New Books to Celebrate Womyn's History Month (All Year Long!)

Great New Books to Keep You Celebrating Womens’/Womyns’ History Month (All Year Long)

image from: https://hfhealthyliving.org/five-ways-celebrate-womens-history-month-new-york-city/

image from: https://hfhealthyliving.org/five-ways-celebrate-womens-history-month-new-york-city/

If you are a regular of our blog (hi!) you know we are of the mindset that while we appreciate the monthly celebrations as reminders to re-up our work, we don’t want to fall into the trap of only emphasizing the community being supposedly celebrated during only that month with our students.

That being said, we love an excuse to add extra incentive and energy around learning about womyn. So here are some newer fiction books (most we read as ARCs so we could keep you as in the loop as possible) that have heroines that we think will aid in great conversations, or are solid options for keeping your students hooked in their adventures and inspired!

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  1. The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio

We love this for its Filipina (!!!!) main character, Lou, her steadfast belief in herself and her dreams. She holds this belief even though they do not match what others expect of her, and we also admire her love for working with her hands and trying her best. We also adore Lou’s spunky and loving matriarchal family, the food descriptions (you might drool, we would use this as a class read aloud just to be able to incorporate some ube cake or lumpia into the classroom!?), and the representation of multiple different types of families and types of love:).

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2. Miss Mink: Life Lessons for a Cat Countess by Janet Hill

We love this for the art, really, but also the life lessons. There isn’t much text here but this is a different type of picture book and we could see it feeling inspiring to some students. For the cat lovers, for those who love looking at the details in art (and finding the cats!), for the humans who want to travel and make their own rules. We could see it being a fun starting off point for a lesson on personal autobiography, where students make their own “rules for life” according to themselves, with illustrated images to accompany them!

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3. The Breakways by Cathy G. Johnson

For a slightly stronger reader middle grade reader while still being fluffy and sweet, this is about the most fun eclectic bunch of girls on the struggling, C-level soccer team. Super diverse cast, sweet moments, and sincere struggles with trying to fit in. We love the representation of so many different ways to be an awesome girl (which from this text really means, find out who you are and be that!).

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4. Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

One of the new Rick Riordan Presents books, this one is the best from RRP so far (according to Gabby!). While this one is technically about the main character, a Sal, Gabi is really the star of this book and she is everything you could want a heroine to be. She is bright, she is thoughtful, she makes mistakes, she has a loving family you want to be friends with (I won’t spoil it for you, they are adorable), and she is a BOSS. This one also has incredible food scenes, amazing art school vibes, and of course, a universe at stake! (We may also note we love the Cuban vibes, Miami vibes, the healthcare focus which we normally shield from kids-- diabetes and babies, and how all of this is blended into a hilarious fantasy book!).

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5. Pilu of the Woods by Mai K. Nguyen

This one is for your melancholy or outdoorsy inspired kiddos. It’s a beautiful graphic novel about grief, nature, familial relationships, and working through your feelings. We’ve seen quite a few books out where boys get to have their big feelings (anger, ‘acting out’) and getting their moments of not knowing how to manage those feels. We love this for the representation of a girl who is unsure how to manage her feelings. We are grateful for the example of Pilu and how she works really hard to wade through her feelings, and finding her way back to supportive humans she loves.


There are, of course, so many more! But we will leave you with five so that it hopefully will not feel overwhelming. There are also so many fantastic anthologies about real womyn (also equally important, if not more so at times!), but we imagined you would see these on shelves at bookstores and blog posts everywhere this month.* We also know there are plenty of more obvious choices but we thought we would mix it up with a variety of these new/ less promoted ones. We hope this quirky new picks inspire you to keep sharing fictional (and non-fictional) amazing womyn with your students -- all the models for the endless ways they can be amazing young womyn!

Happy Womyn’s History month this month and all the futures!

Bessie’s photo at the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame

Bessie’s photo at the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame

*However if you are in need of an amazing woman to teach about this month Gabby highly suggests one of her favorite humans in history, black, motorcyclist and all around bosslady, Bessie Stringfield. That being said, she hasn’t quite found a kid’s book about Bessie that she loves just yet so please send your recommendations, if you find one!

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Top 7 Things I’m Reminded About Now That I’m a Student Again...!

Gabby here- first post in eternity.

It’s finals week over here in graduate school land, and as I begin to reflect on the term (or procrastinate-- whatever you want to call it!), I have been thinking about what past teacher me could be reminded about from my current student life. Here are a few pieces that came up as I reflected (or procrastinated, really, you decide- just don’t tell me!). Hopefully these can be helpful right before the upcoming break, or when students return in January.. in addition to reviewing all those hard taught classroom expectations that they forgot!

  1. Time: What is time really, you know? And how does it just disappear so fast?! In seriousness, the demands of time management of a student are hard (different from a teacher’s but still very hard in its own way!), and I forgot to the degree they are especially when we calculate in the rest of their lives. Students do not even have full control of their schedules (siblings rehearsals, family obligations they can’t opt out of like adults do..) Remembering that what you ask students to do requires them to both manage their time AND do the assignment .. make sure it’s actually worthwhile or call it a pass. There are of course a million cool things you could shove their way for them to work on, but when you want it to actually take some time, make sure it is your very top pick and you have loads of reasons as to why you chose that one.

  2. Review homework in class or don’t assign it. Connect in some way the work they are doing at home to in class work otherwise that homework does not really matter... Nothing is less motivating even for the kid who is continuously on top of their reading to realize ... huh.. it doesn’t really matter if I do this work or not. Even if they keep doing it, noticing it doesn’t matter will change the intentionality with which they do it. Also, repeated exposures is helpful for everyone! There’s nothing like that moment when you notice that you’ve been trying hard to follow the rules and nobody else and then you wonder why you are...yes, our students notice.

  3. Do frequently check for prior knowledge / experts about a range of topics — there’s a great range of educators in my classrooms right now and the courses where we are just getting lectured to and not discussing with one another seems like a lost resource / learning opportunity! I often feel this way at conferences, too... Your students know a ton and bring all sorts of background knowledge to the table that you really won’t know about unless you ask.. Or when their mom tells you in the hallway in May..

  4. Remember how scary authority is — if there was one thing I could emphasize the most in this entire post it is this point over and over again. Authority is actually terrifying and makes all of us squirm or meek up (this should definitely be a phrase) in some fashion. If you are not doing something well your students may very well not tell you. If your students are asking you for something, chances are it is something that really needs to change and it took a lot of pumping up for them to get to that point. Asking questions, asking for clarification, asking about an unfair grade (!!!) ... is typically not going to happen 80% of the time those dilemmas actually come up. That means as the teacher on the other side, we have to proactively and consistently check how things are going for your students and how open your lines of communication are.*  This also means being even more on their team than they are is the best way to go, because they likely won’t have the words or the skills (which we do need to teach them / have them practice) to ask for what they need and tell an authority figure what isn’t working respectfully. I had to talk to a professor about a grade and I was sweating. Actually sweating. *The 80% statistic is made up or also known as my personal educated guess *

  5. Everyone likes a video example. That’s all, I just think that’s true. Pick a good one, obviously-- but they help break things up and provide different entry points to learning.

  6. Remember that students are social beings ... it is only from training that they do not chat with each other during your entire class. Also, talking with one another about their learning is actually really effective for them to all be hands-on practicing something.. You just have to teach and reinforce how to do it.

  7. Calculate in fatigue /winter slumps/ testing times and plan with that in mind. You are exhausted and so is your cast of characters. Everyone is tired. Do your students need a review day (back to repeated exposures!), and not trying to shove more in their brains? It would be a great way to assess how they are doing and switch up the energy during a doldrum time. Like right now! And back to writing papers. Thanks for the casual writing outlet and also for the wonderful work that you are likely up to this year !

Oh, and of course, don’t make people buy books that you only assign one chapter in the whole term and you could’ve just uploaded a pdf !!! ... hmm, clearly a specific thought... apologies! But do carefully consider the reading you are assigning. If you ever need some recommendations just look at one of the many Teach Pluralism book recommendation blog posts!


Happy plugging through December to get to Winter Break educator friends! We can do it, we are almost there. So. close.

Reflecting on the Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action

Now that February is ending (how is it already March?!), we are looking back to the beginning of the month when we participated in the nationwide Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action.  When talking about something like Black Lives Matter with third graders, we work hard to make sure that the points of entry and examples are tangible, accessible, and developmentally appropriate.

As we reflected on Dr. Martin Luther King Day, anti-bias education is not something we do just one week (or day, or month) out of the year. It is something we try to do all day, every day as part of our curriculum, teaching philosophy, and classroom culture. The people we highlight and celebrate in our classroom day to day reflect the diversity of our world (just like we the teachers do!).

Image from https://wearoutthesilence.org

Image from https://wearoutthesilence.org


We started our BLM week by asking students: What do you know about Black Lives Matter? We showed them the image above and then had them reflect using an I think/I wonder chart on large notecards. We were impressed with the thoughtfulness of our students’ responses. They understand that “Black Lives Matter” needs to be explicitly said because we still don’t have equality (as you can see from a few of their responses pictured above).

We continued sharing images throughout the week as an image is a tangible and accessible way for our students to start a discussion or learn about something new. When showing a new image, we would ask: what do you notice? What questions do you have? What do you think you know?

This is a great way to incorporate social justice work on all levels into your classroom - always start with an image! Ask what students notice. Ask what they think they know. Ask what questions they have. They will often surprise you and will have space and time to think deeply and reflect in a meaningful way.


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Later in the week, we read this article from Newsela about implicit bias in teachers and how black preschoolers are 3.6 times as likely to be suspended as white preschoolers. After reading the article, we had students write three statements (responses or questions) after reading it (one student's responses are pictured above), and then had a whole class discussion. This example (black preschoolers being suspended at far higher rates) is really helpful for pushing our students to move beyond the idea of history and past discrimination. It provides a way to explain systemic and institutional oppression through a concrete example. The idea of preschoolers being suspended also really upset our students. Many of them made connections to their Kindergarten Reading Buddies (who they read with once a week) and they were shocked that children so young could be discriminated against and suspended.

 

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Another resource we loved (and are keeping until the end of the school year) was our “Black History Month” book bin! As you can see (above), it is bursting with books. Students enthusiastically asked to read books from that bin and recommended them to each other. Important note: these are obviously not ALL of our books about black peoples (or that have characters of color). We have many that infiltrate all other categories. This was one way to organize some books related to Black History Month and Black Lives Matter that really worked for our students.

 

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We also did a read aloud of Milo’s Museum by Zetta Elliot and discussed the book afterward. During the read aloud, students volunteered to explain why Milo might be feeling uncomfortable, and said it’s racist because the painting is uncomfortable (referring to a painting of a white woman and a black woman who appears to be a slave), she’s the only black girl there, and she’s not in the museum! This was another tangible and concrete example of institutional exclusion. Students connected to Milo feeling upset about not seeing herself in the museum and many of them empathized (either through the read aloud or from their own experiences) with the concept that representation matters.

We culminated our week of action by asking students to write their own statements of what Black Lives Matter means to them, and why it is important. We told our students before they started writing that we would read and combine their responses into one piece for all of us to sign and display on our door with our “everyone is welcome here” sign. The process of taking all of their ideas and combining them into one overall statement is familiar to them as this is how we created our class contract.

After we received all of their statements, we spent some time paring them down and choosing parts that summarized overall ideas and came up with the statement pictured below. Finally, we had an  unveiling of our finished class statement and each student came up to sign their initials in cursive (which was a big deal because we had finally finished learning how to write all of the letter in cursive the week before!).  Some of our students also surprised us by creating their own Black Lives Matter poster as a small group and asking us to “put it up somewhere everyone can see it!” So today we have two posters up outside our door.

Did you participate in the Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action? What resources or activities would you recommend? We'd love to hear your thoughts.

 

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