Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Goodie Bags - A Wildly Successful Experiment!

Every year, as per school "custom", we have the children do a book exchange for their presents under the tree. Similarly, we teachers give each child a coloring book and small pack of crayons. And, as it's been every year, there are students who don't bring a book to trade out, (which left me to go to my emergency stash to wrap one), or some parents go whole hog and buy these elaborate, expensive books (despite the "no more than $5" requirement). Which means some kids have a great present to show off, while others may only have a slender board book from the dollar store.

This year, my compadres came up with another idea that they got from fellow teachers at other schools. It's called Secret Elves, and here's how it works.

The following letter is sent to all parents:

Dear Parents,

During the last week of school before Christmas vacation, our class will be participating in Secret Elves. Your child will be assigned one day to be a Secret Elf and bring a special treat for their classmates. There are 24 students in our class, so be sure that if you're buying items by the package, there will be enough to go around. Please see the calendar below for your child's Secret Elf day.
Some suggestions: 

* Christmas pencil
* small ornament
* playing cards
* candy (no hard candy)
* small toy (look in party aisle)
* small book
* bouncy ball
* key chain
* spin tops
* baked treats - individually wrapped, like Rice Krispy bar, brownies, etc.
* erasers
* small Frisbees
* toy rings, necklaces, or bracelets
* plastic bugs, animals, etc.
* plastic holiday cups
* holiday straws
* spring pop-up toy - Santa, Reindeer, etc.
* parachute toy
* holiday temporary tattoos
* stickers
* holiday whistle
* mini bubbles
* small activity book or notebook

Thank you for all your help!

Then below that, we placed names inside a calendar square. Prior to each child's day, we sent them home with reminder wristlets. To prepare for the stash of goodies, each child got a white paper sack to decorate. As the goodies came in, we distributed the items. The students grew more and more excited as the bags got fuller. By the last day of school, they were crammed to the top. (These are a couple of bags that were accidentally left behind.)

We followed our usual routine the last day. But instead of having snack time, that's when we had our party. But we didn't get to open our bags. (Imagine 24 little kids spreading out all of it on their tables!) Instead, they were given their bags as they left, their eyes bugging out of their heads as they clutched their heavy sacks.

No child got more than another. No child got "better" than another. And for the couple of children who didn't bring anything, I didn't have to substitute something to make up for the lack.

After talking to the other teachers, we decided this experiment had been a wildly successful attempt. We plan to do it again next year, and the next, and the next...

Here's hoping your Christmas party was also a rousing good time!

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