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Creating an Engaging Environment for Your Open House

I had my eleventh Open House this past Thursday.  I can't believe I have had eleven Open Houses!!  Each year I try to do something new or different.  Especially for the families whose siblings I have had before.  I'm sure they don't want to come in and see the same things they did just a few years ago!  This year, I think my Open House was a huge success because I feel that the parents and the kids were engaged the entire time they were in my room. 
Our Open House does not have a schedule.  Parents and students come and go within the given time frame.  Some stay for a long time and some just pop in to meet me and say hello.  It sometimes can become chaotic!  Here are some things that I did for my Open House that kept the parents and students engaged and interested while they were visiting…
I'm sure you have seen the amazing self portraits that Angie Olsen from Mrs. Olsen's Lucky Little Learners created.  I've seen them pop up on all sorts of social media and they are awesome!  We did our own version of those self portraits.
A typical “Meet the Teacher” or “Open House” is filled with stuff all about the students.  This year, instead of filling our bulletin boards and desks with stuff that parents already know, students wrote letters to their parents all about fourth grade thus far.  They told them all the things they love, things they are surprised about, things they are looking forward to, and things they'd like them to know.  I also loved reading these letters because it gave me some insight in to what the students were looking forward to and enjoying; and they all had such different ideas to share!  We took these letters and turned them in to Google docs, used the shareable links from those docs and made QR codes using a QR code generator.  We have been using QR codes ALL the time in our classroom and using them for Open House ended up being such a great idea because the students loved showing their parents what QR codes are all about.  I had asked parents to put the QR reader app on their phones, but if they did not have it, I had our iPad cart ready for students and parents to use.  Reading the letters on the iPads was actually easier for the parents anyways.  This worked out so perfectly; parents loved the fun self portraits waiting at their child's desk and also got a glimpse in to how we use QR codes in the classroom.  I even saw some kids pulling out QR task cards we have been using in Social Studies to show their parents how they have been learning all about New York State.  Parents and students were engaged without me having to step in at all…perfection!
On each child's desk I put a flip book for parents to take home with important information.  Learning in Wonderland has created this amazing flip book that requires no cutting and is front and back.  I did mine in our school colors and I LOVE how it turned out!  It is just adorable!  This is also something that will be easy to send home for families that were unable to attend.  I have done “classroom scavenger hunts” in the past, but have not had as much success as I did with this year's scavenger hunt.  I included short and sweet descriptions that would be things students would be excited to show their parents…a bulletin board where their “Best Part of Me” writing was displayed, their class cash checkbook and wallet of class cash, Daily 5 rotations, Genius Hour, and a quick classroom tour.  The students loved taking control and showing their parents around and everything was stuff they were excited about!  I also included a water for parents with adorable labels from Erica's Ed-Ventures.  So, so cute!

One “All About Me” activity that the students did complete was a math edition.  You can grab this for FREE HERE
This was one of my favorite activities that we prepared together for Open House because we really practiced our order of operations and simple math facts.  And the students really wanted to “trick their parents,” so they tried to make their number sentences as difficult as they could.  Part of the scavenger hunt was to have parents figure out which page was theirs.  They loved it!  The didn't think their parents would be able to figure it out and loved having them try!
The last stop on the scavenger hunt was to stop and take a picture in the photo booth I had set up.  I got a set of props from Hobby Lobby, a black table cloth from the Dollar Tree and then made a polaroid type frame with poster board.  I hung this frame from my anchor chart holder so it was free standing.  This was a big hit with families in my class but also other families too since it was in the hallway.  
During our Open House, parents have to sign up for parent teacher conferences.  I set up my sign up but also put out reminder slips for parents to fill in so they have a reminder.  I also send a reminder as the time gets closer, but just in case they are visiting another child's classroom that night, they can coordinate times. 
Next to the sign up, I did something new this year to go along with our morning meetings.  I have a jar where students can share their “Happiest Thoughts” throughout the day and we share those thoughts during our morning meetings.  I put out a jar for “Parent Wishes” where parents could be a part of our morning meetings by sharing wishes for their child and our class.  You can grab this note and slips for FREE HERE!  By the end of the night the jar was full!  I cannot wait to start to share these each morning.  How exciting for students to have a special message from their parents to start their day!  As the jar starts to get low, I think I will attach slips to our Friday newsletter so parents can send in more wishes. 
The final touch on my front table was fresh flowers and a little snack.  Just a little something to say thank you for coming!  

Some things I decided NOT to do this year were to do “stations.”  I felt that in the past, with our Open House set up that it was not a good use of my time to set up the stations. I also did not take the time to do a Power Point slide show this year, but just had one slide to welcome the families.  Creating a whole Power Point is time consuming and I'm glad that I decided against it (really, I just ran out of time!).  I feel that with so many other things to see, parents would not have paid attention to the Power Point.
In my eyes, my Open House was successful because everyone was engaged the whole time that they were in my classroom.  I couldn't be happier with the way things went…parents were asking about the projects and things we are working on in our classroom rather than asking about their child's progress, which is more of a discussion that I like to save for conference time. 
Open House makes for a long day! But while it was a long, it was also a successful, fun and meaningful day…and that's what being a teacher is all about, right? 
Happy Teaching!

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