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Bright Ideas for Back-to-School Night... and Beyond

By: Reading Rockets
It's time to head back to school. And while kids are stuffing their backpacks with new school supplies, we're packing a different sort of bag here at Reading Rockets — one filled with resources to help make one of the most important evening events of the school year really sparkle — back-to-school night.
Launching a great new school year

Typically, back-to-school night is big event on the school calendar. This opportunity for parents and teachers to meet and connect deserves special attention. We've gathered ideas and materials to help plan the evening, ideas to encourage attendance and participation, resources to share with parents, as well as materials to help parents make the most of back-to-school night and set the tone for a successful school year.

In this article:

For Teachers: Planning Your Back-to-School Night

Tips to make your back-to-school night a success

Set the tone for your entire year with the parents of your new students — and open the door to trust and cooperation. Teacher's Network presents tips on how to prepare, what to put on the desks, and what a good presentation looks like.

What your child will learn

Create a one-page summary of what your students will learn this year in class, so parents have an overall picture of the school year and how everything fits into the standards. Remind parents to read and learn with their children every day to build literacy and background knowledge skills!

Meet our class

Represent the diversity of your school's ELL population and create a memorable back-to-school night display.

Back-to-school welcome flyer

Download this ready-to-print welcome flyer from Reading Rockets. Each child can fill in their favorite book titles and things they like to read about. Perfect for desktops or bulletin boards to welcome families to the classroom.

Name tags

In preparation for back-to-school night, have students design original name tags for their parents, or use these name tags from children's author Jan Brett.

Back to School Night

For Teachers: Beyond Back-to-School Night

Parents in the picture

Build partnerships with your students' parents that last beyond back-to-school night. The National PTA has a program called MORE: Men Organized to Raise Engagement, dedicated to strengthening the relationship betwen kids and the important men in their lives. A critical part of this program is connecting fathers with schools.

Back-to-school is for dads, too

Children do better in school when their fathers are involved. Here are some back-to-school tips for dads written by fathers themselves. And Scholastic offers a wealth of practical ideas for ensuring that your classroom and school are father-friendly.

Building parent-teacher relationships

Learn the essentials of effective communication to strengthen the school-family partnership.

Back to school for principals and school administrators

Dig into these back-to-school tips and resources on a wide range of topics, including preparing for the first day, taking a close look at your school's culture, and parent involvement strategies.

Reaching out to parents of ELLs

Some Hispanic parents feel apprehensive about getting involved because of limited English skills, lack of familiarity with mainstream culture and the public school system in the U.S, and other reasons. Discover ways to reach out to your bilingual families.

Bilingual family night

Read about classroom-tested ideas on how to host a successful family night for bilingual families.

Getting bilingual parents involved

Meet Angelica Torres who was apprehensive at first about volunteering at her child's school. She loved it and now encourages other parents to get involved. Watch the video. video

Home-school collaboration for students with ADHD

For students with ADHD, it is essential to have effective parent-teacher communication, collaboration, and consistency on goals and rewards, as well as collaborative planning and monitoring of interventions.

Weekly classroom newsletter template

Parents love to know what's going on in their child's classroom, and a weekly newsletter is a great way to keep the communication going. Reading Rockets offers a ready-to-use, editable newsletter template complete with extra graphics and more than 50 reading tips.

Local literacy events and resources

  • Subscribe to the public library newsletter for story time hours and special children's programming such as el día de los niños
  • The Center for the Book at the Library of Congress publishes a calendar of book fairs by state.
  • Subscribe to publisher author alerts. AuthorTracker, a nifty service from HarperCollins, will notify you whenever your favorite authors come out with new books, go on tour, and more
  • Plan an author visit for your school. Many authors welcome invitations — check out their websites to learn more.

Great e-newsletters for teachers

Everyone is so busy that it's hard to keep up with all the good information out there for teachers. Here's the short list of must-read newsletters:

Online Resources for Parents

Back-to-school night basics

Make the most of back-to-school night. It's a valuable opportunity to learn important information about your child's classroom experience. (Also in Spanish)

Help your child make a smooth re-entry to school

Browse these tips on topics ranging from what to expect on the first day of school, to dealing with back-to-school anxiety, and adjusting to a new teacher

Back-to-school transitions

Getting a new school year off to a good start can influence children's attitude, confidence, and performance both socially and academically. Here are ideas for parents to help smooth the transition from August to September from the National Association of School Psychologists.

Connect with your school counselor

As a parent, you know your child best. However, the school counselor can help you better understand your child as a student. Learn how you can collaborate effectively with the school counselor to ensure your child's academic and social success.

10 ways for parents to help teachers

Tip #1: Create a smooth takeoff each day. Give your child a hug before she ventures out the door and you head to work. Look her in the eye, and tell her how proud you are of her. Your child's self-confidence and security will help her do well both in school and in life. See all 10 tips.

Tips for a positive partnership

The U.S. Education Department provides these tips for parents about how to be involved in your child's school, and what to do if problems arise.

If your child has learning difficulties

There's so much to cover at back-to-school night beyond the classroom basics. Some parents may want to spend more time on these topics:

The best way to support your child with learning disabilities is to develop a strong relationship with the teachers, administrators, and other staff who educate your child.

It takes a while for teachers to get to know their students. Parents, especially parents of special needs students, can help the process along by designing a dossier and discuss it at the first parent-teacher conference.

Sound It Out blog

Subscribe to this lively weekly blog from Joanne Meier, the Reading Rockets reading expert — and the mom of two elementary school kids.

Resources to Print and Share with Parents

Back-to-school books for kids

Who's who at your child's school

Customize this glossary of personnel for your own school and distribute to parents at back-to-school night.

The school library

Did you know that the size of a school library's staff and collection is one of the best school predictors of academic achievement? Offer parents information about how to access and support your school library.

Parent guides to student success

These 4-page printable guides to student success provide an overview of what your K-3 child will learn by the end of the school year in mathematics and English language arts/literacy. In English and Spanish.

Reading with your child: parent tip sheets

For parents of kids in preschool through grade 3, these reading tip sheets are available in 11 languages.

Growing Readers

Subscribe to these free one-page articles for parents, in English and Spanish, on topics ranging from building background knowledge to helping your kids succeed in school.

Do you have a reading rocket at home?

Download and print this colorful bilingual door hanger.

Lunchbox notes

Small notes tucked inside a lunchbox or bookbag can really bring a smile to your child's face. In addition to reinforcing reading skills, you're also modeling the power of writing. Download these ready-to-print note papers.

Reading Rockets (2010)

Reprints

You are welcome to print copies or republish materials for non-commercial use as long as credit is given to Reading Rockets and the author(s). For commercial use, please contact info@readingrockets.org.

Comments

This article gave great insight to teachers for kicking off the school year! Reading this article made me excited and reader to begin a new, successful school year. I think parents would really enjoy back to school nights if they are we're designed as the one in this article. I also think counselors could implement some of the ideas that were mentioned in the article as well. The article definitely set the tone to a new school year. I thought the one page summary of what the child would learn in the school year was an awesome idea. This help parents identify what exactly will be happening in their child's classroom. Back to school nights is a great networking experience for all teachers staff and parents, helps build relationships and strengthen the community and school culture. Welcome flyer is a good resourceful ideas as well as the weekly newsletters. Again, keeping parents I the loop is important. I was really glad to see the article mentioning inviting dads out specifically, they play a huge role in education too (great point). As a future school counselor I was also very happy to see 'introduce the school counselor' section. Being that counselor play a sufficient role in student education, academics, personal/social and career aspects, I think it is great to get to know who's who in the building. The print and share section was also a great resource as well. Parents will definitely benefit from those resources. This article did a great job of outlining things not only teachers could do to start the school year off right, but counselor as well. Great read!

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