Sunday, December 4, 2016

How to Organize ANY Classroom Party

organize holiday party, halloween party, valentines party, easter party, graduation

If you are a teacher or a room parent, you know the excitement and the pressures of throwing the BEST PARTY EVER for your students.  This post will share some ideas and tips that will help you for any party throughout the year.  Whether it is Halloween, Veteran’s Day, Holiday (Christmas), Valentine’s Day, Easter, graduation, or celebrating classroom goals, these ideas will help ease your fears of not keeping up with the class next door! 

Your first assignment is to find a good room parent at the beginning of the year.  Wait a few weeks to get to know your parents before jumping the gun.  Although they all have great intentions, not all parents are organized and actually help you achieve your party goals.  Once you find that perfect match, tell him or her that you want to work with them and would like them to run their ideas by you.  That way, you can let go of the arrangements, focus on teaching, and still know what to expect on the party day. 


Next, find out from the office what parties you are allowed to hold throughout the year.  Some schools limit how many parties and even tell you the dates and times you may hold them.  Others may give you free reign.  Regardless, plan for them and get them on your calendar!  If you have a notification reminder, set it for at least 3 weeks prior to the party.  DON’T WAIT TO THE LAST MINUTE!   Parties that are not planned well can turn into disasters and you will more than likely go home with a headache.  Finally, give or attach this guide to your parent to guide them!

Your first assignment is to get contact information for all the parents in your child’s class.  Don’t procrastinate because celebrations can sneak up on you!  As much as you may want to do everything, it can be overwhelming and recruiting help will make the party run smoothly.   You need to be the person who oversees that everything is getting done.  Once you have their information and know what parties you will be organizing, create a SignUpGenius for parents to sign up.   This tool is true genius!  List each party (dates can be announced later if you don’t have them) and ask people to sign up for:

Help with the party
Photographer who can be at each party
Send in snacks, drinks or goodie bags
Send in paper goods or other supplies

Tell them that you will contact them closer to the party date and give them the specifics of what is needed.

This will help distribute the responsibilities and give working parents opportunities to help if they can’t come in.   It will also provide you with a list of parents for each party so when it gets closer you know whom to contact.  Three weeks prior to a party, start planning!  Decide which of the following you will need for your party.   

Set up: 
Arrive 30 minutes prior to the party.  I know you want to socialize with your friends, but the room or area needs to be ready on time.  Classes have to keep to their schedule and being 10 minutes late can cut the party 10 minutes short.  Be proactive, ask questions, and get it done! 

Helping run the party:
Rotate around and help all children not just your own.  I know that sounds like common sense but we all tend to gravitate to our own children.  The other children don’t have parents there so they need your attention too.  Serve the food, help with crafts and games, and clean up as the party is going so it doesn’t take long afterwards. 

1.     Before you begin, check with the teacher to see if there are any privacy restrictions of students. 
2.     If the teacher doesn’t have a website to upload photos for everyone, create a classroom account on a sharing site like Flicker, Photobucket, DropBox, Google Photos, or Shutterfly.  Research the best one that offers free storage for the teacher and input all the parents’ emails to share the photos.
3.     Tell other parents ahead of time that you will send them pictures so students don’t have to keep wiggling so that every parent gets a picture.   
4.     Make sure to get at least one picture of each student at every party.  The parents who can’t attend will appreciate seeing their child. 
5.     Gather ideas to use these photos for an end of year gift for the teacher, a photo collage for the students or Mother’s day gifts!

Clean up:  big trash bag and wipes.
1.     Prior to the party day, check to the see if the teacher has Lysol wipes.  If not, bring some! 
2.     Get a big trash bag from the custodian.  The classroom trashcan is good for the normal day routines, but won’t be enough for a party. 
3.     Clean up everything so the teacher doesn’t have extra work after a day of teaching and partying.  Wipe down desks, tables, counters, and other furniture.  Collect all trash and sweep the floor. 

Food and Drinks: 
healthy alternatives for kid parties and school parties

1.     Don’t leave this blank on the SignUpGenius.  Tell parents exactly what you want and how many.  You don’t want to get to the party day and be scrambling.  That has happened to me one too many times! 
2.     Don’t forget to bring serving utensils.  These aren’t things that most teachers have available.  If you are serving ice cream, bring a scoop! 
3.     Avoid cakes that have to be cut.  Cupcakes are a better choice.  It can interrupt instruction time if the teacher doesn’t have help, doesn’t have a knife, and has to figure it out.   It happens!  I once had a parent bring in a cake for their child’s birthday with no knife, plates, forks, or napkins.  I didn’t want to disappoint the child so I was scrambling to figure it all out. 
4.     Find some healthy alternatives.  Carrots, strawberries, cut up bananas with sprinkles, popcorn, Cheezits, low sugar drinks, 100% fruit juice, cheese and crackers, etc.

Paper goods and Plastic Utensils:
Depending on what you are serving, you may need paper plates, cups, forks, spoons, napkins, straws, or papertowel.

Decorations (if needed)
If it is a holiday or theme party, you may want to get a few things to decorate the room.  Get a tablecloth, centerpiece, and a few things to hang in the room.  The Dollar Store, Walmart, and party stores have reasonable prices!

Craft or game supplies: 

1.  It is time to partayyyyy but an organized party will eliminate stress on the teacher!   Student excitement around a party escalates and you need to remember that the teacher will have to work with them the rest of the day. 
2.  Check with the teacher on whether or not there is time for a game and a craft or just one and which one she prefers. 
3.  Then get on Pinterest and find some creative ways to celebrate that event.   
4.  Print off any instructions for parents who are helping with the party.  If there are pictures to show how to do the craft, send the link to the teacher and maybe she can project it onto her board.
5.  Turn a craft into a service project:  Create cards or crafts for the elderly, orphanage, service men, or homeless.  Students will love it!

Goodie Bags:
Sometimes it is nice to send home goodie bags so the students can keep celebrating once they leave school.  Items to include:  candy, pencils, erasers, little notepads, little toys, bubbles, stickers, etc.  If you are really organized, order from Oriental Trading ahead of time!  And if you want to be creative, go to Pinterest for ideas!

Now that you have your ideas together, run them by the teacher and once approved, get back on SignUpGenius and create one for this particular party!!!  Be more specific this time (how many, what kind).  List each item individually that you will need for the current party and send it to the list of people who signed up at the beginning of the year.  Give or attach this guide so they know your expectations.

Helping set up
Helping run the party
Take Photos during the party
Help clean up
Send in snacks and drinks
Send in paper goods
Send in decorations (if needed)
Craft or game supplies
Goodie Bags?

It is never a bad thing to OVER PLAN.  What if there is time left and it is getting crazy? Have music ready to do a dance – freeze – party.  Students dance to the music and when you stop, they have to freeze.  They love it! 

I hope you found some ideas to run a smooth, organized party in the classroom.  Most importantly, have fun!!!!!!   You can find this blog post in printable form HERE. 

Do you need craft or activity ideas for parties or the day of the party?  Click HERE.

Other related posts:

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Bully Busting 101

Every year students in elementary school face bullying. Whether it is on the playground, in the hallways, on the bus, or even in the classroom, bullying is always an issue.

We have created a quick Bully Busting 101 session that you can use in your classroom to help start the conversation about what to do when a classmate is bullied. We hope that you can follow the below steps to help bust bullying in your school.

Recognize Bullying 
In order to stop bullying, students have to understand what bullying is. Brainstorm with the class what their perceptions are about bullying. This can be done with chart paper or on a white board. Elicit responses from students and write them down. After the list is compiled, try to separate the incidents that wouldn't be considered bullying and discuss why. Then point to the examples where someone is repeatedly harassing a student. These are the incidents you want to focus on.

Be a Bully Buster
Once your students have recognized what bullying is, it is time to show them how they can be a bully buster! We have created an acronym that will help students remember.

Be a friend to someone who is being bullied. Don't walk away from the incident. Show the person you care.

Use a firm voice to the bully to let them know you mean it. If you are shy or timid, the bully will see this and maybe will start picking on you!

Stand up to and speak out against the bully. This is a great time to show the bully you mean business. Don't get physical, but stand your ground to show that you are there for the victim.

Tell an adult about what happened. It is so important to tell a trusted adult about the experience. The adult will more than likely act upon what happened and seek out the bully to issue a consequence for his/her behavior.

Exit the scene with the victim as soon as you can. Try to leave the scene as quickly as possible. The longer you stick around, the more chances the bully has to continue what s/he has been doing.

Reassure the person being bullied that you are there to help. Let the person know that you are not going anywhere and that you are there for him/her. This will mean a lot to the person and it will also show the bully that the victim is no longer alone and as vulnerable.

Role Play
Now that your class recognizes bullying, and has tips on what to do in these situations, it is time to role play the types of bullying that your class listed earlier. Make sure that when you are role playing you pick a few students to be the bullies because oftentimes it is more than one student ganging up on another. Pick students to play the role of upstander, the students who step in to help. Make sure they use one of the Bully Buster strategies. Debrief after each role play and discuss what worked and what could've been done differently. This should help your class see what can be done.

Challenge your class to be Bully Busters! School should be a safe environment for everyone. They are now trained in busting bullies so let them know that it is their job to stop bullying in its tracks!

You can download our How to Be A Bully Buster poster for free by clicking here or on the image below.

Please let us know how your Bully Busting 101 Session with your class went!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

5 Ways to Incorporate Real-World Math into the Holidays

During the holidays it can be easy for you and your students to get burnt out on math. After a few years of almost drowning during the holiday season, I started incorporating real-life math related to the holidays and had a lot of success with it!

Here are 5 [of many] ways to incorporate real-life math into your classroom in November & December!

My students go nuts for catalogs and ads. It's a little scary how into shopping they are! Give your students a shopping budget and they can subtract decimals for hours! Have them calculate percentages using their devices to look up the regular price (if it's not listed) to determine exactly how much they'll pay and how much they'll save. 

You can use catalogs to compare prices as well. Students can use critical thinking skills to determine which stores are more expensive overall and write justification paragraphs explaining how they figured it out.

Have you ever cooked something in your classroom? If you have a good relationship with your school's kitchen, you may be able to get the cafeteria staff involved in making holiday cookies. This is also a good way to reach outside your classroom to build community! 

Cooking involves measurement and fractions, two skills students struggle with. Real-life practice of these skills is essential in helping students understand them! Have students bring in measuring cups, teaspoons, and tablespoons so that you can have them prepare their recipe in small groups. 

Don't want to bake anything? Search Pinterest for "no bake" cookie recipes. There are a lot of recipes that you don't need an oven for!

How well do your students divide decimals? Dividing decimals is one of those skills that is hard to master because it's hard to visualize. Grab a stack of circulars for some great real-world decimal division and more! Look for items that are two for a price (i.e. 2/$3.00). Pull out your play money and have students model the cost of each item. 

You can also have students create a grocery list for their Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. We do this every year as a part of my Plan Thanksgiving Dinner project-based learning activity and students are SO into it!

Crafting involves following directions and can also include math! Have you ever made salt-dough ornaments? All you need is a few cheap ingredients and students can practice measurement during their holiday crafting!

Salt Dough Ornaments (Makes 8-10)
4 cups flour
1.5 cups water
1 cup salt
parchment paper & paper plates
cookie cutters and rolling pins

Mix in a large bowl. Have students knead and roll out with a rolling pin onto parchment paper. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes and straws to cut the hole for the ornament. 

Bake multiple ornaments on the parchment paper on a cookie sheet at 200 degrees for 2-3 hours (depending on size of ornament). Pain with acrylic paint the next day (on plates). 

There are also a lot of paper crafts involving using a ruler to measure pieces. You can find quite a few of these on Pinterest!

A lot of math goes into planning a party! Have students work in groups using a specific budget and guidelines on what they need to plan. You can bring in grocery circulars and party store ads to practice the decimal and percent skills even more!

Choose a few of their ideas to actually implement, then invite families to your class party! Students always look forward to class parties and being such a big part of planning it will make them so excited to do math!

The best thing about the holidays is that you can have FUN with your students! Enjoy them and the season!

For all seasonal project-based learning activities in my store, click here.