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Class Party Success – Our 7 Step Class Party Planning Checklist [episode 33]


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Overview of episode 33:

Class party. Those two words can either bring excitement and joy to your face, or it can stir up stress and anxiety as a teacher. While class parties may be inevitable they don’t have to be a source of dread or stress. To help ease your mind, in today’s episode, we’re sharing our best class party tips with our 7 step class party planning checklist. 

The great thing about a class party, with young kids especially, is that anything outside of your normal day to day activities can feel like a party! Which means you don’t have to go big here. In fact, we think you should consider keeping things pretty low key.

In this episode, we’re diving into our 7 step checklist for planning a successful and memorable class party. And we’ll help you avoid some of the pitfalls you may encounter along the way. Be sure to learn from our mistakes!

Here are our 7 class party planning steps:

  1. Get clear on your vision
  2. Get clear on your timeframe
  3. Get clear on your activities
  4. Get clear on parent roles
  5. Get clear on supplies
  6. Get clear on your game plan
  7. Get it all cleared up

No matter if you’re a novice or veteran teacher, approaching a class party with these 7 steps will result in a smoother, stress-free, and all-around fun class party success for you and your students!

Highlights from the episode:

[00:57] Today’s morning message is, what’s your best tip for class parties?

[4:55] Why guidance for parent volunteers will make your class parties run smoother and with less stress for you.

[5:22] Our 7 step process for getting clear on your class party planning.

[6:03] More detailed explanation of each step in our class party process.

[18:00] Today’s teacher approved tip for saving time and effort on class party supplies.


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Read the transcript for episode 33, Class Party Success – Our 7 Step Class Party Planning Checklist:

Hey there. Thanks for joining us today. In today’s episode, we’re sharing our seven step checklist for planning the perfect class party and sharing a teacher approved tip for saving on party supplies. We start our episodes with a morning message, just like we used to do at morning meeting in our classrooms. Today’s morning message is what’s your best tip for class parties? Emily, what’s your tip? Mine is to communicate early with any helpers you may have. I like to give them several weeks notice about the party. And you just want to make sure everyone is on the same page for the party and any expectations you have about it. That is so important. I have been burned by that. How about you Heidi? My tip is to as much as possible have things separated out ahead of time. So if you’re doing something like playing bingo try and count the m&ms beforehand. Or if you’re doing your craft have all the pieces ready to go. Or, you know, decorating cookies is something I always did in my class parties. Try having a paper plate and a knife for each kid just everything runs so much more smoothly. If you’re not trying to hand out lots of supplies in a hectic moment. Oh, that’s so true. We have some responses from our community as well. Julie’s tip is to avoid them if you can. Denise’s tip is to include healthier snack options like fruit and veggies. If you’re planning to have food. I’m sure the parents would appreciate that. Melanie’s tip is to run them like centers. And we totally agree we’re going to talk about that more coming up. Kate’s tip is to run two big rotations like having half the class do a craft and the other do games and then they switch. This might be a good option, especially if you don’t have any party helpers. We’d love to hear your response to this and other questions over in our teacher approved Facebook group or on Instagram at @2ndstorywindow. And that is with a two.

Today we are talking about everyone’s most favorite dreaded activity: class parties: I feel my stress level just rising hearing those two words. But class parties really don’t have to be stressful. In fact, by getting clear on your vision, they can be something that you might even enjoy. To me, the hallmark of a well run exciting class party is that everyone is happily engaged in fun, low key activities. And I really mean low key. Anything outside normal classroom activities is enough to give it a party feel. We might have Monster Mash playing at a medium volume in the background. But that’s as loud as it’s gonna get. And I promise my students always had plenty of fun. Yeah, it’s true. Sometimes we think it needs to be a little bit more difficult than it does. Maybe you do have a different wilder idea of what makes up class party exciting. And there is nothing wrong with that. As long as the kids are safely having a fun time and you aren’t losing your mind. That’s what matters here. For me, with 25 excited kids in a little room. I needed something more contained than a relay to eat a doughnut off of a string. I think that donut eating race is exactly what was happening in the room next to mine one Halloween. Oh no. I needed some extra glue bottles for our craft. So I just pop next door and the room was complete chaos. Like two kids were racing to eat donuts while a few kids cheered them on. And the rest of the kids were making their own out of control entertainment. And the teacher in that room was just a brand new little first year teacher so she didn’t know how to handle this. She was relying on her room parents and I don’t fault the room parents, because parents typically don’t have experience managing two dozen hyped up kids. The parents knew that a hands free donut eating really was fun. And it’s fun if you have like six kids, but an activity that requires a lot of waiting around is just a recipe for trouble. If you don’t give kids something to do, they will make their own entertainment.

Oh yes, they will. So take this as a cautionary tale. And I’ve been on parents side of this too. And I found the most stressful class parties that I’ve helped with are the ones where parents got little to no guidance ahead of time. As nice as it would be to make your class parties the parents problem, you need to take the lead in making sure it’s organized in a way that effectively sidesteps any pitfalls. We want no pitfalls in our parties of the pitfall free zone. Right?

So in order to do that, you need to get some clarity. There are seven steps we came up with that can help you get a clear focus on what needs to happen at your party. Step one is get clear on your vision. What do you want to happen? Step two is get clear on your timeframe. When is this happening? Step three, get clear on your activities. What is happening? Step four, get clear on parent roles who is making this happen? Step five, get clear on supplies. What do you need to make this happen? Step six, get clear on your game plan. How are we making this happen? And step seven, get it all cleared up? How do we recover from what just happened?

We’re gonna go through each of these steps in detail to help you get a better understanding of the types of plans you need to make for your class party. So step one is get clear on your vision. To figure this out, start by asking yourself, what do I want to happen? For me, the answer is probably going to be the same regardless of the reason for the party. I want my students to have a fun, memorable time without getting wild or out of control. Maybe you’re sensing a theme? Once you know that, you can start to figure out specifics. Will your party have a theme? What student concerns do you need to account for? What school or district policies do you need to follow? And especially what type of party will you be having? And my answer to that was always rotating through stations. Yes, stations make a class party so much more manageable. They allow you to plan lots of fun activities without kids having to wait around to take their turn. And since we don’t want kids waiting around, the number of stations you’ll need will depend on the number of your students. So start by figuring out how big you want each group to be. Ideally, I like to have three in a group. I think that’s enough people that it feels fun, and you can make sure that each student is with at least one friend, but three kids are less likely to get out of control, it’s probably more likely that you’ll need to do four in a group. But I would definitely avoid going larger than groups of five, if you can help it. Yeah, once you’ve reached six or more kids in a group, it turns into a herd. It’s hard for parent volunteers to manage that many kids. And it increases the time kids have to wait to take a turn and waiting around just just an opportunity for kids to cause problems. And we really don’t want problems in the middle of a party. So once you know how many groups you have, that tells you how many stations you need, you’ll need at least one station per group.

To plan for activities to fill those stations, you need to know how long each station will last. Which brings us to step two, get clear on your timeframe. Emily fill us in on figuring out a timeframe. Well if you already know the date of the party, start by figuring out the party start and end times. Now mark off the first 15 to 20 minutes for setup, and 15 to 20 minutes at the end for cleanup. That center chunk of time is your party. Once you have that length of time figured out divided by the number of stations to determine how long kids will be at each station. The length of time each station lasts determines what kinds of activities you can do. If you’ve got two hours to rotate through five stations, you’re going to need completely different activities than if you’ve got one hour to get through eight stations. Ideally, keep your stations under 15 minutes if you can, I’ve noticed that kids start to get antsy at a station around the 10 minute mark. So keep that in mind. So once you’ve nailed down how long your stations will last, set aside that last minute of each rotation for a one minute cleanup. So let’s say you plan for each station to last 11 minutes. In that case you would allot 10 minutes for the activity, but reserve that last minute for cleaning up and rotating.

Now that you know what’s happening and when it’s happening. It’s time for step three. Get clear on your activities, what is going to be happening. To get clear on what’s happening, start by figuring out what type of stations you want. crafts are always a winner, even a themed storybook can be fun. And you can’t go wrong with a bingo game. I love a bingo game. Besides planning for activities, you also need to plan for food. A lot of schools have policies around food so make sure whatever you decide is line with the rules and communicate that to any parent helpers you have. If you can have treats, decorating cookies or making another tree is a fun station idea. Also consider if you want to add any extras to your room to give it a more festive atmosphere. Do you want to put up any decorations or maybe you want to make a playlist, Heidi loves the play, I love a playlist. One key thing to consider is what to do for fast finishers. Not every activity will fill the amount of time and for kids, our kids causing problems. So come up with a plan, maybe a themed worksheet or a short picture book that could fill any extra minutes. And don’t expect that the parents will know how to do this if their station gets done early. I’ve seen this happen on the parents side of things that one of the other stations running at the same time is getting done way faster than the rest of us. And it just really makes things chaotic. So help your parent helpers out by having a fast finisher planned for them, should they need it. It makes things run so much more smoothly.

Once you have kind of a rough outline of your party, including the timeframe, number and type of activities and a plan for food. You need to figure out what’s happening with parents. Yeah, so step four is to get clear on parent roles. You need to know who is making this party happen. Some schools don’t have many parents who can volunteer for class parties. Some schools have tons of parent volunteers. Often these parents have ideas they’re excited about, and you don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun. So ideally, try to leave space for any grand plans that might drift in from the parent side of things. If you do have parent volunteers who is coordinating with them, do you have a head room parent who can handle things. Either way, you’re going to need a way to communicate with them. This is a situation where a service like signup genius, or will be a lifesaver. They both have free options, and they’re pretty straightforward to use. Good communication is key to making this low stress for everyone involved. If you have a room parent willing to coordinate class parties, touch base with them several weeks in advance. Like I said in the beginning, lay out your idea of how you want the party to go include things like start and end times, allergies and other student issues that need to be accounted for, and what kinds of things you would like to see happen.

Regardless of what you have planned, you’re going to need materials. So step five, is to get clear on supplies, and figure out what you need to make all of this happen. We discussed in our previous episode about being a parent friendly teacher, that we want to be sure to create opportunities for parents to feel involved, even if they can’t volunteer in the classroom. So consider including on the signup items to donate like snacks or cups. So parents who are unable to volunteer still have the option of participating. And don’t forget to ask for cleanup items as well. Things like plastic tablecloths, heavy duty trash bags if your school doesn’t have them. Paper towels or wipes can make post party cleanup so much easier. And parents are more likely to volunteer if they have a clear understanding of what they’re being asked to do. So be specific about explaining what you want them to do. If there’s a certain brand of cups or snacks you want, make sure to list that specifically.

And now that the nitty gritty is all nailed down, it’s time for step six. Get clear on your game plan. How are you making this happen? If parents are helping make it clear what you’d like them to have prepared ahead of time. So this is like the tip I mentioned earlier. If a parent is leading a craft, ask them to prep all the pieces and make a finished example for the students to reference. If a parent is running a bingo game, have them count out those m&ms into baggies ahead of time. Really having the little details managed in advance makes everything run so much more smoothly. And it frees you up to deal with whatever is happening in the moment. Now let’s get this party started. And the way to do that is with nametag. Who says I’m not a party animal. Parents likely won’t know all the names of your students so help them out by giving each of your students a nametag. Seriously, please do this for your poor parents who come into then make sure that everyone parents and students understand how the rotations are going to work. Explain what to do if they finish their station early and explain your one minute cleanup. Now, if in the moment of the party, your stations are getting started earlier or later than you’d planned. Make sure to account for that time shift in your rotations. Do some quick math and divide the amount of time left by the number of stations and then subtract your cleanup minute and that will tell you how long to run each session. So now that your kids are happily rotating around the room doing lots of fun activities, what are you doing? And the answer to that is that you’re being very involved and excited about whatever is happening. Yes, you are. Since your class is busy, it might be tempting to catch up on your grading or run and make copies I cannot blame you if you feel that urge, we always are trying to get so much done in a day. But I would suggest avoiding that if you can, the parents in the classroom are watching you as much as they are watching their kids. They want to see how you interact. It’s not fair, but they will judge you as a teacher based on how interactive you are with the party. And something to keep in mind is that even if the parents are running things, you are still the one responsible for what is happening in your classroom. You don’t want to get in trouble because the parents didn’t supervise the pinata well enough. And now someone has a bruised head. Oh, yeah. And that is a lot.

Congratulations. You’ve made it to the end of your party. Now what? Well, step seven, is to get cleared up. How do you recover from what just happened in your classroom. Back in step two, we suggested adding 15 to 20 minutes to the end of your party. This is where you’ll need those minutes. Giving yourself a time buffer allows you to wrap up the party in an intentional way. And this will save you so many headaches. So for example, if my party is at the end of the day, I will make sure to schedule the parties end before the bell. If school is out at 330, I try to end my party by 240 or 245. That gives me a comfortable buffer, because it is likely that stations are going to run a few minutes longer than planned. So that means I would actually be wrapping up the activities around 250 Or maybe even closer to three. And then the next thing I focus on, isn’t cleaning up the party. It’s getting the kids ready. I want them to get packed up for the day. I want them to get their backpacks and lunchboxes, I hand out anything that needs to go home. And then once the kids are packed up, I do something very chill that they can do independently. So if you’re allowed watching a short cartoon is perfect to keep the kids busy while the adults clean up the actual party. Yes, if you don’t plan for a comfortable buffer of time to clean up and reset your room, you will be kicking yourself. If your party goes up to the bell, it’ll be a madhouse trying to get the kids out the door with all their stuff. While you’re trying to wrap up the party. You’re already exhausted. So don’t make your job harder by not scheduling time to clean up. And that is how you plan a fun class party with the minimum of headaches. Remember these seven steps to help give focus to your planning. Step one, get clear on your vision. Step two, get clear on your timeframe. Step three, get clear on your activities. Step four, get clear on parent roles. Step five, get clear on supplies. Steps six, get clear on your game plan. And step seven, get it all cleared up.

Now let’s talk about this week’s teacher approved tip. Each week we leave you with a small actionable tip that you can apply in your classroom today. This week’s teacher approved tip is sign up for Oriental Trading Company’s mailing list. So if you aren’t familiar, Oriental Trading Company or OTC as they go by now is a party supply company. You can definitely order tablecloths and balloons from them. But they are really handy for cheap party activities. I use them when I taught second grade. We ordered from them when we taught preschool. Honestly, they were such lifesavers for our parties. But the shipping can be a little pricey. So you want to get on their mailing list. And I would not normally suggest getting on a mailing list. But this is worth it. They frequently do coupons for free shipping on orders of at least $49 Which might work if you have a big order, maybe your whole grade level is ordering their supplies at once or something. But the coupon to watch for is free shipping on any order. So in September, I use that coupon to order anything I need for Halloween. In October or November. I ordered for Christmas and in January. I use that coupon to order for Valentine’s Day. And I really even put it in my planner so that I don’t forget. So save yourself some planning and prep. And definitely save yourself on shipping and get on OTCs mailing list. And do they have one of those coupons pretty much every month? Yeah, yeah, they definitely do. So it’s real handy. Yeah, that’s a great tip.

To wrap up the show we’re sharing what we’re giving extra credit to this week. Heidi, where are you giving extra credit to? I am giving extra credit to the new season of The Great British Baking Show on Netflix. It is just so lovely. I love it. Even when they’re baking things like fish cake, that was that was horrifying. And it’s filmed in the summer outside in a tent so the setting is green and sunny. But it really I have found it is such a cozy, pleasant show that it seems perfect for fall. So I’ve really been enjoying that I’ve been looking forward to my new episode every Sunday. And Emily, what are you giving extra credit to this week? I’m giving extra credit to kitchen shears. I didn’t realize how much I use and love mine until one of my kids stole them for a project. And they were missing for a couple of weeks. I hate when they always take my good scissors for whatever they’re working on. I ordered another two pairs that we would always have a clean pair. I just love having kitchen shears for cutting up kids food, especially pizza. And for myself. I love having a nice pair of sharp shears to cut up my salad into tiny pieces. Salad is so much better when everything is kind of small. So get yourself a pair of kitchen shears, and I will link the ones I got in the show notes. Are they dishwasher safe? Of course they are. That makes a difference. It’s something that can go in the dishwasher and oh no way it was not great.

That’s it for today’s episode, use our seven steps to help plan the perfect class party. And don’t forget today’s teacher approved tip to save on party supplies.

More About Teacher Approved:

Do you ever feel like there’s just not enough time in the day to be the kind of teacher you really want to be? The Teacher Approved podcast is here to help you learn how to elevate what matters and simplify the rest. Join co-hosts Emily and Heidi of Second Story Window each week as they share research-based and teacher-approved strategies you can count on to make your teaching more efficient and effective than ever before.