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Friday, October 27, 2023

Tips for Planning a Family Literacy Night

Are you looking for new ways to promote literacy among your elementary learners? If so, a family literacy night might be just the ticket to get your students, and their families excited about reading! Come along to learn more about hosting a family literacy night at your school!

Plan a fun and exciting family literacy night at your school this year using these helpful tips and tricks.

What is a Family Literacy Night?

First things first, let's talk about what to expect at a family literacy night. Essentially, this is an event that is usually hosted outside of school hours and focuses on promoting reading among young learners. Typically, the idea behind it is to engage students and parents together in literacy-based activities.

A family literacy night is a night when you can invite families into the school to focus on all things literacy in fun and creative ways.
In addition, family literacy nights often prioritize educating parents on literacy development and providing strategies to help foster reading skills at home.  

My favorite thing about a family literacy night is that it helps build community and trust between school and home. 

Engaging parents and kiddos together in these activities with other children and families present is a recipe for getting students excited about reading!

Family literacy nights can be hosted by grade level, or with the entire school involved. If your school isn't already hosting a family literacy night, talk to your principal or administrator about getting it started. This activity is one that you won't regret, I promise! 

What Types of Activities to Include

Literacy nights can be structured in a number of ways, but more often than not, they are filled with fun and engaging activities for students and parents to participate in together. The activities target things like working together, prompting deeper thought, open discussion, and reflection. The more variety you can have in the activity types, the better! 

Personally, it was always my mission to choose activities and games that felt fun and a bit different from the norm. The goal is to get our kids reading and what better way to get there than with fun activities?! 

Being intentional about choosing activities that might be a little bit out of the box is super helpful when it comes to planning a successful family literacy night.

For example, one of my favorites is a "Book Walk". This activity is a play on the typical cakewalk game, which is a bit like musical chairs. To play, students will walk in a circular path while music plays. Throughout the path, there are books placed in random spots. When the music stops, students are awarded the book they land on. Ask about using PTO or Title 1 Funding to help buy books for this popular activity. 

Activities to include in family literacy night could be crafts, reading time, scavenger hunts, and much more.
Another fun activity that is easy to facilitate is having the principal, librarian, other teachers, community leaders or school board members read aloud during the literacy night event. Parents and students can pick and choose which book reading they'd like to attend. Not only will this allow for more time for reading, but it will help parents and students get to know other school staff members too! 

And. . . this is a great way to connect your school with the local library.  Invite the library to attend the event and set up a table where families can apply for a library card. This is a fun way to branch out beyond the resources within your school. Students will love learning about the public library and seeing when they can visit for story time and book browsing. 

Last but not least, sending students off with a book of their own after the event is a great way to end the evening! Ask community members if they would be willing to donate books for the event. You can also find used books for pennies at thrift stores and yard sales. Look for books that would appeal to the age range of your students.  Then set up a table with all of the available books. Students can flip through the books and choose one to take home with them. It's a great way to give every family a book so they can put into practice what they learned at the family literacy night.  

Get Creative with Literacy Night Activities 

It's also a good idea to choose a few activities that promote creativity and individuality as well. Over the years, I've discovered this truly is the secret sauce in helping students cultivate excitement for just about any topic. If we can guide them towards expanding their literacy skills while also allowing them to express their unique perspective, we can expect to snag their attention and keep it. 

Wondering how this strategy looks in action? Let's take a closer look at more activities I've used in the past with the most successful outcomes!

Family Literacy Night Interview Questions 

First up, this one is a classic and one of my favorites. Every Family Literacy Night I have hosted, I always made sure to include this activity because it's SO much fun. It's a great "ice breaker" for the evening since it gets those brains thinking too! 

A fun activity like these interview questions are great to include in family literacy night and will help parents and students get to know some fun facts about each other.
The questions in this interview pack are split into two levels. One questionnaire is for children in kindergarten through third grade and the other is for third through sixth grade. The idea behind this activity is that parents and children will interview each other to better understand how they feel about reading and share their interests. 

The questions include things like:
  • What kind of books do you like to read? 
  • What do you think makes someone a good reader?
  • How do you feel when you hear or read a story? 
These questions are designed to make both children and parents stop and reflect on their feelings about reading. Both parties will love asking and answering questions in this activity! After the interview, they will draw their family member as they see them as a reader based on the answers. This activity is great for starting out the evening on the right foot. 

Reading Scavenger Hunt 

Next up, this is one of those unexpected activities that's tons of fun and is always a huge hit! 

Use this fun reading scavenger hunt activity during your family literacy night event to help parents and students get to know their way around the school.
I loved planning a school scavenger hunt on family literacy nights because it offers an opportunity for parents and children to work together as they scour the hallways and classrooms for specific items on their lists. 

I included tasks such as:
  • find the kindergarten teacher with the longest name 
  • find a poster and write down what it says
  • find a poem somewhere in the building
This activity is also differentiated by grade level to make this applicable to all of the students at your school. 

Simply print and distribute scavenger hunt checklists, recording sheets, and clipboards if you'd like, and send the families off on an adventure! 

Cooperative Reading Banner 

If you're looking for a fun activity that involves everyone, this next one is a must! 

Ask students and parents to work collaboratively to color and decorate a reading cooperative banner like this as part of your family literacy night activities.
The idea behind a Cooperative Reading Banner is that families will work together to complete pieces of the banner. 

They will color pages, decorate them, cut them out, and assemble them into one large banner. 

The banner comes in a few options like "Reading Rocks!", "Family Literacy Night" and more! 

You can have students create banners prior to Family Literacy Night and display them as decorations or have families work on them as an activity at your event. Either way, this is a great way to encourage teamwork and strengthen the school community. 

In addition to completing the front pages of the banner, students can also personalize the back of each section with pictures and sentences about their favorite places to read, favorite books, and other fun facts. I liked to hang these across hallways so you can easily see both the front and back of each banner.

Reading Motivation Bookmarks

When reading, everyone needs a bookmark. Right?!?? So why not use that to create a hands-on bookmark crafting stating. This is a simple activity that's low-prep and allows everyone to make their own fancy bookmark to take home. 

Have students and parents cut and color their own reading motivation bookmarks like these as a family literacy night activity.
I started by printing these bookmarks that have motivational phrases on them on colored paper or cardstock. Then, let parents and kids go to town to decorate them! 

I liked to provide crafting materials to make this activity feel extra special such as:
  • markers, crayons, colored pencils
  • stickers
  • ribbon or pipe cleaners
  • glitter glue 
Encourage parents and kids to work together to create a fabulous bookmark to take home and use for their evening story-time routine. This activity is a great way to get your littles excited about reading long after your family literacy night has ended!

Would You Rather Questions Presentation

Looking for an activity that will get your families up and moving on Family Literacy Night? 

Run this fun Would You Rather presentation for parents and students to complete in your classroom as they walk through during family literacy night.
Check out this set of Would You Rather Reading Questions! 

This activity asks 14 different questions related to reading such as "Would you rather read a book you picked out or read a book recommended to you?". 

But instead of answering with words, students and parents will copy the movement of the answer they agree with. 

One option has them dancing in a "twist" while the other has them doing "the running man". 

Your students will LOVE this activity, and there's bound to be tons of giggles too! I love this activity because it's super low-prep too. All you need to do is project the presentation up on your screen or smart board and you're good to go!

Reading Rock Craft and Poem 

This final activity is one of the BEST when it comes to promoting some creativity at your literacy night. 

This reading rock craftivity is a great addition to your family literacy night activities.
In this activity, students will bring in a small rock and decorate it with their parents. I provide paint, markers, and googly eyes to jazz up the rocks. 

Then, parents and students will read the printable poem together and agree to use the rock as a reminder to read, read, read! The poem is a cute and friendly way to nudge students toward reading and remind them to read every day. 

The poems come in full-page and mini versions in both color and black and white to meet a variety of needs. Personally, I loved using the mini versions and laminating them. I know it's an extra step, but it will help ensure the poem lasts all year long! 

I encouraged families to hang the poem on the fridge at home and recite it from time to time to help promote more reading! 

Family Literacy Night Bundle 

If you're anything like me, you can never have enough activities on family literacy night! This was hands-down, my favorite event we hosted every year and so I was always excited to plan fun and engaging activities for it. If you can't decide on a favorite from this list, be sure to check out the family literacy bundle!

Grab this Family Literacy Night Bundle for all sorts of fun and exciting activities to do with your parents and students during family literacy night this year.

It includes 6 of the fun activities mentioned here to help make planning your own family literacy night fun and easy! No matter what you choose to use at your own family literacy night, focus on FUN and variety for a successful event! 

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 This post is filled with all of my favorite ideas and activities for family literacy night. Pin it on Pinterest to keep these activities handy! 

Are you looking for a fun way to boost your reading engagement with your students and families this year? Host a family literacy night! Use these fun and exciting activities during family literacy night for a fun filled time full of reading, crafts, scavenger hunts, and more! Kick off your first annual family literacy night with all the great activities included in the Family Literacy Night Bundle! #tarynsuniquelearning #familyliteracynight #literacyactivities

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Holiday Staff Party and Gift Ideas

Does your school celebrate the holiday season? The holidays are such a great opportunity to schedule in some holiday fun for staff! And even if you don't have a traditional holiday staff party annually, I'm a huge advocate for sprinkling a bit of festive cheer all throughout the season. Come along and check out these fun ways you can add some winter sparkle to your school all month long!

Use these fun and exciting ideas during your holiday staff party this year.

Why Your School Needs a Holiday Staff Party

Whether you're a principal, a school administrator, or in charge of planning staff events at your school, there is SO much benefit in planning a holiday party of some kind during the month of December. 

Plan a holiday staff party to keep your staff morale high during the winter season.
First off, this time of year is hectic, both at school and at home. Setting up some kind of holiday party that takes place before your holiday break is a great way to "take a breather" with staff and soak up the season. 

Another reason to have a holiday party is to help encourage team building and staff relationships. 

Teachers and other school employees work hard, and often independently (aside from interaction with the kiddos) for most of the day. 

Making time for parties allows your staff to get to know each other, chat about challenges in the classroom, and help support each other.

Embracing Variety in Holiday Activities for Staff

My favorite reason for having holiday staff parties though is to embrace the opportunity to show appreciation to the staff. 

Plan your holiday staff part to include lots of activities to help everyone feel appreciated in their own unique way.
We're all so different. Did you know that different people feel appreciated in different ways? Some of us feel appreciated when a thoughtful gift is given, while others feel most valued with words of affirmation. 

Choosing to have a holiday party with a variety of games and activities means you'll be able to get each of your staff members the recognition they deserve in the exact way they resonate with best!

If you would like to ensure your holiday party is well-rounded and touches on different forms of recognition for staff but aren't sure where to start, I've gotcha covered. 

Here are 9 ideas to help add some holiday cheer to your holiday staff party, and all month long!

1. Staff Holiday Postcards 

Now this first one is actually best when used prior to your holiday party to help build a bit of excitement! 

Use postcards like these during your holiday staff party to show your staff and their loved ones how much they are appreciated.
One year, at the beginning of the month of December, I received a super thoughtful postcard from my administration. 

It was so kind and heartfelt, that I left it hanging on my bulletin board for years. Once I saw them start this tradition, I knew other schools could benefit from sending out holiday postcards to their staff too! 

This idea will really speak to those of your staff that relate to words of affirmation. 

Taking the time to share how staff efforts are noticed and appreciated will often go much further than simply giving them another sweatshirt or coffee mug with the school logo on it. 

My best advice for this one is to plan ahead! Start writing these postcards in November so that you can give thoughtful, caring, and personalized feedback to each person. And. . . if you think you will have a hard time remembering specific things for each staff member, keep a Note on your phone or tablet all year long.  As you see staff members doing something, jot it down.  When it comes time to write those personalized cards you will have all the real-life examples of the amazing things they have done. 

2. Holiday Decor 

What's a holiday party without décor?! 

Staff appreciation tags like these are a great addition to your holiday staff party ideas because they are a great way to show your staff how you appreciate them.
Personally, I loved decorating for the holidays as soon as we were back from Thanksgiving break so that we could enjoy the decorations for as long as possible. 

As a member of the Sunshine Committee for years, I loved adding some holiday magic to staff mailboxes, the teacher's lounge, our school Christmas tree, the copy room, and even the staff bathrooms this time of year! 

One of my favorite ways to decorate included using Staff Appreciation Tags. The idea behind this resource is to write down your favorite thing about each staff member on these festive holiday tags. 

Then, string them up on a colorful ribbon and hang them around areas that staff visit most. 

Everyone will LOVE to read what's been written about their colleagues. They come in options for Christmas, Hanukkah, and winter too for added variety!

3. Hot Cocoa Bar 

This next idea is always a huge hit with staff and it's something you can implement even if don't have dedicated time for a staff party. 
Organize a hot cocoa bar for your holiday staff party for an extra special sweet treat your staff will love.

Setting up a hot cocoa bar is a great way to get your staff in the holiday spirit and give them a special treat too! 

You can run this activity as a potluck-style event where teachers and staff will sign up for items, or it can all be organized by admin. 

Either way, everyone will love the opportunity to grab a cup of hot cocoa and add some special toppings on the day of the event. 

This resource comes with everything you need to plan, organize, and execute a successful hot cocoa bar. 

There are announcement signs, decorative signs, labels for cocoa toppings, and even a recipe for homemade hot cocoa that your staff will LOVE! Use this activity on a Friday in December to recognize your staff for their hard work.  And. . . if they love it you can do it again in January to brighten up those dull winter days.

4. Gift of Time 

Give the gift of time by taking over the class for a few minutes.
This next idea is one of my absolute faves because as a former teacher, I know that time is the one thing none of us ever have enough of! 

The best way to make this work is to arrange for administration, a special guest, or parent volunteers to help out. 

Plan a special assembly, a movie day, or a guest presentation for students to attend. Or rotate through classes doing a read-aloud or special activity with the students.

During this time, allow teachers to use the time to take a break in the lounge, take a long lunch, or work in their classrooms on whatever they need to get done. 

The holiday season is a busy time and most teachers will be thrilled to get the gift of time! 

5. Staff Scratch-Off Tickets 

Scratch-off tickets make a great, inexpensive gift for staff that's totally unique and fun! 

Scratch off tickets like these can be used before or during your holiday staff party for fun prizes your staff will love.
At my school, we used these all year long at our monthly staff meetings. 

The holiday-themed tickets are perfect for your December meeting or your Holiday Staff Party. 

The prizes that can be uncovered include things like:
  • prime parking spot for a week
  • jeans day 
  • recess coverage 
  • copies prepped for the week, and more!
I love these low-cost tickets and they really help to build excitement and boost staff morale all year long. 

This resource includes instructions for DIY scratch-off paint, or you can print them and use scratch off stickers on the tickets, which is a quick and easy option.

6. Staff Favorites Book

If you're having a Secret Santa or some kind of gift exchange, you'll love the Staff Favorites book. 

Use a staff favorites book like this before your holiday staff party to get a list of things your staff loves to help you plan the best party.
This resource is perfect for helping your staff know what their colleagues like, without having to ask. 

In my school, we filled the staff favorites pages out at the beginning of the year. 

Then, I made copies and placed them in binders for staff to access. 

Inside is a list of each person's favorite things including drinks, treats, office supplies, and more! 

We used them for holidays, birthdays, and "just because" gifts. Making a book like this prior to the month of December is a great idea to encourage gift-giving and recognition among your staff members. 

7. Secret Santa 

Speaking of Secret Santa, have you ever tried this classic holiday gift-giving system at your school? 

Use a secret santa gift exchange prior to your holiday staff party to build the fun of the season all month long.
It's one of my personal favorites, but at my school, we adapted it with a fun twist that "snowballs" throughout the month of December. 

To start the gift-giving chain, you will choose 2 staff members to gift. 

You'll place a Santa sign on their door, drop a gift at their desk, and leave a note letting them know they need to choose 2 staff members to gift next. 

This continues and builds as each person is chosen! Before you know it, your whole school will be covered with Santa signs with this fun holiday game!

Don't forget to refer staff to the "Favorites Book" for this activity too! 

8. Holiday Cookie Exchange

Nothing screams the holidays quite like cookies, right? 

Organize a holiday cookie exchange during your holiday staff party for a delicious treat everyone will love.
Planning a holiday cookie exchange is a great, low-cost party activity that gets your whole staff involved. 

This was always one of my personal favorite events to plan year after year. 

To make this successful, I recommend announcing the exchange and putting out sign-up sheets well in advance. We want this to be fun, not stressful for staff, so giving plenty of time to plan is key!

I liked to have everyone share their recipes as well, and then make copies and bind the pages together into a cookbook for everyone to take home. You can also scan the recipe cards and send out a digital PDF to cut down on paper too!

This resource makes planning a holiday cookie exchange super simple and fun! It includes materials for announcing the event, sign-up sheets, cookie labels, recipe cards, cookbook covers, reminder tags, and decorative posters. 

Try using this activity for your holiday staff party this year! 

9. White Elephant Exchange 

This final holiday party idea is a great opportunity for your staff to give each other gifts without having to spend a single penny! 

A white elephant or silly gift exchange is always sure to get everyone laughing.
White Elephant is a fun game where everyone brings a wrapped gift and is assigned a number to pick one of the gifts from the pile. The gifts can be silly, real, or even specific like an ornament or a book.

Lower numbers choose first, while higher numbers wait their turn. As each person's number is called, they choose a gift and open it.

The next number can either choose a new gift and "exchange" for one of the other gifts that have already been opened. 

This resource is designed to play this game with gently used books. Staff members who would like to participate will choose a book from their own shelf for the exchange. 

This one is always a big hit and makes everyone laugh! Plus, it's nice to have an option that doesn't require staff to spend money. 

Staff Morale Activities for the Whole Month

Can't decide on a favorite from this list? Check out the December Staff Morale Bundle that includes 6, fun activities to use throughout the month. This bundle includes:
  1. White Elephant Book Exchange
  2. Staff Secret Santa 
  3. Staff Cookie Exchange Party 
  4. Hot Cocoa Bar 
  5. Holiday Décor Appreciation Tags 
  6. Holiday Postcards 
This Staff Morale December Holiday Fun Bundle includes everything you need to host an amazing holiday staff party this year.

Grabbing the bundle means you'll save money and be well-prepared for a fun month of holiday staff party activities and gifting! This bundle is a great way to recognize staff and boost morale all month long. 

Oh and if you like having an excuse to celebrate in your building as much as I did, make sure to sign up to grab my FREE wacky holiday list here! Happy celebrating friends! 

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Pin this post on Pinterest to keep these holiday staff party ideas handy! 

Looking for fun holiday staff party and gift ideas for the holiday season? Use these activities, resources, and gifts to plan and implement the best holiday staff party ever this year. #tarynsuniquelearning #holidaystaffparty #teacherholidayparty #teacherchristmasparty