Hair Care & Respect Books: Why We’re Loving Them #TeacherMom

Last year was a veritable cascade of picture books relating to hair. Specifically, how to care for and respect natural black hair. And I couldn’t be more thankful when it comes to teaching my daughter to care for and respect her own and others’ hair.

First, we came across Cozbi A. Cabrera’s “My Hair Is a Garden.” Though my daughter’s hair isn’t natural black hair, it is curly and wild. As such, it has produced a lot of frustration at the amount of care it requires. As we read Mackenzie’s story, I observed the way my daughter was able to relate. She felt relieved to find that she isn’t the only one who needs to give her hair more nurturing (and to realize that there is nothing wrong with that)! I love the way this gorgeous book normalizes black hair (since of course all hair is normal), while also validating the fact that differences do require different kinds of care.


Next we read, “Don’t Touch My Hair,” by Sharee Miller. This hilarious read got us laughing as it gently but firmly asserts essential principles of boundaries and respect. I think the page of even mermaids trying to touch Aria’s hair was my personal favorite!

One other read we loved last year was Princess Hair, also by Sharee Miller. My daughter loved learning all the different names for hairstyles, and seeing the way all of the girls loved and rocked what they had!

Picture books are such a marvel, aren’t they? The way they validate, teach, assure, entertain, and enlighten. These hair-care and respect books have definitely done all of this and more! Thank you, authors!

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Best Inquiry Picture Books: Learner Identities & Subjects Round-Up

This is part of a 3-part series. View the PYP inquiry picture books round-up here.

I’m continuing my picture book round-up today by drawing from my inquiry posts regarding learner identities, specific subjects, and social/emotional skills. I hope you can find some valuable new reads for your classroom, and I would love if you could share your own recommendations, too!

Being a Writer: Brave Jane Austen by Lisa Pliscou & Jen Corace; The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds

Being a Reader: A Child Of Books by Oliver Jeffers; How to Read A Story by Kate Messner & Mark Siegel

Being a Mathematician & Large Numbers inquiry (and other inquiry into large numbers): Infinity & Me by Gabi Swiatkowska & Kate Hosford; A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman & Isabel Greenberg; 1+1=5 by David LaRochelle, Brenda Sexton

Being a Scientist: tiny, perfect things by M. H. Clark & Madeline Kloepper

Design in Nature, & Color: Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin & Rosana Faria; Swirl by Swirl by Joyce Sidman & Beth Krommes

Music: The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Fiddleduckling by Timothy Basil Ering

Friendship & Bullying: The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig; Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson & E.B. Lewis; One by Kathryn Otoshi

Feelings & Goal-Making: The Heart & the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers; We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen; The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld; What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada & Mae Besom

Stay tuned for one more of these compilations!

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Tolerance of Messy in Favor of Learning #TeacherMom

I like tidiness. I find myself struggling to think straight when my environment gets too chaotic.

And yet for the last several months, our family room inevitably returns to some version of this:

Not too bad, but when it happens every day, several times a day, and across every room and even his bed — it starts to wear down this parent’s sanity.

Lately, however, I have started to try and shift my perspective. I realize that the repetitive scattering of books can look like a mess…or it can look like rich early literacy development.

After all, my 2 year-old is not just yanking them out just to make a mess. He is just devouring them, sometimes flipping through the pictures, other times approximating the story out loud for himself.

When we’re in the classroom, the reality is that we can’t always handle the volume of messy learning — especially when there are 30+ students! That’s why it’s important to spend time talking about our shared responsibilities for our shared learning space, and making room for students to express how they feel about their environment.

We are currently working on learning to put the books back on the shelves, as well. But through this process, both with my very small student at home, and with our classroom students, it’s important to always hold aloft what matters most: the learning. It reminds me of a quote I’ve often heard:

One might similarly state, never let a problem to be solved become more important than learning to be gained.

What are ways a shift in your perspective has helped you navigate the complexities of teaching?

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Inquiry into SDG’s: Gender Equality

This is a series of provocations designed to provide resources for students to inquire into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. For more, click here

With International Women’s Day last week, I thought this would be a great time to publish the Sustainable Development Goal of Gender Equality. This goal aims to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”

Women and children are vulnerable in a myriad of ways, including child marriage, sexual violence, access to education, and presence in leadership, and equal pay. These resources are meant to help students consider what this global goal means to them and how they can be part of the solution.

Resource #1: #IWasTold by Ultimate Software

Resource #2: by International Women’s Day 2018 by Vodafone

Resource #3: Trailer for She Started It Movie

Resource #4: Dream Crazier by Nike

Resource #5: Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai and Kerascoet

Provocation Questions:

  • What is gender equality?
  • How do gender equality issues look different around the world? How do they look similar?
  • How is gender equality changing?
  • Whose responsibility is it to make things more equal for all people?

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5 Ways To Make Room for Ownership with “Learning Targets”

I want to see students journey. I want to see them wonder. I want to see them trusting in themselves as they make decisions about their learning — because I don’t hold all the answers for what works best for them.

But I also want to see them given the tools to navigate that journey. I want them to see them feeling confident about strengthening skills. I want them to see them trusting my feedback as their learning consultant — because I can offer them guidance on their journey!

So where does the compromise lie, especially when we’re talking about posting learning targets, success criteria, etc.? After asking this question and searching out my PLN’s strategies over the last several weeks, I have found a few ideas. I would love to hear more of yours!

#1: Don’t necessarily make the success criteria the content itself, but rather the skills and mindsets students might need to be successful.

For example, instead of:

“Identify the difference between weathering and erosion.”

You might write:

“Clearly communicate your science observations through speaking and writing.”

#2: Co-construct success criteria with students.

#3: Rephrase learning targets as questions.

#4: Use James Durran’s “Boxed” Success Criteria device (I really like the big wall version). Read full post here.

#5: Allow students to plan their own learning time based on learning goals they develop (from the curricula & from personal goals)


Ultimately, shifting our conversations from what we expect students to learn to what tools might help students learn can be powerful. Because in the end, their learning is up to them!

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Best Inquiry Picture Books: PYP Round-Up

This is part of a series of inquiry picture book round-ups. See the learner identities list here.

Nearly every one of my “inspiring inquiry” posts ends with at least one book recommendation. I wanted to revisit some of them, but I realized that I’ve now written so many inquiry posts that that would take quite a lot of time to click through.

Which brings me to today’s post! It will be the first of a few book round-ups from my inquiry posts, starting with the International Baccalaureate PYP posts. The words in bold are the topic of the inquiry post (linked back the original as well). Please feel free to add additional book recommendations to the comments. Happy reading!

Empathy: The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

Curiosity: Pond by Jim LaMarche; The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater & The Fan Brothers

Commitment: A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women’s Rights by Kate Hannigan & Alison Jay

Enthusiasm: Fancy Nancy by Robin Preiss Glasser & Jane O’Connor; Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Jon Klassen & Mac Barnett

Appreciation: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena & Christian Robinson; Windows by Julia Denos & E.B. Goodale; How to Write Your Life Story by Ralph Fletcher

Independence: Chopsticks by Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Scott Magoon

Cooperation: Flora & the Peacocks by Molly Idle; Officer Buckle & Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

Integrity: Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen; The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs; This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen; Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola

Tolerance: Most People by Michael Lennah & Jennifer E. Morris

Respect: A Boy & A Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz & Catia Chien; Don’t Touch My Hair by Saree Miller

Knowledgeable: If Picasso Painted a Snowman by Amy & Greg Newbold

Caring: Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts & Noah Z. Jones

Principled: Penny & Her Marble by Kevin Henkes; We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen; Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

Risk Taker: I’m Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton; Jubari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall; The Dark by Lemony Snicket & Jon Klassen

Open-Minded: This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe; Harold & the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Inquirer: Claymates by Dev Petty & Lauren Eldridge; Beyond the Pond by Joseph Kuefler

Communicator (& other communication post): The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan & Tom Knight

Balanced: Moon by Alison Oliver & Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson & Kevin O’Malley

Thinker: What Do You Do With A __? books by Kobi Yamada

Action: What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada & Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

Social Skills: Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller; We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen

Self Management Skills: Forever or a Day by Sara Jacoby; The North Star by Peter Reynolds

Where We Live PYP Unit: This House Once by Deborah Freedman

How We Express Ourselves PYP Unit & other unit: The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater; Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen; Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty & David Roberts

Great job if you made it all the way through this list! It made me so happy making it–nothing like a picture book memory lane. You probably also noticed the many Jon Klassen & Mac Barnett reads — I guess their work is just conducive to inquiry!

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“Diverse System, Maximum Resilience”

I recently watched the video below via The Kid Should See This. Though it’s entitled, “A Forest Garden With 500 Edible Plants Could Lead to a Sustainable Future,” gardening was the last thing on my mind. Instead, I couldn’t stop thinking of, you guessed it, students and learning.


First thoughts: How does conventional gardening relate to conventional education?

  • Neat rows for maximum efficiency
  • Keeping species (or age groups) separated from one another
  • Focusing more on maximizing performance from each plant rather than considering how different plants might work together for growth

Next: How are principles of gardening sustainability applicable to learning?

  • Teaching/permitting students to take the lead in their learning.
  • Setting up the environment so that students can flourish in their strengths and in ownership (from access to supplies to apps to loose parts objects). See example in our stop-motion movie making efforts.
  • Ensuring that instruction in skills is balanced with nurturing of meaning and connection. Read this story of two poetry units for ideas.

And finally, how do we mitigate the fear of messier gardening learning and less control?

  • The first answer comes from a quote from the gardener in the video, Martin Crawford: “It can seem a bit overwhelming to have so many different species, but you shouldn’t stop that from beginning a project because you don’t have to know everything to begin with. Just start, plant some trees, and go from there.”
  • Engage students’ voices through class meetings, suggestion boxes, and having plan their own time, and self-assessment. See “10 Ways for Every Student to be on their own Learning Path.”
  • Work with parents proactively so that they understand that messy does not equate to out of control or lack of learning.

I love the image of teachers as gardeners, and all the more so when it’s less about control/production and more about trust in inherent potential. Nourishing along the way, we can all find richer meaning, resilience, and sustainability.

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