Friday, October 12, 2012

Hosting A Family Night

I find that family involvement is very valuable component to a successful school year.  These events don’t have to be fancy or have lots of bells and whistles.  Usually I try to get buy in from kids, and then the rest is easy.

I just had my first family event of the year.  It was called Multiplication Madness.  It was one hour of basic fact games and activities.  Doesn’t that sound like just more homework?  But kids will beg parents to return to school for just a little incentive like door prizes or snacks.

I had about one third of my students attend.  I also had a few siblings. 

Here are the steps I recommend for planning and hosting a successful family involvement event:

  1. Choose a theme or focus.  Keep it very positive and upbeat.  Some themes I’ve chosen in the past include math games,  homework success, out of this world reading, etc.  I try to choose something that is well suited to my students and timely to what we are learning.
  2. Promote it with kids.  Really talk it up.  This time I said I had multiplication games that they had not seen yet, they would be able to use the Smartboard to play the games of their choice, and there would be door prizes.
  3. Have the students promote the event and invite adults.  I copied the basic info of the night--what, where, when--on half a sheet of paper turned landscape.  The students folded that in and decorated the front to make an invitation to give to the adult of their choice.  In the past I’ve had grandparents, aunts, adult siblings, and babysitters attend.
  4. Continue to promote with parents.  I sent an email out to my parent list.
  5. Gather the materials you need, but keep it simple.  I went to a dollar store to buy door prizes.  I try to relate these to the theme.  If we are doing reading, I give away books.  If we are doing homework help, I make little homework boxes.  This time I had an assortment of calculators, bendable rulers, compasses, mechanical pencils, and fancy erasers.
  6. Put together a page or a packet that the grownups can take away with hints, ideas, and resources related to the topic.
  7. I try to spend little time talking, and set up activities for kids and adults to do together.  For Multiplication Madness we had time drills (kids vs. adults), 2 computers with online games, wipe off practice boards, a game to make and take home, various decks of flash cards, EM game--Multiplication Baseball.  
  8. I try to mingle, encourage, and respond to questions.
  9. I did the drawing for door prizes about 30 minutes in.  It worked out for everyone to get a prize.  Cost of prizes:  about $8  I do NOT always do prizes, but I usually try to for the first event of the year.
  10.   Ask kids to help clean up.  The adults will follow.

I find that I over plan, and that less is usually more.  I reap great rewards from these sorts of events.  {They really pay off when I need to share difficult information of any sort.)  

Some people ask this:  Don’t the same people always show up?  Isn’t it the ones who don’t need it who attend?

My response:  In this day and age the parents who are really parenting their kids need to be encouraged and supported.  At the very least those people are getting the message to keep doing what they are doing.  {There is almost always one kid or adult who attends that really surprises me.  I think my job is to offer it not control the results.)

I wish I could find a job where I got to do this all the time!  It’s like being an educational party planner!

What sort of events do you do with your students and their adults?

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