Friday, August 14, 2015

8/14/15 - Open House Revamped

Last night was my eleventh Open House. I would be understating things if I said that I hate Open House. Its the longest day of the year. I show up at 7am and don't leave until close to 8pm. I have 10 minutes to give my shpeal and every parent wants to have a private conversation. I don't begrudge parents taking this opportunity to try to talk to their student's teachers. For many, this is the one and only face to face interaction they will have for the entire year.  But the part of Open House I struggle with is the sense of redundancy.  I stand there, regurgitating the syllabus and course expectations I sent home on day 1, only to have parents sit there, eyes glazed over after a long work day. Everyone leaves feeling like it was a huge of waste of time, me included.

As Open House time approached that familiar sense of dread returned. I flashed back to talking at groups of exhausted adults, many of whom were only in attendance to get a non-uniform wristband for their student. Those who did engage in conversation were more then happy to tell me how they were "never good at math." Ugh!!! I began fantasizing of the minor illnesses I might come down with the day before. Considered concocting a family emergency that would make it impossible for me to attend.  Then something wonderful happened. I saw the list of MTBoS Blaugust prompts and #42 jumped out at me - What do you do for parent night/open house? I realized that I would be embarrassed to write a post about what I do for open house. I was immediately motivated to change my old boring presentation, turning it into something interesting, engaging and relevant. I reached out on Twitter and received great responses from Meg Craig and Kristin Gray.

Here's what I did . . .

I decided to run the presentation like I do my class.  I met parents at the door, welcoming them and instructing them to pick up their materials as they entered.  I explained that we would be engaging in group work, critical thinking and problem solving, with the hope that they (the parents) would leave with a clearer picture of what their student's experience is like in my class.

I briefly explained that we were studying patterns and functions and that they would be engaging in the type of work their students were tasked with daily.  Each parent was given a form to help guide them through the problem solving process.

I reviewed the form, explaining the goal of the activity and then displayed the pattern (Brad Fulton).

I encouraged parents to collaborate with their table mates, as they were their partners, and advised all students in attendance that they could guide their parents but not do the problem for them.

No surprisingly, a few parents scoffed at the activity. One actually asked, "Are you serious??" After ensuring him that I was, in fact, very serious, he began working through the problem with his student's assistance and encouragement.

As I do during a typical class session, I circulated, listening to conversations and providing guidance

via Everybody is a Genius
and encouragement.  Since I had such a short period of time, many groups were unable to complete the problem, but that was quite alright. I brought the whole group back together and explained how this activity not only encouraged the application concrete mathematical skills, but also reinforced the Standards for Mathematical Practice. I reviewed the SMPs, pointing out how they were connected to the activity they had just engaged in, and how their students were building these skills on a daily basis.

The activity and explanation took almost the entire ten minutes. Not a surprise. What did shock me, in a good way, was how happy the parents looked. How excited they were to work through the problem with each other and their students. How much more at ease they seemed after the experience. Today, I had several students come in and tell me how their parents went home and told them all about their experience in my class during Open House. AWESOME!!! I will definitely do this, or something similar, next year. Open House Rocks!!


  1. I like the idea of getting parents involved in the discussion during open house. It also gives them a perspective of what's happening in the classroom and the type of problems that are introduced. During open house I tend to feel like I'm always talking at the parents and not with them. I'm thinking of doing something similar to your activity with my back to school night. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I felt the exact same way. I hope it goes well. I'd love to read a blog post about it ;-)

  2. Love it! I think I might have to try it!