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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 d├ęcor, 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

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

9 Ways to Boost Staff Morale During the New School Year

Fall is the busiest time of the year if you're a teacher or a school administrator! Since we all know our time is limited when August hits, I'm a big fan of prepping things ahead of time to use throughout the year. While you don't want to spend your whole summer preparing for the school year, there are a few great ways to prepare for those busy months and start the year with high staff morale right off the bat! Here are 9 simple ways to prep during the summer months and boost staff morale this fall! 

Ready to have the best school year with your teachers yet? Use these 9 awesome ways to boost staff morale this fall to rock this school year.

Why Focus on Staff Morale?

In the busiest time of the year, staff morale is something that can be easy to forget. There's an endless to-do list and limited time, so why should we spend our precious time on staff morale?! So glad you asked! 

First off, your staff members are in the busiest time of the year too!  They also have an endless to-do list and the added pressure to getting everything ready, meeting students and parents, and pleasing you, the admin.  Taking a couple of minutes to acknowledge what they are going through goes a long way!

When I was the head of our school Sunshine Committee for many years, I was always looking for fun ways to engage our staff, bring people together, and share small gestures of kindness. Paying it forward with small acts of gratitude is the BEST way to set the tone for a great year! 

Whether you're a teacher looking to spread some cheer, a school administrator, or a PTO member, you'll love these simple ways to keep staff morale high. These ideas are inexpensive, simple to prep, and will help demonstrate thoughtfulness and kindness throughout your building to get the year started off right!

1. Stock the Fridge 

This is one of my favorite simple things to prep during the summer months that really makes a huge impact on staff morale! 

Use fun signs like these to let your teachers know there are awesome goodies waiting for them which will definitely help boost staff morale!
During the summer months, stock up on a variety of beverages and print off some of these fun signs. When you're ready to use this staff morale booster, fill your fridge and hang the signs. Post the signs in the staff lounge, in the office, and in other high-traffic areas around your building. 

These signs will alert staff that there are cold beverages provided for them in the staff lounge. I've found this simple act of kindness helps to re-energize staff and get them excited for the new year. 

A great time to do this is when the school opens up and staff are prepping before the kids are back. There's nothing better than grabbing an ice-cold, free drink after spending a day working in your classroom! 

You can also use these signs throughout the year for staff in-service days, special events, or simply to add some cheer to a regular week. 

2. Prep Welcome Back Poems

Next up, this is another super simple staff morale booster to prep this summer! 

Welcome back poems like these are a great way to boost staff morale by showing your staff how much you appreciate them.
Just print this poem off on some paper and fold the copies ahead of time. 

This is a great activity to do while you're watching a movie, or relaxing by the pool. 

I'm a big fan of multitasking things like this to help make the most of your summer break while getting ready for fall! 

Store them away until the first week of school. 

Then, the night before the first day tuck these cute little poems into every staff member's mailbox as a way to welcome them back. 

This is a great way to kick off the year and only takes a few minutes to prepare!

3. Build Staff Morale Welcome Baskets

This next idea is perfect for the first week of school, or while the staff is preparing over the summer. I liked to prep a few of these Welcome Baskets and place them in high-traffic areas in our building. The baskets were filled with essentials we all needed during the long hours we spent at school. Some of the things in the baskets include:

Welcome baskets like these will help boost staff morale by showing your teachers how much you appreciate them right off the bat.
  • soap 
  • lint rollers
  • stain remover 
  • static guard
  • hand sanitizer 
  • dental floss 
  • hand lotion
  • and more 
The ideas are literally endless! I liked to swing by the dollar store and find a variety of fun and inexpensive goodies to fill these baskets. 

You can shrink-wrap the baskets if desired, and add a gift tag. Then distribute them to teams, or place them in staff bathrooms and the staff lounge for everyone to share. This idea is really fun for new staff members too. Make new staff members their very own basket to welcome them to your school!

4. Make a Staff Shout-Out Board 

One of the best ways to boost staff morale is by simply recognizing a job well done. 

A staff shout-out board like these makes everyone feel special throughout the year and will help boost staff morale not only at the beginning of the year but throughout.
Taking the time to show your appreciation for kind acts of service means so much to staff and teachers alike! My favorite method for getting this trend going is with a staff shout-out board. 

This idea encourages staff and teachers to find ways to thank and compliment each other regularly. 

To prep this one over the summer, all you need to do to print off a shout-out board from this resource and hang it in a central location. 

If you are able, it's best to enlarge the printable to poster size and place it in a frame. I liked to leave a stack of Post-its, and some colorful markers alongside it too. 

Add a few shout-outs yourself to get the process going, and watch the compliments pile up! 

5. Create a Staff Sunshine Corner

If you're making a staff shout-out board, I highly recommend creating a "Sunshine Corner" too! 

Create a sunshine corner like these for a fun and easy ongoing way to boost staff morale in your school this year.
This little area is a great place to hang your staff shout-out board, along with other fun announcements and information. 

To make a sunshine corner in your building, locate an empty wall in the staff lounge or office. Grab some cute bulletin board supplies and decorate to your liking. 

Add a fun heading that says "Sunshine Corner" with these letters and gather any other important info to display. 

In the past, I've posted our district calendar, announcements, the shout-out board, and reminders for goodies available in the fridge. Staff will love checking the board for new announcements each week! 

This is a great spot to place a coffee cart, or any other special treats you have available for staff as well. 

6. Make a Kindness Plate 

Another great morale booster to start on your campus is the Kindness Plate.  It's an anonymous (or not anonymous) RAK (Random Act of Kindness) activity that goes on all year long!  

To get started all you need is one or more kindness plates.  You can make one yourself at a paint-your-own pottery store or create one through a service like Shutterfly.  You can even grab a special plate from a local thrift store and tag it as the Kindness Plate.  The plate is really just the starting place for this kindness activity. 

A kindness plate like this is the perfect way to show your staff how much you appreciate them with a special treat.
Here's the idea: the Kindness Plate gets filled with a special treat, lunch, office supplies, or anything really.  Then it gets left for a teacher or staff member.  That person gets to enjoy everything on the plate.  Then it is their turn to fill the Kindness Plate and share it with someone else. 

It's a great way to encourage a fellow staff member, say thank you to someone who went above and beyond, or just spread some kindness.  You can start the "train" of kindness yourself or have them available for staff to grab when they want to use one.

On my campus, we had 5 Kindness Plates that stayed in rotation all year long.  Our general rule of thumb was that once received, the kindness plate would be filled and passed on within a week.  It was always an uplifting and encouraging surprise to find the Kindness Plate on your desk or in your mailbox.

If you are looking for an easy way to spread kindness and encouragement on your campus, this is a great one.

7. Plan a Teacher Yard Sale 

Looking for a way to help teachers prepare for the school year and repurpose items around the school?

Planning a teacher yard sale is a great way to get your teachers together and boost staff morale at the beginning of the year.
Consider planning a teacher yard sale prior to the first week of school. 

In this event, teachers will donate unused items from their own classrooms to share with others. 

If they find they have a large stock of things that aren't needed, this is the perfect opportunity to clean them out! 

The old saying, "One person's trash is another person's treasure" applies here and is so true! This event is both fun and social for staff, while also helping boost staff morale and find some fun items to use in the classroom. 

This resource has everything you need to make planning your yard sale simple. Included you'll find advertisement signs, sign-up sheets, step-by-step directions, and more!

8. Book a Coffee Truck 

Everyone loves coffee, right?! This couldn't be more true at the beginning of the school year! As a fun welcome-back activity, I liked to book a traveling coffee truck to visit the school. This one will require some funding, but planning ahead during the summer usually makes it more feasible! 

Show your teachers and staff how much you appreciate them with a super special coffee truck.
Look in your local area to find a truck that's willing to visit your school. Your administration or PTO can pre-pay for each teacher and staff member to be able to get a beverage of their choosing. Our staff purchased their own drinks. The opportunity to get coffee at school was a treat in itself. 

You may need to arrange for coverage as staff members go get their coffee treat, or send the menu out ahead of time and have volunteers bring orders to each person that morning. 

Alternatively, the truck can arrive at a designated time before the first bell rings. 

I liked to arrange this event during week two of back to school. The first week is chaotic, and everyone is just trying to find a groove. 

The second week is a great time to show staff they are appreciated after the dust settles a bit. 

No matter how you structure it, this one will be a BIG hit, and make all of your staff members feel appreciated as they fall back into the school routine! 

9. Grab Some Chalk Markers 

Last, but not least - this is a SUPER simple tip that makes a big impact. 

Uses chalk markers like these to leave special notes for your staff all around the school which will help boost staff morale throughout the year.
Over the summer, keep your eyes out for some chalk markers. Stock up on these or grab them on Amazon. 

At the beginning of the school year, spend some time leaving messages for staff on bathroom mirrors, or windows in the staff areas. 

You can leave encouraging notes, jokes, or other positive messages. 

Set a note in your calendar to swap these out from time to time to keep it interesting and fun. You can also make the markers available for others to join in the fun.

This is a simple way to make your staff members smile and start the year off with great staff morale!

Even More Staff Morale Resources

Are you feeling energized and excited to try some of these staff morale-boosting activities this year? I sure hope so! Taking some time to prep a few of these over the summer will have a big impact come fall! If you LOVE these ideas and are looking for even more, be sure to check out the Staff Morale SUPER Bundle!

Grab this Super Staff Morale Booster Bundle for tons of amazing ways to boost staff morale this fall.

The bundle includes 26 resources to help encourage, motivate, and thank staff all year long. You'll find all of the ideas included in this post and more to help inspire you and prepare for a great year. Using these activities and resources is a great way to keep staff morale high all year long!

Save This Post 

This post is filled with fun ideas that make boosting staff morale easy! Pin this post on Pinterest to save these ideas and come back to them when you're in need of inspiration. 

Looking for fun ways to show your teachers and staff how much you appreciate them this year? Use these ideas to boost staff morale this fall and throughout the entire school year to show your staff just how much you appreciate everything they do to make your school the amazing place it is. #tarynsuniquelearning #waystobooststaffmorale #teacherappreciation