Back-to-School Night 2.0

My classroom is not your conventional English class, so I decided my Back-to-School Night should not be the traditional sit and listen affair. I wanted to engage my parents, connect them with resources and show them what my class was like.

Here are some tips for anyone looking to shake up their Back-to-School Night!

Design an Animoto Video: Let Parents See Their Students Engaged

First, I wanted to provide a window into my classroom. How many parents with high school students ever get to see what their child looks like in a classroom? 

I created a short Animoto video pairing pictures from various class activities (indoor and out) with music and a theme. This made me look way more artistic and tech savvy than I actually am!

Many of my parents clapped as the short video ended. They clearly appreciated the time I put into designing something creative for them to enjoy that showcased their children. 


Walk them Through a Virtual Tour of Your Website

I wanted my parents to know where to go for information, so they could support their children as the year progresses. I’ve designed my class website to be a one-stop-shop for students and parents. It has:

    • Google calendar with their reading schedule and important due dates.
    • Homework page with all of their assignments and hyperlinks.
    • Links page to connect them with helpful websites. 
    • Google map with pins dropped all over our campus and community where students can use computers with Internet access. 
    • Video Collections of embedded videos to support essay writing and vocabulary development. 
    • Parent survey page to collect information. 
    • About your teacher page. 

My parents were clearly surprised by the collection of resources on my website. Many were already looking the site up on their phones before leaving the room.

I also asked them to complete the Parent Survey (Google Form) at their earliest convenience, so I could gather important information about their child – special needs, interests, after school obligations, etc. This replaced traditional pen and paper surveys which were hard to organize and reference throughout the year. 


Use a Backchannel Like TodaysMeet

Just like in the classroom, Back-to-School Night presents the challenge of covering a lot of information in a short period of time. Often a parent will have a question with a complex answer or their question may be specific to their child. Using a backchannel, like TodaysMeet, offers parents a way to ask questions, make comments and engage actively during Back-to-School Night without slowing down the flow of the evening.

Teachers can also create a TodaysMeet room that will stay open for 24 hours or a week so parents can ask questions or make comments after the evening is over. Just like our students, some parents may need a little longer to process all of the information presented at Back-to-School Night. 


Set Up Parent Reminders with Remind101

I told parents that I was using Remind 101 to send their children text message reminders before important due dates. I invited them to sign up if they also wanted to get those same text message reminders. For many parents, this was a welcome opportunity to stay in the loop!

I simply projected this image onto my board and my parents were signed up in moments.

I believe my parents walked away from Back-to-School Night confident that  their student would be engaged and supported in my classroom.

It was exciting to integrate the technology that is transforming my work with students into a more dynamic Back-to-School experience. 

If you have fun strategies you use or technology you love to incorporate into Back-to-School Night, please post a comment and share your ideas!

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37 Responses to Back-to-School Night 2.0

  1. Pingback: Back-to-School Night 2.0 | Tech in Education Ne...

  2. Tracy Roberts says:

    This was very helpful, I like the idea of letting the parents see their students in action. Thank you for the great ideas.

  3. Carrie McDaniel says:

    For my back to school night, I have taken pictures of activities that my students have done so far throughout the school year. I am going to incorporate a slide show of my students so parents can see their students in action in the classroom.

  4. Amy Walters says:

    I really like the idea of TodaysMeet. I know in my back to school night I had maybe 10 minutes to explain and go over all my classroom procedures, expectations, and explaining the course outline. After going over all that information that parents didn’t really have time to ask questions or even process everything I just discussed let alone 5 other classroom teacher’s information. I like that it gives parents time to process the information and set up the question that pertains to their child. Also parents are just like students that don’t want to ask a stupid questions or don’t want to look like they don’t understand something the teacher has just explained.

    • I totally agree, Amy.

      It’s such an easy to use tool with students. I also appreciate how easy it is to use at events, like Back to School, to give parents and avenue to ask questions.

      Thank you for the comment!

  5. Salvador Narez says:

    Back to School night was a great way to get to know parents and families of the students. This experience with the parents and/or guardians also allowed parents to know how the class is run, the expectations of their children/students, and also the expectations that I have of the students and parents. Back to School nights are very necessary to understand why students are performing the way their performing my asking the parents about the student.

  6. Al Karalius says:

    I like your back to school night videos about students. Other teachers have told me to never record students and thus I have never entertained this great idea….I will rethink this one.
    Al K

  7. Susana Medina says:

    I enjoyed reading about your Back to School Night. My Back to school night turned out to be a successful experience for me. I had full classroom each visiting period. Parents/guardians were delighted to see their student’s work posted on the walls. I didn’t know I could have used video to record students and prepare a brief presentation of “students in action.” I will have to inquire about obtaining permission to record students when they are practicing their public speaking skills.”

  8. Kelly Taminich says:

    LOVE THE VIDEO! I think that it is important to provide this type of visual for parents/guardians, in order to give them a little more insight in to what their child’s school experiences consist of. I generally try to put together slideshows and just leave out pictures of any students who do not have a media release form signed. I also have one bulletin board that I have started putting pictures of the students on. I try to capture fun activities and experiences and then post them, so that they feel like the classroom is theirs <3

  9. Reyna Lopez says:

    Thank you Catlin for sharing your ideas with us. Certainly, it is a great idea to let parents know what we do in the classroom. I will consider that for future Back-to School Nights. In my Back to School Night, the principal prepared a shore video. After the 5 minutes video, I talked about my expectations and procedures.

  10. Jennifer Sprague says:

    This link came in handy for me while planning for my first back to school night. I gave parents a brief overview of the daily schedule and classroom expectations, and then made sure they all knew how to find the classroom website to check for information and know how to contact me. Next year I hope to create a slideshow for parents showing activities we have done in class. By the time Open House rolls around later in the year, I will have a slideshow made. One of these days I will have to check out the Remind 101 app. I have it downloaded, I just need to look into how to use it…do parents end up with your cell number be sending them messages?

    Thanks for the useful info!

  11. Araceli Flores says:

    Wow! That was a great and creative idea. Thank you for sharing. Certainly something I would like to try with my class.

  12. Julia Nelson says:

    Amazing! Sounds like you had a very successful Back to School Night. I love what you did and I especially love the video and text message alert. Depending on the resources in which the parents have, this message alert can be very helpful to most! I love the idea of the video as well. It is wonderful how powerful and beneficial technology can be. Thank your for the ideas!:))

  13. Stephanie Aguilar says:

    This was very insightful and helpful in my upcoming planning for Back to School Night!

  14. I really learned a lot from this! I would have never thought of making a video of students at work and will definitely be trying it in the near future! I did use a Powerpoint this year to show information, but I really would like to make everything electronic. It provides less paperwork for all, and I think that the parents would appreciate it. I have heard of Remind before from a colleague and would like to try this as well. I have photos around the room, provide parents with information about myself and go over our class schedule to make the experience of Back to School Night a great one. I believe adding technology will only make it better.
    Thank you for the ideas!

  15. Cindy Garside says:

    That Back to School Night Presentation was so awesome. I totally need to update my tech skills. If I had a super presentation like yours I bet more parents would come visit my room. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Gerry Escallier says:

    Great ideas, Catlin. I use paper “parent surveys” and “tell me about your child” forms, and it is a pain to organize and reference those. I had a very low turnout at “Back to School Night”, and I wonder if your idea would stimulate more participation… Thanks for the ideas and explanations.

  17. Ashley Lerner says:

    I enjoyed the idea about having parents fill out a survey online that way all the information is there for you and you don’t have to spend time filling it in. Parents feel that the teacher is interested in their child and will have given them the means to be contacted if there are any questions.

  18. Emily Fillmore says:

    These are all great ideas. Unfortunately, we had our back to school night quite some time ago so I was not able to use all of them. However, in the future some of these will be great tips in addition to the slide show that I used this time around.

  19. Christina Peloquin says:

    I love these ideas! I wish I would have had these resources before I had back to school night! The video was great. I had about 75 families at my open house and had them all add their email addresses. I wish I had the remind me app so parents could sign up for it then because now that I have found out about this I have to find a way to get a hold of parents and then individually add them all in. I would love to incorporate these ideas for my next back to school night.

    • That’s a great turn out for Back-to-School Night, Christina!

      You can always send parents out an email to your parents inviting them to sign up for text message reminders. I put it on my syllabus and mention it at Back-to-School Night. It’s such a great tool!

      Take care.

  20. Krista Wolf says:

    I love the idea of sharing a video of student experiences in Back to School night – and I’m interesting in exploring your website!

  21. Kate Martinez says:

    I love the idea of having the parents complete a survey. Especially having a section for information they may just feel is important for me to know about their student, situation, etc. I know that as a parent myself feeling as though the teacher cares enough to find out about my student specifically, especially in middle school, would make me feel so much better.

    • Thank you for the comment, Kate.

      Parents are very honest in their comments about their students. It is nice to get some insight into my students from another perspective. It’s also a good reminder that many of my students are dealing with a lot beyond my class.

      Take care.

  22. Rojelio Solis says:

    Great ideas!! I wish my student population was characterized by parents that had this type of tech savvy and technology availability. Nevertheless, there are still some aspects of your BTSN presentation that I’d be able to and happy to incorporate next time around as our BTSN was about four weeks ago. Thanks again for the ideas!

    • Not all of my parents are super tech savvy. Several of my students’ parents have said they are learning from their students, which is great. I love that they are eager to learn. Plus, it’s fun that my students can help teach their parents using the skills they are developing in my class.

      Thank you for the comment, Rojelio.

      Take care.

  23. Michael Moon says:

    I think these are some great ideas for Back to School Night. I teach lower level study skills classes to freshman and sophomores that are struggling so the parent turn out for my classes are pretty bad. There are always a few parents that show up and I usually teach them how to access their children’s grades and briefly describe the class. I need to find a way to incorporate some of these ideas next year. Getting an increased in parent attendance would not hurt either.

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