3 ways to create a student-led open house

Student leadership at a school Open House? You betcha.

#ready2launch student-led open houseYou’ve heard of student-led conferences, but how about a Student-Led Open House? An idea so strange it just might work.

When we partner with young adolescents, we give them voice and choice. We know that is one of the best practices of middle level education. In theory, schools and teachers engage in this throughout the school experience. But let’s face it, sometimes giving up control can feel a little intimidating. Let’s look at 3 easy ways to move towards a student-led open house

1. Students do actually lead the Open House

Just go for it. Try asking your students to run your Parent Open House (or Family Night or whatever incarnation your school selects) and see how they respond. The best way for them to understand the systems and structures at their middle school is for them to teach others — like their own families.

Students presenting to families and visitors at the Nuvu Innovation Center in Cambridge MA. Image by Arnau Gifreu Castells, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

This takes some planning, but you can do it! Brainstorm with your students:

  • what will parents need to learn tonight?
  • what do they most want their families to know about the new year?

Assign students group roles and responsibilities. Set deadlines for check-ins. Divide and conquer. Boom!

2. Students serve as Open House guides

If the idea of turning over the entire open house to students is a bit of a stretch at the current moment, try letting students take a more direct leadership role with just their own parents.

In this case, let students give their families a guided tour of predetermined information. You, as the educator, may still choose to disseminate some material to the whole group, but then you can hand the reins over to your students for the rest. Float around and see how the interactions are going. Watch your students show off the school and their excitement for the new year!

3. Change begins with just one step: the Student-Led Scavenger Hunt

Engage kids and families with either a low-tech or high-tech scavenger hunt

First, the teacher has the students make the scavenger hunt for their parents. Ask them questions like, “What’s important to know about our classroom?” and “What should they be able to locate here in school?” Middle schoolers in particular will have have a blast creating the hunt.

For a high tech option, use a free app like Goose Chase

Parents can use their own personal phones or could borrow a tablet from the classroom.

When families and students arrive, assign the student and their families to a “team”. Make teams of parents, direct them to your scavenger hunt on Goose Chase, and let the hilarity and discovery ensue.

If you’re worried about wifi working (or simply fear geese) go low-tech

Students can make a similar Scavenger Hunt on paper for parents. The same questions apply, but finding the answers can involve getting parents moving around the school or classroom. Students would learn the age-old art of riddle-writing.

How’d it go?

Lastly, great teachers ask parents for feedback. While you have a captive audience of parents, be sure to get each to fill out a simple paper or electronic survey about how they wish to receive communication. You can even make sure the student gets it done for his or her parent.

Something like this is simple and effective:


Ms. Mark’s Parent Communication Survey

You’ve maximized brief contact time with families and put kids in the driver’s seat – where they belong.

How are students involved in your school’s Open House?

Rachel Mark

Rachel Mark joins the Tarrant Institute as a Professional Development Coordinator in the southern part of Vermont. Prior to working with TIIE, Rachel was a middle school literacy and social studies teacher at Tarrant partner school Manchester Elementary-Middle. As a teacher, Rachel loved exploring new content and new methods with inquisitive young adolescents. She thinks middle schools are the most dynamic learning centers in the state. Rachel is passionate about supporting teachers and helping them overcome obstacles; it’s her mission to break down the barriers that teachers face in implementing change. She is interested in student reflection and portfolio based assessment, inquiry and project-based learning When she's not reading, researching and supporting teachers, Rachel loves to play. She balances her life shuttling three busy kids around by getting sweaty and zen - yoga, exercise, and being outdoors are how she recharges her metaphorical batteries.

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