I can't even believe we're talking back-to-school! Didn't summer JUST start???
Back to school means lots of things...school supplies, squeaky clean teacher planners, new clothes (maybe that's just wishful thinking), #targetruns, setting up classrooms and decorating, and open house. Or meet the teacher. Or Sneak-a-Peek. #couldwepleasejustallchooseonenameandstickwithit (for the purposes of this post, I'm going to call it Open House)
Open House is absolutely wonderful! I get to meet the sweet families that I will from that point forward forever call my own...I expand the number of children that I affectionately refer to as mine!
Here's the thing though, on the inside, I'm crawling with nerves, and feelings of awkwardness. For real, y'all.
Parents and their kids come to the door, we say hello, and then everyone awkwardly wonders what in the world is supposed to happen for the next few minutes. There's a billion things to make sure parents know about, forms to fill out, and on and on.
I needed something for parents to do, so that I wasn't trying to tell the same thing to 25 different families who all arrive at different times. #chaos
Several years ago, I decided to try something different. For purely selfish reasons, of course. I can't handle awkwardness.
So instead of having all the papers set up for each student on individual desks, I set up STATIONS. #cuethehallelujahchorus
So what are stations, you ask? What do the parents do? What do the KIDS do? What does the teacher do?
What are stations?
Stations are numbered areas throughout the room. Parents start by signing in, and then continue through the rest of the stations. Once they get to the last one, they know they've gotten and done everything they need to do, and are free to leave.
When parents first walk up to my classroom door, I introduce myself, we shake hands, and I do the same with their child/children. I greet every.single.person that comes in the family. Oh, and smile! After introductions, I give parents an "agenda" of sorts, and it pretty much does the rest. (You can find the checklist pictured below HERE.)
Prior to using stations, I felt like I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I felt like parents were waiting to talk with me, while I was talking with a different family. I felt like parents didn't know what they were supposed to do, and everything just felt so awkward.
Stations, on the other hand:
- Provide clear, concise directions
- Provide a space for parents to fill out papers (and turn them in!)
- Speed things along...parents spend less time wondering what to do, and get them in and out (this makes it sound like I don't want them to stick around, but the truth is that parents have just as much to try to get ready for the first day of school as I do. Plus, there's often families who have more than one classroom to visit - stations get parents in and out in about 15-20 minutes)
- Allow me to mingle with families and students, and most importantly, allow me to greet families at the door
What do I have at each station?
I typically use 10 stations. You could use more or less...that's the great thing about stations, you get to make them fit YOUR needs.
Station 1 - Welcome and Sign in
- This is the only station (unless someone looks lost) that I point parents to...I hand them their agenda, and tell them to start here.
- This is pretty much the most important station I have. I need to know how my students are getting home each day, and especially on the first day of school.
- While I also asked parents to turn in the student info sheet before they leave, this is the ONE thing I've got to have turned in!Station 3 - Student Info
- Student info is pretty much the same no matter where you go. Does the office have this info? Yes. But I like to have it on my form, all in one "student info" binder that I keep in my classroom.
Station 4 - Volunteer/Room Parent
- Sometimes parents want to know when they can help, and I always direct them here. Some years I have lots of parent volunteers, some years I have zero.
Station 5 - Supplies
- This is my favorite station (like, duh)! If parents brought supplies with them, I have them sort (this is a great job for the kids) the supplies into the containers.
- If parents didn't bring supplies, I have supply lists specific to my classroom ready for parents to grab.
- ***Tip: Put one of what you want in each container to everyone knows exactly what goes where***
Station 6 - Instagram/Text Notifications
- Last year, I did a class Instagram, and gave parents information with how to follow the class, as well as had them sign a permission slip.
- In years prior, I used text notifications through Remind (formerly Remind 101), but now there are a lot of different apps you can use, like Bloomz that The Elementary Darling wrote about.
Station 7 - Getting to Know Your Child
- I like to have parents describe their child to me. It's let me get to know the child from their perspective.
Station 8 - Meet the Teacher
- Parents pick up a sheet that tells them, and their child all about me. This is one station that I always hear a lot of comments from.
Station 9 - Wish List
- I included a half sheet with items that are wish list items. Parents take one if they want, and send in supplies if they want. No pressure with a wish list.
Station 10 - Scrapbook Page
- The scrapbook page station is where my students get their very first assignment for the new school year! I ask students to create a scrapbook page that tells all about them! I usually have it due the end of the first week of school, and students present them to the class.
- The scrapbook page doubles as our first class book that lives in the classroom library!
- I provide the scrapbook paper and allow students to choose their favorite color.
- I also have examples from previous years that are always pretty popular!
What do students do?
I tend to switch this up each year. Some years I have some sort of "All About Me" page for students to complete. Sometimes, I ask students to sort their school supplies at station 5. Other times, I just let them go with their parents.
Tomorrow, Erin from The Elementary Darling will be sharing 10 ideas for STUDENT participation during open house, and I can't wait to read all about it! Read about it HERE.
Are others using stations?
In a word...YES!
A few years ago, I got smart, and made stations that I could use year after year instead of having to retype them from scratch each year. Here's what other teachers are saying about them:
If you're interested in what I've shared (which is editable) you can find them HERE!