Books to use for Teaching Immigration

Books to use for Teaching Immigration

I'm here today to share with you some wonderful books to use for teaching immigration! Immigration is a dense topic but at my school in Massachusetts, it is required to be taught in second grade. I spent many years looking for high quality, helpful trade books to support my students.

Here are some of my favorites!

Non Fiction

Coming to America by Betsy and Guilio Maestro   is a book I often start with when opening my immigration unit! It covers a lot and I usually need to read it in two sessions but it really helps explain many facets of immigration to America in the 1800s.
Kids are really into the Who Was/What Was series so this one is a great addition to your classroom library if you have fans! Even a lot of my second graders could read and enjoy this one.

How old does it make me sound if I admit  this series was kind of new when I started teaching in 1998? Anyway, it still comes in handy to answer questions that come up. The book is split into chapters titled with questions like "What if your name was changed at Ellis Island?" or "Why was Ellis Island opened?"
This is a helpful book that most of your students will be able to read. You can also read parts or all of it out loud to help with important topics!
Now I want to be 100% transparent with you and tell you I don't have this book (yet), but Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers has been described as a "fascinating and fun take on non-fiction". If, like first grade teachers at my school, you need to teach about American symbols, this is a great book to share!


Let's talk about some wonderful fiction! Dreamers is a book that we read two years ago about a young mother immigrating by foot to the USA. Now, this doesn't really fit in if you need to focus on immigration in the 1800s but it's  an important, pertinent, and special story. The illustrations are beautiful and the story is inspiring.

Patricia Polacco books are always a home run! Fiona's Lace is a beautiful story that resonates with me because many of my own ancestors immigrated to the United States of America from Ireland.
 When Jessie Came Across the Sea is a terrific choice to teach about immigration in a way that will interest your students - it teaches while telling a historical fiction tale. Jessie is a teenage girl that crosses the Atlantic on a ship with her two younger brother. She makes her way in New York City and is able to honor and keep her family traditions from her old country.
Finally, this book is award winning and especially perfect if you teach older students (probably 4th grade and up as a read aloud, or independent reading for middle school). This doesn't take place during the 1800s but instead during the Great Depression and Esperanza must try to make her way in a California labor camp for Mexican.


If you're looking for teaching resources and curriculum,  I created immigration resources that teachers can use with second, third, and fourth graders. It was just right for my students and it may help you!
Immigration unit for second, third and fourth graders! Helpful, accessible curriculum

So what would you recommend? Are there any other books to use for teaching immigration? Let us know and we will reshare! 

                                                  Books to use for teaching immigration

What are Digital Task Cards?

Task cards, the classroom favorite for many teachers during the last 5-7 years, have gone digital. I have actually been creating and using Digital Task Cards for several years but with the school closures in March, teachers everywhere have been trying them. But  what if you aren't familiar with them and you're asking what are digital task cards?

Should I be using them? Are they user-friendly and will they help me? I have the answers to your questions here!



Think traditional task cards, but take them off the paper and put them into Google so that they don't have to be printed.

Here's what printable and digital task cards look like compared to each other:


With digital task cards, there is no printing, no cutting and laminating, no worry about storage: you just add the file to Google Classroom or Canvas, etc and that's it. Save paper and time!


That's right - if it is digital, you don't have to be concerned about touching papers that might have germs on them. You don't have to "air out" papers for 72 hours (or six days like my school)! Students use the digital task cards from home or on their 1:1 device and you don't have to touch anything they touched!


You know when students use paper task cards and come interrupt you to tell you, "We can't find card 6" or they have blank spaces on their answer sheet, so you have to follow up. When you do, kids tell you "We couldn't find those cards". With digital task cards they are all in one file!


Digital task cards can be used at school on 1:1 devices, during math centers, for hybrid learning, remote learning / distance learning and more! I have even had a student tell me they went on their device in the car and did some! They can be used on iPads, desktops, chrome books... and in Google and even other platforms like Canvas and Edmodo!


Student love digital task cards and often ask me for more! They will work hard and put out good effort because they are interested and engaged!


My digital task cards are for elementary school students. By using them, they are also working on developing technology skills such as clicking, dragging, keyboarding, manipulating track pads, clicking links, and more (don't forget the magic undo button)!


If you have heard of Boom cards, they are also digital task cards and you can read all about them on this blog post here!


Here are a few favorites of my digital task cards! You can find tons more on Teachers Pay Teachers at my shop and many others!

So know do you know the answer to what are digital task cards? With all of the options, there really is no reason not to try them! What is your favorite thing about using them?

Ten Tips for Teaching Reading Online

Well, the pandemic is still in full force! Most of us are teaching online, at least to some students or on some days. Let me help by sharing ten tips for teaching reading online with you!


1. Go Old School

Yes, there are tons of technology that you can use,  and I will give you some helpful websites below. But don't forget old school strategies! During my reading intervention sessions online, white boards, magnet letters, (or parents could print out letters from a PDF I sent) paper and pencils came in really handy! I also used sight word cards at times and just held them up to the camera. This I would use alternatively with digital flash cards to keep it varied and fun.
At times, I'd just hold up a CVC picture and say the word, like "jet", and have kids spell the words with their magnetic or paper letters. They'd also do mix and fix with their letters or white board spelling with markers /paper and pencil.

2. Create and Communicate Meeting Guidelines

Don't worry about making them up yourself! I don't have any in my store yet, but lots of folks have free or low cost editable or non editable guidelines you can grab at Teachers Pay Teachers. If you want to make your own they don't need to be fancy. A simple Google Doc or slide is fine. Personally, I'd recommend showing them and reviewing them briefly at the beginning of each meeting until everyone gets the hang of things.

3. Give yourself Permission to Make Mistakes

It will NOT be perfect. There is just no way. Be kind and patient to yourself. Mistakes will happen. You can learn from them! 

4. Know there WILL be Technical Difficulties

Some teachers at my school have been trying to squeeze in practice sessions, with fellow teachers acting as possible students. This has been especially interesting to staff who are going to asked to teach live students while live streaming at the same time! During my online reading lessons, most sessions had at least one one technical problem such as kids not being able to get in, kids saying they couldn't hear or see, me not being able to share my screen, etc. After a week or two, I just realized I would be allotting about 2-5 minutes every session for troubleshooting. This just helped me calm down and be less stressed about it.

5. Have a policy or routine for missed sessions

Learn from my mistakes! I didn't have a policy for missed reading sessions. Sometimes parents would ask to make them up, or I would offer to make them up. Which was NICE, but... I found that about 50% of the time if I had a make up session, the students would not be there. This year I am going to just say no makeup sessions. If students miss, they miss. I always email parents updates with links to the book on Raz Kids, etc., after sessions regardless so students can at least read the book they missed!


6. Raz Kids

This website has leveled fiction and non fiction texts, reader's theatres and more! Raz Kids Plus is what our district has so students I worked with could go on again that night or the next day and reread the book which was great! I would share my screen for book previews and reading synchonrously too and it worked really well.

7. Book Widgets (free trial, then a monthly cost)

This website was really fun for me. They gave me free use in the spring but now the free trial is shorter. There are many things to try (think Flippity) like matching games, hidden pictures, random spinners and more!

8. Fountas and Pinnell

If your school uses Fountas and Pinnell, you should have access to online resources for whatever resource your district has purchased, such as Classroom, BAS  (benchmark assessment system) or LLI. We do not have classroom but there are online BAS resources (no  book though :( ) and all their LLI (Leveled Literacy Intervention) are online! I would share these books with students during Google Meets for just right practice at their levels. Students don't have online access of their own though - a downside. Plenty of teacher resources though.

9. ReadWorks (free)

A coworker of mine recommends ReadWorks, and particularly their Article of the Day.  There are online assessments with ReadWorks, but heads up, many of them teachers have to grade manually. Their content is ready to print too!

10. Epic (free)

Epic has trade books for all your students. Teachers get a class code and they can have students log in and read books (think Eric Carle, Big Nate, Splat the Cat and more such as non-fiction), listen to books, and watch videos (you can turn those off). Parents do need to sign their kids up for a home account (free 30 day trial) and then they can connect with the classroom Epic account,  but otherwise the students lose access to the site after the end of the school day. 

Is there a tip you'd like to add to my ten tips for teaching reading online? Let me know in the comments below!

Books to Use When Teaching Parts of Speech

Cover image of bookshelf

Books to Teach Parts of Speech

I like to find as many ways as possible to make things fun in school. Teaching some topics can be a little blah, so I love using books to teach parts of speech! The following images can all be clicked on and you can get more info at Amazon, but these are some of my favorites! 


Julia Cook is known for her books that present SEL topics in a way that students can connect with. This one, It's Hard to be a Verb, where a child has trouble controlling his body and calming it down. Definitely worth a look!
cover of It's Hard to be a Verb books


Brian Cleary has been one of my favorite authors of kids' non-fiction texts! These books have cute, fun pictures, and are engaging due to their fun rhyming sentences. They are great read alouds and easy to incorporate into reading workshop lessons too.

A Mink, a Fink, A skating rink book         


Michael Dahl is new to me, but I found his cute and fun books about parts of speech that all are titled: "If you were a ". Check out the cute covers below.


Ruth Heller is known for her gorgeous illustrations. Did you know she also has written several books focused on parts of speech? Below are just three books that use beautiful language to share and teach students.
Up, up and away cover
Many Luscious Lollipops cover               Merry go Round book  


These books are a neat way to discuss and read about nouns, verbs and collective nouns with students!

  ..         Collective Nouns


My second graders LOVED doing MadLibs! They really cemented their understanding of parts of speech after a few months work on MadLibs as a class. Also there was at some point (hopefully still is ) a free Mad Libs app! Give it a try.
                                 Mad Libs Junior cover      Mad Libs cover 2 

So these are some my top picks for books to teach parts of speech. What is your favorite?
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