Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Creating Class Community with a "Mocktail Party" Study Session #SOL16

We've arrived at the end of another trimester in my Communication 1101 class, the dual credit speech class I teach in the Idaho State University Early College Program. Tomorrow students will present their persuasive speeches, and next week they will complete the course evaluation and take the final exam, which the university requires of all Comm students. But first, we are having a party--a "MOCKTAIL PARTY." 

I first created the "Mocktail Party" as a way for students to bond with one another and study for the final. I presented on this lesson at the NCTE Annual Convention a few years ago, and have made this activity a go-to event at the end of each trimester.


Just as a party we have in our homes requires planning, so too does the Mocktail Party.

First, the students sign up for a "concept" that will be covered on the final exam. Then they create "business cards" based on their concepts. Each card must contain some specific information. I introduce the activity by giving students one of my cards and reviewing with them the kind of information we find on a business card. Then I give them a handout.

 Here are the instructions I gave students in my current Comm 1101 class: 

Communication 1101: Moctail Party/Meet ‘n Greet: Date__________________________

Rather than a cocktail party, we'll have a “mocktail” party. When one attends a party hosted by a business, often one does not know many of the attendants. During these gatherings, people meet and greet one another, often distributing business cards in the hope of generating new contacts. This is the idea for our gathering. Instead of meeting new people, we’ll be reviewing the difficult concepts we’ve studied.

Task: Create a set of 22 "business cards" to distribute during the party. You may do this on paper so that you can type and print the cards. This will help you avoid having to handwrite each card.

The cards will include your name, a concept with a definition, a tutorial on the concept, and an original example of the concept. For example, I anticipate cards on the three types of syllogisms and enthymemes we've studied: categorical, disjunctive, and hypothetical.

During the party, each student will need to mingle around the room, introduce himself/herself (as the concept) to each student in the class and chat up one another about the concept. Look at a real business card as an example. To avoid redundancies, I’ll keep a sign-up list of concepts. 

Some of this year's "business cards." 
I, too, must plan my part of the party, which is to bring the food. Depending on the period the class meets, I plan either breakfast, brunch, or lunch. Since the class meets 3rd period, I made a breakfast casserole, and purchased fruit and croissants. One student made cookies to share. I keep a supply of plastic "silverware," cups, napkins, and paper plates in my room. I also have a microwave and refrigerator. Here's our spread: 

My "kitchen" cart w/ microwave, fridge, and supplies. 

On the day of the party, students arrive with their business cards. Some need time to cut them out, so I allow five minutes to prep at the beginning of the class. Students then "party." They fill their plates, mingle, and introduce themselves as their "concepts." 
I provide the food for the party.
They must toddle over to my desk and present a card to me and introduce themselves. That's when I "assess" their work. Some need to tweak their information. Others go above and beyond my expectations. We do, on occasion, have a student or two who comes unprepared, but I try not to make a big deal out of this because they can bring their cards to class the next day and give a "mini-presentation" to the entire class. 

Students lounge, eat, and work. 
We have 75 minute periods, and the activity rarely lasts that long. We use the remaining time to prepare note cards for our persuasive speeches that begin tomorrow or prepare a note card for the final. This is the one day we relax and kick back and let the good times roll while congratulating ourselves on a job well done. 


  1. This is a genius idea! thank you for posting!

  2. This looks like SO. MUCH. FUN. Thanks for sharing your words and the photos of the kids enjoying and working.

  3. Genius idea that is so so engaging for your students! I need to adapt to middle school - I think I've read somewhere about some kind of party where the kids give toasts (with sparkling wine) to someone or something - I need to write the stuff down! Thanks for sharing, love it!!!

    1. Oh, I love the idea of a toast for a character. I can see this as a way to teach tone, too. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. Is that big cozy corner couch in your classroom? Between that and the party, who wouldn't crave this learning? Such an awesome idea for your students! I know they love this!