#54U: On Classroom Celebrations

October has always been a time to start talking to my students about what kind of classroom celebration we want to have. Classroom celebrations have so many positive benefits for you and your students, but let’s just start with five.

Five Reasons to Hold Classroom Celebrations

Classroom celebrations – from semi formal celebrations that include food and drink, music, and even special guests – to impromptu opportunities to play outside – help build connections, target skills development, grow relationships, develop social etiquette, and (I put this one last on purpose) improve academic performance. How does this work?

1.Classroom celebrations help build connections.

Students need to feel connected to each other, and their teachers in order to feel safe enough for the risk taking needed for deep learning to take place.

Classroom celebrations can both create and reflect student’s connections to each other, while downplaying differences that might otherwise seem more important (Farr). In a previous post, I talked about how I start the year by celebrating Dot Day – a simple way to celebrate what each member of the community brings to the group. But Dot Day does come at you pretty fast in the school year so you may not have the chance to participate in that particular activity. A classroom celebration mid-October or later can be a great way to highlight to parents and guardians all the things you have been doing to create a safe and caring classroom for your students.

2. Classroom celebrations help develop social skills.

Students should always be included in every part of planning a classroom celebration. The simple act of planning together – regardless of the age – can provide a positive context for students to develop prosocial skills like conflict resolution, cooperation and compromise, as students make decisions about decorations and music, sign up for jobs, and see how well things work when everyone does (or doesn’t) contribute to the clean up at the end.

3. Classroom celebrations help build positive relationships with the community.

Classroom celebrations are opportunities to make the school an open and inviting place for families that may not have had that experience with schools in the past.

Classroom celebrations of student learning offers important opportunities to develop positive relationships between the school, students and their families. After all, schools and families are partners who both want the best for children. Keep in mind the importance of demonstrating culturally responsive practices. This means bilingual invitations, offering interpreters, and planning events at times when marginalized families will be able to participate. Classroom celebrations are a way of starting down the path towards strong student-family-community partnerships.

4. Classroom celebrations help children practice and develop social etiquette in a real life situation.

More formal celebrations will offer many students opportunities to develop skills like greeting a guest, shaking hands, making introductions, and ways to show consideration for each other that they may not otherwise have the opportunity to learn and practice. And children are never too young to start learning these skills. Just remember, it is important to be culturally respectful and don’t set standards that not all students will be able to meet (for example requiring certain formal clothes). I don’t agree with everything on this list, but it’s a good place to start thinking about skills you want to develop.

5. Classroom celebrations help support academic achievement.

According to Alison Smith, celebrating student success significantly impacts their memory, learning, motivation, and other cognitive functions. When students receive positive feedback for something that they have done, it is essentially a signal to their brain (from the brain chemical dopamine) saying ‘do it again’.

What kind of celebrations do you like to have with your students. Share in the comments.

Resources

Farr, V. (2003). The role of celebration in building classroom learning communities. East Tennessee State University, School of Graduate Studies.

Smith, A. (2021, August 28). 9 Creative Ways to Celebrate Student Success. Retrieved from https://www.teachstarter.com/us/blog/11-ways-to-celebrate-student-success-2/

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Kirsten Tschofen

From Canada, to Copenhagen, to Alaska, always on my way to Somewhere From Here.

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