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Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Teaching Poetry in the Primary Classroom

How do you approach teaching poetry in your classroom? Is it a once-in-a-while occurrence that you wish you could incorporate more? If so, I can relate! I love poems and I wanted a way to use them every month in the classroom. The solution came to me and I'm excited to share it with you today! Come along to see how I teach poetry in the primary classroom, and why you might also want to. 
Make teaching poetry in the primary classroom fun and easy with these engaging activities you can use all year long.

Why Poetry is Valuable for Primary Learners

First things first... Why is this something you should consider adding to your already very full lesson plan? Teaching poetry has many benefits but the most notable is its ability to help strengthen phonemic awareness. If you're working in a K-2 classroom, this is so important! Every day we're working hard to help our children develop phonemic awareness skills and become strong, confident readers. So what if poetry could make that job a little bit easier and way more fun? 

Teaching poetry to your students will help with several reading skills including left to right progression, beginning sounds, sight word recognition, and more.
Good news, it can! Poetry brings the joy back to reading and leans on rhythmic, repetition to help nudge students towards reading fluency. By using poems in your literacy centers throughout the year, you'll be presenting your students with a new way to foster reading skills. Some of those skills include:
  • left to right progression
  • voice-print pairing 
  • one-to-one correspondence
  • beginning sounds
  • rhyming words
  • sight word recognition
  • reading fluency and more!
Aside from the important skills targeted, poetry is just plain FUN! This alone is a great reason to add it to your routine. 

How to Add Poetry to Your Classroom 

In my classroom, we used lots of songs, poems, and fingerplays in our daily lessons. As an intervention teacher, I quickly learned the value of using these tools to foster reading fluency. As children learn the rhymes and songs, they can connect them to phonics, recall more easily, and blend phonics hunks and chunks together. 

Teaching poetry doesn't have to be time consuming or difficult with easy to use printable activities like these.
Think of it a bit like prompting. These subtle, rhythmic prompts help students gain the skills and confidence they need to become fluent readers. 

But how do we begin adding poetry? My favorite way is through the use of a monthly center. In this center, students will learn a seasonal or holiday-related poem. We practice the verses first, without the written words. This oral practice first helps to strengthen phonemic awareness and lays the groundwork for success. 

Next, I introduce the words in a pocket chart format. Children will work on putting the words in the correct order, matching up the words, and building the poem. We work on this in class, but I also send home word cards for continued practice. By the end of the month, my students know a new poem and have had a fun opportunity to practice reading and identifying the words in it. It's a classroom favorite activity! 

Teaching Poetry with Monthly Poems 

Does this sound like something you'd like to explore with your own students? If so, let's take a closer look at the process I use with Monthly Poetry Centers. 

Introducing the New Poem 

Make teaching poetry simple by including it in your monthly activities with monthly or seasonal themed poems your students will love.
It all starts with an oral introduction of the poem. I like to introduce our new, seasonal poem at the beginning of the month during our morning meeting, or when students are seated on the carpet. 

First, I say the poem aloud and students listen all the way through. Then, I say only the first line and they repeat it back. We work our way through the poem, making sure to focus on the rhythm, rhyme, and repetition. 

We do this over the course of a couple days before I introduce the written words. This piece of the puzzle is key in helping to strengthen phonemic awareness. It's also a fun, community-building activity that my students look forward to every month. There's nothing quite like singing a song, or reciting a poem with your whole class, right? 

Put Words to the Rhythm 

As you begin teaching poetry, project your poems on your whiteboard so you can go through all of the words in the poem together as a class.
Next, it's time to show students the written words. I liked to display the poem on an interactive whiteboard. Then, I would point out each word as the students say it aloud. I do this a few times and might even call on a couple volunteers to be the pointers. 

During this process, we also search for sight words, beginning sounds, color words, and phonics hunks and chunks as well. This is such a valuable part of the process. I love seeing students get excited as they search the poem for familiar words and sounds. 

This is a great way for students to practice reading the poems several times before we dig into individual or small group activities. And, we all know how important repetition is when teaching our kiddos new skills.

Pocket Chart Poem Practice

Then, I pull out a pocket chart. In this step, I use the words from the poem that have been cut apart. With a copy of the poem beside the chart, we reassemble the word cards in the correct order. I like to do this as a whole-group introduction first.  

Use a pocket chart like this when teaching poetry to give your students an interactive opportunity to put the poems together after whole group practice.
As a class, we build the poem using the word cards that are printed in black. Then using word cards that are a different color, I allow kiddos to practice matching the words to complete the poem independently or with a partner. This center is available for a week or so. I try to make sure everyone gets a couple of chances to work in this center. 

Then, I made it a bit more difficult by removing the black words and having students start from scratch. This is a challenge for them, but it's a great learning opportunity too! Not only does this work on phonic skills and reading words, but it also has an element of visual tracking as students must use the poem on one paper to build the poem in the pocket chart. 

I like to give the kids pointers, witchy fingers, or magic wands to use as they point to each word and recite the poem. This adds an extra layer of fun that my students absolutely love.

Keep the Poetry Practice Going

The last step in this process is to give each kiddo a copy of the words and the poem. They keep the words in a baggie and work on assembling them at their desks, and at home for extra practice. I usually communicate with parents about our monthly poem and ask them to help their child recite it a couple times per week as part of their homework routine. The families really enjoy helping out with this and hearing their little readers recite a new poem each month! 

Teaching Poetry All Year Long 

This monthly poetry center is one of my favorite ways to mix things up with our literacy centers. Rhymes and poems are fun for students, so they make it easy and accessible to work on important phonemic awareness skills. Anytime I can make reading a fun and enjoyable process, I'm in! Because of this, I created seasonal poems to use all year long. 

These poems are related to the current season or holiday and are aimed at adding some whimsical flair to our poetry center. In my Year Long Pocket Chart Poetry Bundle, you'll find 12 different literacy centers - one for each month of the year. Some of the poems included are:
These monthly poetry centers make teaching poetry in the primary classroom simple and easy to implement. No need to worry about how to add poems, or which ones to choose! These resources were designed for maximum fun and increased phonemic awareness. All you have to do is follow the simple process and your students will be on track to learn a new poem every month, all year long! 

Grab this year long poetry bundle to make teaching poetry in the primary classroom a breeze for you this year.

This is such a valuable and fun monthly activity to use with your students! I know everyone will look forward to it. If you want to take a closer look, be sure to check out the Year Long Pocket Chart Poetry Bundle in my TPT shop! Happy rhyming! 

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This post has everything you need to implement my go-to method for teaching poetry. Pin it on Pinterest to keep these ideas at the ready! 

Looking for ways to start teaching poetry in your classroom this year? Use these helpful tips and tricks to get you started. Be sure to grab the amazing year long seasonal resource for engaging poems you can use in your poetry units all year long for your primary students. #tarynsuniquelearning #teachingpoetryintheprimaryclassroom #teachingpoetryinelementaryschool #poemsforelementaryschool #seasonalkidspoems

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

25 Staff Prizes That Are Perfect for Scratch-Offs

Looking for a way to infuse some fun into your monthly staff meetings? Scratch-offs are a great way to boost morale and distribute staff prizes! They're inexpensive, easy to make, and can be used for a wide variety of awards. Check out these ideas to get started with scratch-offs and excite your staff month after month!

Show your staff how special you are with these 25 staff prizes to award using fun scratch-offs.

What Are Scratch-Offs? 

Scratch-offs are one of my favorite ways to recognize staff and show them they are appreciated. They're great because they can be used all year long to go along with different seasons and themes. I have a big bundle of scratch-off tickets that includes cute pictures and sayings for every month of the year. 

These printable tickets come in pre-programmed options as well as blank versions to allow for customization. You can prepare them with scratch-off paint or stickers. They work like those scratch-off lottery tickets you can find at the gas station. Simply "scratch off" the silver circle to reveal a prize! 

Prizes can be just about anything you can think of from coffee and candy to casual dress days. No matter what you choose to use as your special prize, I know your staff members will love these fun prizes! 

Scratch-offs are a fun hands-on way to recognize the hard work your staff does and treat them with amazing prizes.

How to Use Scratch-Offs for Staff Prizes

You can use these in a lot of different ways, but my favorite is to distribute them at the monthly staff meeting with all members. Everyone gets 1 scratch-off ticket per month to reveal a prize. This will allow you to manage the budget and ensure you have enough prizes for each category. If your budget is tight, select free options for most staff members and then choose only a few higher-priced prizes. 

At the end of the meeting, have everyone select a ticket and scratch off the silver circle to reveal their prize! You can have them come up to the office or a special table to redeem their ticket for a physical prize or have them turn in their ticket the day they use it for other prizes. 

You can also use these as "just because" gifts for staff throughout the year as well. Drop a few in mailboxes, leave them on desks, or hand them out personally to make staff feel valued! 

Prize Ideas for Scratch-Offs

So what do we use for prizes? So glad you asked! Here is a list of 25 prizes that vary in cost and effort to provide. Any of these options are great for scratch-offs and will help keep your staff motivated! The first 6 options on the list are already pre-programmed into my scratch-off tickets, so there's even less prep work involved. There are also blank options so you can choose your own prizes as well! Now onto the staff prizes! 

1. Prime Parking 

This one is always a favorite and it doesn't cost a dime! Allow your winners to receive a special, reserved parking spot for a week. This works best if you have a sign with the person's name on it displayed on the spot. 

A front row reserved parking space makes a great scratch off prize for your teachers and staff.

2. Class Coverage 

We all need class coverage from time to time. This prize allows the winner to have 30 minutes of class time covered for them, no questions asked! 

3. Duty Coverage 

Have your winner skip recess or lunch duty for the amount of time you decide on. In my school, the principal, or other admin usually took this shift in place of the winner. 

4. Lunch Provided

Everyone loves a free lunch! Let the winner choose a meal to have provided for them at school on a specific day. Use DoorDash, or have a volunteer pick up the meal and deliver it to the winner at lunchtime. If you have multiple lunch winners, you could also opt to have a pizza party or taco bar for winners in the staff lounge. 

Staff prizes like lunch or a special treat is a delicious way to show your staff how much you appreciate them.

5. Special Treat 

This one is similar to the idea above, but you can customize it to your liking. Either set up a special treat in the staff lounge or look through the staff favorites book to find something that the winner especially loves! 

6. Book Purchase 

Allow the winner to choose a book to be purchased with Sunshine Committee funds! This could be a personal book, a staff development book, or a choice for their own classroom library. I have even taken time to write a nice note or poem in the front of the book making it a sweet, personalized treat for that individual.

7. Coffee or Hot/Cold Drink 

This next staff prize is perfect any time of year! Let the winner choose a coffee, tea, or other beverage to have delivered to their room. 

8. Set of Pens 

 Raise your hand if you love Flair pens! Grab a few sets of pens, markers, and highlighters to keep on hand for this prize. Have staff members choose a set to keep. 

Give staff prizes that are functional like pens, markers, highlighters etc.

9. Classroom Aide for a Day 

I love this staff prize because it's super helpful for teachers who would like to conduct a special project or classroom activity. Allow the winner to choose a day to have a classroom aide to help out for a few hours. This can be a volunteer, an admin member, or an aide borrowed from another area in the school. 

10. TPT Gift Card 

Everyone LOVES this one, and why wouldn't they?! A TPT gift card is a valuable staff prize that will make everyone smile! 

11. Candy Stash 

We all need a solid candy stash in our classroom or work areas, right? If your staff member wins this prize, let them choose a few candies/chocolates of their choosing to be purchased. 

12. "Fridge" Stock Up

While most classrooms don't have an actual fridge, this is still a fun concept. Gift your staff member a case of their favorite soda, tea, sparkling water, or other beverage to keep on hand. Kick it up a notch by writing their name on the bottles or cans and placing them in the staff lounge fridge. It will be a special treat and a quick pick-me-up during the day.

A delicious treat like a special soda or drink are great staff prizes.

13. Casual/Jeans Day 

This staff prize is FREE, making it a great choice for anyone looking to stretch the budget! Your winner will get to have a casual dress day of their choosing. 

14. Notebook or Planner 

Anyone who works in a school more than likely loves paper products. Grab some nice notebooks, undated planners, or record-keeping books, and allow winners to choose one as their staff prize. 

15. Food/Coffee Gift Card 

Grab some gift cards for a local coffee house or popular lunch spot to keep on hand for this staff prize. Allow winners to choose the one they'd like to claim if their scratch-off reveals this prize!

16. Candle 

Grab an assortment of scented and unscented candles to keep in a bin or basket. Scratch-off winners can select one that they'd like to keep. 

17. Hand Soap, Lotion, or Sanitizer 

This is the same idea as above, except with hand lotion, soap, or sanitizers. I like to choose a variety of scents, and unscented options to make sure that people who have sensitive skin or allergies to fragrances can still find something they'd like to choose. 

A plant in a cute pot is a great gift that any teacher would love and it is inexpensive too.

18. Cute Classroom Plant 

Succulents, cacti, and other small plants make the cutest staff prize ever! You can often find teeny-tiny ones at the dollar store, as well as in the garden area of Target and Walmart for just a few dollars. 

19. Bulletin Board Duty 

This is another FREE option that your staff members will love! Winners will receive help swapping out a bulletin board display in their classroom or hallway. They can choose the colors, themes, and paper used and a volunteer or admin will help get it all swapped out. 

20. Teacher T-Shirt 

There are so many teacher T-shirts on Amazon, Etsy, and other online stores. Choose a couple of options and then have staff provide their shirt size to order them a custom prize! 

An amazingly motivational shirt like this is a great option for staff prizes your staff will actually love.

21. Lanyard 

Lanyards like these are a fun gift to award scratch-off winners. I like to buy a few in bulk and allow staff winners to choose one they like. 

22. Breakfast Provided 

 Provide breakfast of their choosing, or make them a breakfast basket for the week. You could include granola bars, muffins, fruit, yogurt, and oatmeal packets. 

23. Snack Stash 

Just like we all love a good candy stash, a snack stash doesn't hurt either! Check out the staff favorites book to grab your winners' favorite snacks for them to keep on hand. 

24. Cute Tote Bag or Pencil Holder 

Buy some cute tote bags in bulk to keep on hand for this staff prize. Everyone loves having something to carry their belongings to and from school! A pencil holder is another great prize that will get lots of use.

A teacher tote bag or pencil holder is a prize that will get used day after day.

25. Staff Choice Basket

This can be a basket filled with all kinds of different prizes or things on this list. Think gift cards, pens, planners, candy, and certificates for parking. Allow winners to take their pick of what they'd like to keep from the basket after revealing this prize on their scratch-off!

Grab Scratch-Offs for Staff Prizes!

I hope this list was inspiring to you and helped offer a starting place when it comes to planning staff prizes for your meetings and events. Over the years, I've found that these are such a fun and versatile way to show appreciation to staff in our school. You can find scratch-offs for every month here. Choosing seasonal and holiday options will only add to the fun and make this experience even more exciting to staff! 

Grab these scratch-offs for staff prizes bundle for year-round scratch off tickets your teachers and staff will love.

Looking for More Staff Morale Ideas? 

Check out these posts for more inspiration! 

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Pin this post on Pinterest to keep these ideas for staff prizes handy!

Looking for ways to jazz up your staff prizes this year? Use scratch off tickets paired with amazing staff prizes your teachers and staff will appreciate and look forward to throughout the school year. #tarynsuniquelearning #staffprizes #staffappreciation #staffmorale