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This Ain't Your Momma's Open House

Dr. Stephanie Hatten

District Digital Learning Coordinator, Narrative Researcher, Mom of 4 Digital Natives
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As a new teacher, I remember being nervous for Parent Open House because I did not know what to say to parents. Not to mention, I had been teaching all day, preparing all week, and skipped supper to be there -- I was tired. Therefore I understand the desire to just get by for Open House preparation, but I hope some teachers will have the energy to go above and beyond what has always been done to make this experience interesting and meaningful.

As a parent, I don't feel much better. With my children in high school, I still attend and stand in lines for each room, waiting behind some parent publicly sharing way too much personal information, so that I can talk for an awkward minute with a teacher who asks if I have any questions. I usually ask about homework and tell them to email me if they need anything. Then I wait in another line to sign in as we all try to cram an email address on a line that's too small for the teacher to ever interpret my writing.

Now, as I reflect on 18 years in the public school system and, with four children, 58 combined years of Open Houses at many different schools, I offer this advice for educators to reinvent your Parent Open House and share some of your ideas.

QR Codes

Most parents have smart phones. If they don't, they may love that handout with your contact information, but I always wind up losing it or leaving it in the car until it gets a drink spilled on it and then gets thrown away. I have seen some teachers who have a QR code with their contact information and a link to their website. This works best for parents like me, so maybe have both. I've seen QR codes to student projects and scavenger hunts for extra credit, which have made the nights much more interesting. When my son created a video, his teacher had a QR code leading to his project, so I watched it on my phone and then sent the link to his grandparents. I loved it! The scavenger hunts kept my children busy while I signed in and gave them something to discuss with me about their classroom.

Virtual Open House

If parents cannot make Open House, I think a virtual tour of the empty classroom may be nice to post or send them. To be honest, I have not seen this idea, but I would like schools to have alternatives for parents like my husband who works nights. Students could help create this video and record their own narration for an added touch. If parents do arrive, place QR codes in different parts of the room, such as the reading center, with a student's voice explaining the purpose of that area. Apps that let students annotate video can work well with this project. This same concept can be created for the teacher's website.

Sign Up Night

One teacher that we visited created a Google form where we signed in electronically with our email addresses. I loved that the four classroom computers were set up for this, and that a QR code was in place to let me sign in on my phone. If a teacher uses software such as Edmodo, Remind, ClassDojo, or anything else where parents need logins, this would be a great time to have stations set up where student helpers can assist them to create these accounts. This may give the parents and teacher some more conversation starters as well.

Augmented Reality

This is becoming more popular than QR codes, but parents are more likely to have a QR reader on their phones than an augmented reality app downloaded for Open House. If you are going to use anything that needs a certain app, such as Aurasma, send the note home ahead of time so that parents will know to download the app and bring appropriate devices. If a teacher uses AR in the classroom, such as for a vocabulary word wall, showing the parents this new technology makes an Open House experience much more interesting and gives them something to do as they wait in that inevitable line to talk to the teacher.

Technology Interaction

How do your students interact with technology? Allow parents that opportunity as well to give them a feel for their children's daily experience. If students are expected to use mobile devices to answer questions, have the parents answer questions using this tool also.

No Escape Key

The other day, when I mentioned the fact that we are almost done with Open Houses, my husband grinned -- right before one of my children asked if I would go to Open House as a grandmother one day. I put on a brave smile and nodded that of course I would go. Then I sat down to write this blog in hopes that a new, more interesting model for Open House will take hold by then.

How do you change things up for Parent Open Houses?

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Michelle's picture
Michelle
7-12 grade Spanish teacher from Vermont

I like the ideas shared here- thank you! I'm not sure I have a better idea for open house, but our combined middle/high school has been looking for a while for a model that will get parents to come. I am very interested in hearing if any one out there has any other suggestions or models that work to get those upper-level parents in the building for an open house!

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