Terrific Tips & Ideas for Planning Your Back-to-School Night
Inspiration for In-Person and Virtual Events
Back-to-school night serves as one of the most important building blocks for a successful school year. Use this perfect time to capitalize on school spirit for getting families engaged for the year, recruiting active parent volunteers, and building excitement for the year's upcoming school activities, events, and fundraisers!
Whether it’s elementary school, middle school, or high school – the one constant is that there is never enough time. The key to a successful Back-to-school night is organization, organization, organization! Use these tried and true tips for the best Back-to-school night yet.
1. Make it as easy as possible for parents to attend. Make sure there is clear signage directing parents to parking and to the classrooms within the school. Recruit your student council to stand in the hallways, guiding parents to specific room numbers. If at all possible, offer childcare so that parents can attend without distraction. Plan to host virtual attendees, as well – be sure to check out our fresh ideas for increasing parent involvement with virtual options below!
2. Support and welcome your non-English-speaking families. Recruit the help of bilingual staff and students to translate signage, wear “I Speak ____” badges (translated, of course) so families can find someone to answer their questions, translate key information during live presentations, make alternate language versions of your Welcome Back video, etc. If you have a predominant second language in your school community, consider hosting a separate Back to School Night in that language.
3. Make sure you acknowledge your parent leaders by giving them pre-printed or decorated name tags with a badge that says “Ask Me”. Recruit veteran parents who feel comfortable to serve as resources for other parents, and make sure that new-to-the-school parents know where to direct their questions and concerns.
4. Set expectations in your opening remarks to establish the goals of the evening. Note that teachers will be unable to offer specific remarks about individual children – those will have to wait until parent-teacher conferences a bit later in the semester. Back-to-school night is about introducing the teacher and class to the parents!
5. Make your school calendar of events listed and easily accessible, it allows parents to pick and choose which activities they can participate in, and to add those commitments to their calendars. Today’s technology makes that easier than ever. Have all of your school activities SignUps for the year ready to go in one central place on SignUp.com – free of charge! Post your SignUp invitation as a QR Code that parents can scan with their smartphone camera so they can sign up to pitch in or participate immediately! SignUp’s automated calendar sync, confirmations and reminders keep busy parents on track.
6. Have a Club Fair at Back-to-School Night. Ask representatives of the various school clubs, sports, and extra-curricular activities to set up booths so parents can learn about new school programs, clubs, after-school resources, and volunteering opportunities.
7. Don’t forget to connect your parents to each other and the school through social media. Prominently post where and how parents can connect online, and ask them to follow the school and school-parent group on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram. Get more tips for using social media to boost volunteer participation here!
8. Encourage teachers to send copies of their PowerPoint presentations to their class parents after the live event. This allows parents to fully engage and listen, rather than focusing on taking notes. Parents can simply refer to the slides when they need information like website URLs, class expectations, supplies needed, teacher contact information, and details of how parents can sign up to volunteer or donate via SignUp.com. Pro Tip: Work with the school resource team to create translated version(s) of slides for parents who speak other languages.
9. Offer flexibility. Most Back-to-school nights are very tightly scheduled, but it’s always a good idea to offer a few light refreshments, especially for those parents coming directly from work. If possible, set aside 15 - 20 minutes at the beginning of the event for parents to gather, socialize, and grab a quick snack before diving into the “business” of the school year ahead. Pro Tip: Use SignUp to invite parents to sign up for hospitality duty to pitch in on drinks and snacks.
10. Have a system in place to allow your Parent-School Group to collect membership dues on-site at Back-to-school night. This allows the PTO to hold a membership drive while excitement about the school is running high, and gives them some sense of their numbers for the coming year. (Pro Tip: Use a simple membership platform, like our partner MemberHub, to collect dues and manage all your parent group’s membership needs.)
11. Ask teachers to highlight items bought through parent contributions. For example, “Thanks to generous contributions collected by our PTO, I’m able to show you a quick presentation using our new projector.”
Go Virtual at Your Back-to-School Night
Get more parent involvement by offering a virtual option for those that cannot attend in person, whether it’s due to work hours or another scheduling conflict, health, lack of childcare for younger kids, whatever the issue may be. We’ve got some great ideas for going virtual this back-to-school night!
Zoom makes it super easy to stream live speeches during back-to-school night. Simply set up a meeting link prior to back-to-school night and share it – plus details of the event – on the school’s website and on social media. (Pro Tip: Download one of our fun social media graphics to pair with your social post!) On the night of the event, connect to Zoom using the meeting link and set up the speaker in front of a computer screen so virtual attendees can see and listen in.
A back-to-school slide presentation on a simple PowerPoint is a tried and true way to provide parents with key information about the school calendar, parent-group, known plans for the school year, class expectations, and how to get involved. This can easily be shared online before, during, or after the official back-to-school night so parents can view it when convenient for them. Add the presentation (converted to .pdf) to the school or class website, then share the link on social media.
Welcome Back Video
Like slides, video presentations are perfect for providing useful information that will set expectations for the school year and invite parents to participate. Make it more fun by including a video tour of the school, interviews of parents and kids sharing their experiences at the school, an interview with the school’s mascot, or a “day in the life” video of the school principal or a teacher. Add the video to the school’s website and share on social media, in school newsletters, and via any other communication channels used by your group.
Get teachers involved in the virtual information sharing – ask each one to record a short video introducing themselves and providing insights into their teaching style, goals and expectations for the class for the year, and/or a tour of their classroom. Set up a page on the school’s website dedicated to these videos, for parents and students to peruse and watch before the school year begins.
Whether you choose to host your event in-person, virtual, or a hybrid of the two, a great back-to-school night sets the tone for the coming school year – so have FUN!