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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Foster Reading Fluency with Songs and Poems

As a classroom teacher, finding creative, new ways to foster reading fluency was always on my mind. Being in the primary classroom meant that so much of our day was centered around reading, so I was dedicated to finding new strategies to help my students succeed. Over the years, I came across one technique that was very effective and highly engaging to students! Ready to hear more? Let's chat about using songs and poems to foster reading fluency in your room! 

Use poems and songs to help your students develop important reading fluency skills in fun ways you can use all year long.

The Connection Between Reading and Rhythm

Before we dive into the strategies, let's talk about the backstory of this discovery. As a classroom teacher, it occurred to me that my students had no trouble remembering song lyrics.  They could quickly pick up new songs and chants and they could sing them over and over again. But yet, they struggled to remember sight words in reading. 

After some thought I developed a hypothesis. . . and it had to do with the connection to the natural rhythms found in songs, chants, and poems.

With fun poems, songs, and activities, along with the I Can Read Fluency Notebook your students will get meaningful reading fluency practice each and every day.If in fact, the use of rhythm helped students remember, then why couldn't we use that to help improve their reading skills? So, I gave it a try.  I started with a few of the songs and chants that we were already doing in our classroom.  Instead of focusing on them solely orally, I typed up the words and sent my students off with a challenge.  

In some cases, I asked students to find and circle specific sight words as they were reading. In other cases, I gave them a challenge based on a phonics skill we were learning.  And what happened next, was nothing short of amazing! 

Using the rhythm of the song, chant, or poem, students started interacting with the written word.  Instead of being intimidated by this page of words, they were excited because it connected to something they already knew.  They were able to use this knowledge to help them interact with the written words in a whole new way.

Use this I Can Read Notebook for each of your students on a daily bases to keep track of all your morning work activities that help build reading fluency.
That was it!  My trial run was so successful that I jumped right in and set up an I Can Read Notebook for each student. 

I decided that with the prior knowledge of the song, chant, or poem, students could work independently on these activities, so I chose to use them as our daily morning work. 

Any guesses on how well this strategy worked? Well, since I'm telling you about them now you can probably guess that it went really well.  I saw improvements in my students' mastery of sight words and phonics skills.  I also noticed that their reading fluency was improving.  

That was all I needed to make I Can Read Notebooks a staple in my classroom year after year. I've even had former students visit me to tell me they still had their "I Can Read Notebook" and remembered this activity vividly. 

Are you ready to hear all about the reading fluency notebooks and how they worked in our classroom? Let's dive in! 

Using "I Can Read" Fluency Notebooks  

After my little experiment, I was ready for students to interact with written words using songs, chants, or poems on a daily basis. I decided that the students would come in every morning and grab a "morning work" page for the day to add to the notebook. 

This I Can Read Fluency notebook includes poems, finger plays, chants, songs, and more.
Each day, their paper consisted of a poem, fingerplay, chant, or song we had previously learned. This is an important key to success. Remember, knowing the tune or rhyme helps kiddos draw from memory and triggers them to recall the words as they see them while reading.  

Since we had multiple songs, chants, poems, or fingerplays we were doing at any given time, it was not a problem to give them a new page each day.  

To start, I would have students read the page independently. Next, they would read again and complete the challenge of the day.  Some days this was to look for a specific sight word or two and circle them. On other days, they would look for words based on a phonics skill we were learning or a spelling pattern.  The idea was to get students working with the words on the page, looking at them, and reading them while connecting the written words with the tune or rhythm. 

They would finish their independent work by drawing a picture to illustrate what they had read.  This was a great way to do a quick check for reading comprehension too.

Working as a Group to Build Reading Fluency

After students worked independently and completed their morning task on their page, we always finished with a group reading of our page. 

Work on poems and song as a group to help build fluency with all of your students.
After our group reading, the students added their pages to their notebooks.  I used a 2-inch or 3-ring binder because it was easy to add pages all year long. You could also have students glue them into a composition book or spiral notebook.  Whatever you choose, just choose something that has enough pages to last the year. 

Teacher tip: Make sure to teach your littles how to open and close the rings if you use a 3-ring binder. Initially, this can be tricky (and painful) if done incorrectly! Plus, your future self will be thanking you for not being the only one in the class with this skill.

Finding Songs, Chants, Poems, and Rhymes to Boost Reading Fluency

It might sound difficult to find a new song, chant, poem, or rhyme for every day of the school year.  I promise - it really isn't.  Start the year off with songs and chants that your students likely already know. Those will be the first pages you want to use.  Then, as you teach new ones in class, you start to weave those into your I Can Notebooks.

Still not convinced? What if I told you there was no hard and fast rule that you had to do a new song every day.  You could use each page for 2 days instead of one.  On the first day, students will read, find target sight words, and draw their pictures.  On the second day, they can focus on a specific phonics skill and finish their picture.

The real goal is to tap into the power of the rhythm and to help your students connect that with written words.

Once you get started it won't take long to start building your collections of favorite songs, chants, and poems.  But. . . I'm also here to help you out. I wrote a post years ago about some of my favorite "sing-along" books that are an excellent source for your daily pages. Some of these books might be hard to find, but if you keep an eye out, you'll likely find similar ones! 

Use books like these which include songs and poems to build reading fluency in your students.
  1. Today is Monday by Eric Carle 
  2. You Are My Sunshine by Steve Metzger
  3. Howdi Do by Woody Guthrie 
  4. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Pam Adams
  5. Ten in the Bed by Jane Cabrera
  6. Little Rabbit Foo Foo by Michael Rosen
  7. Twenty-Four Robbers by Audrey Wood
  8. Way Down South by Rozanne Lanczak Williams 
  9. Down by the Bay by Raffi 
  10. Oh A-Hunting We Will Go by John Langstaff 
  11. Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear by Michael Hague 
  12. Alligator in the Elevator by Rick Charette 
These are just some ideas to help you get started.  You can use these or any others that have.  Your school or local library is sure to have lots of options available.  Garage sales and thrift stores are great places to look too. And. . . a quick YouTube search will yield hundreds if not thousands of options. 

In my room, I kept these books in a bin in our library. The bin was labeled "songbooks" to help my students see that these books contained the chants we learned in class. Students LOVED picking them up and finding a familiar song or chant on the pages to read. 

Ready to Get Started?

I've put together everything you need to get started connecting written words and music or rhythm in your classroom. Inside the "I Can Read" Fluency Notebooks is a small collection of poems and songs to help you start this reading activity in your classroom. The pages included in this resource have songs like "Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar" and a fun variation on classic songs like B-I-N-G-O. 

The resource includes cover page options for student and teacher notebooks. Use the included pages to begin and then add your own poems, songs, and chants as the year goes on. Just be sure to teach the song, poem, chant, or fingerplay before distributing your pages. This is crucial to success with this strategy! 

If you want to take a closer look at the resource, be sure to pop on over to my TpT Shop to check it out. I hope you and your students have as much fun targeting reading through song as we did!

Use this I Can Read Notebook resource for each of your students on a daily bases to keep track of all your morning work activities that help build reading fluency.

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This post contains information about my favorite technique to foster reading fluency in the classroom. Be sure to pin it on Pinterest to keep track of these ideas!

Use these exciting activities and engaging poems and stories to foster a love of reading in your students and build reading fluency all year long. Grab the I Can Read Notebook for reading fluency practice all year long. #tarynsuniquelearning #readingfluency #increasingreadingfluencywithsongsandpoems

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

5 Ways to Boost Staff Morale this Fall!

If you work as a school administrator, a parent volunteer, or a member of a school sunshine committee, you probably already know just how important staff morale is. Keeping staff morale high is crucial to creating a warm and welcoming school environment. Teachers and other school staff members work hard! Let's help them feel appreciated and boost staff morale this fall with some fun and fresh ideas!

Use these tips and tricks to boost staff morale in your school this fall.

Fall is a Great Time for a Staff Morale Boost 

Fall is a fun time in any school environment. Depending on when your school started for the year, the fall months of September, October, and November mean that students and staff have settled into a new routine. 

Use the fall season to boost staff morale to help your teachers get all the warm and fuzzies this autumn.
Once the hectic air of back-to-school season has left the building, fall feels like a warm and cozy hug for most of us! 

As a long-time chairperson of my school's sunshine committee, fall was one of my favorite months to embrace special activities and events to boost staff morale. 

There are so many great themes to play on in the fall, plus it's a good idea to build those staff relationships before the holiday season rolls around! Today I'm sharing some ideas that are great for any time of year, but they're especially suited to fall! 

So if you're looking for new ways to recognize staff in your school, here are 5 fun ideas to inspire you. 

1. Apple Buffet 

Nothing screams fall like all things apple in the Midwest! When I came up with the idea for an apple buffet, I was inspired by the local apple orchard just up the street from where I lived. If you've ever visited an apple orchard, you know there's a certain kind of "fall magic" that you can just feel in the air. The humble apple is a most prized fruit and is used to make all kinds of wonderful fall treats. 

An apple buffet full of sweet treats is a great way to boost staff morale with a fun fall twist.
Make the most of apple season in your area with an apple buffet for staff members! I did this by purchasing a variety of apples, and putting them out with all kinds of toppings. 

Some fun toppings include caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, crushed cookies, chopped nuts, and coconut. On the day of, simply set up a buffet table with paper plates, napkins, apple slicers, apples, and toppings. As staff pass the table, they can choose an apple, slice it, and dress it up! 

This resource includes announcement signs, decorative posters, sign-up sheets, ingredient labels, and reminder tags to make setup and planning a breeze. You can also decide if you'd like to run this as a potluck-style event or provide all of the ingredients yourself. Either way, this is a fun idea to celebrate autumn, and boost staff morale! 

2. Jeans Day Certificates 

As a teacher who worked in a school with a strict dress code, nothing was better than having a "Jeans Day"! 

Boost staff morale this fall with awesome and super appreciated jeans day certificates.
And once fall rolls around, it's even better to be able to wear your coziest pair of jeans to school! 

Since I loved wearing jeans so much, and I knew my colleagues did too, using certificates for "Choose Your Own Jeans Day" was a total no-brainer. 

When I ran the sunshine committee, we used these certificates as a prize for staff meetings, to celebrate holidays, and more. 

School administrators loved handing these out when they observed great lessons being taught during observations as well! 

Everyone loved getting the option to wear jeans on any day of their choice, and it's a great inexpensive option to add to your list of ways to thank staff for their hard work. 

3. Soup Potluck 

Does your school have potlucks from time to time? We had them often, and while they were usually holiday-themed, my favorite was our annual Soup Potluck in the fall. Everyone loved not having to bring their lunch to school that day! Plus, what is more cozy and comforting than soup? 

Boost staff morale with a tasty soup potluck your teachers and staff members will love.
To host a soup potluck, I put out sign-up sheets well in advance to make sure we had a nice variety available. On the day of, I set up enough tables to hold everything and provided power strips for everyone to plug in their slow cookers. In the morning, staff would come in and set up their pot along with little tags that said what kind they brought. 

When lunchtime rolled around, everyone was so excited to taste test different soups and enjoy them with bread or crackers. I love the sense of community that comes with potlucks! It's always fun to host this on a Friday, or the day after a big local football game was held. 

This resource helps make planning and executing a soup potluck fun and simple. Included, are announcements, sign-up sheets, a timeline for a successful soup day, reminders, room décor, and more!

4. Staff Appreciation Post-It Notes 

Over the years, I have discovered that one of the BEST ways to boost staff morale is through small tokens of appreciation. 

Use staff appreciation notes like these to boost staff morale this fall and show your teachers, support staff, and aides how much you appreciate all their hard work.
That's why I love these Post-it notes so much! They're simple and easy to use, and always leave a big impact. 

This resource comes with 18 different messages that will brighten any staff member's day. 

Simply choose your template, affix your post-its to it, and load them into the printer. 

Add a personal touch after printing and you're good to go! Then, pop these on your colleagues' desks, on a car window, on a wall, or in another spot you know they'll find it. 

These are a fun and easy way to show that you're thinking of them and that their hard work is appreciated! 

These are also nice to hand out (unfilled) to staff members so that they can recognize each other throughout the year. 

5. October Staff Boo

This last idea is perfect for the month of October, and SO much fun! This activity begins slowly and picks up speed as other staff members get involved. Start it at the beginning of the month for the most fun! 

Get everyone involved in a boosting staff morale with this fun Boo activity to keep spirits high all fall.
To implement it, you will begin the chain by making 2 copies of the BOO sign included in this resource. 

You'll choose colleagues to BOO and pick up a special treat for them at a drive-through, or grocery store. 

Finally, you'll leave the signs and treats at their desk and place another sign on the door. 

When the staff member finds their sign and treat, they continue the chain by doing the same. The pace picks up as more and more staff are BOOed throughout the building! 

This is always a staff favorite and such a wonderful way to boost staff morale. This resource comes in handy when used alongside the Staff Favorites Book as well. That way everyone will have plenty of treat ideas to get for their colleagues!

Have Fun Boosting Staff Morale this Fall 

Which of these staff morale-boosting activities was your favorite? It's hard to choose, and the good news is that you don't have to! In fact, I have found that including lots of activities like these throughout the year is the best way to help ensure that staff know they're appreciated and keep morale high. Plus, activities like these make any school more fun to work at, which was always reason enough for me!

Have fun planning your own staff morale events and activities this fall! If you'd like to take a closer look at these resources, along with lots of others, you can check them out in my TPT shop!

Looking for ways to boost staff morale this fall? These awesome ideas will help you show your teachers and staff how much you appreciate all their hard work this fall season. From tasty treats, to sweet notes, to jeans day certificates, your staff will love all of these fun ideas. #tarynsuniquelearning #staffappreciation #fallstaffappreciation #booststaffmorale #waystobooststaffmorale

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

6 Back to School Resources for a Smooth Start to the Year!

Ahhhh, back-to-school time. If you're headed back to school or in session already, you know what an important time of year this is. Back to school season marks the beginning of a new year and offers an opportunity to set the tone for the months ahead. Make sure to pay attention to classroom procedures and expectations! You can make this back to school season your best with just a few simple techniques and resources! 

Use these fun back to school activities to set the tone for the first few months of school.

Setting the Tone for a Fantastic Year 

If you've been teaching for a while, you already know that how you start the year will dictate how the rest of it goes. And if this is your first year teaching, it won't take long to discover this fact! The beginning of the year is that important!  

Set the tone for a fun and stress-free school year with these back to school activities aimed at helping your students learn the expectations for classroom behaviors.
Setting our students up to know the class and school expectations right off the bat will not only make classroom management easier on us, but it will also help them be successful too! 

When we take the time to help our students learn the ropes in a new classroom, it helps them feel safe and secure, and supported in learning. Students thrive in environments with predictable schedules and clearly outlined rules. 

Over the years, I have tried so many different tools and methods for managing my classroom. There were some clear winners and some flops too. 

Today, I'm going to save you the trouble of trying all the things and instead share my top 6 resources for a successful, smooth year!

6 Back to School Resources that Will Make Your Life Easier!

1. Classroom Behavior Activities Game

This game is one of my absolute favorites to use during back to school season. It's a great ice-breaker game for the first week of school and helps students think about what types of choices are acceptable for the classroom and which are not.

Use a fun game like back to school activity like this to help your students understand the difference between good and bad choices in the classroom.
To introduce the topic of choices, there is a picture sorting game that can be played as a whole group. You can sort the pictures out on the floor during your morning meeting or use a pocket chart while your kiddos are seated at their desks. There are three different vocabulary choices to choose from based on the language you'd like to use in your classroom. The options include:
  • Good Choice vs. Bad Choice
  • Appropriate vs. Inappropriate Choice
  • I Will vs. I Will Not
Once you've practiced sorting out behaviors as a class, your kiddos can play the spinner game with a partner or independently. They will take turns spinning, name the behavior, and mark a tally down to show if it's a positive or negative behavior. I love the community-building aspect of this activity and the gentle nudge it gives students toward making smart choices. 

2. Transportation Headbands

One of the biggest headaches for any teacher in the classroom at the start of the year is transportation. With a handful of students getting picked up, others taking the bus, and some walking home, it can take a lot of work to keep it all straight. If you teach young children, this can be a big source of stress for them as well! Take the pressure off with transportation headbands for the first week of school! 

Use this transportation signs like these to help you and your students remember how they are getting home each day and are a great addition to your back to school activities.
This system is designed to keep transportation methods organized and simple to remember. Each child will get their own headband showing their transportation method for the day. If children go home in different ways, they can make a new headband each day as a reminder. Students will love wearing their headbands, which will help calm the chaos when it's time to head home for the day too! The options included are:
  • bus
  • walking
  • car rider
  • van to after-school care
  • bike rider
  • subway
  • taxi 
  • blank for you to add your own option 
Also included in this resource is a large classroom bulletin board display that can be changed by the day. Use clothespins for each student and move them as needed to each category. There is also a class list that you can quickly glance at before dismissal for a final double-check. This system is a great way to reduce stress during the first week of school and would also be helpful for a substitute! 

3. Book Care Activities 

If you're a teacher in the primary classroom, I'm willing to bet you've shelled out much of your money on supplies like books for your classroom library.  We want to be able to use those books for many years.  

Use this back to school book care activity to help teach your students how to care for all of the books in your classroom and school library this year.
Sometimes, our young students come to us without a lot of experience with books.  It's up to us to help them learn the expectations for using books, both in the classroom and at home. One of the best ways to do this is by teaching children proper care procedures for books. 

At the beginning of the year, I love using a read-aloud that helps students understand the proper way to take care of our classroom library books. 

This story, Book Care, is split into sections that cover topics like how we take care of books, the reading environment, preparing to read, after reading, and more. It's a great way to make the expectations of the reading area crystal clear during back to school time!

After we've read the story, I always placed it on a shelf in the reading area as a reminder. Another great reminder are these posters that display the same info and can be posted in the library as a visual aid. 

4. Teach Students to Use Scissors Safely 

One of my favorite ways to ensure we were set up for a successful school year was by teaching students how to use classroom supplies and materials. In the primary classroom, scissors are used just about every day. If not used properly, this can get stressful and scary! Help your students learn to use them correctly with another fun read-aloud.

This back to school activity helps your students understand how to safely use scissors at the beginning of the year.
This book, Scissor Safety Story, is a great way to chat with kiddos about the seriousness of using scissors. It discusses proper grip and the rules for using them in the classroom. Some of the points (no pun intended) include the following:

  • Being seated while cutting 
  • Appropriate items to cut and inappropriate items to cut 
  • Transporting scissors with the blades in a closed fist and more!

This is a great book to laminate and bind together. Then you can read it several times and make it available to students in the classroom library. Anytime you have a kiddo that seems to have forgotten the rules, direct them toward this book for a refresher! 

5. Read Aloud for Using Glue and Gluesticks 

Speaking of school supplies, remember to teach your students how to use glue and gluesticks too! 

This back to school book will help your students use glue appropriately in your classroom this year.
I don't know about you, but one of my pet peeves is finding gluesticks that dried up because someone left the cap off.  

Helping students learn how to use glue and put it away is essential! 

This fun read-aloud will help students learn all the do's and don't of using glue. This is an excellent book for back to school time, but it also comes in handy before a big art project! 

If you teach in the primary grades, your students likely haven't had much practice with using glue. 

Having a way to remind them of the expectations before you start any arts or crafts projects will help make the process so much smoother! 

6. Personal Dictionary 

This last resource is SO great for young readers and writers. If you've ever taught in a primary classroom, I'm sure you've experienced having multiple students come up to you asking how to spell a specific word over and over and over. 
Creating personal dictionaries like these is a great back to school activity you can start at the beginning of the year and keep adding to throughout the school year.

As teachers, we want to support our students and help them learn proper spellings of common words, but we also want to teach them how to use tools so they can work independently! 

This is where the personal dictionary comes in handy! This personal dictionary is a growing word bank. Each month students get a list of words that are perfect for that month.  With a picture above each word, even pre-readers can use this personal picture dictionary. As the school year goes on, more pages are added. 

There are pages for each month and seasonal and thematic pages to offer various options for your students.  

These personal dictionaries are a valuable resource tool for students. Not only do they help with spelling and building vocabulary, but they cut down on the number of times you will hear "How do you spell. . ." Help foster independence and encourage growth in writing skills with these personal dictionaries! 

Easing Into a Great School Year 

Each of these resources have been classroom tested and approved by students and teachers alike.  They are all valuable tools to helping you put in place a solid foundation for the year.

If you're interested in checking out some more back to school resources to support learning in other ways, be sure to check out my TPT shop! It's filled with even more fun activities that will help you have your best year yet! 

Save This Post 

This post is filled with all my favorite classroom management resources for returning to school. Pin it on Pinterest to keep these activities at your fingertips!

Use these 6 back to school resources to get your students prepared for an amazing school year this year. From incredibly helpful books on how to use common school supplies like scissors and glue to a game-like behavior expectation activity, your students will love making and using these activities as they get into the swing of the new year. #tarynsuniquelearning #backtoschoolresources #backtoschoolactivity #classroomexpectations

Monday, August 7, 2023

8 Ways to Boost Staff Morale in Your School This Year

Boosting staff morale in a school environment is an ongoing process, but one that is well worth it! Schools with high staff morale are likely to be more enjoyable work environments and ultimately serve our students better. If you're hoping to find fresh new ways to keep morale high by encouraging teachers, administrators, and other school staff members,  you're in luck! I've got eight fun ways to boost staff morale in your school all year long. 

Boost staff morale in your school this year with these awesome ideas everyone is sure to love.

Staff Morale Matters 

Whether you're an administrator, on the PTO, or running a "sunshine committee" in your school, staff morale is a vital piece of the puzzle for a happy school community. Anyone who works in the school system knows a lot goes into it! Aside from the workload itself, interacting with young children and their families requires a lot of emotional energy as well.

Keeping staff morale high in your school will be the key to success this school year.
Our school workers are facing challenging situations regularly, working long hours, and truly trying to make an impact. 

It's obvious that this type of work, though incredibly rewarding, can also be draining. In other words, we need to ensure that we're filling those cups as often as we empty them!

One of the best ways to do this is by guiding staff toward relationships and building a sense of community. 

There are many ways to do this, but some are more effective than others for community building. As a long-time member of the sunshine committee at our school (who also had a teacher's perspective), a few things stood out among the rest.

If you're unsure where to start, I've got you covered! Here are 8 of my favorite ways to boost staff morale and help facilitate meaningful connections. 

1. Staff Favorites Booklet 

This first idea is such a fun one to set in place at the beginning of the year since it will come in handy over and over again. Think about this - have you ever wanted to show appreciation to a friend or colleague but weren't quite sure what they liked? I know this happened to me on more than one occasion! Because of this, I created a booklet that would hold all of the staff "favorites" in one neat little spot. 

To use, have all staff members fill out their own favorites page at the beginning of the year. The booklet asks things like:
Use a staff favorites booklet like this at the beginning of the year to learn about what your staff loves and treat them to some of their favorites to help boost staff morale throughout the year.
  • favorite hot & cold drinks 
  • favorite sweet & salty treats
  • favorite pens
  • favorite store
  • favorite restaurant, and more!
Once you've got everyone's page back, make multiple copies (I made 8 for our school) and place them in plastic sleeves in a 3-ring binder. The plastic sleeves allow for easy updates. You can organize the pages alphabetically and use alphabet dividers if desired as well. Place the books in strategic areas around the school like team workrooms, in the office, near the copy machines, etc. 

Staff can then access the book of favorites anytime they like to show random acts of kindness to fellow staff members. This is a simple project for the beginning of the year, and it pays off over time!

2. Staff Goodie Bags 

Another one of my favorite ways to boost staff morale is with fun little goodie bags that can be used any time of year. You really don't need a special occasion for these, but they're great for:
  • staff appreciation day 
  • back to school 
  • holiday breaks 
  • just for fun 

These little goodie bags feature festive bag toppers, a fun list of reminders, and small tokens of appreciation. Some of the things included are objects like post-its to remind staff to "stick with it and persevere" and tea to "take time to relax."

These simple and inexpensive items, along with the fun little printable and baggie toppers, always make staff smile! However, the best part of these bags is how quick they are to prep. Choose a bag topper, print your materials, and fill it with goodies, that's it!

3. Editable Staff Birthday Chart 

If you're looking for a fun way to celebrate staff birthdays, you need a birthday chart! 

Use this editable staff birthday chart to help boost staff morale by making sure everyone feels important and remembered on their special day.
This resource will help everyone stay on top of staff birthdays and make planning celebrations simple. 

We all know how hard it can be to remember ALL birthdays when you have a large staff body. 

This Editable Birthday Chart is super simple to use and will make this process easier. At a meeting, have staff jot down their name and birthday on a post-it note and collect them. 

Once you're ready, enter the info into the document, and it will automatically populate it by day and month.

Finally, print it out, and hang up each monthly chart or a few at a time to help everyone remember their colleague's birthdays. 

4. Staff Morale Scratch Off-Tickets 

If you're looking for a fun way to reward staff throughout the year, you'll love these Scratch-off Tickets! 

Scratch off tickets like these can boost staff morale with fun seasonal themed rewards your staff will love.
They're aligned with seasonal themes like back to school, Halloween, Thanksgiving, December holidays, and more! So you can use them all year long. They feature fun rewards like:
  • jeans day 
  • recess coverage 
  • special treat provided
  • prime parking and more! 
These rewards help keep staff motivated and will add some fun to your monthly meetings. 

To use, you'll choose which rewards to feature and print enough for your staff. You can print them on scratch-off paper or use the DIY scratch-off paint recipe included in the resource. 

Either way, this will be a fun way to mix things up and boost staff morale all year long! 

5. Chalk Marker Messages 

Another one of my favorite things to do to help boost staff morale is to leave little messages on mirrors and windows. You can do this by purchasing some chalk markers like these. 

Use chalk markers like these to write fun notes on mirrors to show your appreciation for your staff and boost staff morale in a fun way.
Simply write a fun message, joke, or inspirational quote on bathroom mirrors or staff lounge windows. 

You can swap these out every week to keep it interesting or leave the markers out for staff to write their own messages. 

I've also used these on a chalkboard in the staff lounge for encouragement and kind notes to fellow staff members. 

Just leave a jar of markers, and get the process started by writing a few compliments to staff members. Soon others will follow, and your board will be filled with kind notes! 

The options for this idea are endless and really help boost staff morale and build relationships. 

6. Set Up a Breakfast Cart 

One of the BEST ways to offer opportunities to build relationships is through events with food! All cultures and communities typically come together through feasting of some kind! This is also true for your school community. Special meals are a great way to show appreciation and help bring people together to socialize and spark conversations.
A breakfast cart like this is a great way to boost staff morale with delicious goodies every month.

I loved to help facilitate this with a fun breakfast cart once per month. In my school, our teams would take turns hosting the breakfast cart as sort of a potluck-style activity. 

I did this with a sign-up sheet that allowed each team to choose the month they'd like to sign up for in advance. We picked dates ahead of time and assigned a month to each team. 

Then, once the date grew near, we used sign-up sheets for that team to allot who would bring what. In the resource I created for facilitating a monthly staff breakfast, there are also reminder signs and cute decorations for the cart itself. 

Everyone loved being a part of this monthly activity; it was a great way to build relationships among staff! 

7. Staff Address Book 

When I was still in the classroom, we lost access to the district-wide address book at one point.

Use a staff address book like this as a way to encourage everyone to send special thank you cards, get well cards, or notes of encouragement which will build staff morale throughout the year.
Because of this, we could no longer find the contact info of our colleagues. When this happened, I made a staff address book for everyone to opt into instead. 

This came in so handy whenever we wanted to send a special act of kindness or celebrate a staff member. Some reasons you might want an address book are so that you're able to send the following:
  • thank you cards 
  • get well cards 
  • congratulations on a new baby 
  • birthday cards 
  • encouragement to someone facing a difficult time
  • just because notes
Having this book available to staff is a great way to encourage closer connections among staff. Simply have staff members fill them out at the beginning of the year and bind them into a book stored in the staff lounge. You'll use this one again and again! 

8. Orange You Glad It's Friday?! 

This last one is a simple and fun way to put a smile on staff members' faces. 

Use cute printable tags like these to go with special treats to show you care and boost staff morale throughout the year.
These cute printable tags pair perfectly with oranges as a fun Friday treat. 

You can print these tags off in full color or black and white on orange Astrobrights paper. 

Then, grab a bunch of oranges, mandarins, or cuties and place them in a large bowl. 

Post the tags on the door of the staff lounge, and scatter them around the table where the bowl of oranges is for a fun surprise. 

Staff will love grabbing a healthy sweet treat to celebrate Friday any time of year! 

Focus on Community Building to Keep Staff Morale High 

I hope these ideas helped inspire you in new ways to boost staff morale all year long. If you can't decide on a favorite, be sure to check out the Staff Morale "Super Big" Bundle. This bundle will make planning meaningful staff activities simple and fun no matter what time of year it is. 

Grab this Staff Morale Super Big Bundle for all kids of ideas and resources to help build staff morale in your school this year.

Above all, when choosing activities to boost staff morale in your school, think about ways for staff to connect. After all, many of us are genuinely looking for a way to feel understood, connect on difficult issues, and share in like-minded conversations. These types of experiences help build strong bonds in your school community and often cost little to facilitate. 

Your staff will appreciate opportunities to chat, socialize, and check in with each other. No matter which activities you choose to include, focus on making sure connection is at the heart of them! 

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This post is jam-packed with fun ideas to boost staff morale! Pin it on Pinterest to keep these ideas handy! 

Looking for fun and easy ways to show your staff how much you appreciate them this year. Build staff morale with these fun ideas you can use all year long to show your staff you see how hard they work and how much you care for them. #tarynsuniquelearning #buildingstaffmorale #ideasforbuildingstaffmorale #keepingstaffmoralehigh

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

5 Ways to Support Your Orton Gillingham Phonics Lessons

Are you using a structured phonics program like Orton Gillingham in your classroom to help support your students? Programs like these are fantastic for in class instruction and phonics intervention, but over the years I would often find myself wanting a bit more support to implement their strategies. This led to the creation of some supplementary materials that align well with Orton Gillingham phonics lessons, and really any primary phonics program! If you're looking for new and exciting ways to engage your students in phonics lessons, check out 5 of my favorite tools and activities!

Use these 5 activities to support your Orton Gillingham phonics lessons this year.

What is Orton Gillingham Phonics Program? 

Orton Gillingham phonics is an approach that's used for remedial reading instruction in primary classrooms and becoming part of the core instruction within the classroom too. It uses a multisensory phonics technique that's fantastic for helping our students truly grasp and understand phonics. 

No matter what specific phonics program you are using incorporating Orton Gillingham phonics activities in your lessons will help your students learn, practice, and understand key phonics concepts.
It's often used for intervention and is excellent support for students with dyslexia, but really all students can benefit from this approach. 

This program focuses on using auditory lessons, visual aids, and hands-on learning activities to target phonics in many different ways. Aside from Orton Gillingham though, there are many other structured phonics programs out there that use a similar teaching format. 

And the good news is that even if you aren't using this particular phonics program with your students, you can still use all of the activities in this post! 

These activities are designed to be fun and engaging for students, focusing on a multisensory teaching approach that allows children to use hands-on learning. No matter what phonics program your school uses, your students will LOVE these engaging phonics lessons. 

1. Blending Boards 

Whether you use Orton Gillingham phonics lessons or not, I think we can all agree that young students need lots of practice sounding out words and learning to blend letters to form CVC words. This is an activity that should happen daily in the primary classroom, especially for those students who need a little extra dedicated time for phonics intervention. 

Seasonal blending boards like these will help your students practice sounding out words and learning how to blend letters for form CVC words.
As with anything that is a daily practice, the key to keeping it fun for kiddos is to add some kind of element that switches it up! When it comes to practicing blending, I loved to do this by using seasonal blending boards that change from month to month. 

The idea behind these blending boards is that students will choose consonants and vowels from each box to create their own CVC word. Building and blending CVC words is a huge win for new readers as they develop confidence. The piece that makes these blending boards fun though is the seasonal clipart on each one! The pictures align with the time of year, whether it's school buses for August, turkeys for November, or snow globes for January! Students will love working on blending with these fun activity mats. 

2. Pound and Tap Cue Cards 

One of the strategies taught in the Orton Gillingham phonics lessons is to "pound and tap" out sounds as students read and write words. 

Pound and tap cue cards like these are a key strategy in the Orton Gillingham phonics techniques and can help your students practice saying each of the sounds of words.
If a child is left-handed, they use their right to pound and tap, and vice versa if they are right-handed. 

The idea behind this concept is to help children break down the words into individual sounds. 

Since we used this technique all the time in my classroom, I created some cue cards and anchor charts to help prompt and remind my students to do so. 

Every child got their own cue card for their desk. The card is personalized by skin tone and which hand they will use for the "pound and tap" technique. 

I liked to laminate the cards, and then tape them to the top corner of the desk that aligns with the hand they will use. 

These cue cards along with the anchor charts served as a great reminder to do this while both reading and writing too. 

3. B and D Reversal Posters & Desk Plates 

Using b and d reversal posters nd desk plates like these help remind your students how to form each of these letters.
As teachers in the primary classroom, we all know how easy it is for new readers to mix up lowercase b and d. In my experience, this is most common in grades kindergarten, first, and second, and can really trip those kiddos up as they try to sound out words! 

To help them get past this, I created some B and D Reversal Posters that serve as a quick and easy reminder.  These cute posters show a picture of a bed as a visual reminder. On the card, there is both a lowercase b and d to help students remember which is which. 

There is also an option that shows an additional picture for each letter to further prompt students. 

These can be printed in poster size for classroom décor, or printed in the smaller options and taped to students' desks as a reminder. Both options are great for mastering those tricky "b" and "d" lowercase letters! 

4. Phonics Flashcards 

This next phonics tool aligns with Orton Gillingham and my Recipe for Reading sequence. 

Use phonics flashcards like these to help your students learn individual letter sounds, digraphs, spelling patters, and more!
These phonics flashcards are great for teaching individual letter sounds, digraphs, spelling patterns, or "hunks and chunks". 

Anytime you're introducing new sounds to your students, these are a great way to streamline the process! 

This bundle includes 800 picture cards for each lesson included in the sequence from sets 1-3. Each card is marked by what sound they represent for easy organization. There is also a picture card key to show what sounds are targeted and to avoid confusion. 

I liked to print these on cardstock, laminate them, and store them in small photo boxes. These are quick and easy tool to use in your intervention groups in daily phonics practice lessons but are helpful for general classroom use too. 

5. Phonics Fluency Strips 

Finally, let's chat about another one of my favorite tools for phonics lessons! These phonics fluency strips help target specific sounds, provide fluency practice, and can quickly assess for progress. 

Phonics fluency strips like these will help your students learn targeted sounds and will help you quickly assess their progress.
They're especially helpful for checking in with newly learned phonics skills and applying previously learned skills during small groups. 

My favorite feature of these fluency strips though is how easy they are to use. Simply print and go, and students will be able to grab a list and start reading! 

This resource includes fluency strips for 42 different phonics sounds/rules. Each page has 4 identical lists that can quickly be cut apart and handed out to students. The phonics skill is listed at the top of the strip and then followed by 11 words for that sound. 

These are such great tools for small group intervention, can serve as an excellent small group warm up, and I also loved to tuck these into homework folders as well! They're a super simple way for teachers and parents to help children grow in reading fluency and practice a variety of sounds.

Using All of these Phonics Lessons Together 

If you asked me to pick a favorite from these activities, I really don't think I'd be able to so! In all honesty, I used all of these tools and activities on a regular basis in my classroom and with my intervention groups. Whether or not you use Orton Gillingham phonics lessons, these tools will have a big impact on how much progress your young readers make! 

Because of this, I created a bundle of all these resources. The bundle will help you add variety to your phonics lessons and ensure you're keeping these fun and engaging for your students. It includes all 5 of the resources discussed in this post, so you'll be able to help support your students all year long! 

Check out the bundle to simplify your lesson planning, support your structured phonics lessons, and make learning to read FUN for your students! 

Grab this Orton Gillingham BUNDLE to use each of these exciting and fun activities in your classroom today!

Save This Post 

This post has everything you need to enrich your phonics lessons whether you use Orton Gillingham or not! Make sure to pin this post on Pinterest to keep these engaging ideas at your fingertips. 

Looking for fun ways to help your students learn, practice, and master important phonics skills? These 5 activities are the perfect way to support your Orton Gillingham phonics lessons this year. Be sure to grab the Orton Gillingham bundle to start using these engaging activities in your classroom today! #tarynsuniquelearning #phonicsactivities #ortongillingham #ortongillinghamactivities