Holiday Parties—Helpful Hints for Educators
The leaves are beginning to turn colors and fall from the trees; and whether we want to admit it or not, fall has arrived here in West Michigan! It is hard to believe that in less than two weeks, children will be knocking at my door trick-or-treating. With the arrival of fall, it is important for educators to start thinking about and planning classroom parties if your school chooses to include them. For special educators, it is even more important to examine classroom parties and plan how your students can have a successful and enjoyable experience. As a special education teacher, I used to dread classroom parties with all of the chaos erupting here and there; but, after several trials and errors, I found a few strategies to be rather useful in my classroom during those hectic events. Not only did my students have an enjoyable time, but so did I!
Here are several tips for teachers to keep in mind when planning holiday parties.
- Less is more! When it comes to planning party activities, this old saying is really quite true–“Less is more!” It is important for teachers not to over plan their classroom parties, and cram all kinds of activities into the agenda. Most of the time we are so worried about what we will do with the students that we forget about the need to move slowly, and allow our students time to process what is going on in the classroom environment. By doing too much, mass chaos often occurs since everyone is concerned about what they are doing and making sure that they are done quickly enough so that they don’t miss out on the next thing. By doing a few less activities and focusing on slowing down, simple games and art projects can be rather enjoyable for everyone–and less stressful for the teacher!
- Don’t over decorate! There are so many wonderful decorations available these days, and it is hard to just walk by and not pick up something to add to the classroom decorations. Holiday decorations can be over-stimulating for children in general; and when we start adding sounds and lights, the overstimulation can advance to the next level. When decorating your classroom, keep in mind the needs of your students, especially their sensory needs. If you have students with sensory processing difficulties, then keep decorations to a minimum. Just remember that when you have your classroom party, the students will already be over-stimulated by all that is going on; and you don’t want your decorations to add to that.
- Limit the number of party attendees. When it comes to party invitations, it is okay to limit the number of individuals who will be in your room during the holiday festivities. Many times, moms and dads want to bring along young children so that they can play and have fun, too; but, this can be too much for students with special needs to handle. When planning your party, feel free to ask parents who will be planning to attend if they can secure babysitters for younger siblings to help avoid added stimulation.
- Don’t overreact to behaviors. Holiday parties are a prime time for students to show off their best work and, at times, their worst behavior. If you notice a child who is misbehaving during a holiday party, do some investigating before reacting. Is the child over-stimulated? Is he or she getting too much or not enough attention? Often times these behaviors are due to students being overwhelmed. When you see inappropriate behaviors happening, try to find a less stimulating part of the room where the child may be able to engage in a more appropriate fashion.
By following these simple party procedures, you and your students may find that you are able to have a very enjoyable time together. Just keep in mind the importance of breathing during the party as well. If you get nervous or uptight, the kids will be sure to notice and become uptight themselves. Relax and have a wonderful holiday season!