All Posts By

Melissa Nikohl

  • Picture Books for Women’s History Month

    Check out these picture books perfect for Women's History Month.
    Check out these picture books perfect for Women's History Month.

    Are you looking for picture books for Women’s History Month? Then, this list of diverse picture books is perfect for you! What makes this list special is that many of these women aren’t well known and their stories need to be shared. 

    Many of us currently benefit from their hard work and sacrifices. These women are incredible!

    I will update this list as I find more books! Follow me on Instagram to get updates and ideas for other picture books! If there’s a book you think I should add, comment below!

    Just a friendly reminder, I am an Amazon Affiliate, so if you decided to use the links below to purchase the books, I do get a commission. The price of the books does not change for you. ❤️

     


     

    She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story

    Effa Manley (1897-1981)  was a civil rights activist and the owner of the Negro League Team, the Newark Eagles. ⁣

    Effa took good care of her players and made sure they got the respect and recognition they deserved long after they left her team. ⁣

    Effa was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.⁣

    As someone who grew up in a city that loves baseball (St. Louis), I enjoyed this book.⁣

    I also loved this book because it is illustrated by my favorite illustrator, Don Tate. My school actually owns a copy of this book signed by him! How cool is that?

     

    Mother Jones and Her Army of Mill Children

    Mary G. Harris Jones, better known as Mother Jones (?-1930) is furious that children are working in factories to help their families make ends meet. ⁣

    She is disgusted that children are getting hurt and sometimes disabled because of the back-breaking work they are doing. ⁣

    In 1903, Mother Jones decided that enough is enough, so she and 100 children begin marching to Theodore Roosevelt’s summer home to protest child labor laws. ⁣

    Although this protest did not end child labor, it did help bring awareness and, of course, child labor became illegal eventually.⁣

    This book is written in first person, and you feel the wrath of Jones. That’s what makes it so good! My students really enjoyed this book!⁣

    Ready to Fly: How Sylvia Townsend Became the Bookmobile Ballerina

    Sylvia Townsend taught herself how to dance with books from a bookmobile!🩰⁣⁣
    ⁣⁣
    Growing up in the 1950s, Sylvia faced many obstacles, but it didn’t keep her from dancing.⁣⁣
    ⁣⁣
    Ready to Fly is a great story, and the illustrations are gorgeous!⁣⁣
    ⁣⁣
    The back of the book has a brief history of bookmobiles and pictures of how they’ve changed over time. ⁣⁣

     

     

    Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines

    Maya Lin (1959-) is the architect who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. ⁣

    Maya won the national contest that decided who would create the memorial. Although she won the contest, when others found out that Maya created the design, they were not happy that she won. They like that an Asian woman had won. Critics also said they didn’t understand her design. 

    Maya proved her unique design had meaning and was a perfect way to honor Vietnam Veterans.

    I loved that there are tons of figurative language in this book; it gave us plenty of opportunities to practice!

     

    Fearless Mary: Mary Fields, American Stagecoach Driver

    Do you know the story of the first Black woman to become a mail carrier?⁣

    In 1895, Mary Fields (1832-1914) took the job of driving a stagecoach in the Wild West!⁣

    Mary would do whatever it took to make sure her cargo was delivered safely. She fought off wolves and thieves. And she had no problem traveling the dangerous mountain trails.⁣

    She even had a pet eagle to help protect her and her packages!⁣

    We had a great time learning about this unsung hero!

     

    All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything 

    Do you know a little girl helped convince Congress to pass the American with Disabilities Act (ADA)?⁣

    That disability activist is Jennifer Keelan (1981-).⁣

    Jennifer Keelan was born with cerebral palsy and found out very quickly that it was not easy to get around in a wheelchair.⁣

    In 1987, when Jennifer was only six years old, she joined her first protest. This would be her first of many.⁣

    She was arrested at a protest in 1988.😲⁣

    All the Way to the Top is an excellent story about a courageous little girl that helped pass a law that made sure people with disabilities have access to the world.⁣

     

    Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers

    Many people know Cesar Chavez, but they don’t know the woman behind the scenes that made everything happen.  Dolores Huerta (1930-) is the little known civil rights activist who fought for the safety of migrant workers. 

    PBS produced an incredible documentary about her if you want to learn more.

     

    Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees

    Wangari Maathai (1940-2011) is known as the woman who planted 30 million trees and the FIRST African woman to win the Noble Peace Prize.⁣

    Wangari Maathai earned a scholarship to attend college in the U.S., along with hundreds of other Africans from then-Senator John F. Kennedy. When she returned to Kenya, Wangari noticed that the trees were gone. Animals were becoming endangered and the soil wasn’t good for crops. ⁣

    When Britain colonized Kenya, they cut down a lot of their trees to sell and use Kenya’s resources. The deforestation continued after Britain was overthrown so, Wangari began her fight to return Kenya to the beautiful country it once was by organizing the planting of millions of trees. 

     

    Ice Breaker: How Mabel Fairbanks Changed Figure Skating

    Mabel Fairbanks (1915-2001) was a Black and Native American figure skater. Mabel was denied opportunities to compete in competitions and qualifying events for the Olympics because of the color of her skin.

    She found ways to keep skating by performing in shows and she eventually became a coach to little-known and well-known (Scott Hamilton and Kristi Yamaguchi) figure skaters.  

    In 1997, she would become the first Black woman inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame. 

     

    Lizzie Demands a Seat!: Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights

    Everyone has heard of Rosa Parks, but have you heard of Elizabeth Jennings (1827-1901)?⁣⁣
    ⁣⁣
    In 1854, Elizabeth Jennings lived in New York City and tried boarding a streetcar but was brutally denied. ⁣⁣
    ⁣⁣
    Lizzie Demands a Seat, takes us through Elizabeth’s fight for equal rights on public transportation.⁣⁣

     

    Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom

    Wu Chien Shiung (1912-1997) was a Chinese physicist. ⁣

    Her parents made sure she was adequately educated, even if that meant she had to live far away from them. Chien Shiung developed a passion for math and eventually, physics very quickly! She would sneak and read her friends’ textbooks to learn everything she could. ⁣

    Chien Shiung means courageous hero, and it was fitting. She would lead an underground group to fight against the Chinese government even though she could have been punished or killed. ⁣

    She eventually moved to the United States, where she continued her study of physics. Chien Shiung helped many scientists with their research that earned them Nobel Prizes. She never got credit for her work. ⁣

    Although Chien Shiung never got the appropriate recognition, she definitely was a trailblazer.⁣

    She was the first female instructor at Princeton University.⁣
    She was the first female president of The American Physical Society.⁣
    She was the first person to receive the Wolf Prize in Physics. ⁣

    She rightfully earned the nickname Queen of Physics.⁣

     

    Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement 

    Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977) was a civil rights leader who was determined to make a change. Her story is heartbreaking, but it was why she constantly fought for equal rights for the Black community.

    This is an excellent book that I highly recommend for parents and teachers to read. This book contains content and language that is more appropriate for older elementary/middle school students. You should use your best judgment if you’re reading this to your students.

    Fun fact, my cousin is related to her!

     

    Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis’ Fleet-of-Foot Girl

    Althea Gibson was the first Black tennis player to win Wimbledon, the French and U.S. Open title. 🎾⁣

    Althea was known to be strong on and off the court, which made her the perfect person to tear down barriers in the game of tennis.⁣

    She also would become the first Black golfer in the Ladies Professional Golf Association! 🏌️‍♀️⁣

     

    What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan 

    Barbara Jordan (1936-1996) was a former congresswoman who began her career as a lawyer and ended it as an educator.⁣

    She is known for her powerful voice; her most well-known speech was probably her opening speech for Richard Nixon’s impeachment investigation.⁣

    In Texas, you can find many schools named in her honor. ⁣

    The illustrations in this book are gorgeous, and it’s written by one of my favorite authors! ⁣

     

    Ruth Objects: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020) was a lawyer and a Supreme Court Justice (1993-2020)

    Isn’t the cover dope?⁣

    Ruth Objects takes us back to her childhood. We learn how she earned her position in the highest court in the U.S.

    If you like this list of diverse books, you’ll love The Ultimate List of Diverse Picture Books. There are over 250 books to use in the classroom and home libraries.

    Are you looking for diverse picture books to add to your classroom or home library? Do you want to add diverse picture books to your collection, but you don’t have time to search for them? Are you a teacher that wants to use more diverse texts but are unsure how they will fit in with your units or curriculum? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need this list! #diversepicturebooks #diverseclassroomlibraries #diversebooksforkids

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  • Black History Books for Beginning Readers

    BLACK HISTORY BOOKS FOR BEGINNING READERS
    BLACK HISTORY BOOKS FOR BEGINNING READERS

    The 2020-2021 school year is my first year teaching first grade. I’ve always taught upper elementary or middle school. The first thing I’ve noticed is how hard it is to find nonfiction picture books for lower elementary students. Especially books that highlight leaders in Black history. If you’re here you’ve probably run into the same problem! 

    Your learners may not be ready to read these books independently, but they are simple enough that they can learn new information in one sitting. Okay, well there’s one that may take longer, but it is a necessary addition to the list!

    Do me one favor, promise me that you will incorporate Black history throughout the school year, not just in February. These stories can be told all year long!

    I will update this list as I find more books! Follow me on Instagram to get updates and ideas for other picture books! If there’s a book you think I should add, comment below!

    If you like this list of books, you’ll love The Ultimate List of Diverse Picture Books. There are over 250 books to use in the classroom and home libraries. 

    Just a friendly reminder, I am an Amazon Affiliate, so if you decided to use the links below to purchase the books, I do get a commission. The price of the books does not change for you. ❤️

    Carter Reads a Newspaper


    Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson (1875-1950) was a historian that dug for the facts. He collected information so that he could share African and Black 

    American history with the world. Dr. Woodson eventually created Negro History Week, which would ultimately become Black History Month. This book gives us a glimpse of his life and work. The illustrations are done by my favorite illustrator, Don Tate.

    This is the only book on this list that may take longer than one sitting to read. But, I felt that it was important to include it. 

    Ron’s Big Mission

    Before Ron McNair (1950-1986) became a physicist and astronaut, he was just a kid who loved to read. This story is about when Ron had enough of the discriminatory laws and did what he had to do.

    WHOOSH!: LONNIE JOHNSON’S SUPER-SOAKING STREAM OF INVENTIONS 


    If you don’t know Lonnie Johnson, I KNOW you’ve played with his invention, the Super Soaker. Lonnie Johnson (1949-) is a former NASA engineer ad has over 120 patents! This book is about how he followed his passions and ended up creating one of the most popular toys to this day! 

    Mae Among The Stars

    Mae Jemison (1956-) is an engineer, a physicist, and is the first African-American woman to travel to space. This book tells a story about how her dream of becoming an astronaut began as a little girl. Although her parents are supportive, her teacher and classmates are not. She sure did prove them wrong!

    A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put American on the Moon


    Katherine Johnson (1918-2020) This book is all about Katherine Johnson’s journey to become the mathematician that helped the United States win the space race and saved Apollo 13.

    Trombone Shorty


    Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews (1986-) is a New Orleans musician, known for playing the trombone and trumpet. As a child, he wanted to be in a band so bad he started one with his neighborhood friends. In this book, we learn how he got his big break!

    Ice Breaker: How Mabel Fairbanks Changed Figure Skating


    Mabel Fairbanks (1915-2001) was a figure skater denied the right to compete in many competitions including the Olympics because she was Black. Although she was unable to compete to show the world her talent, Fairbanks took up coaching to help children of all backgrounds.

    Ready to Fly: How Sylvia Townsend Became the Bookmobile Ballerina


    After watching Swan Lake on t.v., Sylvia Townsend decides she wanted to learn ballet. Getting lessons wasn’t easy so she taught herself how to dance with books from a bookmobile! I LOVE this book! 

    Fearless Mary: Mary Fields, American Stagecoach Driver

    Do you know the story of the first Black woman to become a mail carrier?⁣

    In 1895, Mary Fields (1832-1914)  took the job of driving a stagecoach in the Wild West!⁣

    Mary would do whatever it took to make sure her cargo was delivered safely. She fought off wolves and thieves. And she had no problem traveling the dangerous mountain trails.⁣

    She even had a pet eagle to help protect her and her packages!⁣

     

     

    Want more diverse books to add to your library? Check out this list below.

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  • Diverse Social-Emotional Picture Books

    Check out these diverse social emotional picture books.

    Check out these diverse social emotional picture books.

    I love social-emotional picture books. They are a great way to get kids talking about their feelings. What I love about this list of books is that all kids can see themselves represented in these books.

    I will update this list as I find more books! Follow me on Instagram to get updates and ideas for other books to read at home or at school! If there’s a book you think I should add, comment below!

    Just a friendly reminder, I am an Amazon Affiliate, so if you decided to use the links below to purchase the books, I do get a commission. The price of the books does not change for you. ❤️

     

    The Problem With Problems by Rachel Rooney

    Who doesn’t need help solving their problems?⁣

    The Problem with Problems helps kids recognize problems and share how to work through them.⁣

    A Little Space for Me by Jennifer Gray Olson

    We all need space sometimes. Even kids.⁣

    A Little Space For Me helps kids figure out what to do when they just want to be alone.⁣

    Allie All Along by Sarah Lynne Reul

    This book is so cute!!!⁣

    Allie breaks her crayon and is furious!⁣

    She’s so mad she’s unrecognizable.⁣ I can relate!😂

    Allie’s brother gives her different strategies to work through her anger and she eventually is herself again.⁣

    This is a great book to teach kiddos how to calm down when they are mad.⁣

    Being Frank by Donna W. Earnhardt

    THIS BOOK IS HILARIOUS!⁣⁣
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    Frank is too frank and is offending everyone with his honesty. ⁣⁣
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    Frank has zero tact. Zero chill. Frank is off the chain. ⁣⁣
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    With him offending everyone, he of course ends up alone.⁣⁣
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    One day he has a talk with his grandpa and learns how to kindly tell the truth. ⁣⁣⁣

    I’m Gonna Push Through by Jasmyn Wright

    This book is all about teaching perseverance.

    The Thank You Letter by Jane Cabrera

    This book was definitely an easy read for my 5th graders, but it was a great book to teach them about showing gratitude.⁣⁣
    ⁣⁣
    When we got done reading, I had the students write thank you notes for people they’re thankful for and gifts they received over the winter break.⁣⁣

    The Proudest Blue by  Ibtihaj Muhammad

    “Don’t carry around the hurtful words that others say. Drop them. They are not your words to keep. They belong only to those who said them.”⁣

    This is my favorite quote in this book. What a beautiful message that we ALL need to hear. ⁣

    It is the first day of school for sisters, Asiya and Faizah. What makes this day even more special is that it is Asiya’s first day wearing her hijab. ⁣

    Proudest Blue was a great book that is written by Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad.⁣

    Mindful Day by Deborah Hopkinson

    Mindful Day is a great book to remind us all to slow down and be thankful. ⁣⁣

    Check out The Ultimate List of Diverse Picture Books if you are looking to add more diverse picture books to your classroom or home library!

    Are you looking for diverse picture books to add to your classroom or home library? Do you want to add diverse picture books to your collection, but you don’t have time to search for them? Are you a teacher that wants to use more diverse texts but are unsure how they will fit in with your units or curriculum? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need this list! #diversepicturebooks #diverseclassroomlibraries #diversebooksforkids

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  • Nonfiction Books Perfect for Kindergarten to Second Grade

    Are you looking for nonfiction books for primary grades? Check out these informational texts perfect for kindergarten to second grade. These books are perfect for teaching text features too.
    Are you looking for nonfiction books for primary grades? Check out these informational texts perfect for kindergarten to second grade. These books are perfect for teaching text features too.

    Are you looking for non-fiction texts for lower elementary students?

    Well, I have a solution for you!

    Red Chair Press has a fantastic collection of diverse biographies that are perfect for beginning readers.

    Some of the subjects are well-known, while others not so much. There are a few I didn’t know, like Prima Ballerina, Maria Tallchief, and Senator Daniel Inouye. 

    Oh, and I LOVE how the Cesar Chavez book didn’t leave out Dolores Huerta. I think she needs her own book (wink, wink). 

    Over the last few years, the amount of diverse biographies and literary non-fiction available on bookshelves has exploded. Unfortunately, they often leave out the little guys. Many of the books are too long or too complicated for younger readers. 

    This is what makes these beginner biographies a perfect choice. 

    They are bite-sized, but FULL of information!

    What I  also appreciate about these books is that they are full of text features. Having age-appropriate books to model what non-fiction text features look like is so bomb to me!

    Don’t believe me? Check them out below!

    I already have tons of ideas of how I can use them in my classroom! I’ll share a few of those ideas with you soon!

    Go check out this amazing collection from Red Chair Press!

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  • 3 Tips for Instructional Coaches From a Teacher

    Are you an instructional coach? Check out these tips for instructional coaches from a teacher! These tips will help you build the relationships you need to be successful! #instructionalcoach #tipsforteachers #tipsforinstructionalcoaches

    I’m not a fan of instructional coaches. Honestly, it is because, in my almost 11 years of teaching, I’ve never had one that helped me grow as an educator. I know amazing coaches exist; I’ve just never experienced one. So, this post is pretty much my wishlist that can help you become a stronger coach for your team.

    Be Trustworthy

    People don’t respond to people they don’t trust. Make your staff trust you by simply being honest. If you don’t know an answer to a question or how to do something, be honest about it. We know coaches are human, but nothing is more frustrating than to be given inaccurate information or the run around simply because they don’t have answers or solutions.

    If you make a mistake, own it and fix it. If fixing it means teachers will have to do more work, then you should do the work to make it right. I’ve had coaches that have caused minor to big mistakes and then not own up to it and then blame someone else! Do you think I trusted those coaches? Heck no! Our relationship was forever damaged. I lost respect for them, and nothing they did moving forward was credible. 

    Finally, keep your word. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. I had a coach tell my team they would help us test our kids. We were like cool! They are actually going to help us! When team members reached out for their help, guess what, they didn’t do it and then told my teammates to take care of it themselves. 

    Establishing trust is the best way to get your team on your side. It establishes credibility. You can deliver excellent information, but if your team doesn’t trust you, they won’t receive it. Teachers won’t apply what you’ve given them, and you’ll never get the results you want. 

    Be Supportive

    I mean, really be supportive. Don’t just give the line, if you need anything let me know. Because chances are, they won’t. There are so many ways you can be supportive. Think back to when you were a teacher. What did support look like to you and your team? Here are some different ways you can be supportive.

    1. Print off resources like tests, scantrons, centers
    2. Provide a bank of resources
    3. Do something for the teachers that they don’t have time to do
    4. Eliminate tasks when possible
    5. Provide solutions to problems
    6. Be open to feedback
    7. Be flexible with deadlines when possible
    8. Set reasonable deadlines
    9. Have clear expectations
    10. Provide examples
    11. Send friendly reminders

    Teachers have always had a lot on their plate, and there’s even more now. If you can find a way to support them and make their job a little easier, your team will appreciate you more than you know. 

    Be Passionate

    There’s nothing worse than an unmotivated and lackadaisical instructional coach. If you aren’t passionate about your job, then why should teachers respect you. I’ve actually had coaches tell me they took the position because they got tired of all the hard work that comes with being a classroom teacher. This is the biggest slap in the face. Not only were they flaunting that they are doing less work for more money, they let me know they didn’t take their position seriously. Them becoming a coach was a way to escape the classroom. Any position in education has to be executed with passion. We are directly impacting the quality of our students’ futures. 

    I hope this post helps current and future coaches meet the needs of the teachers they support. I know there are awesome coaches out there, but there are some bad seeds yall. Really bad. And some of us have, unfortunately, had the experience of working with them. The most important take away is to make sure you are building great relationships with your team if you want your team to give you the results you need. 

     

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  • Four Ways to Make Virtual Learning Engaging

    Are you teaching remotely? Are you having trouble keeping students in your virtual classroom engaged? Virtual learning doesn't have to be boring! Check out these tips to make your virtual classroom more engaged! #remotelearning #distancelearning #virtualclassroom #remoteteaching

    Are you teaching remotely? Are you having trouble keeping students in your virtual classroom engaged? Virtual learning doesn't have to be boring! Check out these tips to make your virtual classroom more engaged!  #remotelearning #distancelearning #virtualclassroom #remoteteaching

    Keeping students engaged in a virtual classroom is a challenge, but it is possible. Our engagement level is making students excited to join our live lessons or thinking about skipping.

    While I don’t have 100% attendance for each class (I’m self-contained), I do see all of my students at some point during the day. Check out some of my engagement tactics and start using them in your virtual classroom this week!

    Ditch the Routine

    Routines are king in a physical classroom, but they can get old real quick online. If students know what to expect, they are less engaged and less likely to show up, especially if no one is making them. I usually keep the same routine for a week and then change it up. 

    Here’s what I mean by mixing it up. 

    Week 1

    1. Sight Word Practice
    2. Phonics practice
    3. Short vowel practice
    4. Part of speech practice
    5. Writing practice

    Week 2

    1. Introduce Reading Skill of the Week
    2. Read Aloud, Applying Skill of the Week
    3. Sight Word Practice

    I’ve noticed, if each week the kids don’t know what to expect, then my virtual attendance is better. And they have more fun because we aren’t doing the same thing every week. To reinforce what we did during Week 1, I have students complete Seesaw assignments on those skills, aka virtual centers.

    Allow Noise

    Let them unmute themselves all at once a couple of times a day. Are they going to hear you? No, but this shouldn’t be a time when they need to hear you. Ask for a group response and tell them all to unmute themselves to respond.

    I know this sounds chaotic, but it works. And if you let students know that they need to mute themselves once they respond, they will! Set your ground rules first. If my first graders can do it, so can yours!

    I let my students unmute themselves when we are reviewing sight words, counting, and other times when I don’t need to hear them clearly. Is it noisy, yep. But this allows them to be loud and silly. AKA, they are engaged.

    In upper grades, you could have them echo read. That way, they hear it once clearly, and then they can read it together.

    Vary What is On Their Screen

    This is an absolute MUST! Your students do not want to look at that perfect slide show every day for every lesson! That is so boring, ya’ll. And I know some teachers are doing this because ya’ll are super proud of them, showing them all over social media. Lol. And look, we do need slide shows, but that should not make up your entire lesson.

    So, give them some variety. Show your face, show your hands working with manipulatives or writing, show a short video, show their work, make them the spotlight when answering a question. Changing up what they see is an easy way to keep them engaged.

    Add Music

    Music can make anything more engaging, especially virtual learning! Here are some ways you can infuse music into your virtual class.

    • Play music before class starts. I ask students to log-on 3-4 minutes before class; during this time, I play music while waiting for class to start.
    • Use music as a timer. If I give the students time to work on something independently, I’ll tell them they have until the end of the song to get it done. They love this! At first, they dance more than work, but once they realize I won’t give them extra time, they get the work done. 
    • Use music as a brain break. Although our live lessons aren’t extremely long, I can read my virtual classroom and see that I need to re-engage them. This works like a charm.

    We are not able to teach as much content online as we are in-person. So, ensuring that students are engaged in learning is important. Your students aren’t going to want to join your virtual class if you put them to sleep. Use these tips to keep students virtually engaged!

    What are some ways you’re keeping students engaged online?

     

  • How Teachers Can Build Relationships With Parents During Remote Learning

    Teachers, we have to make sure we are building strong relationships with parents while teaching online. Parents are the ones at home, making sure students are participating in remote learning. Parents are helping us make remote teaching possible. Get tips on how to make your virtual classroom more successful. Check out the blog post, How Teachers Can Build Relationships With Parents During Remote Learning. #parentinvolvement #virtualteaching #remoteteaching #remotelearning

    Teachers, we have to make sure we are building strong relationships with parents while teaching online. Parents are the ones at home, making sure students are participating in remote learning.    Parents are helping us make remote teaching possible.  Get tips on how to make your virtual classroom more successful. Check out the blog post, How Teachers Can Build Relationships With Parents During Remote Learning.   #parentinvolvement #virtualteaching #remoteteaching #remotelearning

    Teachers around the world are working harder than ever before. Some of us are struggling to learn new technology while delivering quality instruction. We are trying to figure out what to teach online and how to package it so students can understand virtually. Some teachers are now teaching online and in-person. And it is a lot. For many of us, there are people in our community who are helping us out tremendously. Especially with elementary students, our kiddos’ parents.

    If you want remote learning to work for you, you have to build relationships with your students’ parents.

    In previous school years, some of us made it optional to communicate regularly with parents. This school year is forcing many of us to communicate with parents more than ever before.

    Here are some tips for building relationships with parents.

    Minimize Your Communication with Parents

    Parents do NOT want your daily emails or messages. They are not their child’s personal assistant. Sure, most parents want regular communication, but they do not want daily reports. Seriously, just say NO! They are not reading your daily messages, and you are annoying them. AKA, you are becoming unlikeable. This is not what you want in a high-stress time.

    Some parents have multiple children, or their child has numerous teachers, so imagine if more than one teacher is reaching out to them throughout the week. How many emails and messages do you think they’ve received?

    Parents are also working a full-time job, many from home. Think about how many emails they are getting from work.

    I message parents at maximum twice a week. Lately, it’s only been once, on Fridays or Mondays. I prefer Friday’s because I can recap the week and share all the announcements that need at the end of the week. I’ve learned if I message them on Monday, then I had to email them on Friday to share anything that happened during the week. So emailing on Friday’s has cut out an extra email.

    There are special circumstances that require me to message more than twice a week, like if my principal needs us to deliver a message to parents immediately. And if that is the case, I make it very clear that the news is not coming from me.

    Although I keep my communication with parents minimal, I make sure they know they can always reach out to me.

    Have Routines and Procedures that Allow Students to be Self Sufficient

    When we were thrown into remote teaching, I wanted to make things easy enough that students could get their work done with little to no support from their parents. When the school year ended, I had a few parents thank me for making things simple enough that students could do work on their own.

    So, this school year, I had to keep that same energy! Even though now I have first graders (last year I had 5th), we are entering our fifth week of school, and my students can do most of it on their own. Of course, they need help to know what time to get online, but they can log onto Zoom by themselves. They’re able to complete assignments on their own. I’m still working on making instructions simple enough for six-year-olds, but I’m getting better each week.

    Express Gratitude

    Are we working harder than we would if we were in classrooms? Yes. But, the parents have to do extra work too. So, every once in a while, say thank you. Let them know you appreciate their help. Pre-COVID, being kind to parents and recognizing what they’ve done helped me build positive relationships.

    Think about when you’re doing something to help someone, and they don’t say thank you. Aren’t you less likely to help in the future? You don’t have to say thank you every day. But genuinely let them regularly see that you appreciate them.

    Speaking with parents about their children can be intimidating. But, we all know that when teachers and parents work together, the students are more successful. This cheat sheet will help you build relationships and increase students' growth. You won't have any issues regularly communicating with parents! Grab your cheat sheet and increase parent engagement this school year!

    Use a Communication App

    Communication apps like Remind, Class Dojo, and Seesaw are excellent apps to use if you want to make communicating with parents super easy. Email is cool, but think about how many times you told a parent you’ve sent them an email and they never opened it. The apps can be installed on their phone so they get a message from you like a text, or they can set up their account to have messages sent to their email. It’s the best of both worlds.

    I love using a communication app right now because my email inbox is popping. My district email sends out the district emails to another folder, so sometimes, I don’t see parent emails right away. Using an app keeps all my parent messages in one spot.

    And if you aren’t a fan of adding an app to your phone, all the above mention apps work well on the computer.

    For more information on communication apps, check out my blog posts 3 REASONS WHY TEACHERS SHOULD USE A PARENT COMMUNICATION APP THIS SCHOOL YEAR & 5 WAYS TEACHERS SHOULD USE A PARENT COMMUNICATION APP THIS SCHOOL YEAR.

    Look guys; we need parents. We’ve always needed them. If you haven’t made parent communication a priority, then it may be awkward at first. Use remote learning as an opportunity to make your parent communication become a strength.

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  • Tips For Veteran Teachers Teaching Remotely

    Are you a veteran teacher? Are you looking for tips to help you teach remotely? Check out this blog post to help all veteran teachers teach virtually. #remoteteaching #virtualteaching

    Are you a veteran teacher? Are you looking for tips to help you teach remotely? Check out this blog post to help all veteran teachers teach virtually. #remoteteaching #virtualteaching

    If I can vent to you real quick, COVID has destroyed my blogging plans. Last year, I made tons of back to school content that I planned to reuse this school year. When I created the videos, blog posts, and tutorials, I thought it would be seasonal content that will never not (double negative to emphasize my confidence 🤣) be relevant.

    Welp. We know how that turned out. 

    I’m telling you this because we are used to things being done a certain way at the beginning of the school year. But everything has changed. Everything is new. 

    Here are three things that ALL veteran teachers need to know, including me.

    We are all new; let go of what you’ve always done.

    We are all new; be open to learning.

    We are all new; be okay with being new again.

    I know in a traditional class setting, we know how to get things done. We know how to kick off the school year. We are experts at back to school night. 

    But, guys, this school year, we are not the experts. We are not veterans; we are all new. 

    We have to humble ourselves and be open to learning new things. 

    We have to complain less.

    We have to be flexible.

    We have to share what we learn.

    We have to support each other.

    We have to be okay with making mistakes.

    We have to create better relationships with parents.

    We have to be considerate.

    We have to be understanding.

    We have to be less critical.

    We have to be safe.

    A year ago, if you told me we would be starting the school year online due to a pandemic, I would have called you a big fat liar and called you crazy. Heck, if you told me this in February, I would have laughed in your face.

    The wonderful thing about being a veteran during this time is that we have years of experience of being flexible and taking whatever comes at us and making it great. 

    We will all make this the best school year we can. 

    Take care y’all.

    Melissa

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  • Virtual Read Aloud Tips for Teachers

    Teaching remotely has changed a lot of what we would normally do in our classrooms. Read alouds are still a practice that should be continued while we are teaching remotely. Check out these tips to make your virtual read alouds engaging and fun for your students. #remoteteaching #readalouds #virtualteaching

    Teaching remotely has changed a lot of what we would normally do in our classrooms. Read alouds are still a practice that should be continued while we are teaching remotely. Check out these tips to make your virtual read alouds engaging and fun for your students. #remoteteaching #readalouds #virtualteaching

    I love reading to my students. When the schools were closed, this was the one thing I missed. Really missed.

    My first day of school is in a few weeks, and while I don’t know a lot about what will happen this school year, I know that I will read books to my students daily. 

    Check out these tips to get your virtual read alouds on and popping!

    Know Publishers’ Read Aloud Policies

    Teachers don’t make a lot of money. The last thing any of us want are copyright issues. To prevent any problems, make sure you understand what you can and cannot do when reading books online. 

    Recently, I read an article that stated that teachers have permission to virtually read aloud books because of fair use. This article explains why we can read online to our students; I still think it’s smart to understand each publisher’s policy.

    The article and publishers make it very clear that reading online to students should benefit them and not you (to increase your social media following, monetary gain, etc.).

    In March, I wrote a blog post with publishers permissions, as of 8/2/2020, some publishers have extended their deadlines. Others probably will soon. 

    Pick a Way to Read

    How you virtually read to your students will play a significant role in their engagement. 

    For my first remote read aloud, I filmed myself (with my cellphone) reading the book as if I would read to my students in class. So, I was sitting in a chair and holding the book toward the camera.  

    For the next book, I recorded the pages as I was reading. My thinking was that they would be able to read along and had a better view of the illustrations.

    After doing it both ways, I asked my students which way they preferred. They unanimously agreed that they like seeing the pages because they could read with me. 

    This school year, I plan on mixing it up and doing it both ways. Since my students don’t know me, I want them to see my face as much as possible, but I also want to give them opportunities to read along. 

    Do you do daily read alouds in your reading block? Have you tried interactive read alouds? Interactive read alouds are a great way to engage your students while you’re reading. You can use interactive read alouds to teach or reteach reading skills from your lesson. More importantly, interactive read alouds are great way to trick your students into learning reading skills! #interactivereadalouds #readaloud #readalouds #readaloudtips

    Read As If You Are In the Classroom aka Show Your Personality

    During our read alouds in class, we make jokes, I make connections, and or model skills while reading. 

    At first, this was missing from my virtual read alouds. It was bizarre being alone reading a book for my students.

    As I got more comfortable, I started inserting my ad-libs to make the reading more personable and fun. 

    This school year, showing my personality will be even more important so that I can virtually build relationships. 

    Ask Questions

    Just because the read aloud is virtual, doesn’t mean you can’t ask students about the book. 

    Once we went online, I would assign a Google Form with questions about the book that students would answer after reading. If the questions referred to a specific part of the book, I would include a picture of the book page, so the students had the text to help them answer the questions.

    Just like in class, I would not ask more than five questions.

    Don’t Ask Questions

    While it is essential to assess students’ comprehension, model thinking, etc, reading to students for pleasure is also important. 

    At least once a week in class and online, I read a book just for fun.

    I plan on increasing days like this in the fall. 

    Some of my students will have a hard time getting their hands on books this school year, so ensuring that students can hear a book a day is important. 

    Use these tips to get your virtual read alouds started! If you’re looking for diverse picture books to read to your students, you’ll love The Ultimate List of Diverse Picture Books. There are over 250 books to make your virtual read alouds a blast!

    Are you looking for diverse picture books to add to your classroom or home library? Do you want to add diverse picture books to your collection, but you don’t have time to search for them? Are you a teacher that wants to use more diverse texts but are unsure how they will fit in with your units or curriculum? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need this list! #diversepicturebooks #diverseclassroomlibraries #diversebooksforkids

  • Books to Help Kids Learn About Hurricane Katrina

    The easiest way to share information about a topic is by reading books. Hurricane Katrina is a natural disaster that all kids should know about. These books about Hurricane Katrina are a great way to encourage discussions and research about this violent storm. #stembooksforkids #hurricanebooks #hurricanekatrinabooksforkids

    The easiest way to share information about a topic is by reading books. Hurricane Katrina is a natural disaster that all kids should know about. These books about Hurricane Katrina are a great way to encourage discussions and research about this violent storm. #stembooksforkids #hurricanebooks #hurricanekatrinabooksforkids

    In August of 2005, one of the deadliest hurricanes hit New Orleans and other parts of  the Gulf Coast. I remember being in college, watching it on the news. I remember my college taking in other college students who were displaced by the storm. I remember Kanye West’s unforgettable quote. Hurricane Katrina killed almost 2,000 people; over 700 people were never found.

    In just three years, we will be able to say, none of our students were alive when it happened. That makes me feel a little old, but it makes it even more important to me to make sure I share what happened to my students every year. 

    This list contains books to read to any school-aged child. Use these books to build connections, but don’t stop there. Have your child or students research more information. For the younger students, share age-appropriate information. We cannot forget what happened before and after Katrina hit.

    I will update this list as I find more books! Follow me on Instagram to get updates and ideas for other books to read at home or at school! If there’s a book you think I should add, comment below!

    Just a friendly reminder, I am an Amazon Affiliate, so if you decided to use the links below to purchase the books, I do get a commission. The price of the books does not change for you. ❤️

    Also, for complete transparency, there are some books on this list that I have not read. When I make book lists I always read the books before posting. Since there are several chapter books/novels on this list I have not had time to read them all just yet, but I will! This is the only book list on my website with books I haven’t read. 

    A Storm Called Katrina by Myron Uhlberg

    A Storm Called Katrina is a picture book that follows Louis Daniel and his family as they abandoned their home in search for higher ground. This may be a longer book for a kindergartner or first grader, but it could be broken up and read over a few days. 

    Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner

    In this picture book we learn about the sanitation worker who begins cleaning up after Katrina just like it was an ordinary day. His spirit encourages neighbors and volunteers to help with cleaning up the city. Being that I’m not for New Orleans, I really appreciated the pronunciation guide in the back of the book.

    Hurricane Katrina Rescue (Ranger in Time #8) by Kate Messner 

    Hurricane Katrina Rescue is a beginner chapter book that I think is meant for second and third graders (just a suggestion). Ranger is a time traveling dog who helps Clare find  her family. I have not read any of the other books in this series, but I thought that this was a good book to help students relate to the those impacted by the store. I also liked that they included real pictures from the storm so that the reader can see the damage.

    Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes

    The Ninth Ward is a novel geared toward middle schoolers. There’s actually an excerpt of this book in our 6th grade textbooks. 

    In this novel, we meet 12 year-old Lanesha who lives with Mama Ya-Ya. The Ninth Ward gives the reader a more realistic version of what happened once the hurricane hit. 

    Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina by Rodman Philbrick

    Zane and the Hurricane is one of the books on this list I haven’t read, but it was recommended by my former teammate! She reads tons of books and picks great ones to read to her students, so I completely trust her recommendation.

    In this book, we follow Zane and his dog, Bandit as they try to survive Hurricane Katrina. This novel is perfect for upper elementary and middle school students. 

    A Place Where Hurricanes Happen by Renee Watson

    A Place Where Hurricanes Happen follows four friends in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina. Once Katrina hits, each family has their own experience with the arrival of the storm. This is a great book to show how everyone who was affected by Hurricane Katrina had a different experience.

    Saint Louis Armstrong Beach By Brenda Woods

    Here’s another novel I haven’t read…yet. I’ve started the book (read two chapters) and I think it’s going to be really good. According to the reviews, it’s a good book!

    Saint Louis Armstrong Beach is not a place but a boy who lives in Treme. Saint tells the story of his life before, during, and after Katrina with his best friend, the neighborhood dog Shadow. Upper elementary and middle school students would enjoy this book. I’ll update the post once I’m done reading!

    There are a couple more books I want to at least have in my possession before I put them on the list! I will update the list once I get a chance to read them. Follow me on Instagram to look for updates!

    Check out The Ultimate List of Diverse Picture Books if you are looking to add more diverse picture books to classroom or home library!

    Are you looking for diverse picture books to add to your classroom or home library? This list of diverse picture books is perfect for you! #diversepicturebooks