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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! 

Save This Post 

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