Saturday, September 26, 2015

Playing the Back to School Night Game

I have always struggled with what to do during Back to School night.  Do parents want to know who I am, my curriculum, my classroom procedures, etc.  I teach middle school history, and only have the parents for about 10 minutes.  For this year, I created a Kahoot game for my parents to play:

Here is a link to a video so you know what Kahoot is:

And by the end of the night, on my 24th Back to School night, I have finally realized what I want parents to take away from that night:

I want them to experience a small bit of the excitement
that their child experiences in my classroom.

And a few nights ago the competition of the Kahoot game and the fun and laughter that occurred throughout the night did just that.

Kahoot Game

I used questions within the Kahoots game to introduce topics that I felt were important to discuss with the parents, especially the purpose of gamifying my classroom and although I want students to have fun in my class, my main goal is to raise their knowledge & understanding of history.

The first class hardly had a chance to play.  As the night went on, we made it through more and more questions.

Take Aways:

Only give a minute to enter the game.

Make sure the game pin number is always visible so they can enter in mid game.
The game isn't the most important thing
Giving your student's parents a taste of the excitement of your class is. 

Tell parents without cellphones to play along as if they watching Jeopardy on TV.

Phrase the questions as segue into what you want to talk about.

For example, the question

"My wife grew up in West Virginia, what was her favorite baseball team?
Reds, Pirates, Yankees, None, she hates baseball

Answer: None, She Hates Baseball

Parents laughed at the trick question (and some of them agreed with my wife).  I then discussed my baseball themed classroom and why I have chosen to attack the problem of student motivation through it.  In the end, I tied the original question back to their child by stating,

"If your son or daughter hates baseball & you think they will struggle with me, remember, my wife has been with me for 18 happy years, and she hates baseball, I'm sure your child will be able to handle one."

When time ran out in the first class in mid game, a parent wanted me to still display the current leaderboard so everyone knew she had one.  From that point I always would announce the current leader when it was displayed on the screen as a game show host would do to build up the level of competition in the room.  In one class, the parents were having fun "trash talking" with one another of how they were going to win.  

Playing Kahoot was an excellent choice to play during Back to School Night.
Now parents have a frame of reference when their child says, 
"We played Kahoot"
And they will know their kid had a fun day of learning in history.

Other lessons from the night.

Digital Baseball Card

I tried to have my students create a "Digital Baseball Card" on a Google Slide, filled with information they find important about themselves, that I was going to show their parents as they walked into the room on the projector screen.  I miscalculated the amount of experience students had coming into my class on different computer applications and skills. What should have been wrapped up in a day or two, went longer for others (along with taking pictures of the students, their team logo, etc).  These mistakes along with all else that was happening (teaching, coaching, preparing for Back to School night, being a husband & father) one day was not enough time to put the slides into one slide presentation for each class.

Take Aways:

You do not have to try every new idea you have at once.  
Be willing to sacrifice a new idea if you cannot do it well.

The Baseball Card and Ticket Info

I handed out over 100 baseball cards that included information to my website and new class Twitter & Facebook page.  I also had parents fill out a "ticket" with their email.

Follow Up With an Email Home in the Next Two Weeks 
Thanking them for Coming Out
Reminding them of Class Twitter/Facebook Accounts 
Share the Great Things their Children Are Experiencing in Your Classroom

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