Teacher appreciation week is just around the corner!  And because it's in Spring, I love giving flowers of some kind for Teacher appreciation.  Here are two of my favorite ways to gift flowers to teachers!

Teacher Appreciation Flower Gift

Pots of flowers are one of my favorite things to buy for myself in Spring.  And I love buying them for my mom and mother-in-law on Mother's Day and for teachers during Teacher appreciation week!

It's so easy you don't even need directions!  I just pick out a pot of flowers and add these grow tags on a wooden skewer and sign our kid's name on the back.  The one in this photo is also backed on green cardstock.

These are violas and are great for late fall or early spring in Arkansas.  For Mother's Day and Teacher Appreciation week around here I love to give pots of geraniums or impatiens because they are just so colorful and generally easy to take care of.

Teacher Appreciation Seeds Gift

I usually reserve the nice large pots of flowers for classroom teachers, but seed packets make a great small gift for teacher aids, specials teachers, or teammates! 

I grab 3 packs of seeds and tape them to a wooden skewer and put them in a small pot filled with dirt.  Then, I add the grow gift tags just like for the others and that's it!  This is an under $5 total gift that looks adorable and well thought out.

For seeds, I love to give at least one perennial packet with some annuals.  And I always look for ones that are super easy to start... like they can just be scattered in the flowerbed or pots and grow just fine.  Zinnias work great in pots and any wildflower mix looks great in larger flower beds.

Get the grow tags here and gift some spring flowers to your favorite teacher!

When I was a kid in Sunday School, we had felt pictures to go with our lessons.  Anyone else remember those??  My first few years teaching preschool, we also used felt pictures, but I was looking for something a little more up-to-date that we could use over and over.  That's when I started writing Bible Story Booklets to go with our lessons.

Each Bible Story Booklet closely matches the Bible Story script in the lesson plans, but is written in a little more kid-friendly language depending on what age it is for.

The kids love listening to the books being read and they pay attention more too!

But you may be surprised to learn that reading aloud the Bible story isn't the only way we use the Bible Story Booklets in the classroom!  Let's talk about 3 ways to use Bible Story Booklets in your Sunday School classroom.

Read Aloud the Bible Story

The first one is obvious: We use the Bible Story Booklets to read aloud the Bible story.

But first, you need to know that I'm a stickler for using the actual Bible with my preschoolers. I always have a real Bible with us when we sit down to read a story.  You can see in the photo below, that I literally keep a real Bible right there in our carpet space.

I have a Bible story script that comes almost word-for-word from scripture included in our lesson plans, but the booklet is a more kid-friendly version of that script.  The booklets are written to whichever age group the unit is for (anywhere from Preschool to 2nd).  

When I am reading the booklet, I do add in other details from the script that I think are important so they are hearing a detailed Bible story.

Retell the Bible Story

At the end of our Sunday School hour, we retell the Bible story if we have time.

To do this, we reuse the Bible Story booklets.  But, we use separate pages so that we can order them.  

No, I don't staple and unstaple and restaple the booklets.  We either make a separate copy of the booklets (sometimes half the size to save paper). 

Or, you can hole punch the books and add rings so that it's easy to take apart and put back together.

Once we have the separate pages, we are ready to order the story and retell.

With my preschoolers, I show them the page and tell them what is happening in the pictures since they cannot read yet.  Then, we lay it out in order together.  It is definitely more teacher-led for younger preschoolers!  But just remember, they are getting another chance to hear a story from Scripture. :)

For older kids, they may be able to read their page on their own and work to order it and retell.

Classroom Library Exploration Station

Just like in my first grade classroom, our Sunday School room has a classroom library.  It's one of the exploration stations I have no matter what unit we are learning!

There are tubs of books--both Bible stories and fiction trade books.  On the top shelf, I usually place the booklets from our unit or any trade books that go with our unit.  I add a new booklet to the shelf after each lesson, so that there are only books out that we have read the Bible story for.

The kids love to grab our unit Bible Story booklets, get a stuffie and "read" or orally retell the story in our cozy corner to their stuffed animal friend. :)

Have you ever played 4 corners in your classroom?

4 Corners review game is one of my favorites because it's low prep, easy to understand, and you can play it with just about anything.

What You Need To Play 4 Corners

You're about to see what I mean by low prep.  To play 4 corners, you will need...

  • 4 corners or clear spots in your room
  • word or photo labels for each corner
  • 2 or more players

Okay, that list seems like a joke, doesn't it!  But I had to write it out that way so you could understand just how low prep this review game is. 

You literally need 4 "corners" or clear spots in your room.  You can even use 5 or 6 or 3 corners depending on your skill or subject area.

And for the labels, I've been as fancy as printing off pre-made cutesy posters (like the flowers in the picture above where we just change out the pictures depending on the lesson or topic) or just scribbling out labels with the kids on construction paper.

I've played this game with small intervention groups of 5th graders, preschoolers in Sunday School, and a whole group of 25 first graders.  It works with any amount of kids and all ages!

How To Play 4 Corners

4 Corners is a review game.  So, you probably wouldn't want to use it to introduce new material unless you are just trying to assess what they know about a subject.  You want to do it in a lesson after you've introduced new skills as a review.

It's the perfect review game for wiggly kids or just kinesthetic learners who need to move! :)

First, you will go over each of the 4 ideas or skills that you will be posting in each corner.  Depending on my skill or subject I do this differently. 

If we are reviewing a story, I may hold us a picture of a character or part of the story and have kids tell me what it is.  Then, I will post it with kids in a corner of the room so they can see where it is going.

If we are reviewing vocabulary words, I would write the word on construction paper with kids, have them read the word, and then post it in the corner with them.

Once we have labeled all 4 corners of the room, we are ready to play.  We start by having kids stand up right where they are.  I call out a description of a character, a definition of a word, etc... and the kids move to the corner of the room that has the answer to my description or question.

Once they've made their choice, we discuss the question and answer until we all agree.  Sometimes, if kids go to more than one corner of the room, you will notice them start to move as you discuss the answer because they realize they made a mistake.

A few tips from experience...

  1. Have kids freeze until you say MOVE.  Keep them frozen for 5 seconds or so after you give the clue or question so everyone has think time and they aren't just following their friends.  (Some still WILL follow friends and that is okay.  The goal of this activity is repetition.  So, some of your friends just need to hear you say the question and answer over and over and that is fine for them right now.  They are building their confidence while getting the extra repetition they need.

  2. Change up how they move to the corners.  We don't run, but it is very hard to manage this if all they get to do is walk.  If you will just say, "This time HOP to the corner," and change it up for each question/clue, you will find very very few kids try to run and get out of control. :)

Ways To Use The 4 Corners Review Game

The ways to use this 4 corners review game are endless.  I have used it for every single subject area in first grade...

  • reading comprehension
  • Bible story review
  • phonics
  • parts of speech
  • types of writing
  • rhyming
  • vocab words & definitions
  • shapes
  • math operations
  • numerals (show a picture of objects to count)
  • odd/even (2 corners)
  • colors
  • animal classification
  • weather types
  • famous people
  • continents
  • landforms
  • states of matter
  • living/non-living (2 corners)
  • habitats
  • natural, capital, and human resources
And that list is just the start!

In my preschool Sunday School class we use this to review Bible stories with lots of characters to help the kids remember who is in the story. 

Like in this Esther unit, we play this game after each lesson because the same characters are in each of the stories!  And I have premade movement cards to draw before each question.

 I love doing something extra special in our Sunday School class to celebrate Easter.  We spend several weeks talking about the Christian Easter Story of Jesus' death and resurrection and even the 3-year-olds learn on their level about what Jesus did for us.  Giving them a craft or activity to take home gives them a chance to talk to Mom and Dad about the Easter story, too!

Here is my collection of my 5 favorite Easter story crafts and activities to do at church on Easter Sunday or at home as a family during the week of Easter!

Easter Bean Bag Toss Game

Print and lay out the sin cards in a cross shape.  Kids take turns naming a sin they are going to try to land on.  Then, they will toss the bean bag to see if the land on the correct one.  (Another way to play is to give a clue about a sin like, "Toss the bean bag on what we call the sin of taking things that aren't yours.")  

After the bag lands on a sin, ask, "Did Jesus die on the cross to save people from the sin of ____?" YES!  Jesus came to Earth, lived a sinless life, and died on the cross for ALL of our sins.

Find the materials for this game here and read more about how to play in this post.

Stained Glass Cross Activity

I LOVE stained glass and Easter seems like the perfect time to do this activity.

This one is as simple as it looks. Color in the pieces to create the look of stained glass.  

Since this printout has the Bible verse with it, I like to read and practice the Bible verse as we color.  For this one, we picked a crayon and colored in pieces as we said the Bible verse.  We would say the Bible verse 3 times and then change colors.  The kids would color in as many pieces (neatly) as they could during that time.

This kept our stained glass cross from having only 2 or 3 colors! ...And it was a great way to memorize scripture.  Even if you are the only once saying the verse and they are listening as they color...they are hearing God's Word over and over!

Grab this kindergarten printable here and read more about this Easter Sunday activity in this post.

Handprint Easter Resurrection Craft

This is one of the first Easter Sunday crafts I did years ago and it's still one of my very favorites.  I'm a sucker for handprint crafts. :)

I've done one with the handprint and ordering the Bible verse.  You can read more about that one at the bottom of this post.

And I've done this lots of ways over the years.  I've done this printout version with a handprint and filling in Jesus' tomb with lima beans.  You can read more about this one here and find the printout in this preschool Easter unit.

Crucifixion Bracelet Craft

Did you make salvation bracelets as a kid?  These Easter crucifixion bracelets are very similar but in the shape of a cross.

This first grade craft is perfect for this age group (they love making jewelry at this age--even the boys!).  Adding beads is great fine motor practice.

But more importantly, this is a reminder that they can wear of Jesus blood sacrifice (red beads) that washed our sins clean and white as snow (white beads). It's a fun reminder for them, and an easy tool for sharing the gospel with their friends.  

This activity is included in this 1st grade Easter Story unit and you can read more details on how to make them in this blog post.

Easter Basket Retelling Craft

This is another oldie, but goodie.  It's part of this early prek Easter story unit, so I go ahead and precut the baskets and sometimes the eggs depending on my kids.  

We order and glue the eggs together and then they spend the rest of the time coloring the basket and eggs while I help one kid at a time hot glue easter grass to the bottom of their basket.

You can find this craft in this preschool Easter Story unit.

Easter Egg Story Devotional Activities

I love doing an Easter countdown devotional at home with our kids, but I've also used this as Easter lessons in church as well.

At home, we start 9 days before Easter and read one part of the Easter story and open up an Egg that has a clue to the story we read.

Then, we make the craft and add it to the banner (or I have premade banners you can just color).  

We love having an advent devotional at Christmas time, and this pennant banner Easter countdown serves the same purpose for our family during the Easter season.

You can read about all the details in this post and find this pennant set separately here.

Decodable is the new buzz word of literacy thanks to the Science of Reading.  Decodable texts are any kind of text (lists, passages, books...) where at least 90% of the words are decodable with the focus sound or sounds previously learned.

I first fell back in love with decodable texts 4 years ago when I was doing a maternity leave in kindergarten.  Kids were using their decoding skills to read, making connections to new phonics skills they learned, and searching for heart words in their texts.  But most importantly, they were GROWING readers.  By leaps and bounds.  In 12 weeks, I saw growth like I'd never seen in 10 years of teaching first grade because it was so widespread with so many kids making amazing progress.

But decodable isn't just a buzz word.  It's a must have in your primary classroom.  If you want your reading instruction to be aligned to the Science of Reading, then you better invest in decodable texts.  And once you get started, you'll find there are SO many ways to use them in your classroom.  Let's talk about just 5 ways to use decodable texts in your primary classroom.

Whole Group Reading

This is how I first started using them during my 12 week job in Kinder!  At the end of our phonics lesson on Wednesday, I pulled out one of our decodable books that focused on the sound we were learning.  I read the book aloud to the kids on the carpet using our ELMO projector.  

Then, we reviewed the expectations.  They were to read their book one time.  Then, go back and highlight the focus sound and circle the sight words listed on the front of the book.  Then, they were to read the book two more times.  

When they finished this routine (read, highlight, circle, read, read), then they could illustrate their pictures. 

While the kids were working, I circled around to each table and listened in on as many kids as I could read the text.  I had a class list with the title of the book and I recorded how the kids were reading that I had listened to on this recording sheet

TEACHER TIP:  If I was listening to a kid who was just copying how the friend beside her was reading, I would ask her to start back at the beginning or a previous page for me. :)

When our time was finished (this took about 15-20 total minutes), the kids would put the booklets in their book boxes to read when they finished other work early.  

Targeted Reading Groups

The nice thing about doing the on grade level decodable book as a whole group is I could quickly see who was thriving or struggling with the on grade level text.   At the end of our reading time, I quickly analyzed the running records and wrote notes for who needed what.

I used our Wednesday small group time to pull kids that were struggling.  Sometimes, we did some extra word work using making words with the focus sound.  

Sometimes, we practice our heart words.  

Depending on what my running record showed they were struggling with.  Depending on the amount of strugglers and the reasons the struggled, I might have 1-3 groups of kids to meet with.

We start with some skill practice (making words or sight words) for 5 minutes or less.  Then, we get our same booklet and reread together.  Then, I let them independently read by stagger starting them and listen in as they each read.  

For kids that read the decodable reader with at least 95% accuracy, but maybe weren't fluent, I would note that during our whole group time and pull them to reread and practice fluency.  For kids who were fluent, I might try the matching passage that is the same text as the book, but in a passage form without pictures!

Each reading group would be 10-15 minutes.  Short and targeted so that I could meet with as many kids as possible.  I was almost always able to meet with all of my kids to reinforce our focus skill, or work on fluency or even comprehension for higher kids.

RTI/Intervention Time

You might be thinking.... isn't that what you just described for small groups?  

And, yes, it is!

But that was just for the on grade level focus sound for that week.

Other days of the week, my small group time is spent filling decoding gaps or extending kids as needed.  I pull kids that maybe are still struggling on last week's skill....or the first week of school's skill.... IYKYK... :)  I keep all of our decodable books close to our reading group area so I can get to the book I need quickly and with little prep!

So how did I keep up with who needed what and how often and who I met with and didn't meet with and, and, and...???  That's all in detail in this nuts and bolts blog post.  

How do I figure all of the groups and their focuses out?   By ASSESSING!!  And that's the next way I use decodable texts in the classroom!

Assessing Decoding and Phonics Skills

Assessing is key to getting the most out of your small group or intervention time.  And if we want to know the decoding holes or gaps students have, then we have to use decoding assessments.

My favorite decoding assessments are these screeners.  I love that they are quick and easy to see the exact phonics skills kids are doing well, and the holes we need to fill.

I also assess our current focus skill on Fridays during small group time using these decodable checkups that come with each set of decodable readers.

Take Home Reading

The last way (I'm chatting about in this post anyway!) to use decodable readers in the classroom is to send them out of the classroom....HOME!

I've sent books home for parents to read after reading with them in class or in a group so that parents can stay involved.  

And I've also heard from many teachers who love sending the books or passages or wordlists home to parents who are asking for extra work!

So where can you find a TON of targeted decodable readers for kindergarten through second grade?  Shop all of the individual sets here!

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