You’ve finished your contest and publicized your winners. Most schools also hold a recognition event for presenting awards and participation ribbons and celebrating all Reflections participants. What does that entail?
Depending on your PTA’s schedule and resources, you can make this as simple or as elaborate as you want. Students love being recognized and applauded for their achievements and are eager to receive medals, ribbons, or other awards. Click here for tips and resources for choosing awards to present and figuring out where to get them.
You can do a stand-alone Reflections Awards program, or you can add it before the start of a PTA meeting or other activity. Some schools incorporate Reflections into their general student award ceremonies. It can take place at school or any convenient venue, either during the school day or on an evening or weekend, depending again on your PTA’s budget and other restrictions. You can invite parents, school district staff, your Reflections judges, and members of the community, as well as students and teachers.
Some Reflections chairs ask a school principal, a popular teacher, or a school board member to present the awards or to speak briefly to the audience. Try to get help from PTA officers, other parents, and older students. The parents of your winners may be a good bet for volunteers to help put together your awards ceremony.
But the focus should be on the students. If possible, include live student performances of one or more of your winning dance or music entries, or have a Literature winner read a winning poem. If you can’t get students to perform live (or in addition to the live performances) consider playing for the audience one or more of your recorded entries: music, dance, or film.
You probably can’t show performances of all of your winning entries. In choosing which ones to highlight, take into consideration which entries are being advanced to the next level; people want to be wowed by your students’ best work. (You saved copies; didn’t you? If not, check with the city Reflections chair, who may have them.)
But don’t automatically assume only 1st Place winners should perform their entries live. It’s best to show off a wide range of entries, and some entries are more appropriate for live performances than others. Try for a mix of different age groups; if you have a 5th-grader perform her winning dance, you might choose a 1st-grader to read his winning poem. If your 1st Place Literature winner is a 1,500-word short story, it probably won’t work well to read aloud; see if your 2nd Place winner has written something that’s more appropriate. And remember that Dance Choreography and Music Composition entries by very young children are often created spontaneously during recording; the students might not be able to re-create their winning entries for a performance.
If possible, display your Photography and Visual Arts entries, as well. You might be able to hang them on the wall, set them out on easels borrowed from the art department, or just leave them spread out on tables for people to enjoy.
A printed program is a nice touch, even if it’s just a single sheet run off on a school photocopier. Include the names of your winners, if possible, and maybe even all participants. If you’ve got the budget (or can fund it by selling ads) you can reproduce some of the winning entries in it.
Offering refreshments is certainly not necessary, but it may increase turnout. You could provide something as simple as a few grocery-store trays of cookies, fruit, or cheese, or go all out and have a local restaurant cater an array of tempting finger foods. Whether to have food and what to offer will depend on your timing and budget. If you do offer refreshments, focus on kid-friendly choices that are easy to eat while standing and that won’t make too much of a mess. Remember that food allergies are common, and plan accordingly.
The National PTA publishes a guide to planning your recognition event, available here: