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Books You Need To Share on Columbus, Independence, 9/11, Memorial and Veterans Days

Books to share with your students on Independence Day, Columbus Day, 9/11, Memorial Day and Veterans Day

Books to Share with your Students on Columbus Day, Independence Day, 9/11, Memorial Day and Veterans Day

Our country doesn't have the kindest past.  Celebrating America can be hard because of the way our founders treated those who were different from themselves and the ways we've continued to allow racism and fear to dominate our story.

We need to teach our students about this past so they know the truth, but we also need to celebrate the present beautiful diversity of a country filled with different cultures and traditions.

If you're like me, you sometimes wait until the last minute to find a holiday themed read aloud to share with your students, and then realize you don't have time to locate or order that perfect book. I've been there.

To solve this problem for our future selves, I've put together a list of my favorite books to read aloud on all of the American themed holidays - Independence Day, Columbus Day, 9/11, Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Check out the list below and pin it for future reference.

Columbus Day

Picture book to share with your students on Columbus Day

Our students need to know the true story of how America was discovered by the Europeans and how those explorers treated the native people who lived here first.  I love sharing this book on Columbus Day with my students so they understand the truth about our country's founders.

This is a story of how a young Taino boy tried to warn his people against welcoming the European strangers onto their land. This encounter led to the destruction of the Taino people and their culture by the colonizers.

Independence Day or During the Study of American History

Book to share with your students on Independence Day

I enjoy sharing this important book with my students because it doesn't just focus on one perspective of being American. It enforces the idea that everyone in America deserves to be treated equally and with fairness and kindness.

This book celebrates that Americans have the freedom to choose "who they love, what they believe, what they do and where they live."

Book to share with your students about American Flag and diversity

Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus

A must in every classroom, this book is simply beautiful.  My students love the gorgeous illustrations and it brings tears to our eyes every time I share it.

Blue Sky White Stars is an inspiring and patriotic tribute to the beauty of the American flag, a symbol of America’s history, landscape, and people.

book to share with your students about african american history

I'm a super-fan of anything written by Kwame Alexander, and so are my students.  This story educates about the history of black life in America.

It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of our country's greatest heroes.

book to share with your students on american history or women's history month

50 Fearless Women Who Made American History by Jenifer Bazzit

Short engaging biographies are a great way to teach about America's past. Women have always been at the forefront of American history.

This look into American history for kids is bursting with engaging biographies that explore the lives of these inspiring women from different backgrounds and a wide array of fields.

book to share with your students about the story of african americans

Kadir Nelson is becoming a favorite author/illustrator of mine. This is the story of the men, women, and children who toiled in the hot sun picking cotton for their masters; it's about the America ripped in two by Jim Crow laws; it's about the brothers and sisters of all colors who rallied against those who would dare bar a child from an education. 

This is a beautifully illustrated history of America's story of discrimination and broken promises, determination, and triumphs.

To Remember September 11th

book to share with your students on september 11th, 9/11

I'm always searching for good books about 9/11 to educate my students about what happened but also to teach them about the heroism of America on that terrible day. This one does both.

It's an engaging but heartbreaking story of a hero who saved many lives but didn't survive himself. It really makes you think about how terrible the attacks were and how many lives were lost. 

Memorial and Veterans Day 

book to share with your students on veterans or memorial day

This biography tells the story of Moina Belle Michael who established the Poppy as a universal symbol of tribute and support for veterans and their families during World War I and II. 

Known as the Poppy Lady, Michael dedicated her life to servicemen and women, buying and placing fresh flowers in rooms where they would gather before heading overseas.

book to share with your students on memorial or veterans day

I love sharing this book near Veteran's or Memorial Day with my students. It offers an insightful look into what veterans and their families go through. The story tells of the beautiful white table tradition that honors all those who serve our country. 

book to share with your students on memorial or veterans day

Another one by a favorite author of mine.  This stunning, rhyming story by Messner is a beautiful tribute to America's veterans.

This is a story of the Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom in Washington DC that pays tribute to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces.  It honors the bravery and sacrifice of our American heroes - the ones who have returned home, and the ones who haven't.  

Thanks for reading about my favorite American stories to share with my students.

What are your favorites that I can add to my list?  Let me know if the comments below!

*This post contains affiliate links that earn me a small profit which I use to buy books for my students.  Thank you for your support.

Diverse Books ALL Teachers Need in Their Classrooms

diverse books for classroom libraries

Are you struggling with how to talk with your students about racism, acceptance and equality? 

We have to spark these conversations, for ourselves and our students.  One of the best ways to teach life lessons is through characters in books who've 'been there, done that.'  As teachers it's our responsibility to show our students how to have empathy and kindness.  We can do this with diverse read alouds and a culturally responsive classroom library.

I've spent some time researching the best books for upper elementary/middle school students that will spark educational conversations about acceptance and how we can do better.  I've linked the titles below so you can check them out as well.

I plan to use some for classroom read alouds and the rest to increase the diversity of our classroom library.  Summer is the perfect time to visit book sales, garage sales, thrift shops and watch for Scholastic dollar deals.  (Front Desk was only $1 just a few weeks ago)

Improving the diversity of our classroom libraries is a task we can control.  Putting books in our students' hands that show them a world they've never known, or characters who are going through the same experiences - can change lives.  I've seen it happen and it's the best feeling in the world!

It's important for our students to see themselves in the books they read!

 Click the links below for more information.

diverse texts for all students

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Somewhere Among by Annie Donwerth Chikamatsu

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Gabby Garcia's Ultimate Playbook by Iva Marie Palmer

Blended by Sharon Draper

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang

Crossover by Kwame Alexander

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez

Do your students LOVE graphic novels?  Click HERE for a list of our favorites!

*This post contains affiliate links that earn me a small profit which I use to buy books for my students.  Thank you for your support.

4 Ways to End the Year Strong and Celebrate Learning

end of the year ideas to celebrate learning

I don't know about you, but during my first few years of teaching, by the end of the school year I was dead tired and didn't have the energy to give my students time to reflect on and celebrate how much they'd learned.  I was teaching right up to the end of the year, throwing in a few fun last week activities, and then packing up and running towards my bed to sleep off my exhaustion!

But after I got better at time management and I wasn't as tired as previous years, at the end of the year I started taking the time to have some discussions with my students about what they'd learned during the year.  Those discussions were so enlightening for both myself and my kiddos, that now I'm hooked.  Fast forward a few years, and I have a routine for how we celebrate and reflect on our growth and progress each year.

First Way to Celebrate: Student Publishing

The first way we celebrate our learning is by publishing our best piece of writing from the year. A few months before school ends, I give my students time to look through the texts they've authored throughout the year.  We do everything in Google Classroom so it's easy for them to look back at each piece.  I ask them to select the piece that makes them the proudest.  I explain that they will celebrate themselves as a writer by publishing this piece as a memento of 5th grade.

The website I use for publishing is called Student Treasures.  This company offers many different ways students can publish, and some are even FREE.  I encourage you to check out their website. Our 5th graders don't bring home many memories like those littles do in lower elementary, so a professionally published piece of writing is the perfect memento to sit out on that open house table in a few years.
Celebrate your writers by publishing books through Student Treasures

Second Way to Celebrate: Classroom Reading Celebration

Secondly, we also celebrate all of the reading we've accomplished throughout the year! We keep track of how many books we read for our classroom book challenge.  Students keep track in their reading binders and I keep track on my classroom door.

Here are the sheets my students use to track their progress.  Click on the link or the picture for more information - Book Challenge Recording Sheets.

40 book challenge recording sheets for students to keep track of the books they've read 

Here is a photo of how I keep track of the books I read aloud to the students and that I read to myself on my own time.  If you're interested in the editable poster for your door click HERE  or the picture below to grab it for FREE.  

40 book challenge display

teacher 40 book challenge poster display

How do we celebrate the books we've read?  A few weeks before the end of the year, I give students time to count up their total of finished books.  We compare their total to their beginning of the year goal.  Then we celebrate, usually with ice cream and a showing of a movie that goes along with one of our favorite books.  Even if a student didn't reach their goal, we still celebrate all of the reading they did accomplish.  Lastly, I give them time to talk about goals for next year so they can start reading over the summer!

This is a great time to talk about how to get a library card, show students how to log in and use the local library's website and encourage families to take their kids to the library over the summer.

Reflection Journal Prompts

Another way we reflect on our learning is with these end of the year reflection journal prompts.  We take a few minutes at the end of each class period to think about what we've learned as readers and writers.  We talk about the strategies that have helped us most this year, the growth we've made and our favorite and least favorite books and texts we've written.  It's so nice to take this time to rehash all that's happened throughout the year and it really helps my students and I to realize how much we've learned.

Reflection prompts are a quick question that your students can respond to in their journal or electronically and share with a partner or the class.  If you want some that are already created for you, click these links or the picture below - End of Year Reflection Reading Response Prompts or End of Year Reflection Writing Response Prompts.

end of the year reading reflection journal response prompts

reading exit tickets for end of the year
end of year reflection writing response prompts

google classroom reading exit tickets

School Wide Celebration

Lastly, a final way to celebrate learning with students and even families, is to host a school wide learning celebration family night.

Our celebration focuses on writing.  We invite families into the building and we celebrate our students' writing growth by passing out the Student Treasures published books.  During the celebration, we give students time to share the books with their families and friends.  Students also show their families their Google Drive where all of the writing pieces from the year are located.  They show off those pieces as well.  Then we encourage students to write a new piece with their family.  It's usually poetry about their memories from this school year.  I put these finished poems into a classroom memory book for the students to keep.

Click the link or the images below to access the print or digital versions of the End of the Year Memories Poem Freebie that I created for my students.

end of the year poem Haiku      end of the year distance learning poem

We also give out cookies and juice.  Students and families are split up into groups and they travel the building together to each station - published books, computer labs, poetry.  This is also a great time to highlight your huge pile of lost and found materials for families to look through and take home.

I hope these ideas inspire you to begin celebrating all you've accomplished with your students this year too.  Let me know how it goes in the comments below!

Using Math Exit Slips in Google Classroom

Math exit tickets in google forms

If you are teaching math online or even if you have students working on electronic devices in the classroom, digital exit slips are a powerful way you can assess your students quickly and easily.

Similarly to paper exit tickets, digital exit slips are short formative assessments designed to show you which students have a concept and which students need more practice. The great thing about digital exit slips is that they reduce paper use and they are self-checking. Win-Win!

I'm working on transferring ALL of my paper exit slip resources that I use daily, into digital Google Forms. Here are a few examples from my long division and measurement sets.


Google Forms is a free survey tool that’s part of G Suite—Google’s complete office suite. For more information on how to use Google Forms check out this blog post. Google Forms allows you to create online quizzes for your students and collect data on their responses. It's an effective method of assessment, but making the exit ticket assessments can become time consuming. Which is why I've done the work for you!

These exit tickets are perfect for distance learning in Google Classroom.  Click the pictures below for more information on using these exit slip resources with your students.

math exit tickets for google classroom 
distance learning math exit tickets

Google Classroom math exit slips

math long division formative assessments distance learning

Exit tickets are designed to bring closure to your lessons. Each slip has only one to four tasks to complete and should take students approximately 5 minutes to finish.

Since these exit tickets are self-grading, you'll know immediately who has a concept mastered, who is almost there, and who needs intervention.

Exit slips ensure 'no student gets left behind.'

Free Guide to Using Google Classroom for Online Distance Learning

Are you new to using Google Classroom or online distance learning? If so, this guidebook is for you.
I've been using Google Classroom for the past few years and I have all kinds of notes, tips and advice I'd love to share to help you out.

I've compiled this FREE how-to guide and it's posted in my TPT store - it's called Google Classroom FREE Guide for Online Learning.  I hope you check it out! 

Using Google Classroom for Online Distance Learning

This guide contains information on:

  • What is Google Classroom?
  • Why use Google Classroom?
  • How to get started
  • How to create assignments
  • How to share assignments
  • Other tips & advice
  • How to organize your Google drive

Download this free guide by clicking on the link below and get started right away with using Google Classroom with your students!  


And if you have additional tips that I missed, please share them in the comments below so I can add them to the guide. Or, if you'd just love to share how Google Classroom has revolutionized your classroom - I'd love to hear about that too! 

How Using Math Exit Slips Saved My Life

I Am A Math Workshop Addict! 

Any other math workshop teachers out there? I absolutely love math workshop - it is my passion. I am constantly reading teacher books and thinking about ways to improve my reading, writing, and math workshops. While there are lots of benefits to the workshop style of teaching, there are also a few drawbacks. 

Assessment seems to be an issue that comes up a lot with my colleagues. Us upper elementary teachers need grades, (unless we are lucky and have standardized report cards) and grades are often hard to come by in a true math workshop. So today I'm here to talk with you about one of the ways I grade formatively assess my students during workshop.

In true math workshop style, students are learning and discussing new skills during a short mini-lesson (not exactly a place to earn a grade). Students then move into the workshop portion of the session to practice (either previous skills or the new skill they were taught that day). Since students are authentically practicing skills, this time should be a place for students to grow and learn from their mistakes, not to be assessed for a grade. 

There are some days when I collect notebooks to assess student progress, and I am always working with small strategy and intervention groups as well as conferring with individuals to assess progress. But again, it's hard to give grades during those times because everyone is doing something different. 

Our math workshop ends each day when students come back together to share/discuss what they learned/practiced and again this should be a comfortable, stress free place for students to talk about what went well and what didn't. So, while authentic teaching, learning, and assessing is happening - grading is not.

And, since I am still expected to enter grades into a grade book, I panic when the end of the marking period nears and my grade book is as empty as a bird's nest in December. Anyone else been there? Yikes!

Enter The Exit Slip 

This little guy has saved my life, literally. No more making up silly assignments just to get grades. (Gulp, confession time) This guy truly assesses my student's understanding each day (bonus) and can be entered into my grade book as a grade (double bonus). Rush of relief! I hand out an exit slip at the end of math workshop time daily.  

I love exit slips so much that I've created one for almost every school day.  I place them in a binder that I can easily grab from all year long!  

Keep reading for some surprise math exit slip freebies at the end of this post! 

Click HERE to see ALL the 3rd through 6th grade math exit slips in my TPT store.

Math Exit slips are designed to bring closure to your math lessons. I use slips that have fewer than four tasks to complete and should take students approximately 5 minutes to finish. 

I collect the sheets and my formative assessment needs are met. In just minutes I can quickly form piles of students who have a concept mastered, who are almost there, and who need intervention. Now I can plan my instruction for the next day. I know if I can move on or not, and who I'll need to check in with for extra practice. Exit slips ensure 'No student gets left behind' in my classroom!!!

Where do I get the exit slips? 

I've created them based on each unit I teach. I'm a firm believer in backward design. Before I begin a new unit, whether it is informational writing, character development, or order of operations, I start with the common core standards and create the summative (final) assessment (if one isn't already provided by my district). (See my math assessment packs HERE

Then, I work backward. I start by breaking the assessment into three or four chunks and create formative assessments (quizzes) to give along the way to inform my instruction of those skills and help provide intervention when needed, instead of when it's too late. 

I break each formative assessment (quiz) into chunks which become lessons. Lastly, I create an exit slip assessment for each lesson. Yes, I said EACH lesson. Exit slips are short and sweet. Mine are only a half page and usually consist of 2 to 4 questions. It takes me about an hour to create all of the exit slips for the unit. Then I print them, copy them, and I have my daily lessons organized and ready to go.

Why use exit slips? 

Not only are they quick and easy to create, but they are also quick and easy to grade. They only take about 5 minutes for students to complete, and most importantly they tell you instantly who is ready to move on and who needs more practice. True formative assessment! Plus, double whammy, grades for the grade book. But what about homework? I think exit slips are a better assessment than homework, because, well, homework is often done with the help of someone else.

Don't wait for the big test to figure out who doesn't get it! With frequent math exit slips you can quickly assess your students and know immediately who has it and who doesn't. Math exit slips are a MUST in every best practice classroom!

All you math workshop junkies with empty grade books, if you'd like to try out using exit slips in your classroom - here's a  Decimals FREEBIE  and Place Value FREEBIE from my Decimal Numbers Assessment Pack and Place Value Assessment Pack.  I hope you find them useful.




I would love to hear how you are already using exit slips in your classroom!!

The Secret to Testing Success - Teach Critical Test Prep Vocabulary All Year Long!

FREE SAMPLE ALERT: I have something amazingly exciting for you to try out to ensure your students will have success on the state test this school year!

I've been working hard on creating a test-prep instruction pack to go along with my best selling Common Core Critical Verbs vocabulary word wall set. 

This instruction pack is really helping me to intentionally introduce each vocabulary word to my students plus it's giving my students time to analyze, discuss, and master each individual word. And I'm sooo happy with their progress. 

After all, students can't do well on the state test, if they don't know what the state test is asking them to do, right?!?

This test-prep vocabulary instruction pack contains 12 weeks worth of critical verb test prep practice. 

I'm so excited for you to try this resource out, so I'm posting a FREE SAMPLE of Week 1 for everyone to have! 

I would love your feedback on the resource if you choose to download!!  

The free sample includes four critical verbs commonly found in the directions of state tests.  Students will study the words all week and then take a quiz over the words on Friday.  See below for pictures of the graphic organizers and quiz included.

If you love the free sample,  download the full 12-week resource HERE.   

Also, check out the other test prep resources I have available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store and help your students ACE that big test this year!

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