In a world impacted so deeply by COVID-19, virtual classroom parties can add some much-needed levity to the online learning environment. Some teachers had already embraced virtual learning pre-pandemic, but many were forced to transition to online learning with limited time, resources, and support.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 93% of households with children are participating in some form of distance education during COVID-19.
From student teachers to seasoned professionals, educators everywhere are facing the challenges of remote learning. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 93% of households with children are participating in some form of distance education during COVID-19.
A virtual party might be the perfect reward for you and your students after an unprecedented start to the fall semester. Chances are, you've probably had to celebrate at least one birthday, anniversary, or graduation with friends and family through a screen this year. At this stage, we've mastered the art of virtual festivities. Classroom parties offer the best of both worlds: a social experience that's all about fun, but with no personal safety risks.
Read on to learn how to host a virtual party to boost student engagement and illuminate the online learning experience.
General Virtual Party Tips
The details of hosting a virtual party depend largely on your students' ages and personalities, but some general party tips are universal. For example, the best virtual parties attract partygoers by creating a fun mood and setting the tone for good times. Think of ways to customize your virtual party to accommodate your students' taste. Consider the importance of the following details in planning your next virtual party.
Grade-Level Celebration Considerations
Your party plans will need to be tailored to the age of your students. While you know best when it comes to your students, the following general guidelines can provide a helpful starting point for virtual holiday party ideas.
Elementary School Students
Elementary school students are open to a variety of festive party ideas, many of which may even incorporate remote learning lessons. For example, your students could make crafts to add to their party decorations, or they can share about their favorite traditional holiday snacks.
Middle School Students
Middle school students might be more interested in social activities and virtual decorations (like elaborate filters) than younger students. Consider asking these kids to contribute to a party playlist and share their choices as well. Consider setting a dress code based on your students' unique personalities; for example, you could ask all attendees to wear something in the birthday kid's favorite color.
High School Students
High school students can engage in more independent activities, like baking a cake, cooking a special dish for the occasion, or attempting an advanced craft project. You can also involve high school students in making the perfect party playlist. They may want to play games that encourage sociability and critical thinking like Pictionary or other icebreakers.
College and Beyond
Don't think we forgot about you! Some ideas meant for childrens' parties may seem too immature, but college students can still have fun with them. Virtual parties for college students can be much more introspective and sophisticated. You might turn your virtual celebration into a dinner party, cocktail hour (with nonalcoholic beverages), or watch party.
Tech Tips for Hosting a Virtual Party
As the world has learned to host virtual celebrations through platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, and Houseparty, certain apps have gained popularity for their user-friendliness and special features. Consider the following options to enhance your party-throwing experience.
- Zoom allows users to install a third-party app like Snap Camera to add filters, colorful backgrounds, and even characters to interact with your live image on screen. A basic Zoom account is free and allows unlimited meetings of up to 40 minutes each.
- Microsoft Teams also enables customizable visual effects through the Snap Camera add-on. This platform offers free services similar to Zoom, for meetings up to 45 minutes long.
- Google Meet requires users to install an extension to enable visual effects including a virtual green screen, blur, or pixelated background while livestreaming. Users can also apply filters and lenses to their live images. Anyone with a Google account can invite up to 100 users and party online for up to 60 minutes.
- Houseparty offers an exclusive "frames" feature, enabling users to add decorative wallpapers to their backgrounds on the app. Houseparty taps indie artists to create frames for its curated collection, with new options every other week. Getting started on Houseparty simply requires a free download of the app.
- Facebook Messenger Rooms offers built-in ambient lighting filters and a variety of 360-degree backgrounds of fun prints. An extension of Facebook's live group chats, Messenger Rooms can accommodate up to 50 people (Facebook and non-Facebook users) on a single call, with no time limit.
Additional Online Resources To Enhance Your Party
- Class Dojo Class Dojo helps cultivate a virtual community of teachers, students, and parents. The platform is used by 95% of schools and is free for teachers. Class Dojo offers resources for teachers and school administrators, including a dedicated YouTube channel, webinars, and live training sessions.
- Doceri Doceri provides teachers and homeschooling parents with an integrated management system for remote learning. By downloading Doceri for iPad, Windows, or desktop, teachers can operate all of the devices in their classrooms with a universal remote. This system enables teachers to deliver collaborative lessons to their students on connected Doceri devices.
- Kahoot! For students who may need more collaborative interaction than typical remote learning can provide, Kahoot! offers a unique education resource. This platform enables students to form virtual study groups, test themselves against AI game players, and invite real-life friends to join. Kahoot! Also encourages healthy competition with "study leagues."
- Michael's Beyond providing one-stop shopping for crafters and artists of every genre, Michael's offers inspiration galore for teachers. The store accepts in-person and online orders for a variety of decorations, baking accessories, and costume elements for your virtual party or online classroom. Plus, you'll get frequent coupons for enrolling in Michael's Rewards.
- Pinterest Arguably the most popular source of online party-planning inspo, Pinterest offers unique ideas for decorating, food, dress codes, games, and hot topics for your next virtual celebration. If you don't already have a Pinterest account, you can sign up for free to start pinning ideas to your boards for future student parties online.
- RealSimple Established by Martha Stewart, Real Simple expands on traditional party-planning ideas. Here, you can look for inspiration for hosting a virtual party with the best food, decor, and ambience. In addition to a special section for holidays and entertaining, Real Simple offers health and wellness, financial, and home improvement advice.
- Really Good Stuff A comprehensive source of teacher supplies for more than 25 years, Really Good Stuff now features a special collection of PPE and COVID-19 resources. The company, founded and operated by teachers, also identifies "teaching essentials" specifically for distance learning in all grades and subjects. Really Good Stuff also offers tons of classroom decorations and budget bundles as low as under $30.
Virtual Holiday Party Ideas, By Holiday
Traditional and national holidays offer the perfect occasions for a virtual celebration. Some schools don't observe certain holidays. Still, throwing a party to celebrate the new year or Presidents' Day offers opportunities to incorporate lessons like geography and history. See below for suggestions on how to throw virtual parties for specific holidays, including ideas for crafts, decorations, and activities or themes.
Virtual Holiday Party Ideas, By Holiday
Hosting a virtual party for New Year's is the perfect way to celebrate a fresh start. As a non-religious holiday, all students can observe New Year's together. Activities might include sharing resolutions for the coming year (especially for older kids) or making firecrackers or countdown bags (for younger students). You could pay homage to traditional New Year's fireworks with a metallic background and noisemakers, and even make a special toast with sparkling beverages.
Valentine's Day offers an occasion to show appreciation for your students and encourage them to accept and respect one another. Show your students that love still exists, even from a physical distance. Dress up your space in red and pink with handmade valentines, hearts of all sizes, and candy hearts with personalized messages. Your virtual celebration could include crafts made with love, including candy-making, paper flowers, a valentine garland, or a valentine mailbox.
Throwing a virtual party for Presidents' Day offers a unique opportunity to highlight the significance of the holiday and this U.S. institution. After all, schools do not traditionally throw parties for Presidents' Day in person. Consider super patriotic red, white, and blue decor, and ask students to dress up as their favorite president. Play a president-based trivia game, make a George Washington wig out of cotton balls, or build a log cabin out of pretzels.
Saint Patrick's Day
Plan to deck out your physical or virtual space in green decor for Saint Patrick's Day. Encourage students to — at the least — wear something green (or risk getting a virtual pinch) or — if they are more ambitious — dress up like a leprechaun. Ask students to try a recipe for an Irish snack or go on a scavenger hunt for lucky shamrocks. Young students might enjoy creating their own paper shamrocks or rainbows with pots of gold.
Easter has roots as a religious holiday, but it has also come to represent the new tidings of spring. Decorations for your virtual Easter party should invoke springtime colors, spring flowers, and a sunny, nature-inspired theme. A virtual Easter celebration is the perfect occasion for marshmallow chicks and deviled eggs. Older students might share their families' Easter traditions, while younger students may enjoy crafts like making their own Easter bunnies, paper flowers, or tissue paper Easter eggs.
Ramadan and Eid
Ramadan, or the month-long Muslim holiday of daytime fasting, ends with another holiday called Eid, known as the "festival of breaking the fast." Snacks and beverages may not be an appropriate element of this virtual party, if held during Ramadan; however, observing Eid with a virtual celebration is ideal for festive food and drink. A Ramadan and Eid party should emphasize the moon and stars, featuring gold and silver decorations and crafts, like binoculars and mobiles.
Mother's Day can give students the opportunity to share stories about their moms (if they feel comfortable doing so) or even invite their moms to join a virtual party. Encourage your students to honor their moms by decorating with or wearing her favorite color or theme, or bringing her favorite snack or dish to share with the group. Invite them to break the ice with a "how well do you know your mom" trivia game, or make a DIY candle, suncatcher, or picture frame.
Hosting a virtual party for Independence Day is a fun way to incorporate a history lesson. This holiday also calls for your most patriotic decor, so break out the red, white, and blue stripes and stars. Ask students to wear patriotic attire and share a snack or song they feel truly represents America. Play a U.S.-themed trivia game and invite students to create their own flag design, DIY confetti popper, or firecracker wand.
Like Mother's Day, hosting a virtual celebration for Father's Day can give students the chance to share more of their personal family life with the group. Ask students to let their fathers choose the theme for decorations or make a special request for their favorite snack during the party. Students can even create a homemade card or picture frame, or they can play "Dad-libs" with the group. You could even ask students to dress up as their dads and have a "dads-only" party.
Virtual Halloween parties allow students to show off their costumes, eat candy, and engage in other social activities like telling ghost stories and making crafts. Challenge your students to bust out their scariest decorations and listen to Halloween-inspired music while you paint pumpkins or make bat garlands or monster puppets.
A celebration of both religious and non-religious customs, Hanukkah calls for festive blue, white, and silver decorations. It also entails traditional foods like latkes, kugel, jelly-filled donuts, and chocolate gelt. Depending on when you host your Hanukkah celebration, students can light candles on their menorahs and share stories about other family traditions they practice during Hanukkah. Activities might include making a countdown calendar, spinning the dreidel, or making a Star of David garland.
Christmas parties are perfect for wintry, red and green decorations and snuggly clothes. Invite students to set the dress code for this party. Do they want to wear Christmas pajamas, dress up as characters from their favorite Christmas movies, or wear only red, green, or white? Snacks can be especially fun for a virtual Christmas party, offering chances to decorate cookies, make popcorn garlands, or create recipes for new hot chocolate mix-ins. Activities abound, as well, from making ornaments and snowmen to stained glass nativities and snowglobes.
Regardless of the occasion, virtual celebrations should embody pure fun and positivity. Even the silliest of holidays can offer opportunities for education and self-expression. You might consider throwing a virtual party to celebrate a silly holiday anytime your students need extra encouragement, or as a reward for work well done. Read on for some ideas, or create your own.
- Kids' Music Day. Encourage your students to try playing a new instrument or their favorite song.
- Cosplay Day. Give your students another excuse to dress up in their favorite costume.
- Read A New Book Month. Throw a book-club party at the end of this month-long event.
- Genealogy Day. Ask your students to explore their family trees, and share your story, too.
- Twilight Zone Day. Let your students' imaginations run wild with this open-ended party theme.
- World Emoji Day. Encourage students to go all-out (especially with decorations) at this party.
- Plant Power Day. Invite each student to bring their favorite plant-based food to this party.
- International Picnic Day. Share stories about where each student would take their dream picnic and what they would bring.
- Pet Day. Let students show off their pets or share about a pet they'd like to have.
- Cartoonists' Day. Encourage your art-inclined students to share their skills or find an artist they admire.
Shake Up Remote Learning With Virtual Celebrations
Few educators planned to move to exclusively remote classes this year, and the transition to virtual education raised the learning curve for everyone. In this critical time, the fortitude and resilience of teachers like you is your legacy for your students. Beyond the importance of academics, virtual parties are key to raising student engagement and enthusiasm during uncertain, stressful times such as these.
You may find your students need a holiday party to look forward to or a virtual team celebration simply to boost morale. With the right elements — good music, fun snacks, festive decor, and engaging activities — you can enable your students to connect informally in a social environment. Remember, you know your students best. When in doubt, find an excuse to throw a virtual party!