Saturday, July 27, 2019


I have been teaching for twelve years, and  I still get all the anxious thoughts and butterflies the day of open house.  There's a lot of people crammed into a small place, a lot of small talk, and all the attention is on you.  It can be overwhelming, no matter how long you've been teaching!   

During my career I've had great open house. I've also had some horrible open houses. The worst was when a mailing mishap occurred in the office, and all fifty of my students received my welcome letter. None of them received my partner teacher's welcome letter, that meant all 50 students showed up to my room for open house.  As you can imagine, it was quite a mess. Parents were upset, kids were confused, and my partner teacher and were embarrassed and overwhelmed.  It was not a great way to start the year. 

Open house is important, as it's our chance to set a good impression on our students and their families. In many ways, open house sets the tone for your relationships with your families for year.  Let's just say in the scenario described above, the tone that was set was not a very good one. :( 

As teachers, we are always reflecting, and always trying to improve. My open house file folder is full of Post Its and notes on how to improve for the following year.  I can say with confidence the past two open houses were the best I've had, and I'm excited to share my "Top 10 Tips for a Successful Open House" with you.  These tips have helped me simplify open house, making it a better experience for my students, their families, and myself.  If you are interested in any of the forms featured in this post, they are available here

Remember that open house I mentioned above?  That inspired me to have personalized sign in sheets for open house, I probably wouldn't have had twenty-five extra students in my room for open house if I had sign in sheet with just my homeroom roster on it. 

I personally put out three sign in sheets, with a third of my students on each sheet, this prevents families from crowding around the same sheet, and helps with traffic flow.  

I also like having an assigned seat/spot for each child at open house. It gives students a place to go, so they can unload their supplies, and to receive their classroom/school forms. 

To prevent confusion, I only put out name tags for my homeroom students. When my switch class comes over to meet me,  I explain they will get the seat I have reserved for them on the first day of school. :) 

I print my desk tags on colored cardstock and then laminate them for durability. I love stocking up on colored cardstock at Michaels. I use it all the time for printing task cards and other instructional materials. 

For the past few years, I've used an Open House Checklist. What a life saver.  Parents and students are no longer coming up to me and asking what to do next, allowing me to greet each family as they walk in the door.  This checklist also lets families know the flow of the evening. 

I like to collect big items like notebook paper, tissues, cleaning wipes, plastic bags, and paper towels at open house. I simply use empty organizing bins or laundry baskets that I already own for this. :)  Having the bins clearly labeled helps students and their families check off an item on their checklist easily. 

I place the bins in lower traffic areas, such as our coat hooks. Another perk of this tip, is that it puts all of these bulky items together in one place until I am able to put them in their proper home around our classroom. 

At open house, I require my families to fill out ONE paper.  That one paper is a transportation form. This lets me know in advance how my students are going home the first day of school.  Having this information before the first day of school really helps us have a stress free dismissal on that first day. 

There are few reasons as to why this is the only form I required to be filled out before they leave open house. Many of our families have to attend more than one open house at the same time.  Our open house is also late in the evening, and sometimes the night before the first day of school.  When this is the case, I'd rather my fourth grade families be spending time together at home, rather than spending a large chunk of time at school filling out paperwork. 

When I first starting teaching, I passed out so many forms at open house.  There was the parent survey, kid survey, grade level info packet, a volunteer form, a class party form, a homework policy letter, and a few more that are slipping my mind. All of that was in ADDITION to our school/district paperwork. It was a lot, and looking back, just way more than necessary. 

The past few years, I've only used the forms pictured above. A student survey, a family survey, and a grade level brochure.  I typically only use the parent email form if a family has problems accessing our Email Sign Up Google Form.  

With a fewer number of forms for families to complete/read over, the higher the likelihood that the forms will get READ, filled out, and returned. #winning

I like to copy our classroom forms on colored paper, these helps them stick out from the rest of the back to school paperwork from our school. I typically include this pack in my back to school supply order. 

Our school does not have a curriculum night after school begins, and open house is our only time to really touch base face to face with our families until conferences.  It was really tempting for SO long to go into a ton of detail about curriculum, ways to support learning at home, homework info, etc.  However, open house is already overwhelming enough.  The room is crowded, it often gets stuffy, and I know that a lot of information I shared wasn't being retained. 

So, I've kept it simple the past few years. Essentially, my partner teacher and I share:

  • Ways we will communicate with our families 
  • Homework structure 
  • Specials and Lunch the first few days of school, which is the one thing the kids want to know. :) 
  • Our classroom management plan
  • Information about our binder organization
This presentation maybe takes a little over five minutes. It's short, it's to the point, and covers the most important things we would like our families to know at the beginning of the year. 

Music is a key part of our day, especially it comes to transitions. I like to play music softly in the background as families filter in. My cooperating teacher did this at Open House, and I've done it every single year.  You can access my open house playlist {here} to get ideas for your own. :) 

If I can, I try to move around a bit during the presentation. It calms my nerves, and allows me to work the room. My presenter tool is a lifesaver all year, but especially at Open House. You can find mine {here}

Over the years, I've had elaborate donation displays and simple ones.  Honestly, this one of the last things I do for open house, and often, I forget to put it out. I just hang this sign up in an area where families are likely to see it, and just write any requests on Post Its. Easy peasy. I also keep the items on the donation station simple, parents are far more likely to help out if the items are easily found at their local grocery or big box store. 

Organization is key for a successful open house. I put a few letter trays out on my small group table at open house to collect any completed forms.  Having these forms in one place helps cleaning up after open house a breeze. 

I have several sets of these letter trays all over my classroom. I use them organize my copies for the week, centers, etc.  I unstack a few that I already own to use at open house.  

Student treats certainly aren't required at open house.  It's just a nice extra.  However, I do like to give my switch class a little treat when they come over to say "hi" at open house, since I don't have their desk ready for them yet.  

Over the years, I've come to realize, "Why waste all that time stuffing candy in a bag with a cute topper? They're just going to tear it apart in like two seconds and throw it away." Now I just buy a combo pack of Starbursts/Skittles, slap a label on them and call it a day! I typically give Starbursts to one class and Skittles to the other. 

I use the Avery 18294 labels for these labels.  I also use these labels for labeling student supplies, I make several copies of each child's name, and for organizing our classroom library.  You can find them {here}. 

I hope that you've found a tip or two within in this post to help you rock your open house! If you've like to utilize any of the forms/documents featured within these tips, please check out my Open House Essentials pack. You can find it in my Teachers Pay Store by clicking {here}, or by clicking on the image below. Many of the forms can be customized to best meet your needs, so you can ROCK your Open House! 

This post features Amazon affiliate links.  This allows me to earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.  This commission allows me to provide extra resources in my classroom. Thank you. :) 
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