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March 24, 2017

Tea Party Soiree: A Lesson in Social Skills

By Angela Bunyi
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    There is one event I look forward to all year long, as do my students. The beginning of the summer break, you may guess? No! (Although those thoughts do tend to happen near the end of the school year.) The one event that no one wants to miss out on in our first grade classroom is the annual Tea Party Soiree. Complete with live student musicians, a catered meal, a waltz, and more, the tea party is the perfect forum for instilling manners and teaching important social skills that will serve your students through their lives.

    Over the last few years, I’ve worked out a formula to allow any teacher to throw her or his own memorable event. You can use my steps as a jumping off point to make this as elaborate or simple as your time and budget permits.

    Why a Tea Party?

    Three years ago, I had a class full of kids with allergies. Name it, my class had it. Our upcoming Valentine’s Day party was going to be very limited. I asked myself what we could do instead that wasn’t so food focused. It was through a Fancy Nancy book that I came up with the tea party idea, and a few Pinterest searches later, we were in the process of securing what is now a first grade tradition in our school for all classes.

      

    The Evolution of the Tea Party Tradition

    The first year, the party was small. There were some Valentine’s Day-themed plastic table covers, a tea set, and some dressing up. It was nice, but nothing particularly different from most classroom parties. It was by no means a grand event that students would never forget —just another party with a theme.

    The second year, my first grade teammate wanted to join forces and make it a first grade tradition. This time, our thought was, let’s get parents together to brainstorm how we could make it bigger and better. We held an informational meeting in January and showed a PowerPoint of photos from the year before, as well as a Pinterest page created for suggestions and ideas.

    Suddenly, we had connections. One parent did professional calligraphy on the side. She offered to create nameplates for the seats. Another parent threw out the idea of live musicians, preferably by students. Another offered to make some calls for donated or borrowed white tablecloths and chair covers. And yet another parent mentioned a connection with a limousine company. The momentum was great, and our second annual Tea Party was suddenly something outside of Valentine’s Day.

      

    Year three, our annual Tea Party Soiree is now a well-oiled machine, and it just keeps getting refined.

    How to Create a Grand Tea Party Experience in Your Room

      

    I hope you can consider and make time to try this out in your classroom or grade level. I know we are busy. I know we have a lot that is required of us. Do it anyway! The experience is something I can feel good about for students that come back to me down the road as they reminisce on how special that day was to them.

    So, here are my suggestions starting from scratch:

    Parent Brainstorming Meeting

    It’s not critical to have parents on board. I did it on my own the first year. However, it makes an incredible difference when you have more than one adult vested and willing to help.

    ·       Hold a parent brainstorming meeting and build up the excitement with the students on how big this event is going to be so parents are eager to show up. I would recommend a month prior, if you are looking for an elaborate event. Include this blog post with that invite so parents have some time to bring ideas and possibly make some calls prior to attending.

    ·       Create a PowerPoint slide show; again, feel free to use the photographs here to show parents.

    ·       Create a Pinterest page of different images and ideas you are interested in.

    ·       Recruit and delegate! Who has access to a number of tablecloths? Are any parents professional photographers (or talented and willing amateurs)? You never know who has a connection that might be a great addition to your party.

    To-Do List

    (Click on the lists to enlarge.)

      

    Here are the actual events in order of what unraveled after our parent meeting this year:

    ·       Leaders: Two parents agreed to lead the Tea Party. They took on the responsibility of securing parent servers and created a Sign-Up Genius page for requested materials.

    ·       Finances: Secure permission slips for a limousine ride and makeup services (if you go this route). As a teacher, I was not allowed to handle any money regarding the funds for the limo. The parents raised and managed that totally independent from me. The makeup was from a Mary Kay consultant, was sanitary, and only included nail polish, blush, and “lipstick” (really just lip gloss).

    ·       “Formal” attire: Tell students to wear whatever makes them feel special. A tiara? Go for it. If boys don’t have a suit, a buttoned shirt with a collar and pressed pants can do the trick. Fancy is the theme, but every child should feel included. And don’t forget to secure a dress or outfit for yourself!

      

    ·       Phone calls: Our parents called and secured the limo as well as donated food items from a local restaurant, Five Senses. Another teacher called Elizabeth McPhee, wife of Dr. Sidney McPhee, the president of our local university, Middle Tennessee State University, to see if she would be willing to give a lesson on manners for our students.

    ·       Physical Education collaboration: Ask your PE teacher if they would be interested in teaching students to do a dance such as the waltz. We had our students and attending parents waltz in the gym, at the end of the event.

    ·       Follow-up meeting: I touched base with the two parent volunteers about two weeks prior to the event to see where we were and what was still needed. A schedule was shared and formal invitations were sent out, including ones for distinguished guests such as our Director of Schools and our board member.

    ·       Materials: Ask for them to be sent in a week prior so you are not scrambling last second for materials that were never received.

    ·       Student toasts: Lead students through what a toast is and how it will be incorporated into the event. If desired, select a secret student that students will toast to. This year I just had them pick someone on their own. It worked out well. Not every student will want to do a toast. That’s okay.

    ·       Setup: Ask for all hands on deck after-school the day prior to set up the classroom. My parents stayed to set up until 7 p.m. It doesn’t have to be that detailed, but we really outdid ourselves this year.

    Day of the Big Event

    ·       We borrowed the lost and found clothes rack and used it to hang outfits. Some students showed up already dressed up.

    ·       Attempt to teach and have a normal morning. My room was already set up so we had to have most of our lessons and time at the carpet area.

    ·       Breathe!

    Suggested Schedule of Events

         

    11:30-12:00: Recess while parents come in the room and complete the last of setting up. Parents become servers and wear aprons and uniforms such as all-black attire.

    12:00-12:30: Girls pulled out for makeup services one-on-one in the hallway

    12:30-12:45: A lesson on manners given for the boys. The girls can change, if needed. Parents on deck for help.

    12:45-1:00: The lesson repeats on manners, but with the girls attending while the boys change. One parent made each boy a special flower boutonniere. These were secured at that time.

    12:50: Student musicians begin to play. We had two former students playing the flute and violin.

    1:00: Students line up outside and are escorted to their seats by a parent server.

    1:00-1:30: I thank all those in attendance and recognize those at the distinguished guest table (in our case it was the Director of Schools, a board member, and administration for the building). Serve tea in fancy tea sets. In our case, tea meant that the students drank lemonade or water. Musicians play music.

    1:30-1:45: Girls leave the room to ride around in the parking lot in the limousine. The boys remain in the room where they are provided a menu and order main entrees from a parent server.

    1:45-2:00: The same thing, except girls are served while the boys ride around the parking lot in style.

    2:00-2:30: The menu is offered again for desserts. All students are served dessert and
    “sparkly” drinks are served in plastic champagne glasses. Students begin to stand up and give toasts. Again, not all students will want to get up and give a toast. That is okay.

    2:30-3:00: All classes move to the cafeteria where music will be playing so students can dance the waltz. A group of parents stay behind to start cleaning up and packing things up. This officially ends the Tea Party.

    Interested?

    I sincerely hope you consider making this event yours and give it a try, even on a smaller scale. It does not have to happen near Valentine’s Day, in fact, it could make an excellent end-of-year celebration. I tried to include the tinier details, but feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions on how to get this started in your classroom.

    There is one event I look forward to all year long, as do my students. The beginning of the summer break, you may guess? No! (Although those thoughts do tend to happen near the end of the school year.) The one event that no one wants to miss out on in our first grade classroom is the annual Tea Party Soiree. Complete with live student musicians, a catered meal, a waltz, and more, the tea party is the perfect forum for instilling manners and teaching important social skills that will serve your students through their lives.

    Over the last few years, I’ve worked out a formula to allow any teacher to throw her or his own memorable event. You can use my steps as a jumping off point to make this as elaborate or simple as your time and budget permits.

    Why a Tea Party?

    Three years ago, I had a class full of kids with allergies. Name it, my class had it. Our upcoming Valentine’s Day party was going to be very limited. I asked myself what we could do instead that wasn’t so food focused. It was through a Fancy Nancy book that I came up with the tea party idea, and a few Pinterest searches later, we were in the process of securing what is now a first grade tradition in our school for all classes.

      

    The Evolution of the Tea Party Tradition

    The first year, the party was small. There were some Valentine’s Day-themed plastic table covers, a tea set, and some dressing up. It was nice, but nothing particularly different from most classroom parties. It was by no means a grand event that students would never forget —just another party with a theme.

    The second year, my first grade teammate wanted to join forces and make it a first grade tradition. This time, our thought was, let’s get parents together to brainstorm how we could make it bigger and better. We held an informational meeting in January and showed a PowerPoint of photos from the year before, as well as a Pinterest page created for suggestions and ideas.

    Suddenly, we had connections. One parent did professional calligraphy on the side. She offered to create nameplates for the seats. Another parent threw out the idea of live musicians, preferably by students. Another offered to make some calls for donated or borrowed white tablecloths and chair covers. And yet another parent mentioned a connection with a limousine company. The momentum was great, and our second annual Tea Party was suddenly something outside of Valentine’s Day.

      

    Year three, our annual Tea Party Soiree is now a well-oiled machine, and it just keeps getting refined.

    How to Create a Grand Tea Party Experience in Your Room

      

    I hope you can consider and make time to try this out in your classroom or grade level. I know we are busy. I know we have a lot that is required of us. Do it anyway! The experience is something I can feel good about for students that come back to me down the road as they reminisce on how special that day was to them.

    So, here are my suggestions starting from scratch:

    Parent Brainstorming Meeting

    It’s not critical to have parents on board. I did it on my own the first year. However, it makes an incredible difference when you have more than one adult vested and willing to help.

    ·       Hold a parent brainstorming meeting and build up the excitement with the students on how big this event is going to be so parents are eager to show up. I would recommend a month prior, if you are looking for an elaborate event. Include this blog post with that invite so parents have some time to bring ideas and possibly make some calls prior to attending.

    ·       Create a PowerPoint slide show; again, feel free to use the photographs here to show parents.

    ·       Create a Pinterest page of different images and ideas you are interested in.

    ·       Recruit and delegate! Who has access to a number of tablecloths? Are any parents professional photographers (or talented and willing amateurs)? You never know who has a connection that might be a great addition to your party.

    To-Do List

    (Click on the lists to enlarge.)

      

    Here are the actual events in order of what unraveled after our parent meeting this year:

    ·       Leaders: Two parents agreed to lead the Tea Party. They took on the responsibility of securing parent servers and created a Sign-Up Genius page for requested materials.

    ·       Finances: Secure permission slips for a limousine ride and makeup services (if you go this route). As a teacher, I was not allowed to handle any money regarding the funds for the limo. The parents raised and managed that totally independent from me. The makeup was from a Mary Kay consultant, was sanitary, and only included nail polish, blush, and “lipstick” (really just lip gloss).

    ·       “Formal” attire: Tell students to wear whatever makes them feel special. A tiara? Go for it. If boys don’t have a suit, a buttoned shirt with a collar and pressed pants can do the trick. Fancy is the theme, but every child should feel included. And don’t forget to secure a dress or outfit for yourself!

      

    ·       Phone calls: Our parents called and secured the limo as well as donated food items from a local restaurant, Five Senses. Another teacher called Elizabeth McPhee, wife of Dr. Sidney McPhee, the president of our local university, Middle Tennessee State University, to see if she would be willing to give a lesson on manners for our students.

    ·       Physical Education collaboration: Ask your PE teacher if they would be interested in teaching students to do a dance such as the waltz. We had our students and attending parents waltz in the gym, at the end of the event.

    ·       Follow-up meeting: I touched base with the two parent volunteers about two weeks prior to the event to see where we were and what was still needed. A schedule was shared and formal invitations were sent out, including ones for distinguished guests such as our Director of Schools and our board member.

    ·       Materials: Ask for them to be sent in a week prior so you are not scrambling last second for materials that were never received.

    ·       Student toasts: Lead students through what a toast is and how it will be incorporated into the event. If desired, select a secret student that students will toast to. This year I just had them pick someone on their own. It worked out well. Not every student will want to do a toast. That’s okay.

    ·       Setup: Ask for all hands on deck after-school the day prior to set up the classroom. My parents stayed to set up until 7 p.m. It doesn’t have to be that detailed, but we really outdid ourselves this year.

    Day of the Big Event

    ·       We borrowed the lost and found clothes rack and used it to hang outfits. Some students showed up already dressed up.

    ·       Attempt to teach and have a normal morning. My room was already set up so we had to have most of our lessons and time at the carpet area.

    ·       Breathe!

    Suggested Schedule of Events

         

    11:30-12:00: Recess while parents come in the room and complete the last of setting up. Parents become servers and wear aprons and uniforms such as all-black attire.

    12:00-12:30: Girls pulled out for makeup services one-on-one in the hallway

    12:30-12:45: A lesson on manners given for the boys. The girls can change, if needed. Parents on deck for help.

    12:45-1:00: The lesson repeats on manners, but with the girls attending while the boys change. One parent made each boy a special flower boutonniere. These were secured at that time.

    12:50: Student musicians begin to play. We had two former students playing the flute and violin.

    1:00: Students line up outside and are escorted to their seats by a parent server.

    1:00-1:30: I thank all those in attendance and recognize those at the distinguished guest table (in our case it was the Director of Schools, a board member, and administration for the building). Serve tea in fancy tea sets. In our case, tea meant that the students drank lemonade or water. Musicians play music.

    1:30-1:45: Girls leave the room to ride around in the parking lot in the limousine. The boys remain in the room where they are provided a menu and order main entrees from a parent server.

    1:45-2:00: The same thing, except girls are served while the boys ride around the parking lot in style.

    2:00-2:30: The menu is offered again for desserts. All students are served dessert and
    “sparkly” drinks are served in plastic champagne glasses. Students begin to stand up and give toasts. Again, not all students will want to get up and give a toast. That is okay.

    2:30-3:00: All classes move to the cafeteria where music will be playing so students can dance the waltz. A group of parents stay behind to start cleaning up and packing things up. This officially ends the Tea Party.

    Interested?

    I sincerely hope you consider making this event yours and give it a try, even on a smaller scale. It does not have to happen near Valentine’s Day, in fact, it could make an excellent end-of-year celebration. I tried to include the tinier details, but feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions on how to get this started in your classroom.

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