5 Easy Ways to Prep Curriculum Night – Teacher Tips for Back to School

Curriculum Night can feel like an added stress during the hectic first weeks of school. However, the purpose of this event is to allow you to help families connect with you and better understand what their children will be expected to learn and do in your classroom.

Today I want to share some tips for helping you get organized, figure out what to say to parents, and create an event that leaves parents feeling lucky their child is in your classroom. 

How to prepare for Curriculum Night at your school

What is Curriculum Night or Open House?

Depending on where you teach, you might call this event Back-to-School Night, Open House, or Curriculum Night. Regardless of what you call it, the event is designed to help families get to know you, ask questions, and learn about the curriculum and standards you’ll teach this year. 

Curriculum Night typically falls within the first few weeks of the new school year. It is commonly held in the evening hours on a school day to give working parents a chance to attend.

What is the purpose of Curriculum Night?

Lasting between 60-90 minutes, the purpose of Open House in elementary school is to allow parents and guardians a chance to get a better feel for the classroom teacher and how s/he runs the classroom.

However, in middle and high school, parents are often given only a short time in each classroom to have the opportunity to meet all their child’s teachers so the time tends to be more of an overview and learning expectations than relationship-building. 

What is Back-to-School Night?

Back-to-School Night is not a replacement for parent-teacher conferences. Occasionally, parents will come in with a laundry list of questions that are scenarios that only apply to their child. Make it clear that this event is not meant to be a conference for their child, but it is designed to give them information and answer general questions. 

Most schools expect teachers to prepare a short presentation for parents. You might also consider having them fill out forms while they are there. 

How to Get Organized for Curriculum Night

If you are lucky, your room will be full of parents eager to meet the teacher and tell you about their child. It can be overwhelming to see the room of parents all sitting in front of you, waiting to hear all about your plan for their children this year. Preparation is the key to a low-stress event.

As you begin to think about your school’s Back-to-School Night, you’ll want to do several activities to prepare. If this is your very first Curriculum Night, asking other teachers in your grade level what the event is typically like at your school can be helpful.

You will feel less stressed if you prepare in advance. It can help you make a great impression. Here are a few of the most important things to consider as you start to plan your Back-to-School Night activities.  

5 Things to do the week before Back-to-School Night

1. Create an agenda and a simple PowerPoint presentation.

Once you know how long your presentation should be, you can begin to prepare your Curriculum Night agenda. As you plan, consider how long you’ll spend on specifics and create your presentation to align with this expectation. I’ve shared details on what you can include in your presentation later in this post.

Putting a little extra time into creating your presentation pays off because you’ll be able to make adjustments and use it year after year, so plan to allow yourself a little extra time to complete this task.

As you create your agenda, consider the downtime during arrival and departure from the event. Having activities or parent forms ready as parents begin to arrive can be helpful. This gives them something to do while waiting for your presentation.

2. Share your presentation or hand-out in advance.

Sending an email with your hand-out or a slideshow of your presentation a day or two before your school’s Open House can be a great way to remind parents to attend and set the expectations for what they’ll get out of the event. 

It can also help parents understand what questions they might have before they arrive. Todays Meet is a great, free method to collect questions in advance. This can help you be sure you are touching on important topics to all parents.

3. Have your students create a Back-to-School Night invitation or letter for their family. 

Allowing students to create their own invitations can be a fun way to remind parents of the event. It is also a great way to introduce purposeful writing in the first few weeks of school. 

Whether you decide to have students write a short letter or take out construction paper and allow them to design and color a more formal invitation, your students will love taking their personal invite and hand-delivering it to their families.  

4. Decide what to wear to Back-to-School Night and whether you’ll have time to run home and change. 

Depending on what time your campus has its Open House and how close to campus you live, you may or may not have time to go home this evening. Therefore, it is important to plan what you will wear in advance so you can bring the outfit and anything else you need. 

Typically, Curriculum Night requires teachers to wear business attire. This is your chance to make an impression, so you want to look your best. Parents use this night to “figure you out,” so dress accordingly (even if your campus has a lax dress code). As silly as it might seem, dressing professionally helps solidify your expert status in their minds. 

Since I typically never had time to head home before our school’s Open House, I always packed my outfit, a little make-up, and a brush to get ready in my classroom. I also packed dinner and planned to use the hours leading up to Back-to-School Night as a time to prepare for the week ahead. 

5. Practice once or twice.

Reviewing what you plan to say once or twice before Open House can be helpful. This doesn’t need to be a full speech, but taking the time to consider a general overview of what you’ll say can help prevent awkward silences or issues during your presentation.

7 Must-Haves for a Successful Curriculum Night Presentation

Nearly all Back-to-School Night presentations include certain things. Here are the most important components of a successful Open House presentation.

1. Share a little about yourself.

If you’ve been teaching for some time, you can tell parents how long you’ve been teaching or your educational background, but you’ll also want to tell them a little bit about you outside of the classroom. You might show a picture of your family or pets or share a special hobby. 

First-year teachers don’t feel you have to announce this fact to parents, but you also don’t need to hide it. Many parents will already know you are new to the school, but you can always tell parents it is your first year at this campus or grade level. Parents want to know and trust you.  Let parents know about your journey that led you to stand before them.

Here are a few questions you might answer:

  • Why did you become a teacher?
  • What do you love most about teaching?
  • Think of this as a chance to share your passion for education. 

I always recommend starting with this because if parents arrive late, they are unlikely to have questions about these details.

2. Your classroom schedule & a curriculum overview

This is where you’ll explain what their children will learn and how your classroom runs. Without digging into every detail, I like to give parents an overview of the key units we will cover in each subject. I also explain our arrival and dismissal procedures. 

I try to incorporate details about how students will utilize technology and any special events that align with our curriculum into this presentation section. You can also quickly introduce any tech platforms parents need to know about, like Google Classroom. If you’ve had a chance to get photos of students working in your classroom before the event, these can also be fun to put into your presentation. 

I also like this opportunity to give parents an idea of times they should avoid scheduling appointments. While it sometimes can’t be avoided, parents often appreciate this information because they can prevent their children from missing important instruction.

3. Your approach to behavior & classroom management.

This is your opportunity to get parents on the same page about how you’ll handle behavior and classroom management. If you’ve got some nonnegotiables, this is a great time to discuss them so parents know up-front what to expect. 

For example, I am really big on personal responsibility, so I always let the parents know that this was the year they were officially off the hook for dropping off lunches or homework. I explained that this year these things were their child’s responsibility and the consequences for forgetting.

I made sure to let parents know I wouldn’t let their children go hungry if they forgot lunch because they could get cafeteria food, but they might not get to eat their favorite foods Mom or Dad would pack. Many parents were relieved they wouldn’t get calls at work for forgotten items! 

Discuss your classroom rules, consequences, and how you created them. Don’t focus on the negatives, but give parents a clear understanding of the expectations. Provide specific policies in writing via a handout or your presentation so you can refer to them if something comes up later. 

4. Discuss differentiation.

Parents want to know that you plan to meet their children where they are and find unique ways to tailor your teaching to their strengths and needs. Spend a few minutes discussing how you’ll differentiate in your classroom. 

Explain how you build opportunities for students to dig into areas of interest and be challenged to learn and grow. Also, explain how you’ll support students who may struggle. The idea isn’t to go into much detail, but you want to give an overview to help parents feel confident that you won’t use a one-size-fits-all teaching style. 

5. Homework expectations.

Depending on your school, parents may be eagerly anticipating or dreading homework. It is important to introduce any homework expectations up-front at your Back-to-School Night.

Why I quit giving homework passes

Some parents asked for extra homework and others barely had time to do much. This is why I use Homework Bingo in my classroom. I made sure to explain how this worked to parents during Open House. I wanted things to be clear before assigning homework in my classroom.  

Click here to learn more about how I implemented Homework Bingo.

6. Communication preferences

If you send a weekly newsletter or have a website, walk parents quickly through what they’ll find there. Also, be sure to tell parents the best way to reach you, whether that is by email or phone. 

I also liked to give parents specifics on when I wouldn’t be replying to messages. They should know if they emailed me while I was teaching, they shouldn’t expect a quick response because I wanted to give their child my full attention. 

I explained that parents must call the office to get me a message for emergencies and last-minute transportation changes. I do this because I don’t want to miss a message and have their child accidentally end up being dismissed to the wrong location. 

Finally, thank them for coming, and let them know that if they have specific questions about their child, they can email or call, and you’ll be happy to schedule a conference.

7. Time for questions.

I always start this section by reminding parents that out of respect for their privacy and the time of others, I wouldn’t be able to answer questions specifically about their individual child during this time. However, I would love to answer general questions about our classroom or how things work. This typically took care of the questions that only apply to one child. 

Take questions until they’ve all been answered, time is up, or parents begin to lose focus. At that point, you can let parents know they can email you if they walk out the door and think of more questions. 

How to foster engagement during Back-to-School Night

Most campuses will want you to have a Back-to-School Night sign-in sheet for parents. This lets the school track how many parents attend, and it will likely be provided to you in your mailbox the day of the event. But what can parents do while you wait for everyone to arrive? 

Parents can complete activities during Curriculum Night to help keep you from being bombarded with questions before your presentation. It can also allow you more time to greet families as they arrive. 

Here are some simple ideas for things you can have parents do on Curriculum Night:

  • Complete forms or a parent survey to give you more information about their child.
  • Sign up to volunteer.
  • Complete a classroom scavenger hunt to get a better feel for your room.
  • Write a letter to their child to leave for the next day. 

My favorite is the last one because the students get excited to read their parent’s letters. I often pick up a pack of inexpensive notecards with envelopes and leave one on each desk along with a note on my board that tells them to write a letter to their child and tuck it in his or her desk. This keeps parents busy and makes a meaningful activity.

Curriculum Night Activity Idea for Parents curriculum night,back to school night,open house,how to prepare for back to school night as a teacher

I also like to leave my parents a small treat to thank them for coming. Something like a snack-size candy bar is affordable, and it can be a little sugar fix if they haven’t had a chance to eat dinner before heading over after work. I have these free gift tags that I like to attach to a 100 Grand candy bar.

Open House Treat Tag curriculum night,back to school night,open house,how to prepare for back to school night as a teacher

What to do AFTER Curriculum Night to make a great impression.

Your follow-up can make a huge difference in the impression you make with parents. After parents leave, take a few minutes to write a quick email thanking everyone who attended. You can even draft this before the event and add any specifics at the end before you hit “send.” 

Share your presentation or parent information sheet again, so all parents have access even if they can’t attend. 

Invite parents to email you with questions they think of once they get home, and let them know how they can set up a conference with you. 

Email parents using the blind carbon copy feature (BCC) to protect parent privacy and keep them from hitting “reply all” with personal questions.

How to make a big impression during Open House curriculum night,back to school night,open house,how to prepare for back to school night as a teacher

Why Open House Really Matters

How to prepare for curriculum night

When parents attend your event, they want to know that their child is in a safe place where they’ll be loved, nurtured, and educated. They want to feel confident that they can trust you to look out for their child when they can’t be there, and they want to know you’ll treat their child fairly and with kindness. 

Create the same warm, welcoming environment you create for students each day. Smile, relax, and allow parents to see the real you shine through.

While Curriculum Night can feel intimidating, when you listen and respect the thoughts and concerns expressed by the parents in your classroom, you can start to forge a strong home-school relationship that will last the entire year. 

Focusing on the core components in this post can ease your stress and help parents better understand what the coming year will be like.

Beyond Back to School Night – Next Steps for Building Community

Looking for more great articles about building classroom community this school year? Check out these great articles:

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