menu   Homeroom Explore Create Share  

Why We Need Diverse Books

I love buying new books. I think in order to be an elementary teacher, you have to have a weakness for print. I can spend hours browsing the shelves looking for something special to take home. My latest purchase is Matthew de la Peña's Newberry Award winner Last Stop on Market Street.  I love the Nana in this story. 

About a year ago I made a promise to make a greater effort to buy products with pictures of students that actually looked like my students.  At the time, I was still teaching in a Title 1 school that sat on the edge of the "bubble" known as The Woodlands, TX.  While Houston is a diverse place to live, The Woodlands is still seen as an affluent, white suburb.  I wanted the students of color in my classroom to see images of children that actually looked like them.

I wasn't at the point in my awareness yet of thinking about stories that actually had meaning for them.
Fast Forward a few months later, and I stumbled upon After reading their mission and vision, I really began to think about what I chose to read aloud to my primary students. It was humbling.


Putting more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children.


A world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book.

Could my students really see themselves in the pages of the books I read to them each day? Was there anything I could do about this?

I've made small changes over this past year, but nothing that has earned me one of those invisible I'm a Great Teacher badges we secretly like to put on our sleeves from time to time.  I made another small goal- If you see a good book that has diverse characters, buy it. 

Last week I Skyped with a PhD student at Texas A&M who is researching teacher's views of diverse literature in the classroom, and her questions drew out of me even more thoughts to think about. When asked what challenges I face in regards to using diverse literature in my classroom my first thought was time. Taking the time to find and use these books. But I knew that was just an excuse. 

Time, professional development, empathy (or lack of)...there are so many reasons these things slip through the cracks of our teaching.  Unfortunately I think it boils down to unconscious bias. No matter what your intentions are, your life experience shades the lens that you look through.  

So why do I share this? Accountability mostly.  I often let my love of "busy" keep me from thoughtfully making choices in my planning for my classroom.  I've had an entire week to think about how to make the last 50 days of this school really count, and what literature I choose to use is a very big piece of the puzzle. 

How do you address this issue? Are you on a supportive team or campus that goes out of the way to incorporate these books? I'd love to hear where you are in this part of your teaching journey. :)

We Remember

Thank you Dr. King for your voice and your message. Thank you to those who are still fighting.

May we each examine our own hearts as to how we can change and how we can amplify the message of equality and justice.

Five Donations to Ask For in Your Next Newsletter

As a classroom teacher, my parent newsletter always included a wish list for classroom supplies. Snacks, paper towels, disinfectant wipes, Kleenex, and other staples were asked for when needed.
Occasionally I'd throw in a big ticket item such as a new pencil sharpener, headphones, cardstock, and cross my fingers hoping someone would donate. A request for dice brought in enough to supply a Vegas casino!

Here are five ideas for items you can ask parents to donate in your next newsletter.

Old iPod/iPhone/MP3 Players

Aly from Just a Primary Girl has a great post about using old iPods for listening centers. Many schools are also asking for old smartphones to begin building their own Google Cardboard collection. I found in my own home two functioning iPhones and one iTouch from 2008 I will be using in my classroom in the new year! Most of these items have little trade-in value, so parents may be more excited about their students using them to learn! 

Old Board Games/Game Pieces

Here are some great posts all about how you can use old games and puzzles in your classroom. These are items parents might think of throwing out as they age but can be a great tool in your reading and math stations.

img via Primary Inspired Blog

Gently Used Books

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it really can help new teachers grow their personal classroom library.  Whether you teach primary or upper grades, there just might be a family in your class that has a stash of picture books or chapter books collecting dust on a bookshelf they might love to donate.  To encourage donations, I printed labels for students to write their names on so that the students could put their name in the book before adding it to our library. 

Legos or Makerspace Toys

Now that many of your students received new toys over the holidays, some parents may be eager to purge or clean out the toy box to make room for new goodies! If your students have Makerspace or Genius Hour opportunities,  this would be a great time to ask for gently used Lego pieces or tinkering/building sets students are no longer using.

Don't have a Makerspace at your school? I had a parent donate several bags of snap blocks that we saved for indoor recess stations. The excitement on my 1st graders faces when I pulled out the blocks always made me laugh.


With a new year comes new goals and resolutions, and you may have a parent who has made a goal to be more involved with school activities.  Take this opportunity to revisit volunteer opportunities and instructions as a way to encourage parents to help out! You may have even had new families enroll recently who may be wondering how to volunteer on your campus.  From reading buddies to parents who are willing to cut out piles of laminated task cards, every minute helps! 

What are your favorite wish list items to include on your parent newsletter or teacher website?

Teaching in an EduWonderland Blab Show

Here is the replay of our first Remind #SpEdRCE show!

This month we chatted about Teaching in an EduWonderland. We asked teachers to share about their wishes and ideas for an ideal classroom/school. We had a great group for our first show, including Jordan from Remind Headquarters!

Thank you to those who watched and chatted in the comments section. We also had some great Tweets I shared during the show.  Here is our entire chat for replay.

We hope you'll join us Wednesday, January 20th at 7:30pm CST/8:30pm EST for our next Blab chat.

Sunday Reading

This weekend I'm catching up on some of my favorite blogs and articles.  With so much content shared on a daily basis, it's hard to find things that are both relevant to my teaching and interesting without becoming overwhelmed.  I thought I'd share what I'm reading and loving so far.

The Techie Playground shares some Augmented Reality holiday ideas

Shake up Learning has the Ultimate Teacher Gift Guide.  This is not your guide to Sharpies and Mugs. We're talking 3D printers and Drones. You have to be on Santa's VERY nice list for these. :)

Megan from I Teach What's Your Superpower shares five great literacy posts this month! Our Reading Crew Blog Hop is even featured!

Really cute Christmas snacks I don't have time to make.

A NSFW (potty language warning) debate over the Best Time to Post to Instagram. I don't think it applies to my Teacher IG tribe, (We seem to IG at all hours) but it was full of LOLs nonetheless. 

It's no secret I'm obsessed with planners. This teacher prints her plans on post-it notes for her Erin Condren Teacher Planner!?!? #aintnobodybutthisladygottimeforthat #stillimpressed

Speaking of Planners, I've ditched mine and switched to a Moleskine for Bullet Journal fun.  I was completely hooked once I found this blog

Coffee mug cheers to the weekend. What have you been reading lately?

Reading in a Winter Wonderland

Put on a scarf and pour yourself some hot cocoa! It's time for our 2nd Annual Winter Wonderland link up!  Found at the end of this post is a "map" of The Reading Crew blogs participating, so you can hop through them all at once, visit some today and some later in the week, or see what best matches your literacy needs. 

On each blog, you will see a word in blue font. This is the blog's mystery word. Please be sure to record them because you will need each word for a five point entry in our raffle. To help you keep track, you can print and use this form. We are raffling off two wonderful prizes. We are giving away a copy of each book featured in our posts to two winners (K-2 group) and the (3-up group). Each prize package will include 12 books (K-2) and 13 books (3-up). I must say that I am SWOONING over these winter books. Some are old favorites, but many are new to me, including my selection Over and Under the Snow

Each blogger has shared their winter-themed book and lesson idea along with a resource. This may be a forever freebie or may be free for a limited time. Please take note of this as you visit the blogs. 

Again, we welcome you to our blogs and wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season.

Over and Under the Snow was written by Kate Messner.  Kate is a former middle school teacher and award-winning author.  My favorite fact I've learned about this author is that she wrote the first draft of this book on a school bus on the way home from a 7th grade snowshoe field trip in the Adirondacks.  Not only was it written on a bus, but scribbled in bumpy bus writing on the back of an attendance sheet! I'm usually gripping my bottle of Dramamine, and praying I don't get sick on the bus ride during a field trip! This author actually mapped out an award-winning book!

Though this book paints a beautiful picture of the winter season, I have mixed feelings about the cold. I am the girl wearing sweaters and scarves when it drops below 70 here in Texas.  On the other hand, I love the changes that winter brings, especially with holiday traditions and having a great excuse to wrap up in a cozy blanket.  

Messner shares, 
"Over the snow, the world is hushed and white. But under the snow exists a secret kingdom of squirrels and snow hares, bears and bullfrogs, and many other animals that live through the winter safe and warm, awake and busy, under the snow. Discover the wonder and activity that lies beneath winter’s snowy landscape in this magical book."

There really isn't any better way to describe this book than magical! When I first read this book to a group of second graders, I thought we'd never make it to the end. The illustrations are so beautiful, and the kids made so many connections as we were reading about animals who Hibernate in the winter that I lost track of what we were writing on our anchor chart! The second grade boys were especially interested in wondering what the fat bullfrogs might be dreaming about!

Before reading our book, I would invite students to share their schema related to animals in winter. Using sticky notes to share our schema, we will revisit the anchor chart after reading the story and completing the QR Code activity.  

Keep in mind that I teach 1st-4th graders, and I often adapt aspects of a read aloud lesson to fit that particular grade level.  My 1st and 2nd graders would spend more time with the Animals in Winter anchor chart than my 4th graders. 

My 4th graders would then revisit our interactive notebook entry related to imagery. I would explain that as we read today we are noticing what we visualize in our minds as we read the story keeping our five senses in mind.  I would remind students that good readers listen to the words and create pictures in their minds to go with the words. We would also revisit our thinking stem anchor chart and talk about how to describe what we visualize using complete sentences with details.

Focusing on imagery is one of my favorite ways to help students make connections with their reading and writing. As an intervention teacher, the more I expose my students to quality mentor texts like this one, the better they will be at creating images as independent readers and writers. 

I love the author's use of "a whole secret kingdom" and would use this as a discussion point to talk about what other connections we can make to what might lie beneath the snow and ground. 

My freebie includes informational links and QR Code Task cards related to the animals found in Over and Under the Snow.  Each animal listed also has a link to an information page students can use to research and record findings.  Each QR code will take the student to vivid images or videos of that animal.  I plan to use the set of QR Task Cards as an independent or partner station after reading the book together as a class.  This will give my students an opportunity to make connections between what we've just read, and the new information from a non-fiction online source.

I've also included a list of vivid verbs to focus on when teaching imagery, a page that can be use to create an illustration or diagram, and a fact sheet for students to record any interesting information learned about one of the animals as they complete their research.

If you are unfamiliar with QR Codes, FlapJackEd has a great Youtube Tutorial to give you a step-by-step guide on how to use QR Codes in the classroom. 
Pin for Later:

Don't forget! My mystery word is Hibernate. You can enter it onto your sheet or into the rafflecopter below. Good luck to you, and I hope you'll visit NotJANE again soon!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Reality Check

Happy Holiday Greetings Everybody!

I am blissfully into day one of my 9 day Thanksgiving Break. That's right. After (I don't even know how many) weeks of what feels like 24/7 school, we've made it to our first real break. I am SUPER Thankful for a full week off because an 8 hour drive to visit family can't be done over the weekend.

Mom and dad, get the waffle iron ready.

Wait, this is a mindful eating post.

Ok. Let's do some real talk.  I have shared over the years on my blog my ups and down with running and my love to eat.all.the.things.  It is no secret that I have self-control issues when it comes to food. I have tried and majorly failed at Whole 30 more than once, and have really slacked on exercise since moving back to San Antonio.  Excuses are like ________ everybody's got one. I don't have any other excuse than my priorities have been out of whack.

I read about Dee Dee and Rachelle's challenge last week, and it gave me a reality check. I always joke that I have reverse body dysmorphia. I see myself as the healthier/thinner me from more years ago than I'd like to count.  Then leave it to a non-IG filtered photo to snap me back to reality.

What worked?

I found an accountability partner and have made a plan.  (I love you Sandy!)
We set a food/calorie goal, step goal for our Fitbits, and will use SnapChat to cheer each other on. Although today's snaps were all about Baylor vs. OkState...


I used MyFitnessPal and only stuck to one food goal of no dairy.  Let's just say we've got problems...
This week I will have no excuse for not being more mindful of what I'm eating. I have few work distractions to get in my way. There is time to sleep. I can exercise each day. Also, going home for the holiday means mom will make sure I eat my veggies!

Looking Ahead...

I realize the challenge includes sharing my food log with others! GASP.  I can do this. #openbook

I am working on a post about how I hope to maximize my time off to plan for the month ahead, and The Mindful Eating challenge will definitely be part of my planning.

Being a teacher is hard emotionally and physically, and if we don't take steps to stay healthy, then we cannot be our best self for our students.  I love my job and school, and I want to show up each day with the energy and enthusiasm my students deserve.  Feeling better is big piece of the puzzle. Be sure to let me know in the comments below if you have any tips for getting in 15K steps or fitting in enough veggies and water each day!

If you don't already follow me on Instagram, you can go there to see more of my shenanigans or head over to Twitter if you're all business. ;)