Party planning. At those two words I can feel the stress begin to creep into my neck, the sweat starts rolling, I can feel the anxiety begin. This has always been the most dreaded part of being an elementary teacher for me. Until last year.
I am extremely lucky to work with some crazy smart, thoughtful people. Last year, one of these wonderful colleagues told me he and his class plan parties using the key concepts. This has been a complete game changer. It not only gives the students agency and a feeling of ownership, it helps them gain a deeper understanding of how we use the key concepts throughout our life (plus the added bonus of taking the dreaded party planning out of my hands).
For example, our recent Valentine’s Day party was planned by students using the key concepts. They asked to work in small groups and think through the concepts before they shared out whole group. They thought of the different perspectives of the people involved (“students, families, school”), function (what and where things were going to happen), and my personal favorite causation (“so we can show our love for one another”), among others. After much discussion, they decided that reflection and change should be done after the party. There was some disagreement here because, “Reflection should be happening all the time, though!”, and “Change will be going on during the party, not just before and after!”. But, the majority won out in the end to wait.
My responsibility was to send a note to families with an invitation to join us and to let them know the responsibility their student had signed up for. I was also responsible for writing each student’s name on a paper and to provide heart-shaped post-its so their peers could write compliments to each other. This, I could handle!
The students that signed up for music brought a karaoke machine with lights and fun music. Three students planned challenges to do during dance breaks. Cookie decorating was done by some as they watched their peers floss, Fortnite, and do the worm. Families chatted, ate, and a few learned the newest dance craze. Clean-up was a breeze because it was understood that “It’s part of responsibility!”.
Needless to say, this year party planning doesn’t cause me anxiety like before. I know that my 9-11 year-olds have it under control. They have genuine ownership in their party and are developing so many skills as they plan collaboratively. I encourage you to try this approach (even if you don’t break out in a sweat at the idea of a party!).