Parent Workshops

Parent Workshop Success

Parent workshops can be a fun way to share your knowledge and resources with parents. I enjoy my “coffee with the counselor” because I can see many parents at one time. Here are a few tips to help you plan your next workshop:

1) Pick relevant and fun topics.

How do I pick topics for workshops? I focus on three ways:
  • National Prevention Months- for example I try and host a bullying prevention workshop in October.
  • Based on the data- look at your needs assessments and see what your kids struggle with and what your parents want.
  • Your passions – Enthusiasm is contagious, so pick a topic you love. I was a huge reader as a child and I remember doing the Pizza Hut Book It! program and loving it- I dared myself to read every book at the library one summer. So I always try and include a summer reading and it has become my most popular workshop yet.

2) Ask parents to RSVP.

Asking parents to sign up gives it a sense of urgency and that space is ‘limited.’ Even if you don’t have limited space the RSVP really excites parents. I once requested an RSVP to a workshop we had done before and our attendance doubled.
I use Google Docs or Docs in Outlook to make a sign up sheet and set a deadline. Put the link in your school and PTA newsletter, put it on your websites and the school’s main website, and pass along to teachers for them to share.

3) Feed Em’!  

Parent workshop treats

It doesn’t have to be fancy- just some coffee and donuts. If they don’t eat them all then share in the teachers lounge- it will make the teachers very happy. Ask your PTA to help sponsor your breakfast or afternoon goodies.

4) Involve your teachers.

One year at a summer reading workshop I asked each grade level set up a table with their favorite books and ‘must read’ books for the summer. As parents entered they could browse the tables and books.

5) Pick a time that works for your school and your parents.

I like to start workshops as soon as school started, so after parents dropped off their student(s) they can come straight in.

I’ve also done them right before pickup. If your parents are anything like mine- they get there hours before dismissal! So we put out a sign that said “put your car in park and come on in!”

I’ve also polled my parents to see what time they wanted best- they all said they evening so I did our next workshop in the evening. Guess how many showed- 0! So if you pick the night time, pick a night where something else is going on, like a PTA meeting.


 6) Keep them entertained!

Our parents like to spent the first few minutes eating, chatting, and browsing. Then I try and plan activities that keep a quick pace.

For example one year at our summer reading workshop we had three presentations from our librarian, intervention teacher, and our technology teacher who is now a librarian. From writing down book titles and to sharing sites on the SmartBoard our parent’s didn’t have time to stop.


When I do my bullying workshop I have them play the same Kahoot! our kids play. It’s fun to see their answers and be able to compare it to their kiddos responses.

7) Entertain with special guests.

You don’t have to do a workshop all on your own. If you really know a lot about a topic or feel passionate about a topic then go for it, otherwise invite other speakers. You don’t have to look far either. I asked our school psychologist to talk with parents about ADHD and it was amazing to see them sit around a table and talk like friends out to coffee. I’ve also asked our social worker to talk about back to school anxiety and the importance of attendance and our principals to talk about testing during a testing anxiety workshop.

 8) Give them something to take home- don’t let anyone leave with empty hands.

Use your signup sheet to get more information. On our reading workshop sign up we asked parents to list the names of their children and then the team made custom reading log packs.


Do you love these as much as me? We used colored card stock, paint chip strips, and ribbon to put together these great reading packets. Our  librarian found a  free template online to make the pocket sleeves so all we needed was colored card stock to make the packet holders.

Each pack included a bookmark, reading log list, place for students and parents to write down favorite titles and a ‘wish list’ of books, and some yummy book worms.


Each pack included a bookmark, reading log list, place for students and parents to write down favorite titles and a ‘wish list’ of books, and some yummy book worms.

Parent workshop success

Parent workshop success

9) Think about doing a give away or have materials they can check out.

I enjoy doing a book raffle give away for each workshop. The book is always one parents can read with their kids.

Parent workshop success

I also put out my favorite titles for parents to check out.

Parent workshop success

Parent workshop success

10) Provide a way for them to get the information later (websites, blog, printed copies) and make sure they have easy access to the information.  

I like to put copies of the handouts in the office, library, and online so parents that were unable to attend can easily access them later.

At my most successful workshop to date Mrs. Svarda, librarian extraordinaire, discussed local book programs offered, such as the Barnes and Noble reading programs, and how to pick a good book. Then she put the information on her school website.

At the same workshop the tech-savvy, crafty, incredible Elizabeth Shepherd shared with parents fun crafts and games they could play with their kiddos in the summer that would encourage reading.   She put her favorites on her Pinterest page and shared the link with parents.

So there you have it! Now I would be remiss if I didn’t have one disclaimer- even the best counselors have workshops where no one shows. Do not take this personal- it happens to be the best of us. Hang in there, keep the word spreading, and keep offering them.



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