Nurturing Kindness in Today's Classroom

In the stressed out climate of today's world, it is more important than ever to find ways to start nurturing kindness in today's classroom! Today's blog post has a few suggestions for you, so let's get started!




I bet you have some of these texts in your classroom. My two faves are the newer one Be Kind and the lovely, wordless picture book I Walk with Vanessa. I also have learned a lot from the Berenstain Bears since I was a child myself in the 80s! Which one is your favorite?!  (Clicking on any bring you to Amazon to get more info).


Here's a fun way to get your class organized and start a random act of kindness, and its a freebie! Click here to grab it from Teachers Pay Teachers.


In this cute video, young kids explain what kindness is and give some examples. I find sometimes children listen more to other children so it may be worth a watch.

This is a fun song that students created for a Kindness Matters challenge!

Adorable song called Kindness is a Muscle!

This is a lovely read aloud from Story Time Family of the book Be Kind.


I have loved writing class books with second graders. Often we do something like choose a topic, say kindness, and each student illustrates a pictures and writes a sentence or two about the topic, then we put it together into a book. We also have created books where each student picks a different topic and we combine it into a book about "How to be a Good Friend" (or something similar).

Want more ideas? Check out my blog post called 10 Ways to Help Kids be Kind.  Do you have another suggestion for nurturing kindness in today's classroom? Comment and let me know!

Management Tips for Interactive Notebooks

Blog post - Management Tips for Interactive Notebooks

Hey teachers!! Are you using Interactive Notebooks or planning to? I used them for years with my second graders so I definitely developed some management tricks for interactive notebooks over time. Here are some tips for you! (and if you're wondering why you should try INBs check out my blog post here on how they keep kids engaged)!

Interactive Notebook Management Trips


The most common materials to use for INBs are composition books (the old school black and white ones)
or spiral bound notebooks. I prefer composition books because they are sturdier. Some teachers prefer to have everything independent (not in a book) so that students can turn in individual assignments so they use lined paper. This would, however, prevent students from having the resources in one place to refer to later.


I prefer liquid glue over glue sticks. Glue sticks can be wimpy and pages peel right off. But you have to train your students use use dots of glue, NOT rivers of glue! Remember the mantra, dots, not rivers.


There are several choices as to where kids can keep their notebooks. Traditionally, my students kept mine in their desks and when we transferred to flexible seating, in their cubbies. Some teachers also like to have all the INBS in a bin in a single spot for everything!
Here are some bins that I love! Clicking on the image will bring you to see them on Amazon.

Organizing Inside the INB

Table of Contents

For tables of contents like those I have in my own INBs, the very first thing my students do after they write their name on it, is cut out and glue down the table of contents, or at least some of them. You want to leave a certain number of pages free for them. I think we kept about 12-14 pages free.


table will help your students keep their INBS organized and may be a quicker way to find things than the table of contents. I don't have any but you can find them on Teachers Pay Teachers!

Page Numbers

Label page numbers in advance. I would have students work on page numbers when they finished other work, or sometimes as morning work , or if we had 3-5 spare minutes.


There are tons of interactive notebooks out there; however, I ended up creating my own because none of the ones I saw met my needs. I was looking for a simple design, easy to read fonts, clip art that is not distracting and  simple borders. I wanted my students to focus on the content and their thinking, not the cute or distracting clip art or wiggly and wavy borders.

Check out the ones I have below! Clicking on any covers will bring you to them at TPT. the last one is a freebie!

Math interactive notebook cover

ELA interactive notebook cover 

Reading interactive notebook cover

Spelling interactive notebook cover

This one is FREE if you want to just try out some INB writing activities!

Freebie interactive notebook cover

Be sure to comment and let us know if you have your own management tricks for interactive notebooks that I can add to this post!

Blog post - Management Tips for Interactive Notebooks

Building Home School Connections During Remote Learning

Building Home School Connections During Remote Learning
It's tough to do everything else you're supposed to be doing as teacher right now, as well as building home -school connections during remote learning. Here are some ideas that you can implement. They will help to nurture relationships and connections with students' parents and family members/guardians when you don't see them in person.

Building Home School Connections During Remote Learning

1. Have a Meet the Parents Session

If you have already had Open House Night, you can still try this. Plan in advance a half hour Meet or Zoom session and tell students they have to bring their parent(s)/guardians, and introduce them. Students love this (my friend who teachers remote third grade had a very successful time doing it) and you could have them tell a fun fact about their parents or a reason they love them.

2. Provide Important Information in the Home Language

Yes, we all know official school correspondence and special education documents need to be provided in home language, but if you are teaching fully remote, there is ton of info for parents that go home in emails or is posted on Google Classroom or websites. Consider providing these in home language too, to support parents and strengthen their trust in you.

3. Consider Having Parent-Teacher Conferences 

Maybe your school is not doing parent conferences because of the pandemic, but you may want to have them anyway, even you do 10 minutes each. Parents will be very, very appreciative.

4. Assignments that Involve Family 

You can create or use assignments for which students need to get family or household members involved. Check out this Family Interview, or students can choose a family member for the Interview an Immigrant Activity from my Immigration Resource on Teachers Pay Teachers.

5. Digital Newsletter 

When we are teaching in person, many of us sent home paper newsletters weekly or monthly. If you are all remote now, consider doing a weekly newsletter such as this one from The Tuf Teacher! You can find several other digital newsletter templates that are free around the web.

6. Use the Remind App

This would be great to share helpful reminders with parents or to send home "positive notes" for a student or two each day. On Remind, you can select one or more parents , or the whole group, to text message!

7. Create a Class Cookbook

Invite students and their family to share recipes and create a class cookbook that all can enjoy with an app such as Book Creator.

8. Invite Parents for a Career or Special Talent/Hobby Day

Our school used to have a career day/week. You could still do something like this virtually! But, perhaps to be more inclusive, if all parents are not currently employed, you could have parents share a special talent or a hobby. Students will be really entertained! Parents will feel like they contributed to the students' experience, even if they can't do so in person.

If you also want some advice on strengthening your parent communication routines, you may enjoy this blog post.

I hope these tips for building home school connections during remote learning are useful and helpful! Please comment and let us know what is the most helpful tip!

Building Home School Connections During Remote Learning

Time Management Tips for Remote Teaching

This school year is NO JOKE. At my school some teachers are doing hybrid teaching, but two at each grade level are teaching fully remotely. After doing fully remote teaching last spring, I have done a lot of troubleshooting with how to manage my time. To help, I have some time management tips for remote teaching (but can really be applied to a hybrid model too or "traditional teaching".

Time Management Tips

Limit Phone Usage

I know, you think that you won't be on your phone that much if you are teaching remotely, but you'd be surprised. Sure, we are not going be looking at Instagram when we are live with our students, but those notifications are hard to ignore when texts come in. Also, my texts show up on my smart watch now! Consider turning those off if you have a watch like mine. And consider placing your phone out of reach, away from your work web cam. During your prep time, if you really need to concentrate and plan / get things done, you can turn off your phone, put it on airplane mode, or even in another room. I have done it and it helps! If you're worried someone will have an emergency and call you, they won't but , set a timer for 15-20 minutes and do a quick 'Did anyone call with an emergency?' check and then get back to planning.

Plan When to Check E-mail

Choose only specific times of day to check email! I did this even when I was a classroom teacher in traditional times. If you have notifications on your laptop for email, turn those off, so when you are looking at assignments in Google Classroom, you don't need to worry. if you're an early riser, maybe check email first thing and get it over with, but if you get going just in time to log on for your first session, trying checking email for the first time at snack or "recess". Planning another time to check again , or even twice more may be wise. I know classroom teachers in my school get dozen of emails, many from parents alone. I'd recommend, unless you don't get stressed by email, to not check it after dinner or late at night if you can avoid it! Here is my email routine from the spring:
  1. First thing in the morning
  2. After morning RTI sessions
  3. After afternoon RTI sessions 
And that's it. I'd take action right away or delete emails that didn't relate to it and move on.

Organize your Schedule

Pick a place to keep all your scheduled classes/log on times - maybe Google calendar, the notes app on Apple devices or a paper and pencil planner...I find the calendar in Google very handy because we use Google Meet so often the links to meets were right in there too! Some teachers love using traditional planners and keep their links for zoom or google meet on a note on their laptop/computer or in a Google doc. Whatever works for you. But find a way to keep everything straight!

Use Templates and/or Repeated but Varied Assignments 

Use templates so that you do not have to make 35 different activities a week! Seriously!The second grade  Journeys resources I created have a lot of templates that are an example of this. Each week students do activities with vocabulary words, but using the same or similar templates, so that I wasn't reinventing the wheel and students easily would know the directions from week to week. Check them out here if you want to take a look. 

I also did phonics patterns with Boggle board every week as a reading center. Something like this could be done on Seesaw or any learning platform. Use a blank board, enter your letters or words and keep the directions consistent. 

Stop working!

Clock off at a certain time. On remote days I could work all day and night so I promise myself to stop at 4pm. We know we are going to work on weekends, vacations and maybe an hour or two after dinner, so give yourself a stopping time in the late afternoon for your own mental health!

Let me know if you have an additional time management tip for remote teaching and I will add it ! And if it is all just too stressful and you need to do some self care, check out my 7 Self Care Tips for Teachers post here.

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