Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: January 2016

Valentine's Day Party Ideas

I wrote this post for iTeach Third and I wanted to share it here for my blog readers. I love planning classroom parties that are unique, engaging and fun for my students. I am not the kind of teacher that will plan a "traditional" party that students have already had many times before. I like to spice it up!

Each year, I throw a Valentine's Day Sock Hop in my classroom! It is the perfect way to celebrate our friendships, laugh and enjoy each tower's company. I got some inexpensive decorations from the party store and I use them every single year!

I encourage students to wear poodle skirts, leather jackets, etc. We play fun 50s music and dance together. We have hula hoop contents and enjoy root beer floats together. The kids talk about it for weeks to come!

I was doing some research (using the term lightly) on Pinterest and compiled a list of some other fun, but simple, Valentine's Day party ideas.

I love THIS idea of making structures with heart shaped marshmallows and toothpicks. This is a great STEM activity that can be done in collaborative work groups. Give groups the supplies and a time limit. Who can build the tallest structure. Be sure to have some extra marshmallows for eating afterwards!

Playing Musical Hearts (a rendition of musical chairs) would be so simple to prep! Add some fun music and the kids would have a blast. Check out THIS post to see how Musical Hearts can be adapted to include reading and fun movement!

This idea cracks me up! Instead of making gingerbread houses, make THESE love shacks! They are made with chocolate graham crackers. To make it easier in the classroom, use small milk cartons to form the shoe of the house. Then decorate with cute Valentine's Day candies!

Kids love doing Minute to Win It games! They are short, simple to prep and perfect for rotations. THESE ones are super cute and involve lots of Valentine's Day candies.

This free Left/Right story game is super simple and fun. Wrap a few candies or small gifts. I am such a teacher- so I would throw in some books! The students sit in a circle and as you read the story, they pass the gifts in the direction stated in the story. At the end of the story, the students with the gifts, get to keep them! This game could be played a couple times if you wanted to!

How will you be celebrating Valentine's Day in your classroom this year?

Getting Dads Involved in the Classroom

I am blessed each year with a handful of classroom volunteers that help with photocopies, grading, cutting and working with students. These volunteers are such a huge help to me and my students love it when their parent comes in to volunteer. But recently I noticed that ALL my volunteers are moms. And that got me thinking....it is mostly moms at conferences, it's mostly moms at classroom performances.....and it's mostly moms as field trip chaperones. Where are the dads? All of my students' dads work full time outside of the house. Many moms do too, but I do have some stay-at-home moms, moms who work from home and moms who take off work to come on a field trip or attend a class party. I know dads are very busy, but I also wonder if dads don't come to the classroom because they feel uncomfortable and don't really know how to help. And so my mission to get dads in our classroom began!

Read Aloud Invite

How about setting aside 10 minutes at the start of every Friday for a guest dad read aloud? Set up a Sign Up Genius invite and specifically ask dads if they would be willing to come in and read one of their favorite picture books. I highly recommend doing this at the start of your day as it is probably easier for a dad to come in on his way to work or be a few minutes late to work than to leave in the middle of the day. After he leaves, you can increase the academics by asking questions about the text that relate to the weekly reading standard. You can also have your students write thank you notes to the dad in writing.

Guest Speakers (a career day)

What careers do the dads from your classroom have? Do any of the careers correlate with a topic you are teaching in science or social studies? If you have a dad who is a doctor, consider inviting him to talk to the class about how the body works, nutrition or how to avoid getting sick. If you have a dad who is a soldier, consider inviting him in to talk around Veterans or Memorial Day. If one of your dads is a firefighter, they will usually come in and talk about fire safety! I bet there are many dads in your class that could come in and talk to your students about the importance of going to college! 

To increase the academics, make sure that you teach your students have to be great audience members (listening skills) and how to ask appropriate questions (speaking skills). After the guest speaker leaves, have students write thank you notes and/or informational reports about what they learned.

Superbowl Party

How about throwing a class Superbowl party and sending invitations to the dads? Every dad won't be able to make it, but I have gotten a good chunk. The kids love having their dads at the party and the dads seemed comfortable because of the fun football theme. Every minute of class time is so valuable, so I use the party to continue practicing and reviewing math skills. You can make stations around your room with THESE  free math journal prompts. Dads can be put with a small group of students and that can rotate around the room together. 

When they complete a problem, I allow them to choose a Football Party Favor from the bowl! After we do our "work," we enjoy some fun food together!

What do you do to encourage dads to participate in the classroom?