Differentiated Open School Night

by mrsapia

I’ve been doing quite a bit of reflecting over the past few weeks about how I can improve my practice, as well as ensure I am meeting the needs of all the varied learning styles in my classroom.  This thought process led me to also reflect upon how I can improve with my communication to parents. Last year I continued to use my classroom website, parent codes using Edmodo, Kidblog, poetry nights, and parent conferences. The feedback was fantastic from parents and families because it truly gave them an unprecedented view into our classroom and built the home/school connection.

One of the most important nights of the year is Open School Night. Meeting new parents during the first few days of school is tremendously exciting because it’s an opportunity to develop relationships and partnerships. However, during open school night, it’s the first and maybe only time we as educators will have the chance to address parents and families in such a large setting, unfortunitely.

What can we do to change that? The list below are some ways to keep families engaged. Keep in mind, this is just a beginning.

Ways to Involve Parents:

Progress Conferences
Poetry Nights
Author Nights
Family Math Nights
Family Days in Classroom
“Check-in” calls home

Back to open school night. How can I maximize my time with them? Do I create a standard presentation where parents just sit and listen? Is that engaging enough? Do they really just want to sit after a long day at work?


Upon entering the classroom, parents will be greeted with two laptops and a collaborative google doc.  They will be asked to enter  their first and last name, as well as email address and whether or not they have access to technology at home.  If parents don’t feel comfortable exposing whether or not they have access to technology at home, I can speak to them in private.

The next step would be a quick hello, a background about my teaching career, and a review of my classroom vision.

While reflecting, my thoughts led me to think about implementing a centers based approach using QR codes. Through discussions with many in the PLN, I was led to this post. Sara Allen’s Bulletin Boards and Signs. The idea of having QR codes for quick access to websites is fantastic and easy, as long as parents have a smartphone. Fortunately, our building was able to secure a cart of iPads, so having access to devices with QR  reader apps will be accessible during open school night.

Assuming parents have never been exposed to the platforms I will be using to meet their child’s needs and augment engagement, I plan on having centers focusing on Kidblog, EdmodoTenmarks, and my classroom website, which houses curriculum information.  The QR code at each center will direct them to my vision for purposeful tech implementation focused on the given platform, as well as how their child will be utilizing each platform. I can have 2-3 iPads set up at each center while I walk around, answer any clarifying question, and provide assistance to those who need it. I would set up a timer on my IWB and parents would rotate once it goes off.

Another benefit to this type of approach is parents would be experiencing making transitions, similar to the ones their child will be expected to make, because of my math workshop and literacy workshop model.  The time spent at the centers will also be an opportunity for parents to develop relationships with each other. After all parents have participated in each center, we will reconvene in a whole group setting and have a reflection period about what they learned and answer questions. This will help with planning for “Tech Nights” to ensure I am meeting their individual needs.

An additional follow-up to this night would be a parent survey, using google forms, to continue to build that rapport with parents and ensure their voices are heard and addressed.  Empowering parents and making them stakeholders in their child’s education is not a choice, it’s a priority.  It takes a team to move mountains and having the open dialogue and providing a support system at school and home will do nothing but serve their child’s best interest.

What do you think? Is this model possible? Has anyone tried this? What is the best way to inform parents about the upcoming adoption of the Common Core? I’d love to hear your feedback.