5-6, 7-8, 9-12, Advanced Topics, AP Computer Science A, AP Computer Science Principles, Computer Science I, Robotics, Uncategorized

Back to School Night Ideas

Most teachers I talk to, myself included, still feel a little anxiety around Back to School Night. At my school, it feels like a mad rush to get from class to class and give a quick seven minute spiel. Somehow, in that short time, we need to give our guests an idea of who we are, what our classroom is like, what our policies are, what their students will learn this year, … Its overwhelming.

With the added pressure of Back to School Night in person (we hosted virtually last year in a modified format), I decided to stick with what I’m most comfortable with and just teach. In each class, I picked out a quick unplugged activity or discussion to give a truer sense of what a period in my classroom is like. Some ideas:

  • Unplugged activities – This year I did a quick set of “Simon Says” that I usually do with 5th graders to introduce conditional statements. The parity magic trick would also be a fun opener, but practice in advance!
  • Problem Solving Task – My CS1 students love to try and find the “trick” in problem solving tasks so I invited the grown-ups to attempt the classic bridge-crossing riddle. They were significantly less successful than their students.
  • Quick Game – Using a QR code to distribute the link, I invited AP CSP grown-ups to play the binary game from code.org. Google QuickDraw is another fun one if your class learns about artificial intelligence.
  • Sample Activity – In order to demonstrate what object-oriented programming was to the AP CSA parents, we talked through the attributes and methods that would make up a Plant class. This activity is similar to how I introduced the idea to their students. In my robotics class, we discussed some of the positive and negative impacts of real-world robots. I love a good “What do you notice? What do you wonder?” Maybe show them Wireshark or an interesting data visualization.
  • Sample Projects – This one feels like it should’ve been obvious, but this was the first year I showed interactive Scratch projects from students. The grown-ups had a laugh playing the games!

With any time that was left, I gave a quick overview of what topics we’d cover or some highlights to look forward to, and a general overview of how students will be assessed. Overall, a much better night!

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