Family Involvment: Game Nights

Aug 5, 2016

How does family involvement work at your school?  Every school is so different.  It has been interesting to watch the evolution of events since I moved to the Title I position at my school.  Reaching out to families is a component to Title I funding.  My first year as a Title I teacher, my team hosted a family night.  We had 1 attendant.
Flash forward to my 6th year in this position (is that right?)...

It was not the fault of the families that no one came to my first family event.  It was my fault for not being engaging.  I want families in our schools.  I want them to participate, talk, see what we are doing, and help me to be the best educator I can be for their kids.

So this past school year, we did things a bit differently.  First of all, we had the Readbox.  I know I have talked about it a million times.  But it was a great way to be outside every day, talk to families, and get books into the hands of their kids.

But...We also added a Monthly Game Night.

Honestly, we were not sure how this was going to work out.  But we knew that we wanted our students to have more opportunities to problem solve, be critical thinkers, and play.  We thought a Game Night would be a good idea because with the influx of video games, iPhones, etc. Board games just aren't pulled out as often.

But where to start?  What did we want it to look like each month?  How would we get the families to come?

The Games
We started with a schedule.  All the dates were picked and we decided to have a monthly theme.  One month was all about checkers...another month was centered around Pictionary...while another was classic board games.  Here is what our months look like:
September--Puzzles       October--Pictionary    December--Checkers    January--Board Games    March --Math games     April --Create a Game    
May --All games
The Food
But games were not the only thing we added to these nights.  We also included food.  Because food always makes things better. :)  Since we are a primary building, we added some alliteration to the food that we served.  Some months it was a full meal and other months it was just a snack.  A few examples: puzzles and pizza; hot chocolate and checkers; pictionary and popcorn; spaghetti and subitizing!

examples of food to be served

 The Decor
Typically when we have big school events, I love to dress the part and decorate the school.  But our game nights were happening every month.  I could not possibly keep up with all that decorating and planning.  So we didn't.  The game nights were simple, to the point.  We had the games and the food.  And you know what...that was just enough!

The Logistics
Invitations were sent home a few times before the night of the event.  For every family that RSVP'd, we put a bracelet reminder on the child the day of the event.  Once the families arrived, they signed in and grabbed the game, and started playing. 15 minutes into the event, my teammate and I would make a quick announcement about what we do as Title I teachers, why we picked the game of the night (strategic thinking, problem solving, etc), and how it connected to classroom learning. Food would be served, once the games were well underway or winding down.  Each game night lasted for one hour and we asked them to fill out a quick evaluation on their way out.  And many time we had something for them to take home with them: pad of paper to play pictionary at home, copy of a checker board, or subitizing card game.
Hitting the standards in a fun way

We also advertised a bit for the event by wearing our "Game On" shirts.  The kids would comment all day long..."Oh! Game night is tonight!"

The Impact
What we found is that families came!  Families had fun!  We had fun!  It was a great way to get to know families, interact with our students in a fun way, and share our learning standards in a creative, engaging way.  It did take me away one night a month from my family.  So they came to me and played along.

The Cost
Honestly, the cost was not bad at all.  For the games, we asked for donations from staff.  Old puzzles, board games, or large pads of paper for Pictionary were all donated.  We also found some at garage sales.  The checkers boards were just printed off on cardstock with two colored counters. And the math games were just the games we were already using in the classrooms.
Most of our cost came from the food.  So we got very creative.  I watched for sales on pasta, macaroni and cheese, or bags of pretzels.  We picked foods that would serve many.  Because of this, we were able to feed a lot of people for a very small price.

Game Nights are going to occur again this year.  My teammate and I loved them!  We looked forward to them every month because they were just a lot of fun.  I have created a small pack for you, in case you would like to host one game night or many!  It includes the invitation, bracelets, and raffle tickets.

Are there any ways that you engage families that you really enjoy?  I would love to add them to my toolbox!


  1. Wow! Amazing way to reach out to your families. Thanks for sharing! I am the only Title teacher in my elementary and our whole allotment covers just my salary. Would love to do the food component, but not sure how I could afford it. From past experience, I do know that "if you feed them, they will come". :) Do you and your partner pay for everything out of pocket or do you have any fund raising projects you utilize? Thanks, again, for sharing your awesome ideas...your passion and talents are inspiring. :)

    1. Jody-
      I totally understand the funding issues!! There is not money allotment to me to provide food. My principal last year did help out during some of the months by choice. One month I found spaghetti at Aldi's for only 25 cents a box! So I bought 10 dollars worth and then asked teachers to donate a jar of sauce. Another month we did a "munch and make". I was able to find pretzel bags for 1 dollar each. I just placed some bowls out as they made their game. I have not found a funding project. But I do think that some local grocery stores (Kroger and I do think Sam's Club) would provide food, if I asked. Thanks so much for reading!! I would love to hear if you come up with any ideas for your year. I am always looking for more ways to get families in the school!

  2. Great post describing your fantastic math nights! Love it and hope to be a copy cat soon...
    Happy Sunday,

  3. So much fun! I'd love to play at a game night. :) We have kind of gone away from family nights because people don't want to commit to staffing it. It makes me sad because the kids who came always loved it!

    1. You can come to my game night any month you want!! Because we keep it very simple, my teammate and I are able to run them ourselves. But we are lucky because many teachers do like to stay because they are a lot of fun :)

  4. I love interacting with my students' families! This would be such a great way to deepen the relationship teachers have with their students' parents something that I think is essential in reaching students. We have a supper once a month that I think we could incorporate something like this with the meal. The meal is provided by the church so there would be no cost! Thanks for ANOTHER great post!

    1. I wish we could provide a meal every month! That would be so nice to support family conversations at dinner. Thank you so much for reading. I look forward to our game nights again this year!

  5. Here's one thing I repeatedly notice about your school. You work on culture. It sounds like a wonderful place to work and learn.

    1. Wow!! Thank you. We have really tried hard to improve our culture. I think there is a lot of room to grow. But that is what makes it fun! There is always more opportunities to improve and try new things!


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