There’s no doubt that this school year is going to start uniquely. With large gatherings being banned, it may be safer to hold a virtual Open House, Meet the Teacher, or Back to School Night this year. Even beyond the state of the world right now, a virtual Open House as a typical option isn’t a bad idea. Parents may not typically be able to attend Open House due to after-school activities, work, or other obligations, so having a virtual option is something that you may consider in the future as well.
Reflect on How You Usually Do Things
This is not the year to reinvent the wheel. Think about how you usually do things at your school. Turn it into a simplified virtual version that will still produce the same results.
If you usually give a presentation to a room full of new families, it may be easiest to share that presentation with them via email. You can provide a Google Form for parents to submit their questions to you.
If you usually hold a more casual meet and greet session with stations, you can easily turn those stations into a clickable booklet or a website.
Share Details About Your Class to Start Building Connections
Are you going back to in-person teaching this year? Share a video tour or photos of your classroom in a Google Slides presentation with your students ahead of time. They will be more comfortable coming in on the first day if they have an idea of what their home away from home will look like.
If you’re comfortable recording a video of yourself talking, you can record a welcome video for families to watch. Tell them a little bit about yourself, what fun things students will learn this year, and how excited you are to be their teacher.
Build an Open House Google Site
I’m a total tech nerd, so this is exactly what I would choose to do! Google Sites has free templates that are super easy to customize with drag and drop capabilities. Creating a mini-site is a great option if you think you may want to offer a virtual option again in the future. Everything will be saved in one place and won’t have to be deleted (like you may do on a regular class site). Google Sites is free, but Weebly is also easy to use and a free option.
If you’re not that comfortable with technology, don’t choose this option. It will probably take you more time than you need to spend on something like this.
Give an Overview of What Distance Learning Will Look Like
You never know how much or how little someone will know about the learning platforms you will use with students during virtual learning days. Writing brief, easy-to-follow instructions for how to access websites, where to find student login information, how to submit an assignment, etc., will mean a lot to parents. Use screenshots, text, and labels to help them best understand what they’re looking at. If your grade level is using the same websites, you could easily divide and conquer this task.
Customize a Clickable Booklet
I created a Back to School Google Slides booklet that you can customize and share with families. There are two versions – one with prewritten titles and ideas for what to include on each page and one that is entirely editable. I wrote instructions on how to edit the files and how to share your finished booklet with parents. It’s super easy!
Have Parents Fill Out Forms Digitally
Using Google Forms to collect information from parents for back to school this year is the best. Everything ends up neatly organized in a spreadsheet for you, and you don’t have to chase after forms from parents. I’ve turned a few of my Back to School Forms into Google Forms just to test it out. They are SO easy to use (and create)! Parents can fill them out on any device with the internet – computer, tablet, or phone – without issue.
If you’re using Google Classroom, you can assign the forms for parents to fill out. This will make sure you get them filled out for every student. It also allows parents to become familiar with how Google Classroom works! Even if you don’t have Google Classroom, you can easily share the form links with parents through any LMS (learning management system) your school uses (Microsoft Teams, Seesaw, Canvas, etc.).
Plan a Video Chat with Families
Give parents the option to attend a Q&A or Meet the Teacher before school starts. You can hold a few sessions and allow parents to choose the time that works best for them. Or, you can offer different sessions for a set number of people to sign up for (to keep your chats smaller). You can use a site like SignUp Genius to have parents sign up for a chat session and email each group their link ahead of time.
No matter how you decide to meet and greet your new students, remember that everyone is doing this for the first time – including your students!