Managing Classroom Parties
A Teacher's Guide
Classroom parties are one of those events that many teachers dread; not only do they often take valuable teaching time, but they can become a classroom behavior management nightmare if you are not properly prepared.
Parties at school are unavoidable, however, because of the expectations of certain holidays and because kids just want to socialize with their friends. This is not at all unusual...it's the same reason that adults want to have office parties with their friends at work.
Our challenge is to manage the parties so the education process is not disrupted, and so the parties help reinforce our classroom team-building efforts.
Be Aware of Unique Circumstances
In public schools, we serve e veryone...including children who can't participate in parties due to cultural or religious beliefs. Don't assume anything; Talk to the parents in your classroom and find out if their sons or daughters are allowed to celebrate different classroom parties.
Often you will find that only a small adjustment needs to be made. If not, at least you'll know that certain children need to be excused at party time, or that they need to go to another classroom during the festivities.
Set the Stage for Classroom Party Success
Let parents know up front what your expectations are. For example, if there are restrictions on inappropriate Halloween costumes be sure to communicate that to parents.
The same is true of party snacks. If you are trying to set a tone of healthy snacks, then give the parents ideas for food they can send instead of sweet things. It is impolite to turn down a tray of cupcakes that you would rather not serve to your students; avoid the difficulty by letting everyone know of your expectations up front.
If you need parent volunteers, be sure to coordinate those with plenty of advance notice. And be kind to your volunteers by letting them know what to expect; if you have some kind of messy craft in mind, a parent needs to know in advance to wear clothing that can take some staining.
Have a Party Lesson Plan
This is school, so a we need plan to ensure that our school party ideas stay on target with our educational goals and finish within the allowed time. Teachers don't need a detailed plan, however; keep it simple with a list of necessary supplies and a time schedule (it is a party after all...no need to get too uptight!).
The real key to a successful school party is to tie the party activity into your curriculum if at all possible. For example:
- Do bat research before the Halloween party and make bat hats during the celebration.
- The Christmas or winter party includes cutting and folding snowflakes as the final activity of a "science of snow crystals" study unit.
You get the picture...any subject area can be tied to a party with a little imagination.
Managing the Details
If you do have parent volunteers showing up, recruit them to manage setting up and cleaning up as well as the distribution of food. That leave you free to manage the students.
Remember that parents often forget to send in the items necessary to eat the treats. It's easiest to invest a little money in keeping certain things on hand:
- small paper plates
- paper or Styrofoam cups
- zip-top bags for left-overs
- hand sanitizer
- cleaning wipes
Speaking of cleaning wipes, remember to include five minutes for clean up at the end of the classroom party. And clean up includes messy faces - don't send your students home with frosting on their noses!
Betsy Weigle is the creator of Classroom Teacher Resources, a website focused on classroom management and new teacher success.
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