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Saturday, November 18, 2023

Create a Staff Morale Hub to Spread a Little Sunshine!

Building and keeping staff morale strong is a direct result of continued action throughout the year. This ongoing process does require effort, but it's well worth it to make your staff feel appreciated on a daily basis. One of my best tips for making it a little easier is creating a Staff Morale Hub or Staff Sunshine Corner at your school. Set this up once and watch as your staff form meaningful bonds and connections throughout the year! 

Learn how to create a staff morale hub with these easy to implement tips and simple resources you can put into use starting today.

What is a Staff Morale Hub? 

First off, if you're wondering what I'm talking about, let me explain. 

A staff morale hub, also known as a staff sunshine corner, is a central location where staff can go to find goodies and notices related to them. 

A staff morale hub is a central location in your school where you can include anything and everything to show your staff how much you appreciate them throughout the year.
Ideally, it should be a little corner that's big enough for a cart or table, and have a bit of wall space for displays. This area is usually outside of the principal's office, or in the staff lounge so it's easy to access and most staff see it regularly. 

The idea behind a staff morale hub or staff sunshine station is to have a place where staff can find things that will encourage them, thank them, support them, and overall help boost morale. 

Holiday event notices should be here, as well as sign-ups for potlucks, and even special treats! As the coordinator for the Sunshine Committee for many years at my school, I loved getting this area set up because it was one of the best ways to make staff feel appreciated on a daily basis. 

Set-Up & Materials

Before we can decorate and add all the goodies, you'll want to make sure you have an area that will work. Talk to your principal and/or other administrators about where a good spot for this might be. Then, you'll want to make sure you have a couple of clear walls. Corner spots work well for this purpose! And finally, you'll want to secure some kind of table or cart to place everything on. 

In my school, we used a large media cart for this job. It was tall enough to be table height, had storage space underneath, and was easy to roll in and out! 

What Goes in a Staff Morale Hub? 

Now, on to the fun stuff, stocking your staff morale hub! This is the really fun part, where you get to instill personality and plenty of sunshine into your Staff Morale Hub. Remember, the idea is to help staff feel appreciated, supported, and like they're all part of one big family. Being intentional in choosing materials that will support that goal is key.  Here are 13, fun things I recommend stocking your Staff Sunshine Corner with for maximum effectiveness:

1. Staff Bulletin Board 

On the large wall behind your cart, I recommend using a bulletin board or making a mock one on the wall. This comes in handy for hanging important notices, event posters, and even fun memes to make the staff laugh.
Use a staff bulletin board or shout-out board as part of your staff morale hub to keep information and celebrations in a centralized location.

In the spirit of spreading sunshine, I always used bright and happy colors for this along with a fun header like this one. Feel free to get creative with this and add seasonal decor too! These small touches help bring your staff morale hub to life. 

2. Staff Shout-Out Board

If you happened to secure a corner for your staff morale hub, I recommend using the smaller wall on the side of your table or cart of a Staff Shout-Out Board. This simple idea encourages staff to recognize each other for acts of kindness and service. it has a way of snowballing and spreading sunshine like crazy too! 

To prep this, print out a staff shoutout board here and provide staff with post-its and markers. You can even print it poster size and place it in a large frame if you want to go the extra mile. Then, add a few notes to get the ball rolling and watch the shout-outs multiply. 

3. District Calendar 

While the staff morale hub is mostly for spreading sunshine and boosting morale, it should also be practical. Adding a district calendar to your main bulletin board is a must! You can also add any important notices specific to your district as well. Make sure to set a reminder to swap these out seasonally, if needed!

4. Check-In Sunshine Corner

This can be used for lots of different things, but it seems like it's most often used for sign-ups. 

A check in sunshine corner is a great addition to your staff morale hub because it gives you a dedicated space to keep announcements and sign ups for your staff.
At my school, we had a lot of events, so whatever was upcoming was always placed on the Sunshine Corner bulletin board. 

That way staff could quickly check and see if they were interested in participating. 

Some schools also require a daily check-in for staff. 

In which case, this Sunshine Corner bulletin board would be perfect for that! 

This helps to get staff to the area daily and they can take a quick peek at the board and see what's coming up. 

5. Basket of Blank Thank You Notes

This is such a simple add-on to your staff morale hub but it truly makes a world of difference! Grab a basket or bucket and fill it with blank Thank-You cards. I found a bunch at the dollar store. Then, as staff need them, they can grab a card or two to use. Over the years, I found that staff often brought in their own cards to donate as well and spread the gratitude!

6. Staff Address Book 

Include a staff address book in your staff morale hub for anyone who wants to send notes, thank you cards, or special gifts to staff throughout the year.
At one point, our district stopped sharing staff contact information. 

At my school, we were used to sending cards to each other at various times throughout the year, so I made a Staff Address Book for anyone who wanted to participate. 

The Staff Sunshine Corner is a great place to store this book in case anyone wants to send a thank you note, holiday card, or get well card to a staff member. 

7. Staff Favorites Book

The Staff Morale Hub is also a great place to store a Staff Favorites Book. This is a binder or booklet filled with forms that share everyone's favorite things. Some of the items on the list include favorite hot drinks, fast food, candy, pens, and more! I always passed out these forms at the beginning of the year, then filled up a binder and left this out for staff to access as needed. 

8. Candy Bowl 

Goodies of some kind are another must for this area, in my opinion! At my school, my principal liked to take on the responsibility of keeping this stocked. You can also fund this in other ways as well, or take turns filling it by grade level. No matter what you choose, it's nice to have a little treat available for staff at all times in the staff morale hub. 

9. Staff Birthday Display 

I don't know about you guys, but our school LOVED celebrating birthdays! 

A staff morale hub with a birthday bulletin board is a great way to help everyone remember special birthdays throughout the school year.
In my school, I always made sure there was a spot on the bulletin board for the current monthly birthday display, as well as the bound birthday book. 

We all know how busy the school year gets. So, when we can take a minute to show your staff that you remember their special day it makes a big impact on morale!

As an extra special bonus, the bound book was a way to peek at upcoming birthdays and the display showed the ones for the current month.

Our staff always loved seeing whose birthday was coming up, and then flipping through the Staff Favorites Book to surprise them with something they enjoyed! 

10. Kindness Plates 

This area is also a great spot to store some Kindness Plates for staff to pass around. If you've never heard of them before, they're easy and fun to use. Here's the idea: a Kindness Plate gets filled with a special treat, lunch, office supplies, or other fun goodies. Then it gets left for a teacher or staff member. That person gets to enjoy everything on the plate, and then it's their turn to fill it and gift it to someone else. 

At my school, we had 5 Kindness Plates in rotation all year long. Our rule of thumb was that once you received it, the kindness plate would be filled up again and passed on within a week. This is a fun way to encourage staff members, say thank you, or just spread a little sunshine!

11. Staff BINGO 

A BINGO style activity like this is a great addition to your staff morale hub because it creates a fun daily check in activity for your staff.
This next idea takes up a fair bit of wall space, but it's great to display in an adjacent area to your Staff Sunshine Corner. 

Staff BINGO is a fun way to reinvigorate your team and recognize them for all the things they do. 

Each page on the large BINGO board lists something the staff might do in their daily work. 

Each day they check the board and see if they completed anything on the board. 

If they did, they signed their name in that spot. The idea is to get 5 in a row to get a BINGO! 

This ongoing game is a lot of fun, and if you use Astrobrights paper it really brightens up a room too! 

12. Collection Envelope for Staff In Need 

This is an extra added touch, that hopefully you won't need. In the case that you have a staff member who is very sick, in the hospital for an extended amount of time, or otherwise in need, you can start a collection envelope. This is where staff can leave monetary donations to help the staff member and their family out. Staff might also want to drop encouraging notes here as well!

13. Random Acts of Kindness Tear-Offs 

Last but not least, we all need a few more random acts of kindness in our lives, don't we?! 
Get your staff excited about spreading kindness with these random acts of kindness tear off posters to include in your staff morale hub.

This is one of my favorites on the list because it promotes genuine and kind acts among staff that seem to boost morale more than anything else. 

These tear-off posters offer simple prompts that staff can choose from to pay it forward in some way. 

It's as simple as tearing or cutting off a prompt and taking it with you to remind yourself to make someone else's day extra special.

The prompts include things like bragging about the principal, filling the candy bowl, bringing a colleague a special treat, or bringing a vase of fresh flowers for the lounge. 

These small acts pay off BIG, and staff love grabbing them as they pass the Staff Morale Hub!

Use a Staff Sunshine Corner All Year 

So what do you think? Could your school benefit from a Staff Morale Hub or a Sunshine Corner? I sure think so! This project takes a little time to prepare, but I know you'll LOVE it once it's set up. Working with administrators, your principal, or the Sunshine Committee is a great way to get this set up in your school and reap the benefits of it all year long! 

If you're looking for more ideas on spreading sunshine and boosting staff morale, be sure to check out these posts too:

Save This Post 

Pin this post on Pinterest to keep these ideas for your Staff Morale Hub handy! 

Use a staff morale hub in your school as a way to celebrate your staff and show your appreciate throughout the entire school year. A centralized location in the break room, lunch room, or school office is a great place for a staff morale hub. Use these tips and tricks to set up an amazing staff morale hub in your school this year. #tarynsuniquelearning #staffmoralehub #staffmoraleideas

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Engaging Monthly Literacy Centers for the Primary Classroom

If you're a teacher in the primary grades you already know how important center time is! This is where the magic happens and rubber meets the road with daily practice. Having many opportunities to practice important skills is key to success! As a veteran classroom teacher, I found this to be especially true for literacy concepts. Our kiddos need ongoing practice with phonics, and monthly literacy centers are the best way to make it fun! 

Use these exciting monthly literacy centers in your classroom for fun hands-on learning activities your students will love during the month of December!

What Are Monthly Literacy Centers?

Wondering what I mean by monthly literacy centers? I'm talking about activities that will help your students master important phonics skills on a monthly basis. We all know that practice makes perfect, but the key to helping your students actually want to practice is engaging activities! 

Students are engaged by the holiday and seasons so use this to help them practice key skills.
In my room, I loved to tie in holiday and seasonal themes to our monthly learning to help make repetitive tasks more fun. That way, we could target some familiar skills month after month, without center time getting boring. Some of the skills we focused on in literacy centers include:
  • letter recognition 
  • letter sounds
  • letter fluency 
  • CVC words
  • CVC word fluency 
  • identifying real vs. nonsense words
Over the years, I found that these skills were the ones my kindergarten and first-grade students needed the most practice with. Because of this, I decided to focus on crafting monthly lessons that we could use to target these skills through fun holiday and seasonal activities. 

Benefits of Using Monthly Literacy Centers

Once I started using monthly literacy centers in the classroom, the payoff was very clear. As a classroom teacher, it was a big win knowing that my students would get the practice they needed with these important literacy skills on a consistent basis. Aside from this obvious benefit, there are a few more that are worth noting too! 

1. Prep Once and Use Forever! 

Once you decide on a system that incorporates important literacy skills you're looking to target, you're going to cut down drastically on monthly prep time! For example, in my classroom, once I started using my Monthly Literacy Centers, I only needed to prep each month once. Then, I'd store them away carefully and use them again next year. There's nothing better than opening up a box of prepped and laminated center activity pieces for the upcoming month to use in your classroom! 

2. Explain Directions to Students Once 

With so many awesome benefits to monthly literacy centers it's no wonder they are popular in primary classrooms around the country.
Another reason I love using monthly literacy centers is that once students understand the concept of each activity, you'll never have to explain the directions again. 

Well, maybe not never... We are talking about primary learners here, but you get the picture! 

Students will recognize the activities and get excited as they begin to recall how the games are played. They will be able to work independently in the center because the activity remains the same or similar.

In my monthly literacy sets, many of the activities follow a familiar format. So while the theme of the activity changes, the content doesn't. This means students can jump right in month after month!

3. Science-Backed Strategies 

My monthly literacy centers are aligned with the Science of Reading, which means you won't have to wonder if they're effective. If you're looking for monthly activities to use in your room, I highly recommend seeking out programs that use strategies from the Science of Reading. This will take the guesswork out of your lesson planning and make the most of the time you have. 

4. Versatile and Differentiation-Friendly

Hands on center activities like this sensory bin is a great way to engage students in learning.

I also love these centers because they are versatile. You can use them traditionally as center activities for independent and partner activities OR you use them in small groups or intervention. This also means differentiation is a breeze. Pick and choose which activities to use in each group or assign to specific students.  I love being able to use one resource in multiple ways to meet a variety of needs in the classroom!

5. Engaging and FUN!

Last, but arguably the most important on this list... monthly literacy centers are engaging! Let's get real. Students love holiday and seasonal activities. Rather than trying to control the pure joy and excitement that's bottled up inside your littles during the holidays, embrace it! Choosing monthly literacy centers with fun seasonal themes means you can count on engagement all year long. 

Choosing Center Activities for Each Topic

Now, on to the nitty gritty! Wondering what type of activities to include in your monthly literacy centers? Let's take a closer look at the tried and true tools I used as a classroom teacher to focus on each of the literacy skills mentioned above. 

Letters & Letter Sound Fluency Spinners 

First up, this activity is so. much. fun. for small group learning! This is a simple activity to use too, making it great for center time as well. 

Add these letters and letter sounds fluency centers to your monthly literacy centers for a fun game like approach to learning letters and letter sounds.
To play, students will take turns spinning a spinner. The picture they land on determines which row to read on the corresponding fluency mat. 

Students can read letters, sounds, or both depending on what you'd like to target. 

I make reading letters even more fun by using silly voices that correspond with the monthly theme. For example, kiddos will get a kick out of identifying letters in Santa's deep, jolly voice or the high, squeaky voice of an elf! 

Once students have the hang of this, assign partner groups to work together and take turns reading rows of letters to each other. 

Nonsense Word Fluency Spin and Say 

Identifying if words are real or nonsense is the theme of this fun monthly literacy centers game.
This next monthly literacy center activity is similar to the first, but instead of reading letters, children will read words and identify if they are real or nonsense. 

This activity is filled with decodable CVC words to help get your students familiar with common words. 

This activity is great practice for those of you who use DIBELS, Easy CBM, or Aimsweb, as well as general reading practice too. 

This one usually gets some giggles as kiddos think about whether or not the word they read was a real one!

Sensory Basket - Letters and Sounds

Do you use sensory tubs in your classroom? If not, you're missing out on a great opportunity for high engagement among your students! 

Help your students identify letters and letter sounds with this fun hands on literacy centers activity and sensory basket idea.
Literacy sensory baskets help combine the use of tactile materials and hands-on learning with phonics practice. In December, our sensory baskets featured seasonal letter cards and picture cards. 

This activity is meant to target letters, and letter sounds so you can differentiate based on skill level or mix and match. 

Students will search for letters or pictures that represent sounds in the basket and then mark them off on a corresponding recording sheet. I love that this activity uses a smaller version of a sensory table since many classrooms don't have room for them. 

A small tub or tray works great and you can customize the fillers too! Paper shreds, rice, dry beans, or styrofoam are all fun choices! 

Letter Identification & Sound Hole Punch 

A hole punch makes for a fun learning tool with this letter identification and sound monthly literacy centers activity.
I love this next activity for center time and students do too!

To use this one, students will draw a card and name the letter or sound represented on it. Then, they will search their holiday phonics mat for the matching letter and use a hole punch to mark it. 

The cards come in versions with letters in alphabetical order as well as mixed up to allow for easy differentiation. 

This activity is great because it targets fine motor practice while working on this important literacy skill. Students love looking at the fun holiday scene on each mat as well. 

Choose the black and white versions of the cards if you'd like to have students color the picture after they finish. 

Nonsense Word Sorting Activity 

Ready for a fun game that's super versatile? Then you'll love this Nonsense Word Sorting Activity. 

This literacy center asks students to choose a card, read the word on the card, and then sort it into the correct category: real word or nonsense word. 

In addition to using this as a literacy center, I love using this one in small groups too.  It really gives me a chance to see how students are doing with the blending concepts and understanding what they are reading.

Here's a peek into this activity in action!

All the Literacy Centers in one Place

In order to make things easy and help you save time, I have created monthly bundles of all the literacy centers.  In this post, I used my December literacy centers as examples. You can find all of the fun literacy centers that were featured in the December bundle.   

Grab this Kindergarten Literacy Centers Bundle for even more fun and exciting monthly literacy centers ideas to use in your classroom this December.

But what good are fun, easy to use skill based literacy centers if they are only available for the shortest month? Absolutely no good.  That's why you can find bundles for each month in my TPT store.  

Making Literacy Centers Fun Every Month

If you're looking for an easy way to save time and money when it comes time to plan your own monthly literacy activities check out the Full Year Literacy Centers Mega Bundle. Each month includes similar activities in a familiar format to help encourage learning and growth on important literacy topics. 

Looking for monthly literacy center ideas to use all year long? Grab this Mega Bundle for fun filled activities with engaging themes to use every month of the year.

Your students will look forward to these fun, hands-on games and centers each month. Plus, don't forget that these versatile centers can be used in multiple ways too! Differentiate as needed, use for intervention and small groups, as well as daily center activities. The options are endless, but the prep is simple making these a great option for your monthly literacy centers. 

Save This Post 

Pin this post on your favorite Pinterest teacher board to keep track of these ideas for monthly literacy centers!

Looking for fun and exciting monthly literacy centers ideas to use in your classroom this year? These awesome activities include everything you need for engaging literacy practice your students will love. Be sure to check out the MEGA Bundle for a whole year's worth of fun monthly literacy centers activities with seasonal and holiday themes your students will look forward to each and every month.