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Tuesday, May 7, 2024

End of the Year Staff Morale Ideas

The end of the year is a crazy time in any school. With the final countdown underway, teachers and other staff members in a school are working harder than ever! Help boost motivation and keep staff members smiling with these simple, end of the year staff morale ideas everyone will love! 

Use these end of the year staff morale ideas to show your teachers and staff how much you appreciate all the hard work they've done this year.

Why Staff Morale Matters at the End of the Year

This time of year is notorious for burnout. Everyone at school is focused on testing, graduations, parties, student recognition, final grades, and preparing for summer vacation. Teachers, administrators, secretarial staff, and everyone else at school are all burning the candle at both ends. This means that it's more important than ever to show staff members their hard work is appreciated. 

There's nothing worse than feeling frantic and unappreciated. By getting intentional with your staff morale activities, you can ensure that the staff members in your school have a smoother, successful end to the year. And don't worry, your end of the year staff morale activities don't need to be complicated! Here are 9, simple ideas to help you boost staff morale and end the year on a positive note!

1. Summer Mirror Shout Outs 

Use these summer mirror shout outs in your end of the year staff morale ideas to remind your staff how special they are throughout the summer.
First up, I've got a fun idea that I know will put a smile on everyone's faces. Best of all, it's super easy to execute! These Summer Mirror Shout Outs, allow you to leave inspiring, kind notes on the bathroom mirror in your school. As staff members use the restroom, they will be greeted with a sunny reminder that they're doing a great job! 

All you need to do is print these meaningful messages on some colorful paper and hang them up! This resource includes funny puns such as "Long time no sea" that will help your staff remember that summer break is just around the corner! 

I also loved using these in a staff photo booth for the end of the year party. Just print them out, add a popsicle stick to hold them up and you're in business. Either way, these fun little notes will make your staff members smile! 


2. Staff Rock, Paper, Scissors

Looking for a fun and easy game to boost staff morale at the end of the year? You'll LOVE this Staff Rock, Paper, Scissors Game! This is one of my favorite ideas for end of the year staff morale boosters since it's easy to implement during this busy time of year. Staff members will play throughout the day as they pass each other in the halls or see each other at lunch. 

Use this silly staff rock, paper, scissors game in your end of the year staff morale ideas for silly fun your staff will love.
To get started, you'll need to purchase beaded necklaces or Hawaiian leis from a place like the dollar store. You'll need one per staff member. On the morning of your game, you'll drop one in each mailbox with a special tag and directions to play. Staff will wear the necklace and as they see another staff member, they can challenge each other to a friendly game of rock, paper, scissors. The winner of the game gets to keep their opponent's necklace. 

At the end of the day, the necklaces are counted up and the winner is awarded a certificate and/or a fun prize! This game is a great way to sprinkle a little fun into this crazy busy time of year! 

3. Summer Scratch-Offs 

Summer scratch-offs like these are a great addition to your end of the year staff morale ideas.
Have you tried using Scratch-Offs at your staff meetings yet? These are some of my favorite ways to show staff they are appreciated all year long. These are printable tickets that come with pre-programmed options as well as blank versions to fill in your own prize ideas. These work just like a scratch-off lottery ticket, and can be prepared with stickers or paint. Staff members will simply scratch them off to reveal a prize!

These June and July Scratch-Offs are the perfect addition to your end of the year staff morale ideas. They're super quick to prepare and have a fun summer theme that everyone will love. If you need some ideas for prizes, be sure to check out this post with 25 staff prizes that are perfect for scratch-offs!

4. Teacher Yard Sale 

This end of the year staff morale idea helps teachers clean out their rooms and get some fun freebies to start off the new year.
If you've ever had a classroom of your own, you can probably relate to that feeling of overwhelm that sets in as you begin to pack it up at the end of the year. Teachers accumulate a lot of stuff over the school year and it can feel a little crazy to get organized in those final days. Help encourage your staff to clear things out and pass on unused items to a new home with a Teacher Yard Sale! 

This resource includes signs, sign-up sheets, and directions for helping your staff give new life to old things. They will love the boost of motivation to clear things out at the end of the school year and get organized as a whole school! 

Plus, it always feels good to pass on used items to another colleague. This is a wonderful community-building activity that is perfect to boost staff morale at the end of the year! Not to mention, your teachers will be so thankful to return to a classroom that's already been decluttered in the fall. 

5. Staff Post-It Notes 

Staff Post-It notes like these remind your staff how much you appreciate everything they do when you include them in your end of the year staff morale ideas.
Looking for a simple and easy way to recognize individual staff members at the end of the year? These Staff Post It Notes make it super quick and easy to spread a little sunshine any day of the week! Included in this resource, you'll find 18 different messages along with two printing templates. Simply select your design, load your Post-It's in the printer and you're ready to go! 

I loved printing these on bright, summery paper to add a little extra sunshine to the mix! The messages include things like, "Here's a little sunshine to brighten your day" and "You are masterful at the art of teaching". 

There's bound to be something for everyone on your staff roster! Simply print these off, add a personalized message to the back if desired, and leave them in mailboxes, on teacher desks, or anywhere else staff report to. 

6. Jar of Sunshine 

Include a jar of sunshine to brighten up your staff's days when included in the end of the year staff morale ideas.
Do you have a valued staff member retiring this year? Use a Jar of Sunshine to wish them a happy retirement and celebrate as a whole school. The idea behind this is similar to individual retirement cards but will give your retiree a jar full of sweet messages to read through instead. This also works as a whole-staff pick-me-up by prepping one jar for each person at the end of the year. 

Included, you'll find 12 sentence stem worksheets that will work for all staff members, and 4 additional for retirees only. Choose the ones you need and pass them out to staff to complete. Collect them afterward and place them in a pretty mason jar that you've prepared with the included card. This is such a fun gift to present and always makes staff members feel valued and appreciated. 

7. Teacher Self-Care Challenge 

Self-care is often last on the list for our dear teachers and school staff members. They are some of the hardest-working people on the planet who will always put others first. Encourage them to incorporate a bit of intentional self-care into their daily routine with this Wellness Challenge. 
Help your teachers and staff take the time to take care of themselves with this teacher self care BINGO style game perfect to include in your end of the year staff morale ideas.

Included, you'll find 10 different BINGO boards with ideas for self-care such as light a candle, take a hot bath, go to bed early, and take a walk. These simple, doable ideas are perfect for encouraging some after-hours self-care among your staff. 

I like to pass these out at the beginning of the final month in school and encourage staff to work on them throughout the month. After they fill in their board, they can turn it in to receive a small prize. Everyone loves this activity and it's a great way to avoid burnout! 



8. Windshield Notes 

Your staff will love these sweet and inspiring windshield message you can include in your list of end of the year staff morale ideas.
Sometimes a simple note is all that's needed to brighten a person's day. That's why I love these Spring Windshield Messages. They each have a cute, seasonal message printed on them that the staff will love! Some of the included messages are: 

  • Live like it's Spring!
  • You are the Bee's Knees!
  • We've got sunshine on a cloudy day! 
  • To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.

To use, simply print them out and place them on staff windshields before the day ends. They will love coming out to their car to find a fun message just for them. This is a super simple, yet meaningful staff appreciation idea that's really easy to fit into the end of the year chaos! 

9. Friday Oranges 

Everyone loves yummy oranges and will love them even more when you make it a Friday habit as part of your end of the year staff morale ideas.
Last, on my list of simple, end of the year staff morale ideas, I've got a Friday treat that everyone will love! Use this Friday Oranges resource to give staff a tasty snack in a fun way to close out a busy week. All you need to do is print off the signs and/or tags, buy some oranges, mandarins, or cuties, and set everything up in the lounge for staff to enjoy. 

I liked to print a few of the colorful signs that read "Orange You Glad It's Friday?" and post them in staff hallways and on the lounge door. Then, place the bowl of fruit on the table and scatter a few of the smaller tags on the table. You can also place a tag and orange in each person's mailbox if you prefer to pass them out individually. Either way, this is a fun and healthy treat everyone will love!

Start Planning Your End of the Year Staff Morale Activities

I hope you found something fun and new to try in this post! What I love most about these ideas is that they are all simple and easy to implement. It doesn't take much to show staff that they are appreciated during this extra busy time of year. Pick and choose the options that work best for your school and have fun planning! You can find all of these ideas and many more in my TPT Shop. Wishing you a wonderful end to your school year!

Looking for More End of the Year Staff Morale Ideas? 

Check out this post that's filled with 6 fun ideas for a Staff Snack Bar! These ideas are perfect for your end of the year meeting or party and are sure to show staff they are appreciated. 

Looking for fantastic ways to show your staff how much you appreciate them as the year draws to a close? Use these exciting, fun, and creative end of the year staff morale ideas to end your year on a positive note for everyone at your school. #tarynsuniquelearning #endoftheyearstaffmoraleideas #summerstaffideas #staffmorale

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

7 Engaging Ways to Practice CVC Words

If you teach kindergarten or first grade, I'm willing to bet you spend a lot of time working on CVC words. We all know how important it is for our kiddos to master CVC words, but do you ever feel like the teaching process can get a little monotonous? If you're raising your hand, this post is for YOU! Today I'm sharing 7 engaging ways to practice CVC words and keep your literacy lessons feeling fresh! 

Make practicing CVC words easy and fun with these exciting activities your students will love.

Why Do CVC Words Matter?

Learning CVC words will be the key to your student's overall success in reading for years to come.
So what's the deal with CVC words anyway? CVC words are one-syllable, three-letter words that use a consonant, vowel, consonant format. CVC words help children learn to break words apart into segments and understand that words have a beginning, middle, and end. This simple pattern is easy for students to decode and helps build confidence with phonics development. 

Now, why are they so important? Well, first off, they help to improve blending skills which ultimately leads to fluency. CVC words allow children to practice decoding words that use a combination of vowels and consonants. When students learn these patterns, they can begin to read more fluently - this is the end goal, right?! Not to mention, these simple words stack beautifully with sight words your students are practicing, allowing them to read short sentences and learn new vocabulary. All of these benefits are put together to make CVC words a concept worth teaching in depth to support our young, budding readers!

Finding Fun Ways to Practice CVC Words 

Now that we've reviewed what CVC words are and why they're important, let's chat about how to find fun ways to practice CVC words. We all know that topics that require repetition and constant practice are the biggest targets for getting a bit boring over time. If you're not careful to vary your teaching techniques and activities, your kiddos start to tune out. But you already know this! That's exactly why you're here, right? On that note - let's jump into 7 engaging ideas for practicing CVC words that will WOW your students! 

1. Blending Slides 

If you're looking for a way to help students learn to blend letters together to form CVC words in a way that makes sense, you're going to LOVE this first idea. These CVC Word Blending Slides use a hands-on learning format that kiddos absolutely adore! 

This blending slides activity is a great way to get students excited to practice CVC words this year.
To use, each student will get a metal cookie sheet, a blending mat, and a set of magnetic letters. You'll pull a card and they will name the picture on the card. Then, they will identify the letters in the word by segmenting the sounds. Next, they grab a magnetic letter for each sound and place it on the mat. Then, they read the sounds and blend them together to form the word. I remind students to do this with one big breath to help them naturally connect the sounds. 

I love using this visual for teaching new CVC words and modeling blending for my students. They catch on to the idea of blending so quickly with this activity, and actually enjoy practicing this skill on their own! You can prep this activity once and use it for years to come in your small groups or intervention classes. It's the perfect support for a structured phonics program that also aligns with the science of reading! 

2. Real and Nonsense Word Sort 


As your students are beginning to learn CVC words, have them try this real and nonsense words game.
The sound of laughter in the classroom is music to my ears. When students are actually learning and having fun at the same time, I consider it to be a personal victory as a teacher! If you're looking to claim this win in your classroom, I know you'll love this Real and Nonsense Word Sort. 

In this activity, students will pull a card, read it aloud, and determine if it is a real word or a nonsense word. As children read and come across a nonsense word, you'll hear the giggles explode! I love watching them segment, blend, and then ponder on the word. It's like you can see those wheels turning as they work through each card! 

This resource covers all short vowels, using words with a CVC pattern. You can introduce this game in small groups and then reuse it during centers. I like to pair kiddos up and have them sort words into the correct category using a pocket chart. 

3. CVC Word Inference Riddles 

Your students will love reading these fun CVC words inference riddles in small groups or with partners.
Have you ever tried using riddles to practice CVC words with your students? If not, I think you'll love these Inference Task Cards! In my room, I was always a big fan of wordplay and riddles because they make students perk up and listen. There's something about a rhyme or riddle that's just so appealing! 

These task cards are great for whole-group learning or your morning meeting. They're great for warm-ups as they really get those wheels turning! 

To use, you'll read the clues aloud and have students guess the CVC word that the riddle represents. After they give you the correct answer, have them say the sounds for each letter and spell the word aloud to take it a step further! Unfold the tab and your students will love this self checking feature. This is a fun activity that won't even seem like learning to your students. 

4. CVC Word Worksheets 

Incorporate worksheets like these in your CVC words activities for low prep options you and your students will love.
I know, I know - worksheets don't sound like a particularly engaging activity, but hear me out! These CVC Word Worksheets engage your students with multiple steps. First, they'll identify the picture and say the word aloud. Then, they tap for each sound and color in a circle for each sound. Next, they segment those sounds in sequence and write each letter individually. Last, they write the whole word as one. 

This activity provides an excellent visual for students to help them understand breaking apart words into sounds and then blending them together. I love using this activity as a follow-up when we learn new words. Plus, since it's low-prep, it's easy to sneak into just about any time block of the day. If you need a last-minute center or a meaningful time-filler, this activity will come to your rescue! 

5. CVC Word Stamp or Build 

Next up, this is another low-prep option that uses elements of hands-on learning to practice CVC words. These CVC Word Stamp or Build Pages will be a huge hit in your classroom. 

Get in some fine motor skills practice with these CVC words stamp or build activities.
There are two options included in this resource, one for stamps and one for magnetic letters/letter tiles. I loved having both of these options to continue practicing CVC words in new ways. 

To use the stamp version, kiddos will draw a card, say the word, and break apart the sounds. Then they stamp each letter in the box on their paper and finally blend them together to say the word once more. 

The magnetic letter version is the same except they place letters on the mat as they go. These are great to introduce in small groups, and then use again during centers. 

Once kiddos know how to use these pages, they can be fully independent as they practice! That means these pages can be used as centers throughout the school year.

6. Seasonal CVC Blending Mats 

Use these seasonal CVC words blending worksheets throughout the year to keep students engaged and excited about practicing CVC words.
There's something about seasonal and holiday resources that just make learning more fun, right? I think this is true for both students and teachers, which is why I was always mindful to include them in my lesson plans. I loved using these Spring Themed CVC Blending Mats during small groups. 

To use, students will identify the picture, and then lay down magnetic letters for each sound. Then, they will blend the sounds together and say the word again. There are also recording sheets included for students to write the final word. 

The mats come in two versions, with and without letters to support and differentiate as needed. I liked to laminate these mats and use them every year. I have also included black-and-white options for quick, no-prep practice as well. My kids loved the seasonal themes so much that I actually made a huge bundle of these resources so that we could use seasonal practice all year long! 

7. CVC Word Park and Spell

I've saved a student favorite for practicing CVC words for last! This CVC Word Park and Spell is going to be a huge hit for your students who love cars! 

This park and spell CVC words activity is not only a great way to get students excited to practice spelling CVC words, but will make it feel more like a game than practice.
In this activity, they will get to match up magnetic letters with their blending mat and then "drive" a car across the mat, from left to right, as they blend the letters together. If you've got reluctant readers, this is the activity for them!

I love saving this activity for use on a fun Friday. By the end of the week, everyone needs a little extra motivation to stay engaged. 

This activity will make it fun and easy to continue practicing CVC words and finish the week strong! Best of all, simply laminate these mats and then use them again and again all year long and for years to come. 


Even More Ways to Practice CVC Words 

Well, there you have it friends! Which of these 7 engaging ways to practice CVC words was your favorite? Hopefully, you found something fun and new to try in your classroom. Over the years I've found that variety really is key to keep learning fun and engaging! You can find all of these activities and many more to practice CVC words in my TPT Shop. Have fun with your students!


Save These Ideas to Practice CVC Words

Pin this post on your classroom Pinterest board to keep these ideas top of mind! 

Looking for fun and exciting ways to get your students excited about practicing CVC words this year? Grab these engaging activities to use in your classrooms as individual practice, small group work, or as a center activity. Your students will love the varying activities and will never get bored while practicing CVC words. #tarynsuniquelearning #cvcwords #cvcwordpractice #cvcwordactivities #cvcpractice

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Fun Ideas for Staff Appreciation Days

A school is filled with many important staff members who all play a vital role. While many of us initially think of teachers, there are so many other people who help make the school day run smoothly! If you're an administrator, principal, or member of your Sunshine Committee - this post will offer some fun and inspiring ideas for all of those upcoming Staff Appreciation Days! Best of all, these ideas get your students involved too! 

Use these fun ideas for staff appreciation days to show every staff member in your school how much you appreciate everything they do to keep your school running smoothly.

Celebrating Staff Appreciation Days 

School nurses, bus drivers, secretaries, custodians, support staff, cafeteria workers, and administrators are all important staff members in any school. In addition to the teachers, these people help make each day run smoothly and support our students. These staff members deserve recognition just as much as our dear teachers do! Luckily, each of these titles has its own appreciation day when we can let them know how much they are valued. 

You don't have to wait to celebrate staff appreciation days at the end of the year with these fun ideas.
And even if you don't want to stick with those specific days, you can choose any day to show staff members at your school that their hard work matters! This is especially fun when used as "bookends" to the beginning and end of the school year. During these crazy busy times, our school staff members are working hard and can benefit from a little boost! 

There are lots of ideas out there for teacher appreciation day, which is of course, so valuable! But what on earth do we do to celebrate the other staff members in our school? Come along to see how I helped make everyone in our school system feel valued during my time as the leader of our Sunshine Committee! 

Letters to Support Staff and Specials 

Aside from our primary teachers, the paraprofessionals and "specials" teachers play a huge role in the education and development of our students. Not to mention, they are a big support to teachers as well! Over the years, I've found that students tend to have a valued relationship with these people. The time spent with them is a little different than their time in the regular classroom, so they have an opportunity to create a unique bond. 

Use letter like these for support staff to celebrate staff appreciation days throughout the year.
My favorite way to show appreciation to these staff members is by having students write "Letters of Thanks". To do this, I had students each write a page detailing their favorite thing about each person. For example, they might write about their favorite thing about gym class, art class, intervention, library, speech, or music. 

Then, they illustrate their personalized letter in any way they like! This is the fun part because you'll see a huge variance in illustrations by grade level. Once you've collected all of your letters, bind them together into a book. I used a cute cover page that had a picture of the class or support staff environment. The covers all had titles that said something like "We Love Speech!" or "We Love P.E.!" I know your support staff members will LOVE looking through these cute appreciation books! 

School Nurse and Secretarial Staff Appreciation Days

Use a fun and creative worksheet like this to show your school secretary how much you appreciate them during their staff appreciation days.
These special days usually fall sometime in April and May, and they're a great opportunity to show your staff how much their time and care for students is valued! Both the school nurse and the school secretaries are invested in ensuring our kiddos are healthy, safe, and cared for on a daily basis. No visit by the office is complete without a wave to these important people! 

A signature frame was one of my favorite gifts for showing appreciation to our school nurse and our secretaries. To create this, I printed off a page with a fun phrase. Then, I had every student sign their name on the page. Finally, I placed these pages in a nice frame and presented them to the staff members on their specific day of appreciation. These look super cute displayed at their desks and were always a huge hit! Take a closer look at the resources I used for  School Nurse Appreciation Day and School Secretary Appreciation Day if you're looking for a unique gift for these staff members!

Use a word bank and letter template like these for staff appreciation days celebrating your school nurse.
I also have another option in both of these resources that has a page for students to write letters of appreciation to each staff member. If we had time, I really liked to have students work on both projects. There's just something so special about a personalized letter from a student, right?!

To make this easier to facilitate, I've even included a word bank that can be projected up on the board to inspire student learning. Some of the included words for the nurse are band-aids, cot, and thermometer. The word bank for the secretary includes desk, telephone, computer, and more.

These words help ensure the letters are personalized and relate to what that specific staff member does for our students! This can be especially helpful for younger children in K-2. The extra prompting and vocabulary help them think about what they'd like to include in their letters of appreciation. Once students write their letters, I bind each book together, add a cute cover, and gift them to the person.

Show Appreciation for the Custodial Staff

Where oh where would we be without our wonderful school custodians?! Schools are messy, germy places and they work hard to keep our rooms feeling fresh and clean. We all know this is such a big job, and I think I speak for everyone when I say that it's SO appreciated! 

Don't forget your school custodian with this creative signature page you and your students can use during staff appreciation days this year.
I think that these staff members are often the ones that are forgotten the most since they typically work after school day hours. I like to talk to students about these important people and how they "shine up" the school while we're at home every evening. 

Once explained, the children view this important task differently and begin to understand the magic they provide to our classrooms. It's a great way to make sure each and every one of your students understands why this special gift to our custodian is so necessary! 

I liked to have kiddos create a framed signature page just like the one we make for the nurse, except it says "The World's Best School Custodian!". The kids love helping to make this and it's always a fun gift to give. I also have options for writing letters if you'd like to present them with a book as well! 

Cafeteria Staff Appreciation Booklet 

Everyone loves lunchtime, and our cafeteria staff works hard every day to make sure there is plenty of food for everyone! In my school, our cafeteria workers seemed to know every child's name and their specific food allergies. I was so appreciative of this because their daily greeting to students made them all feel valued. 

Staff appreciation days include cafeteria staff as well, and fun gifts like these are sure to be appreciated by all cafeteria staff.
To show appreciation to these important people, I worked with students to create a cute booklet. For this activity, each child will fill out a cute "lunch tray" page that details some of their personal favorites. The prompts include things like favorite thing to eat, favorite thing about going through the line, and more. The responses will vary by grade level, so try and get a few from each one to mix it up! 

When you have them all collected, bind them into a book, add a nice cover, and present it to the cafeteria staff. I know they will love reading through it!

There are also letters of appreciation and student crowns they can wear to the cafeteria when you go to present them with appreciation gifts. I like to encourage the kids to use their very best work to decorate colorful crowns and pictures. The staff always light up when they see the kids walk into the cafeteria with their crowns on! Plus, it's really fun to get a picture of the staff and the kids in their crowns to hang in the cafeteria! 

Bus Driver Appreciation Day 

Our bus drivers help ensure that everyone gets to and from school safely and promptly. Show them a little love with one of the fun ideas in this resource! Inside you'll find:
Include bus drivers in your staff appreciation days with a meaningful certificate like this.
  • Bus Driver Awards 
  • Bus Driver Letter Booklet 
  • Bus Driver Appreciation Crowns 
I like to have students write a letter that details their favorite thing about riding on the bus. They can share a fun experience, or share a detail that they love about their driver. 

Then, bind these letters into a pretty booklet, wrap it up, and add the bus driver award to the top. Then, have your students create their appreciation crowns and wear them as they are getting on the bus. Present your bus driver with their gift and watch their surprise! Your students will be so excited to participate in this activity, and I know your driver will love it too! 

Administrators

We can't forget about our tried and true leaders.  Our principals and assistant principals often get left out of the appreciation because they are busy planning it all. But. . . with a few simple steps, you can show your administrators just how awesome they are.  A bulletin board or hallway display declares to the world that you have the #BestPrincipalEver.  Surround that with words that describe the administrator and then let your students and teachers add notes to the display.  

Create an interactive hallway bulletin board to show your administrators that you appreciate them.

It's a great way for the entire school to work together to show appreciation for all that administrators do.

How to Use These Resources 

Depending on the size of your school, you might be wondering how to facilitate these activities. Here's my favorite suggestion - choose a few grade levels or classrooms for each person. For example, maybe K-2 will work on gifts for the bus drivers, cafeteria staff, and custodians. Then grades 3-5 can make gifts for the support staff, secretaries, and nurses. 

Get the whole school involved in writing letters, putting together booklets, and more with these staff appreciation days printable worksheets you can use all year long.
From here, you can assign specific classrooms to work on individual activities. For example, all of the bus riders in Ms. Jacob's classroom will make pages for the bus drivers, while the other students in the room will write letters for the school nurse or secretary. This will make sure you're assigning activities that are applicable to each student and allow for a nice mix of letters and notes among the grades. 

I recommend giving teachers plenty of time to plan for these activities and it's best if you can offer support to facilitate this as much as possible. Perhaps your Sunshine Committee or parent volunteers can come in to help students work on these projects during center time. Or maybe you can offer to lead the activity with a couple classrooms at a time in the multipurpose room. Whatever you choose, try to lighten the load for teachers and not add another thing to their plates! 

Get Started with Staff Appreciation Day Gifts! 

Love all of these ideas? If so, be sure to check out the Staff Appreciation Bundle! Inside you'll find all of the activities in one place, so you can make sure that everyone in your school gets the recognition they deserve! 

Grab this bundle to use all year long for staff appreciation days celebrations your whole school can get involved in.

As a bonus, you'll also find volunteer appreciation gift tags inside the bundle as well. These will come in really handy if you'd like to thank your school volunteers as well! Grab the bundle and use it year after year for fun and personalized gifts that your staff will absolutely love! 

Save This Post 

This post is jam-packed with fun ideas to show staff appreciation. Be sure to pin it on Pinterest to keep these ideas at your fingertips! 

Looking for ways to celebrate each of the unique and amazing staff members who help your school be the best it is each and every year? Use these fun ideas for staff appreciation days to celebrate custodians, cafeteria workers, the school nurse, and more throughout the whole school year. #tarynsuniquelearning #funideasforstaffappreciationdays #staffappreciationdays #staffappreciation

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Teaching Poetry in the Primary Classroom

How do you approach teaching poetry in your classroom? Is it a once-in-a-while occurrence that you wish you could incorporate more? If so, I can relate! I love poems and I wanted a way to use them every month in the classroom. The solution came to me and I'm excited to share it with you today! Come along to see how I teach poetry in the primary classroom, and why you might also want to. 
 
Make teaching poetry in the primary classroom fun and easy with these engaging activities you can use all year long.

Why Poetry is Valuable for Primary Learners

First things first... Why is this something you should consider adding to your already very full lesson plan? Teaching poetry has many benefits but the most notable is its ability to help strengthen phonemic awareness. If you're working in a K-2 classroom, this is so important! Every day we're working hard to help our children develop phonemic awareness skills and become strong, confident readers. So what if poetry could make that job a little bit easier and way more fun? 

Teaching poetry to your students will help with several reading skills including left to right progression, beginning sounds, sight word recognition, and more.
Good news, it can! Poetry brings the joy back to reading and leans on rhythmic, repetition to help nudge students towards reading fluency. By using poems in your literacy centers throughout the year, you'll be presenting your students with a new way to foster reading skills. Some of those skills include:
  • left to right progression
  • voice-print pairing 
  • one-to-one correspondence
  • beginning sounds
  • rhyming words
  • sight word recognition
  • reading fluency and more!
Aside from the important skills targeted, poetry is just plain FUN! This alone is a great reason to add it to your routine. 

How to Add Poetry to Your Classroom 

In my classroom, we used lots of songs, poems, and fingerplays in our daily lessons. As an intervention teacher, I quickly learned the value of using these tools to foster reading fluency. As children learn the rhymes and songs, they can connect them to phonics, recall more easily, and blend phonics hunks and chunks together. 

Teaching poetry doesn't have to be time consuming or difficult with easy to use printable activities like these.
Think of it a bit like prompting. These subtle, rhythmic prompts help students gain the skills and confidence they need to become fluent readers. 

But how do we begin adding poetry? My favorite way is through the use of a monthly center. In this center, students will learn a seasonal or holiday-related poem. We practice the verses first, without the written words. This oral practice first helps to strengthen phonemic awareness and lays the groundwork for success. 

Next, I introduce the words in a pocket chart format. Children will work on putting the words in the correct order, matching up the words, and building the poem. We work on this in class, but I also send home word cards for continued practice. By the end of the month, my students know a new poem and have had a fun opportunity to practice reading and identifying the words in it. It's a classroom favorite activity! 

Teaching Poetry with Monthly Poems 

Does this sound like something you'd like to explore with your own students? If so, let's take a closer look at the process I use with Monthly Poetry Centers. 

Introducing the New Poem 

Make teaching poetry simple by including it in your monthly activities with monthly or seasonal themed poems your students will love.
It all starts with an oral introduction of the poem. I like to introduce our new, seasonal poem at the beginning of the month during our morning meeting, or when students are seated on the carpet. 

First, I say the poem aloud and students listen all the way through. Then, I say only the first line and they repeat it back. We work our way through the poem, making sure to focus on the rhythm, rhyme, and repetition. 

We do this over the course of a couple days before I introduce the written words. This piece of the puzzle is key in helping to strengthen phonemic awareness. It's also a fun, community-building activity that my students look forward to every month. There's nothing quite like singing a song, or reciting a poem with your whole class, right? 

Put Words to the Rhythm 

As you begin teaching poetry, project your poems on your whiteboard so you can go through all of the words in the poem together as a class.
Next, it's time to show students the written words. I liked to display the poem on an interactive whiteboard. Then, I would point out each word as the students say it aloud. I do this a few times and might even call on a couple volunteers to be the pointers. 

During this process, we also search for sight words, beginning sounds, color words, and phonics hunks and chunks as well. This is such a valuable part of the process. I love seeing students get excited as they search the poem for familiar words and sounds. 

This is a great way for students to practice reading the poems several times before we dig into individual or small group activities. And, we all know how important repetition is when teaching our kiddos new skills.

Pocket Chart Poem Practice

Then, I pull out a pocket chart. In this step, I use the words from the poem that have been cut apart. With a copy of the poem beside the chart, we reassemble the word cards in the correct order. I like to do this as a whole-group introduction first.  

Use a pocket chart like this when teaching poetry to give your students an interactive opportunity to put the poems together after whole group practice.
As a class, we build the poem using the word cards that are printed in black. Then using word cards that are a different color, I allow kiddos to practice matching the words to complete the poem independently or with a partner. This center is available for a week or so. I try to make sure everyone gets a couple of chances to work in this center. 

Then, I made it a bit more difficult by removing the black words and having students start from scratch. This is a challenge for them, but it's a great learning opportunity too! Not only does this work on phonic skills and reading words, but it also has an element of visual tracking as students must use the poem on one paper to build the poem in the pocket chart. 

I like to give the kids pointers, witchy fingers, or magic wands to use as they point to each word and recite the poem. This adds an extra layer of fun that my students absolutely love.

Keep the Poetry Practice Going

The last step in this process is to give each kiddo a copy of the words and the poem. They keep the words in a baggie and work on assembling them at their desks, and at home for extra practice. I usually communicate with parents about our monthly poem and ask them to help their child recite it a couple times per week as part of their homework routine. The families really enjoy helping out with this and hearing their little readers recite a new poem each month! 

Teaching Poetry All Year Long 

This monthly poetry center is one of my favorite ways to mix things up with our literacy centers. Rhymes and poems are fun for students, so they make it easy and accessible to work on important phonemic awareness skills. Anytime I can make reading a fun and enjoyable process, I'm in! Because of this, I created seasonal poems to use all year long. 

These poems are related to the current season or holiday and are aimed at adding some whimsical flair to our poetry center. In my Year Long Pocket Chart Poetry Bundle, you'll find 12 different literacy centers - one for each month of the year. Some of the poems included are:
These monthly poetry centers make teaching poetry in the primary classroom simple and easy to implement. No need to worry about how to add poems, or which ones to choose! These resources were designed for maximum fun and increased phonemic awareness. All you have to do is follow the simple process and your students will be on track to learn a new poem every month, all year long! 

Grab this year long poetry bundle to make teaching poetry in the primary classroom a breeze for you this year.

This is such a valuable and fun monthly activity to use with your students! I know everyone will look forward to it. If you want to take a closer look, be sure to check out the Year Long Pocket Chart Poetry Bundle in my TPT shop! Happy rhyming! 

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This post has everything you need to implement my go-to method for teaching poetry. Pin it on Pinterest to keep these ideas at the ready! 

Looking for ways to start teaching poetry in your classroom this year? Use these helpful tips and tricks to get you started. Be sure to grab the amazing year long seasonal resource for engaging poems you can use in your poetry units all year long for your primary students. #tarynsuniquelearning #teachingpoetryintheprimaryclassroom #teachingpoetryinelementaryschool #poemsforelementaryschool #seasonalkidspoems

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

25 Staff Prizes That Are Perfect for Scratch-Offs

Looking for a way to infuse some fun into your monthly staff meetings? Scratch-offs are a great way to boost morale and distribute staff prizes! They're inexpensive, easy to make, and can be used for a wide variety of awards. Check out these ideas to get started with scratch-offs and excite your staff month after month!

Show your staff how special you are with these 25 staff prizes to award using fun scratch-offs.

What Are Scratch-Offs? 

Scratch-offs are one of my favorite ways to recognize staff and show them they are appreciated. They're great because they can be used all year long to go along with different seasons and themes. I have a big bundle of scratch-off tickets that includes cute pictures and sayings for every month of the year. 

These printable tickets come in pre-programmed options as well as blank versions to allow for customization. You can prepare them with scratch-off paint or stickers. They work like those scratch-off lottery tickets you can find at the gas station. Simply "scratch off" the silver circle to reveal a prize! 

Prizes can be just about anything you can think of from coffee and candy to casual dress days. No matter what you choose to use as your special prize, I know your staff members will love these fun prizes! 

Scratch-offs are a fun hands-on way to recognize the hard work your staff does and treat them with amazing prizes.

How to Use Scratch-Offs for Staff Prizes

You can use these in a lot of different ways, but my favorite is to distribute them at the monthly staff meeting with all members. Everyone gets 1 scratch-off ticket per month to reveal a prize. This will allow you to manage the budget and ensure you have enough prizes for each category. If your budget is tight, select free options for most staff members and then choose only a few higher-priced prizes. 

At the end of the meeting, have everyone select a ticket and scratch off the silver circle to reveal their prize! You can have them come up to the office or a special table to redeem their ticket for a physical prize or have them turn in their ticket the day they use it for other prizes. 

You can also use these as "just because" gifts for staff throughout the year as well. Drop a few in mailboxes, leave them on desks, or hand them out personally to make staff feel valued! 

Prize Ideas for Scratch-Offs

So what do we use for prizes? So glad you asked! Here is a list of 25 prizes that vary in cost and effort to provide. Any of these options are great for scratch-offs and will help keep your staff motivated! The first 6 options on the list are already pre-programmed into my scratch-off tickets, so there's even less prep work involved. There are also blank options so you can choose your own prizes as well! Now onto the staff prizes! 


1. Prime Parking 

This one is always a favorite and it doesn't cost a dime! Allow your winners to receive a special, reserved parking spot for a week. This works best if you have a sign with the person's name on it displayed on the spot. 

A front row reserved parking space makes a great scratch off prize for your teachers and staff.

2. Class Coverage 

We all need class coverage from time to time. This prize allows the winner to have 30 minutes of class time covered for them, no questions asked! 

3. Duty Coverage 

Have your winner skip recess or lunch duty for the amount of time you decide on. In my school, the principal, or other admin usually took this shift in place of the winner. 

4. Lunch Provided

Everyone loves a free lunch! Let the winner choose a meal to have provided for them at school on a specific day. Use DoorDash, or have a volunteer pick up the meal and deliver it to the winner at lunchtime. If you have multiple lunch winners, you could also opt to have a pizza party or taco bar for winners in the staff lounge. 

Staff prizes like lunch or a special treat is a delicious way to show your staff how much you appreciate them.

5. Special Treat 

This one is similar to the idea above, but you can customize it to your liking. Either set up a special treat in the staff lounge or look through the staff favorites book to find something that the winner especially loves! 

6. Book Purchase 

Allow the winner to choose a book to be purchased with Sunshine Committee funds! This could be a personal book, a staff development book, or a choice for their own classroom library. I have even taken time to write a nice note or poem in the front of the book making it a sweet, personalized treat for that individual.

7. Coffee or Hot/Cold Drink 

This next staff prize is perfect any time of year! Let the winner choose a coffee, tea, or other beverage to have delivered to their room. 

8. Set of Pens 

 Raise your hand if you love Flair pens! Grab a few sets of pens, markers, and highlighters to keep on hand for this prize. Have staff members choose a set to keep. 

Give staff prizes that are functional like pens, markers, highlighters etc.

9. Classroom Aide for a Day 

I love this staff prize because it's super helpful for teachers who would like to conduct a special project or classroom activity. Allow the winner to choose a day to have a classroom aide to help out for a few hours. This can be a volunteer, an admin member, or an aide borrowed from another area in the school. 

10. TPT Gift Card 

Everyone LOVES this one, and why wouldn't they?! A TPT gift card is a valuable staff prize that will make everyone smile! 

11. Candy Stash 

We all need a solid candy stash in our classroom or work areas, right? If your staff member wins this prize, let them choose a few candies/chocolates of their choosing to be purchased. 

12. "Fridge" Stock Up

While most classrooms don't have an actual fridge, this is still a fun concept. Gift your staff member a case of their favorite soda, tea, sparkling water, or other beverage to keep on hand. Kick it up a notch by writing their name on the bottles or cans and placing them in the staff lounge fridge. It will be a special treat and a quick pick-me-up during the day.

A delicious treat like a special soda or drink are great staff prizes.

13. Casual/Jeans Day 

This staff prize is FREE, making it a great choice for anyone looking to stretch the budget! Your winner will get to have a casual dress day of their choosing. 

14. Notebook or Planner 

Anyone who works in a school more than likely loves paper products. Grab some nice notebooks, undated planners, or record-keeping books, and allow winners to choose one as their staff prize. 

15. Food/Coffee Gift Card 

Grab some gift cards for a local coffee house or popular lunch spot to keep on hand for this staff prize. Allow winners to choose the one they'd like to claim if their scratch-off reveals this prize!

16. Candle 

Grab an assortment of scented and unscented candles to keep in a bin or basket. Scratch-off winners can select one that they'd like to keep. 

17. Hand Soap, Lotion, or Sanitizer 

This is the same idea as above, except with hand lotion, soap, or sanitizers. I like to choose a variety of scents, and unscented options to make sure that people who have sensitive skin or allergies to fragrances can still find something they'd like to choose. 

A plant in a cute pot is a great gift that any teacher would love and it is inexpensive too.

18. Cute Classroom Plant 

Succulents, cacti, and other small plants make the cutest staff prize ever! You can often find teeny-tiny ones at the dollar store, as well as in the garden area of Target and Walmart for just a few dollars. 

19. Bulletin Board Duty 

This is another FREE option that your staff members will love! Winners will receive help swapping out a bulletin board display in their classroom or hallway. They can choose the colors, themes, and paper used and a volunteer or admin will help get it all swapped out. 

20. Teacher T-Shirt 

There are so many teacher T-shirts on Amazon, Etsy, and other online stores. Choose a couple of options and then have staff provide their shirt size to order them a custom prize! 

An amazingly motivational shirt like this is a great option for staff prizes your staff will actually love.

21. Lanyard 

Lanyards like these are a fun gift to award scratch-off winners. I like to buy a few in bulk and allow staff winners to choose one they like. 

22. Breakfast Provided 

 Provide breakfast of their choosing, or make them a breakfast basket for the week. You could include granola bars, muffins, fruit, yogurt, and oatmeal packets. 

23. Snack Stash 

Just like we all love a good candy stash, a snack stash doesn't hurt either! Check out the staff favorites book to grab your winners' favorite snacks for them to keep on hand. 

24. Cute Tote Bag or Pencil Holder 

Buy some cute tote bags in bulk to keep on hand for this staff prize. Everyone loves having something to carry their belongings to and from school! A pencil holder is another great prize that will get lots of use.

A teacher tote bag or pencil holder is a prize that will get used day after day.

25. Staff Choice Basket

This can be a basket filled with all kinds of different prizes or things on this list. Think gift cards, pens, planners, candy, and certificates for parking. Allow winners to take their pick of what they'd like to keep from the basket after revealing this prize on their scratch-off!

Grab Scratch-Offs for Staff Prizes!

I hope this list was inspiring to you and helped offer a starting place when it comes to planning staff prizes for your meetings and events. Over the years, I've found that these are such a fun and versatile way to show appreciation to staff in our school. You can find scratch-offs for every month here. Choosing seasonal and holiday options will only add to the fun and make this experience even more exciting to staff! 

Grab these scratch-offs for staff prizes bundle for year-round scratch off tickets your teachers and staff will love.

Looking for More Staff Morale Ideas? 

Check out these posts for more inspiration! 

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Pin this post on Pinterest to keep these ideas for staff prizes handy!

Looking for ways to jazz up your staff prizes this year? Use scratch off tickets paired with amazing staff prizes your teachers and staff will appreciate and look forward to throughout the school year. #tarynsuniquelearning #staffprizes #staffappreciation #staffmorale