Back to School Night is here once again! I used to get really stressed about Back to School Night, but since implementing these 6 things, it’s become pain-free and actually really enjoyable! I hope some of these tips can help you run yours a little more smoothly, whether you’re a seasoned teacher or first year!
First, is Back to School Night Mandatory?
Back to School Night/Meet the teacher night is usually a school wide event that all teachers participate in. Even if your school doesn’t mandate it, I highly recommend it. Here’s why:
Eliminating Back to School Night Anxiety
I used to get really overwhelmed preparing for Back to School Night, especially since my school has ours during the first week of school. Not only was I getting my classroom ready for students, attending teacher meetings, creating super engaging first week of school materials, and labeling everyyythingggg….I also had to prepare for a whole informational night for parents that first week.
On top of being stretched to the max at the beginning of the year, presenting in front of parents can feel a little scary and can cause anxiety. I used to get nervous I’d forget everything I had to talk about. In the early days I’d get nervous I didn’t totally KNOW what I was talking about.
It wasn’t until I started using a Back to School Night Google Slides presentation and digital parent information forms that I became 100% confident at Back to School Night.
I realized that if I had a visual for parents, it would take their eyes off me. It would also guide me in through everything I had to talk about. And honestly, a well designed presentation helps you come across as super professional and that you’ve got it all together.
After the first year of having a presentation to follow and creating digital forms for parents to fill out, I was able to get my Back to School Night prep down to about 30 minutes, 30 minutes ya’ll!!
6 Tips for Running your Back to School Night
Alright, so here’s exactly how I run my Back to School Night. I’ve created the list below of everything I do to look professional and confident, while setting the tone for a great year and sharing important information with parents.
1. Invite your families via Meet the Teacher first day letter
I send out my Meet the Teacher Welcome Letter on the first day of school. I give it to students when we pack up and on it, I include information about where and when Back to School Night is going to be. I collect all of my parent emails during Back to School Night as well. (If you have access to their emails before BTS Night, you could also send home the meet the teacher letter digitally as an email attachment or invite them to BTS night via email.)
2. Use a Back to School Night PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation to guide the night
To calm my nerves and eliminate standing in front of parents with notecards, I created this Back to School Night Presentation. I made this about 5 years ago and it has been a life saver ever since!
I decided to make my own instead of looking for one on TpT because I wanted it to be designed to include more than just headers on top. The design and formatting I created prevents me from writing full sentences or long phrases on the slides (a presentation no no!). It also makes it really visually appealing for parents and not so overwhelming.
What to Say at Back to School Night:
Here’s my Back to School Night Agenda:
Before Back to School Night, I spend a little time customizing the presentation. Since I have the presentation formatted and looking colorful and professional already, I don’t have to spend any time on the design of it. All I have to do is plug in the text.
I start with a Welcome slide that I project as parents start to come in and wait for the presentation to begin. Usually on that slide I have some sort of “to-do list” for them to complete. (More on this and digital forms below.)
On the About Me slides, I include some photos of myself from the summer and my family/friends to help parents get to know me and see if we have anything in common that we can connect on later.
I make sure to talk about the curriculum and the topics we’re going to cover for the core subjects. It’s easy to gather a list of topics for each subject:
- Open to the table of contents in your math book to find the list the topics you cover during the year. Copy those onto the math slide.
- Look through your social studies textbook and list the units you actually get to on the social studies slides.
- What are your writing units? Type those on the writing slide.
- What are the reading goals for students? Type those on the reading slides.
Remember, just list the topics. You can go more into depth about them as you present the slide. Don’t clutter the slide.
Finish by filling out the school policy and homework slides, volunteer opportunities, (more on this below) and staying connected slide. For the contact info, I share my email, class website, and our Google Photos class account. This is also a great place to share your Classroom Dojo account, Remind join code, and any other tool you use to stay connected with families.
I like ending the presentation with a list of things parents need to do before they leave the room. It helps them remember what I mentioned during the presentation.
3. Get parents to fill out back to school forms digitally on the spot
I mentioned earlier that I like having parents fill out important paperwork when they’re waiting for Back to School Night to begin or right after it’s over. That way I’ve got all the information I need before they leave. (It’s a lot better than trying to track down paper forms that you sent home with students.)
These are my go-to parent forms:
I always create digital forms using Google Forms. Google Forms is easy to use and I can quickly access all of the data in my Google Drive. Plus, they’re super easy to edit. If I need to change something on the form each year, I just click and change any of the questions.
Everyone has access to Google Forms. Parents don’t need a Google account to fill out a Google form, which is ideal.
At Back to School Night, I usually put QR codes on the tables for parents to scan. When they scan the QR code with their phone, the Form appears. I also will put a shortened URL up on the board so parents can quickly type the URL into their phones.
After parents fill out the questions on the Form, they push the submit button. As soon as they do, the data is automatically recorded in my Google account. Google Forms will create a spreadsheet in just a couple clicks with all of the parent data that’s been submitted. The data in the spreadsheet is already organized for me.
If parents can’t attend Back to School Night, I send home the QR codes with students along with the other paperwork and information from the night.
4. Have parents tell you their volunteering preferences
At Back to School Night, I also have a digital form that asks parents how they’re interested in volunteering in the classroom. I like having parents fill out a digital form about volunteering rather that having them sign-up on a piece of paper, locking them into a spot.
There are a few reasons for this:
- Before you create your volunteering schedule, it’s helpful to see what kind of availability your parents have. That way you can make any adjustments to your schedule instead of having to go back and tell parents you need to change their volunteer time. For example, if you really need parent help during math time and no one is able to help in the afternoon, maybe you need to change math to the morning.
- I like to get to know the parents a bit before committing them to a particular slot for the entire year.
- If a parent isn’t able to attend Back to School Night, I don’t think it’s fair that they miss out on volunteer opportunities, especially if their schedule is limited. I like that they have just as equal of a chance of getting the slot they want as every other parent.
Examples of things I get volunteers for:
- Separating Scholastics and stapling student packs together
- Making copies
- Sharpening pencils
- Home prep work (cutting, gluing, labeling)
- Matting art projects
- Art lesson help in the classroom
- Morning folders
- Classroom Chair person for the silent auction
- Communication rep between PTA and the classroom parents
- Yearbook photographer
- Party planner
- Homework checker
- Reading with students
- Small group instruction
5. What do I ask for at Back to School Night? (Hint: Create a wish list!)
Asking parents for things might feel uncomfortable, but many really want to help you get the materials you need. Some parents aren’t able to volunteer their time, but still want to make a contribution to the classroom in a monetary way. They WANT you to tell them what the classroom needs. It’s also best to tell them what you need so you don’t end up with things you DON’T need.
I create an Amazon Wish List that the parents have access to. It’s really easy to set up and extremely easy for parents to order off of. If they don’t have Amazon, they can still look up what you need on the list and buy it somewhere else. Then you can manually go in and take if off the Amazon list. You can also list any wish list items in a Back to School Handout or mention what you need in your newsletters.
Small items are great, but don’t be shy asking for some larger items as well. I’ve had multiple parents go in together on a larger item. I’ve had grandparents purchase a large item from a different state because they really wanted to support our classroom. I’ve had parents write checks because it’s a tax write off for them or for their business.
Last year, students started to donate something to the classroom for their birthday instead of bringing in a birthday treat. They were really excited to show they class what they had brought.
Here are some things I’ve had on my wish list:
- Zip-loc bags (all sizes)
- Dixie cups
- Stem Bin materials
- Ipad cover
- Book stands to display books
- Astrobright paper and cardstock
- Read Aloud
6. Send home any school forms and important Back to School handouts
I usually have a couple handouts for parents to take home in regards to policies I want them to remember.
In the handout, I include:
- Birthday policies
- Attendance policies
- Homework policies
- Links to the Google Forms in case they didn’t fill them out during the Back to School Night
- Link to our Amazon Wish List
Before they leave, I also show them the newsletter and calendars that will come each month so they’re prepared to look for them.
Other ideas for handouts:
- Growth Mindset handout with helpful phrases for parents to use at home
- List of high interest chapter books or picture books students might enjoy
- Instructions for how to access our Google Classroom and the digital math book online
- Any papers or forms your school requires you to send home with parents
PRO TIP: Put a digital copy of all the handouts into a Google Folder in your Google Drive. Share the link to the folder with parents. That way they always know where they can access them quickly. I link the shared folder at the bottom of every one of my emails so parents always have the link handy. You can continuously add to the folder as well.
Feeling better about Back to School Night? You got this!
Back to school Night doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming with these ideas.
Once you put in your information into a Back to School Night presentation, you only have to review it each year and tweak it if necessary. If you change grades, you still have a lot of the presentation already complete, you likely just need to change some procedures and curriculum. I went from Kinder to 2nd and was able to change mine in a zip!
If you still feel overwhelmed after reading this post, grab our Back to School Bundle where we’ve designed all of these materials for you (and student Back to School activities!). All you have to do is add your info.
I hope these tips help you have a really successful Back to School Night!