How to Hold a No-Stress Classroom Party
“Okay, guys. Your goal is to suck the stripe off the candy cane. Ready? Go!”
This was the scene early in my teaching career. I had turned over the classroom party to a “room mother” who, with the best of intentions, prepared a game that became chaos. While we were in the computer lab, she had pushed every desk to the perimeter of the classroom, hung 25 strings from the ceiling, and attached a candy cane to each. With their hands behind their backs, the students were instructed to suck the stripe off the candy cane. I’m not kidding.
This was the last party I allowed an outside force to plan. Instead, a began a system I still use today: the students plan their own party.
Half of the students plan the holiday party, and the other half plan the Valentine’s Day party. They gather with me in a “super-secret meeting” a few weeks before the party. We discuss their ideas for games and treats, deciding together what is doable and what is not. I have to guide them a bit during this process, suggesting that certain ideas (like relay races) might not be the best for inside the classroom and that, no, we cannot hold a party outside in the middle of February.
After this meeting is over, I’m done. That’s it. The students either make it happen or they don’t. What happens if they don’t do what they say they will? The hard answer is that the party will just end early, but the reality is this has never happened in ten years of using this idea. Some parties have been better than others, but the kids always come through. I’ve had groups choose to lead crafts, alter classroom games to fit the season, and I even had a group perform a play, complete with costumes and a script.
It helps that an entire half of the students are responsible for each party. We always assign two students for most jobs (bringing drinks, running the game, etc.) because if one doesn’t come through, then we have a backup. I also keep a video or bingo game ready…just in case. However, the students enjoy being given this responsibility and usually do an amazing job.
When the actual party takes place, the students lead everything. I spend most of the party either pouring drinks or keeping students seated. Sometimes I end up in a seat just watching. Parents who wish to come to the party are welcome, but they function as helpers, rather than taking over the show. The students listen better to each other during parties than they ever listened to a parent helper.
If classroom parties stress you out, give this a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.