Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Winter Party Recap

Hi, friends! I had a few questions on IG about my fall and winter parties, so I'm here today to share some simple tips on how I make our holiday parties fun and exciting BUT enjoyable and calm for their teacher as well. :) 

I try to keep things simple when it comes to parties.  I've learned that just works best.  I have set up parties every way you could think of. I've had parents plan the entire party, I've had parents plan games and crafts, I've done activities as a whole class, and I've done activities in smaller groups.  I've had parties where the games where the activities took so long that we didn't get to even touch the food the kids brought it.  I've also had parties where we revert to playing tic tac toe or hangman because the games/activities didn't take up enough time. 

Over time, I learned that things work best when I'm in charge.  Parents naturally flock to you during parties to ask questions about activities, games, or crafts.  Even if you announce a fellow parent was in charge of the party planning.   For me, nothing is more stressful than shrugging my shoulders and saying "I don't know," to a parent during a party. 

So a few years ago, I just started planning it all.  I reuse many of the same activities from year to year, so it takes literally minutes to put everything into place. :) 

We rock our parties out in rotations.  I have six tables.  We have six stations/rotations.  They move from station to station with their table.  When it's time to switch, I just move the name names to their new station. So easy.  The rotations allow my kids to have fun in a very controlled way.  This allows me to have fun too and many of my classroom parents have remarked at how it allows them to enjoy the experience of volunteering more as well.

I have my students take "party bags" from rotation to rotation.  They put the put any papers, activities, or snacks from each station in them during the party.  It's a great way to keep everything together and to keep the party rolling. :) 

One of the stations always involves a fun snack.  For our winter/Christmas party, we decorated graham crackers.  I am usually in charge of this station. 

Each student had a graham cracker, that they broke in half, a knife with a dollop of icing on it, and sprinkles that they used to make little graham cracker sandwiches with. 

Three of the stations involve a game of some kind.  At our winter party we played Don't Eat Rudolph, a variation of Don't Eat Pete,  Holiday Bingo, and a Holiday Hedbanz/Guessing Game.  My parent volunteers are each assigned one of these stations and run the same station throughout the entire party. 

A few of my kids had never played Hedbanz before, so we made sure to play it during brain breaks the week of the party.

Two of the stations are a bit calmer and can run without any help, which is great if you don't have a lot of extra help at your party.  

My kids LOVE word searches and we never ever get to do them, so we always have a word search.  

We also do a simple craft. For this party, my students decorated Christmas Tree Magic Scratch Ornaments. I got them from Oriental Trading

The rotations take about thirty minutes, give or take, and then we end things with some snacks and a movie. 

The parents typically man a little buffet for our snacks at our back table and allow students to go table by table.  I don't go crazy on the snacks because for many years, the kids were throwing SO much food away.  I let the kids pick what they want and there is usually very little food left at the end of the party.  I typically have a least one student with a peanut allergy, so we usually stick to Oreos, Rice Krispie Treats, pretzels, and fruit snacks.  This year I have a student with an egg/diary allergy and he just brings his own snack pack to the party and keeps his own game boards/coutners for any games involving food in his party bag.

While my students eat their snacks and enjoy the movie, the parents and I clean up the stations.  I also send home the leftover cookies, fruit snacks, pretzels, etc. with the students who sent them in to avoid cluttering up my cabinets/counters. The movie gives my students a chance to calm down and we can go to the buses safely and calmly. 

To keep things even less stressful on party day, I put the items needed for each station in plastic tubs as they come in.  I have a tub for each station and this allows us to begin our party as soon as our parent helpers show up. 

I use Signup Genius  for our party donations and volunteers.  It takes minutes to create a sign up and I love how I don't have to coordinate who is sending in items, the website does it for me.  I send the link out to my homeroom parents in an email and usually within a DAY, everything is taken care off.  The website also sends parents an email about their donation/volunteer time a few days before.  

Even though our Christmas/Winter Parties are over, hopefully you found something helpful/useful for your future class parties.  We use the same set up at every party and it always works out great, even with my most challenging classes!

I also just wanted to let you know that my store will be on sale today and tomorrow to celebrate the New Year! You can check out Fourth and Ten on TpT {here}.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Homemade Christmas Gifts for Coworkers, Students, Neighbors and Friends {2014 edition} Freebies

Hi friends! :)  I just printed and prepped the last of our 2014 Christmas gifts and finally have some time to relax and unwind. It's a Wonderful Life is on the TV and I have two sweet pups curled up next to me on the couch. It's my own little piece of heaven. 

I wanted to take some time today to share some of the gift tags from Christmas gifts that I shared on my IG account.  A lot of people asked and I'm excited to share them with you as a special holiday gift today! 

Our Christmas gifts were Pinspired this year and I have had a lot of fun putting everything together! A recap of our holiday gifts, for school and home, is below.  Even if you can't use them this year, you might find something to Pin away for next year!

My husband is a general manager for a nationwide bakery cafe chain and wanted to do something special for his assistant managers this year to let them know how much he appreciates their hard work.  

I picked up a few movie themed snacks at The Dollar Tree, some buttered popcorn from Aldi, and printed off some giftcards from Redbox to make a fun movie night box.  The tubs and tissue paper are from The Dollar Tree as well. 

He also has 25+ associates that he wanted to do something special for.  My first thought was a $5 gift card to Starbucks but my husband hates giving gift cards.  We went round and round with ideas for a few weeks and come up with this gift. 

I forgot to take a picture of these gifts before he took them to work, and my hubs was sweet enough to text me one.  I bought a variety of the candy cane treat containers above, they are also on Amazon, and my husband let his employees choose the one the wanted.  They were $2 each at Walmart and his employees loved them! I also made his staff my cake batter cookies.  I use this recipe.  The cookie bags were from Hobby Lobby.  

My teaching team also exchanges gifts with one another.  We meet up for dinner at the beginning of break and have a lot of fun exchanging the fun little gifts we found for each other.  For these gifts, I start stalking my app/emails in early November. Last year, I got everyone Burlap ornaments.  This year, everyone got chapstick keychains! I ordered one for myself too and I LOVE it! They came from this Etsy seller in case you want one for yourself!

 I put a Candy Cane Chap Stick in each. :) Isn't it the BEST flavor?  I need to stock up on it, so I have enough for the rest of the year. 

I nicknamed Christmas 2014, "A Very Dollar Tree Christmas" because I was seemingly there every day after work. I also gave the girls a pair of cozy socks from the DT as well. 

Here's what everything looked like in their gift bags.  :)

I am very blessed to have a dedicated group of educational assistants who work with my students. They provide interventions, classroom support, and they are such a help to me.  I bought several passion fruit EOS and made these adorable EOS Rudolphs. You can find the printable {here} from The Tried and True Blog.  This was such a practical and cute gift! Everyone loved them! I got the EOS from a variety of different places. The ones below are from Walmart and I liked them best because how they were packaged.  The bags were from Hobby Lobby. 

My kids made handprint snowmen ornaments for their parents again this year. I originally blogged about them {here}.  

This was my fourth year doing these ornaments.  I always say "that's too much work" or "I'm never doing them again" but I always end up doing them.  My kids always enjoy making them and they are always make a great keepsake for their parents.  

This year my teaching partner, painted the canvases with our kids one day and a few days later, I had them do the snow people paintings.  
This helped me out tremendously! Thanks, Amy!

This year we used these artist trading cards. I got mine at Hobby Lobby but they are on Amazon too! The best deal I found on the acrylic paint was at Walmart, they were 2 for $1. 

My teaching partner and I have 50+ students. That's a lot of bonus points and I just never saw any $1 books that they would love, except Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing but we read that during book clubs later in the year.  So we bought some cute holiday sandwich bags from The Dollar Tree and filled them with goodies. 

We filled the bag with cherry candy canes (WalMart), a pencil and eraser (Dollar Tree), and homework passes.  I used the homework passes from my Editable Homework Pass/Thank You note pack that you can find on TpT {here}.  It made prepping their gifts a snap and easily to implement, as my partner teacher and I got to customize our homework passes! 

The DIY/Pinspiration trend carried over into our friends' gifts as well.  

Several of our friends now have babies and so I got several copies of Sneezy the Snowman for them from Scholastic.  They were only a $1 each and it is such a cute little book!

We put the copies of Sneezy in a gift bag with the following treats. 

 I got these cute little Keurig Gingerbread Houses from Meijer for $5! You can also find them on Amazon
We are really lucky that some of our best friends are our neighbors, so we wanted to add a little something to their coffee and book bag. They all love my homemade pumpkin bread.  I bought these mini bread loaf tins and was able to get six mini loaves from my recipe! 

For the other neighbors on our street, we gave them a roll of cute wrapping paper and tape because we didn't know if they had any food allergies at their house.  

The gift wrap and tape were purchased at Dollar Tree. :) I PROMISE they didn't sponsor this post, I just love DT this time of the year!

We also have the sweetest mailman in the world. He's always smiling and always shows great care with the many packages we receive.  We left this bag of donuts in our mailbox with a Panera gift card for some coffee for him.  

These donuts were two for $4 at Meijer this week and I picked up a few more for our garbage men.  It might seem overboard but it's a joy to bless the people who serve our family every single day/week.  The tag I plan on using is for our garbage men are in the freebie included at the end of the post! 

If you are interested in the tags for the movie night tub, coffee, bread, wrapping paper, or donuts, they are in available {here}.  

They may look a little different but this way you can sign your name with a regular pen/maker, since the ones in the pictures are chalkboard and would require white.  If you aren't able to use the tags this year, you can alway pin any of the images for next year. :)  Before I go, I get asked often what printer I use often. I have an Epson Workforce Pro. You can find mine {here}

Merry Christmas! 

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