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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! 


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! 

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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


Saturday, February 17, 2024

Fun Phonics Activities that Align with the Science of Reading

If you're a teacher in the primary grades you surely know that one of our most important tasks is teaching phonics skills. As children progress in phonemic awareness it's our job to help guide them towards becoming a reader! While this might sound simple, we all know that a lot is at play here. We've got to consider the best methods and practices for helping our students reach their full potential! With that in mind, let's chat about the Science of Reading and fun phonics activities to support how kids learn best! 

Include these fun phonics activities in your daily lessons.

First Off, What is the Science of Reading? 

The Science of Reading refers to an evidence-based model on how experts believe children learn to read. The Science of Reading is based on scientific research that has been conducted over the last 5 decades around the world. There are 5 key components to this model which include:

Phonics activities help you make the most of the science of reading model to help your students master phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.
  • phonemic awareness
  • phonics
  • vocabulary 
  • fluency 
  • and comprehension 
Mastery of these 5, key components makes up "what it takes" to become a strong and successful reader. Luckily, as a primary teacher, you're likely already using teaching strategies and techniques that support these five skills! Once we understand what the Science of Reading is comprised of, it's a lot easier to recognize phonics skills that will support the five components. 

The Importance of Making Phonics Fun 

As teachers, we value progress among our students. We know that in order to be successful, they must "level up" over time and gradually increase their understanding of specific topics. 

While using phonics activities in your classroom keep them fun for maximum engagement from your students.
But we also know that if it's going to stick... it's gotta be fun! This couldn't be more true for the primary grades. 

We all know that children can learn to memorize things, but will they really remember if the lessons aren't engaging and fun? It's unlikely, right?! 

So with that in mind, it's time to shake things up when it comes to teaching phonics skills. Let's break free from the norm, explore new teaching methods, and best of all get those kids excited to learn! 

Not sure how to do that? Not to worry friend, I've got 5 tried and true, engaging phonics activities that align with the Science of Reading and make learning fun! 

1. Inference Phonics Riddles

I loved using songs, rhymes, and riddles in the classroom. Seeing my students light up with joy with these whimsical wordplays warmed my teacher heart to the core! Not to mention, they make teaching just about any topic SO much more fun. During small group time, one of my favorite phonics activities to use were these Inference Phonics Riddles. 

Include inference phonics riddles like these in your phonics activities for fun rhymes, beginning sounds, cvc words, blends, and digraphs, and vowel teams practice.
To use, you'll read the clues aloud to your students one at a time. Students will combine the informational clues with the phonics sound presented to determine the correct answer. Best of all, these cards each have a fold-back flap with the correct answer hiding until it's ready to be revealed! Self-correcting cards and fun riddles make this resource a total win! Phonics skills targeted in these activities include:
There is also a set of blank cards as well, for endless possibilities! I think once you give these a try in your own small groups, you'll find that the engagement factor is MUCH higher than you'd find with typical, phonics worksheets. Plus, you'll love watching your students build their knowledge with these fun phonics activities! Check out the full bundle here for year-long learning made easy.

2. Phonics Anchor Charts 

Looking to create a print-rich environment that's filled with words that are relevant to your lessons? Look no further than this great, big bundle of Phonics Anchor Charts. Each chart has a list of words for a target sound along with a picture of a keyword that's marked with a star as an example. Included in the bundle you'll find colorful posters for 7 different phonics skills including:

Phonics anchor charts like these are a great addition tor your fun phonics activities you can use in your classroom each and every day.

There are over 120 charts included in the bundle and many ways to use them! Display them as you teach new skills, use them as teaching tools in small groups, have students use them during centers while writing words, display them on a sound board, or attach them to a homework folder for reference. The options are endless! These phonics anchor charts are such a valuable tool as you work through various phonics activities and skills with your budding readers!

3. Phonics Picture Cards 

Looking for a simple way to introduce new sounds to students? These Phonics Picture Cards provide the perfect visual for primary learners! They offer a simple and effective way to introduce individual letter sounds, digraphs, spelling patterns, or word chunks. Each card features a colorful picture to illustrate the target sound. 

Include phonics picture cards like these in your phonics activities centers for independent or small group practice.
To help keep things organized, each card is marked in the bottom left corner by skill. And finally, a picture key helps to avoid confusion! These will come in SO handy during small groups and whole group teaching as you introduce new sounds to your students. 

The bundle includes 800 different picture cards, so you'll be ready for the whole year! Simply print, laminate for durability if desired, and store in plastic photo boxes. Then, as you're teaching, grab the set that aligns with your group's abilities and you're ready to go! These task cards make it simple and fun to provide examples of new sounds for students. 

4. Phonics Fluency Strips 

Alright friends, let's talk fluency! Reading fluency refers to the ability to smoothly read words and sentences accurately, and with the correct tone. In other words, fluent readers are able to read words automatically, without decoding. This is another key component of the Science of Reading and an important skill to practice in your phonics activities. If you're looking for a simple way to incorporate fluency practice in your lessons, I've got just the thing! 

Use fluency strips like these in your phonics activities for targeted phonics practice you can use for differentiation throughout the school year.
These fluency strips allow you to hand off a word list to a student and have them start reading! They're the perfect way to provide meaningful and consistent practice with reading fluency that is tailored to each child in your group. Inside the resource, you'll find cards for 42 different phonics sounds. Each card has 11 words, giving students ample practice with the target phonics chunk. 

I love using these in small groups. They're a great way to see how individual children are progressing with various phonics sounds. They're also fantastic to send home in weekly homework folders too! Having parents oversee the weekly reading list will give students more opportunities to become familiar with the phonics sound and ultimately become fluent readers! 

5. Phonics Skills Scoot Games 

I saved the best for last! If you're looking for a recipe for engagement in your phonics activities, these games will be the golden ticket! We all know that primary students tend to be a wiggly bunch. They need opportunities to stretch their legs, move around the classroom, and have a change of scenery. Why fight it? With fun Scoot games, you won't have to! You'll be able to target important phonics skills such as: 

A scoot game like this not only gets your students up and moving but helps them practice magic E, vowel teams, beginning digraphs, and more as part of your phonics activities.

To play, simply choose a skill and prep the cards. Then, lay them out around the perimeter of your classroom and supply each child with a clipboard and recording sheet. Every kiddo will start with a specific card and their pencil in hand. As they arrive at their card, they identify the phonics sound/word being targeted on their card and write it on their recording sheet. Then, when you give the signal, they "Scoot!" to the next card. This is such an engaging way to practice important phonics skills and I know your students will love it! 

Fun Phonics Activities for the Whole Year 

Teaching students phonics skills can be exciting with the right activities. This post is filled with my favorites for making daily phonics activities engaging for students! But the fun doesn't need to stop here... be sure to check out my TPT Shop to see all of the phonics activities and lessons I've used over the years! Once you've got engaging phonics activities at the ready, teaching to align with the Science of Reading is a snap! 

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Pin this post on Pinterest so that you can come back to these engaging phonics activities when you're ready to plan your lessons! 

Looking for ways to get in extra phonics activities into your daily lesson plans this year? Use these engaging phonics activities to help your students learn important phonics skills they can carry with them throughout their school years. #tarynsuniquelearning #phonicsactivities #thescienceofreading #thescienceofreadingphonicsactivities

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

5 Staff Morale Boosters That Aren't Food

In the world of staff morale gifts and activities, you may have noticed a common theme... food! Treats, meals, and other food-related events are pretty typical when it comes to showing appreciation for staff. While I think we'd all agree that food is a fun way to celebrate, sometimes you want an alternative, right? If you're nodding your head in agreement - I've got just the solution for you! Let's talk about some of my favorite staff morale boosters that are not food! 

Use these staff morale boosters that don't include snacks or food to show your teachers and staff how much you appreciate all their hard work this year.

Why Staff Morale Counts 

First off, why does staff morale matter? If you're an administrator or member of the staff sunshine committee, you already know the importance of staff morale. School staff members work hard! 
Enhancing staff morale means your teachers and staff will look forward to coming to school and be the best teachers and support staff for your students all year long.
In today's social climate, staff morale is even more important as staff and teachers navigate tricky situations at school. Keeping staff morale high is important in maintaining a healthy school atmosphere. In turn, this benefits everyone involved. When staff are happy and feel appreciated, you can expect the daily routines in your building to hum right along! And remember, staff morale is important for ALL staff members, not just teachers. 

I'm talking about admin, cafeteria, tech support, secretarial staff, janitorial, security, counselors, librarians, and more! Everyone who works in the school is an important piece of the system. Let's do our part to show appreciation for school staff members with these fun staff morale boosters! 

1. Staff Morale BINGO 

We're kicking off this list with one of my best-selling staff morale boosters... BINGO! Everyone knows and loves BINGO, right? I've certainly found this to be true in my own school building after years of using it. This game is a bit of a twist on the traditional, with a giant, life-size BINGO board for everyone to use! There are 2 options included, one for teaching staff and one for ALL staff, so you can choose what works best for your building.

Use this staff morale boosters BINGO activity as a fun way to celebrate all the hard work that goes into being a part of an incredible school.
To set this up, you'll choose your favorite 25 prompts. There are 90 different ones, so no matter what you're looking to recognize and promote- there's something here for you! Prompts include making positive calls home, leaving for the day with an organized desk, not working through lunch, and more! The great thing about this resource is that you can pick and choose what works best for your school. Think about what will motivate YOUR staff, and choose accordingly. If certain prompts don't align with what you're hoping to target- simply leave them out for ones better suited. 

Once you choose your BINGO cards, you'll print them out - I like colorful Astrobrights paper, and then hang them on the wall to make a giant BINGO board. It's a good idea to put this in a high-traffic area so that staff members are reminded to add to it regularly. To play, staff will add their name to each BINGO card as they complete one of the prompts. Once someone has a BINGO, they win a prize. You can continue this until the board is completely filled, or you reach a set time. Either way, this one will energize and motivate staff to fill up those cards! 

2. Random Acts of Kindness Poster 

This next option is a fun way to get all staff members involved in spreading kindness! This resource includes 10 different full-color posters with tear-off prompts for random acts of kindness. The idea is to print them off and hang them in areas where staff congregate. They will look through the prompts and select one to "pay it forward" to a colleague. The prompts include things like:

Staff morale boosters like this random acts of kindness poster will help your staff show each other appreciation.
  • pass off a book to a great friend
  • plan a walk with a colleague after work 
  • offer to cover someone's duty 
  • bring in fresh flowers to brighten up a common area
  • share a bottle of soap or lotion for the staff lounge 
  • provide a listening ear and many more! 

I love this staff morale booster because it's a way to get staff members thinking about how they can spread a little kindness on their own. I don't know about you guys, but when things are busy and crazy in my life, it can be hard to remember to slow down and think of others. This natural human tendency can stir us into a frenzy! Using random acts of kindness is a great way to reconnect with those around us and remember we're all facing challenges on a daily basis. 

3. Windshield Messages 

Looking for a simple, non-food related way to show staff members you care? Windshield wiper cards are the perfect way to do just that! The idea behind this staff morale booster is to choose a heartfelt message for staff and leave it tucked behind the windshield wipers on their car. When they leave for the day, they will find a fun message to motivate and inspire them! 

Windshield messages like these are a great addition to your staff morale boosters and give your staff a sweet note to appreciate when going home at the end of a long day or week.
I have options to carry you through the entire school year. By choosing one that relates to the season, you'll end up with whimsical notes that are pretty punny! Some of the fall notes include messages like:
  • I be-leaf in you!
  • Your students are falling in love with learning!
  • We are totally NUTS about you!

The fall notes will come in handy from August through November. The winter notes are filled with messages that are perfect for adding to staff vehicles right before winter break. The spring windshield notes will carry you through the spring months leading to the end of the school year. 

The notes include cute clipart and seasonal designs as well, so all you need to do is print and add a personal touch if desired! Your staff will love going home for the day and finding these notes waiting for them. 

4. Self-Care Challenge 

I already mentioned my love for BINGO games, and I have another to share! This Self-Care BINGO Challenge is the perfect way to steer your staff towards focusing on health, wellness, and stress relief. This game is designed to be used after hours to help create a better work-life balance and get the necessary rest to be their best self at work. 

To play, each staff member will get a BINGO board. You can distribute these in staff mailboxes with instructions, or pass them out at a staff meeting. Staff members will work on completing the board throughout the month until the next meeting. This challenge will work for ALL staff members, so make sure to include everyone in your building! The boxes are filled with prompts such as:

Use this self-care BINGO challenge as a staff morale booster to remind your staff to take time to take care of themselves.
  • light a candle
  • cut or color your hair
  • take a bath
  • binge-watch a new show
  • find some quiet and enjoy a good book
  • get your car washed
  • go to bed early and more!

As staff complete an item, they will mark it off. You can decide if you want them to complete 5 in a row, or go for blackout! Collect some prizes and distribute them to the winners. These scratch-offs are great options for winners!

We all know what it's like to work ourselves into overdrive and never take a moment to rest. This process is exhausting and results in burnout quickly. Encourage your staff to be mindful of their self-care routines with this fun challenge! 

5. Staff Favorites Book 

This last staff morale booster is a tried and true favorite! Plus, it can be used all year long for many situations. Creating a Staff Favorites Binder will pay off all throughout the year. The idea behind this resource is to have your staff members fill out a page with all of their favorite things. They will include things like:

A staff favorites book is a great staff morale booster because it ensures you are giving meaningful gifts, treats, and acts of kindness to show your appreciation to your teachers and staff.
  • sweet treat 
  • office supply
  • flower
  • store
  • hot beverage 
  • pen and more! 

Once you have everyone's sheet back, you'll make a few copies and place them in 3-ring binders. I like to make multiple copies so that I can place a binder in various places such as the office and staff lounge. As I do this, I let staff know that they will be available for random acts of kindness. If they notice that a staff member is having a rough week, they can check out the binder and pick up their favorite flowers. Or maybe they want to thank a colleague for something, so they grab a pack of their favorite pens.

The nice thing about this staff morale booster is that it can be used all year long! There are food options inside, but there are plenty of non-food items listed as well, so staff can choose what they'd like to give. 

Staff Morale Boosters for the Whole Year 

Which of these is your favorite? It's hard for me to choose, but I will say that the Staff Favorites and BINGO were always a huge hit in our building. No matter what you choose, remember that it doesn't have to be anything super fancy or flashy! A simple thank you note, some fresh flowers in the lounge, or a new set of flair pens was always enough to make me smile and feel appreciated. The idea is to spread sunshine and kindness in ways that are accessible to you. If you're looking for more Staff Morale boosters, be sure to check out these posts for more inspiration! 

Pin this post on Pinterest to keep track of these staff morale boosters!

Looking for meaningful staff morale boosters that don't include food to use in your school this year? Use these non food staff morale booster ideas to show your teachers and staff how much you appreciate all the hard work they do to make your school the amazing place it is each and every day of the school year. From BINGO to windshield messages, these fun and creative ideas will let your staff know you appreciate them. #tarynsuniquelearning #staffmoraleboostersthatarentfood #staffmoraleideas #increasingstaffmorale