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December 3, 2015

Celebrating in the Classroom: Controlling the Chaos

By Meghan Everette
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

     

    For a Type A personality like me, the idea of a no-holds-barred, free-for-all holiday party can strike fear in the heart. For the first years that I taught, holiday parties were very simple affairs thrown by the teacher and featured a bag of chips to share. Teaching first grade in a new school demanded much more celebration-wise, and while I love the holiday spirit as much as the next girl, hyping up my kids on sugar and letting them run around isn’t my idea of a good time.

    After a little trial and error I came up with some ideas that seem to fit my needs. Here’s how to celebrate with spunk, but keep the crazy to a minimum.

     

    Enjoying a glow party

    Theme

    Themes are great for teaching, so why not parties? Picking a general theme can help involve students from all cultures and backgrounds. Our “Halloween” party this year was actually a Glow Party while last year’s “Christmas Party” was totally cookie themed. Valentine's Day is always a Fancy Nancy Party for us. Another bonus of the theme is helping parents stick to the appropriate supplies to send in: from food to take-home prizes, the theme drives the party.

     

    Centers

    Call them what you will, but “stations” or “workshops” can help calm the chaos in your classroom. Set up a few different games and activities, and make them child-friendly enough to require little or no instruction. Stations can be at desks or tables to help students stick to normal routines, or they can be in unique spots to allow space and add fun. Keep reading to see how our class used centers in two themed parties.

     

    Sharing

    One of the best things about the holiday season is the spirit of giving. While we all know schools ask and ask for Creating blankets to donateitems throughout the year, schools are also great at giving back to the community. Make and send cards to military members, collect canned goods, or create a service project that fits right in with your party. Our class cut and tied no-sew blanket fabric last year to make pet beds donated to the local animal shelter. In the spring during a plant unit, we grew flowers in hand-painted containers that students carried themselves on a walking trip to visit and sing at the local assisted living facility. Students can spread the love and connect with the community at this time of year.

     

    Food

    Keep food simple. Your students will eat lunch like normal, so don’t feel that they have to have a full meal. Sweet treats are a no brainer, but kids can rarely eat them all. Make it easy with pre-packaged goods that can go home if they aren’t eaten. Our parties have a packaged drink (no spills!), fruit kabobs or fruit salad, some kind of chip or cracker mix, and one sweet treat. That’s really ALL you need!

     

    ExtrasParty gift bags

    Two things that add to any party: music and take-home treats. If you have centers, make something that can go home with students that day. Make sure you have a container on hand for students to carry their goodies in. Even a pre-decorated paper bag is a good tote. Throw on some tunes on a low volume. Often my students sing along, or at least realize the music serves as a sound meter: if they can’t hear it, they are too loud! A quick Internet search will give you brain breaks for any holiday or impromptu karaoke videos that can fill the time or serve as a center. My students love seeing the holiday fireplace video crackling while we work in our holiday centers.

     

    Holiday Cookie Theme
     

    Food

    Students had strawberry “Santa hats” on mini brownies, a crunchy trail mix, and juice boxes. They ate cookies as they decorated, so the sugar factor was covered!

    Centers

    1.      Sticker Gingerbread Men: Students decorated foam gingerbread boys and girls on magnets from inexpensive craft kits.

    Cookie magnet making

    2.      Aprons: Plain aprons purchased in bulk were decorated with fabric pens

    3.      Chef Hats: Paper chef hats were decorated with regular markers

    Hats and Aprons

    4.      Cookie Decorating: Pre-purchased and homemade cookies were decorated with icing, marshmallows, and candy toppings. Parents helped supply the treats needed, and finished cookies were put in cheap take-and-toss plastic storage containers.

    Cookie decorating

    5.      Photo Booth: Some paper cutouts were available for photos, though the kids were way too interested in activities to use them much!

    Photo booth family

    Take-Home Treat

    Students took home all their finished activities including the hats, aprons, magnets, and cookies (or at least the ones they didn’t eat!)

    Service

    Students donated blankets they cut and tied to a local no-kill animal shelter.

     

    Glow Party

    Food

    Cupcakes with glow icing and glowing vampire teeth were a big hit along with chip packs, juice pouches, and candy treat bags sent in by parents.

    Centers

    1.      Hula Hoop: Long glow sticks were assembled together to make hula hoops. Students ultimately used them to jump rope and build designs.

    Building with glow sticks

    2.      Tic-Tac-Toe: Giant tic-tac-toe boards were drawn on butcher paper and Xs and Os were made from glow sticks.

    Glowing tick tack toe

    3.      Ring Toss: One glow stick inside a two-liter, clear container made the base. We filled the container with water to give weight, and, of course, capped it. Glow stick necklaces were used as the hoops. Students had a start line to try and ring the base with their hoops.

    Glow toss

    4.      Bouncy Balls: Students tried to bounce glow balls into buckets from a starting line.

    5.      Glow Slime: Students made borax slime with glowing additive and then put them in small plastic containers. Check out slime recipes we've tested for any occasion.

    Making slime

     

    Take-Home Treat

    Students took home glow slime, all the glow sticks, toppers from their cupcakes, and extra candy treats sent in by parents.

    Service

    Students used neon glow paint to create cards to send to military members recognizing their service.

    Check out other great themes from Scholastic bloggers (like my idea for a Wonka Party!), including a Mustache Bash or a Holiday Party With a Bookish Twist

    No matter the reason to celebrate, there’s a way to theme your event for total participation, methodical madness, and still take time for service to others.

    Glow Party Celebration Cookie Party

    What are the best celebrations you’ve had in the classroom?

     

     

    For a Type A personality like me, the idea of a no-holds-barred, free-for-all holiday party can strike fear in the heart. For the first years that I taught, holiday parties were very simple affairs thrown by the teacher and featured a bag of chips to share. Teaching first grade in a new school demanded much more celebration-wise, and while I love the holiday spirit as much as the next girl, hyping up my kids on sugar and letting them run around isn’t my idea of a good time.

    After a little trial and error I came up with some ideas that seem to fit my needs. Here’s how to celebrate with spunk, but keep the crazy to a minimum.

     

    Enjoying a glow party

    Theme

    Themes are great for teaching, so why not parties? Picking a general theme can help involve students from all cultures and backgrounds. Our “Halloween” party this year was actually a Glow Party while last year’s “Christmas Party” was totally cookie themed. Valentine's Day is always a Fancy Nancy Party for us. Another bonus of the theme is helping parents stick to the appropriate supplies to send in: from food to take-home prizes, the theme drives the party.

     

    Centers

    Call them what you will, but “stations” or “workshops” can help calm the chaos in your classroom. Set up a few different games and activities, and make them child-friendly enough to require little or no instruction. Stations can be at desks or tables to help students stick to normal routines, or they can be in unique spots to allow space and add fun. Keep reading to see how our class used centers in two themed parties.

     

    Sharing

    One of the best things about the holiday season is the spirit of giving. While we all know schools ask and ask for Creating blankets to donateitems throughout the year, schools are also great at giving back to the community. Make and send cards to military members, collect canned goods, or create a service project that fits right in with your party. Our class cut and tied no-sew blanket fabric last year to make pet beds donated to the local animal shelter. In the spring during a plant unit, we grew flowers in hand-painted containers that students carried themselves on a walking trip to visit and sing at the local assisted living facility. Students can spread the love and connect with the community at this time of year.

     

    Food

    Keep food simple. Your students will eat lunch like normal, so don’t feel that they have to have a full meal. Sweet treats are a no brainer, but kids can rarely eat them all. Make it easy with pre-packaged goods that can go home if they aren’t eaten. Our parties have a packaged drink (no spills!), fruit kabobs or fruit salad, some kind of chip or cracker mix, and one sweet treat. That’s really ALL you need!

     

    ExtrasParty gift bags

    Two things that add to any party: music and take-home treats. If you have centers, make something that can go home with students that day. Make sure you have a container on hand for students to carry their goodies in. Even a pre-decorated paper bag is a good tote. Throw on some tunes on a low volume. Often my students sing along, or at least realize the music serves as a sound meter: if they can’t hear it, they are too loud! A quick Internet search will give you brain breaks for any holiday or impromptu karaoke videos that can fill the time or serve as a center. My students love seeing the holiday fireplace video crackling while we work in our holiday centers.

     

    Holiday Cookie Theme
     

    Food

    Students had strawberry “Santa hats” on mini brownies, a crunchy trail mix, and juice boxes. They ate cookies as they decorated, so the sugar factor was covered!

    Centers

    1.      Sticker Gingerbread Men: Students decorated foam gingerbread boys and girls on magnets from inexpensive craft kits.

    Cookie magnet making

    2.      Aprons: Plain aprons purchased in bulk were decorated with fabric pens

    3.      Chef Hats: Paper chef hats were decorated with regular markers

    Hats and Aprons

    4.      Cookie Decorating: Pre-purchased and homemade cookies were decorated with icing, marshmallows, and candy toppings. Parents helped supply the treats needed, and finished cookies were put in cheap take-and-toss plastic storage containers.

    Cookie decorating

    5.      Photo Booth: Some paper cutouts were available for photos, though the kids were way too interested in activities to use them much!

    Photo booth family

    Take-Home Treat

    Students took home all their finished activities including the hats, aprons, magnets, and cookies (or at least the ones they didn’t eat!)

    Service

    Students donated blankets they cut and tied to a local no-kill animal shelter.

     

    Glow Party

    Food

    Cupcakes with glow icing and glowing vampire teeth were a big hit along with chip packs, juice pouches, and candy treat bags sent in by parents.

    Centers

    1.      Hula Hoop: Long glow sticks were assembled together to make hula hoops. Students ultimately used them to jump rope and build designs.

    Building with glow sticks

    2.      Tic-Tac-Toe: Giant tic-tac-toe boards were drawn on butcher paper and Xs and Os were made from glow sticks.

    Glowing tick tack toe

    3.      Ring Toss: One glow stick inside a two-liter, clear container made the base. We filled the container with water to give weight, and, of course, capped it. Glow stick necklaces were used as the hoops. Students had a start line to try and ring the base with their hoops.

    Glow toss

    4.      Bouncy Balls: Students tried to bounce glow balls into buckets from a starting line.

    5.      Glow Slime: Students made borax slime with glowing additive and then put them in small plastic containers. Check out slime recipes we've tested for any occasion.

    Making slime

     

    Take-Home Treat

    Students took home glow slime, all the glow sticks, toppers from their cupcakes, and extra candy treats sent in by parents.

    Service

    Students used neon glow paint to create cards to send to military members recognizing their service.

    Check out other great themes from Scholastic bloggers (like my idea for a Wonka Party!), including a Mustache Bash or a Holiday Party With a Bookish Twist

    No matter the reason to celebrate, there’s a way to theme your event for total participation, methodical madness, and still take time for service to others.

    Glow Party Celebration Cookie Party

    What are the best celebrations you’ve had in the classroom?

     

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