure the open house goes well. Some are fun activities, others are just suggestions on how to open lines of communications.  

  • Open up the discussion: Of course, teachers want to talk about all the positive things students will learn and discover in their classes, but parents may have some issues with a subject. Maybe they, themselves, had a bad memory of that particular class a generation ago, or another one of their children had a bad experience. The open discussion allows everyone to understand how these experiences can impact the current student, according to a blog on the STEM jobs website.

  • The key system: You know the “Get Out of Jail Free” card in the game Monopoly? Alicia Weeks, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Edwards Middle School in Rocky Mount, NC, awards “keys” to students for doing good things, including persuading an adult – any adult – to represent them at open house. The students can use the keys when, for example, they don’t know the answer to a question on a test, according to an Education World article.

  • Themed open houses: Not all open houses have to be the same old staid affairs in which parents go from class to class, preceded by a welcome message from the principal. Some themes, the same Education World article stated, include a cookout, a hayride, a luau, 50s dress-up night or an ice-cream social after the class-hopping is done. An informal, social-type gathering afterward is also one way for parents and teachers to have some quick one-on-one time to briefly discuss early concerns about a child before the more formal parent-teacher conference.

  • The gallery walk: Show and tell is not just a game you play with the students. It works in open houses with parents. Instead of just telling parents what’s being done to instruct their children, teachers set up stations with visuals. These could include posters, small lab projects, hands-on materials and other eye-catching stuff. Not only will this provide a multi-sensory experience for the parents, but it will allow them to socialize and ask questions.

  • Have students lead the open house: Yes, you’re reading correctly. Brenda Dyck, an instructor at the University of Alberta, suggested this as a way to get the children more involved in their own education. The students help teachers identify the key learning components of each classroom, then create a classroom tour brochure. They helped set up the classroom for open house, escorted their parents in and turned into tour guides. They, themselves, explained their learning environments, perhaps better than the teacher could have.

  • Keep lines of communication open: Make sure parents leave the open house with contact information for all teachers who will be educating their children, as well as the principal, the guidance counselor, the school nurse and any extracurricular coaches/directors. If there is an area of concern that either the parent or teacher feels warrants an in-depth conversation, make sure the parent knows how to easily schedule a mutually convenient parent-teacher conference.

Open houses have long been an important start-of-the-school-year event for parents and teachers. The tips above will help everyone involved make the most out of them.

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