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National Hispanic Heritage Month: 5 Ways to Celebrate Hispanic Culture

Image result for national hispanic heritage month

From September 15 to October 15 we observe National Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States. This occasion provides an opportunity to celebrate culture and history while enriching your children’s understanding of the Hispanic community. Use the resources available from the Library of CongressNational Archives, and Smithsonian Institution to help your kids build a connection with diversity and other ethnicities.

History and Social Studies

  1. Find out about Hispanic historical and cultural legacies: The U.S. government started National Hispanic Heritage Month in 1988 to honor Hispanic Americans and their history. Focusing on Hispanic heritage is a way to enrich your kids’ understanding of diversity in the United States and the value of other cultures.

  1. Discover Hispanic leaders and landmarks: Ask your kids if they can think of any Hispanic historical figuresleaders like Miguel Antonio Otero, or landmarks. National Hispanic Heritage Month provides an opportunity to learn more about Hispanic members of the U.S. Congress and national landmarks. Ask your kids what inspires them from learning about these figures or historical landmarks.


  1. Read up on Hispanic culture: Take your kids on an adventure to your local library and read books on Hispanic culture. Ask them what parts of Hispanic culture they like the most to enhance an appreciation for the fun history of Hispanic traditions. Older kids might enjoy the Hispanic Reading Room of the Library of Congress, where they will find webcasts that can help build a connection with the Hispanic community.

  2. Make a family storybook: National Hispanic Heritage Month also can be an occasion to celebrate your own family’s history. Using some paper and coloring supplies, help your kids make a family storybook showing the history of their relatives. A family storybook provides a chance to remember and retell our own family stories, building a personal connection to history and heritage.

Get Moving

  1. Dance to Hispanic music: Spark interest in Latin music by getting active and dancing to some Hispanic tunes. Expose your kids to everything from Latin jazz to salsa, and use this opportunity to get moving. Take time to listen to some songs, have your kids pick out any favorites, and explore why they liked those best.

These are just a few suggestions to promote your kids’ interest in our nation’s cultural diversity.

This feature is based on a blog post that originally appeared on free.ed.gov, a site that is now retired. Please visit ed.gov/FREE for more information.

How one teacher combats bullying by “Standing up for Pink”

bullying empathy

An elementary teacher shares her method for preventing bullying through understanding, self-reflection, and communication.

Bullying has, unfortunately, become a common term in today’s education world. All students get into the occasional squabble or call another student a name—but bullying is different.

Bullying is defined by negative actions, which are intentional, repeated, negative, and show an imbalance of power between the students. We’ve come a long way in the past few decades in acknowledging bullying and confronting it as a real problem in our schools. At some point, we decided this wasn’t just a normal part of school; it was something that was deeply hurting the development of our students, and we didn’t have to accept it.

As a teacher, it is my responsibility to teach my students compassion, empathy, and respect at a young age. These things become fundamental values to them as adults.

Standing Up for Pink

This is my fourth year teaching, and I have yet to have a serious issue with bullying in any of my classrooms, but that doesn’t mean I am not on the lookout for any behavior that could develop into bullying later. For example, one time there were a couple of boys in my kindergarten class who repeatedly made fun of any student for liking the color pink.

I took this very seriously, since if this behavior continued, it could turn into gender-based bullying in adolescence, which can be a huge problem. I created a PowerPoint called Stand Up for Pink. In it, I defined bullying and included images of cool-looking men (dads, football players, musicians, etc.) wearing pink. After I presented the PowerPoint, I handed out a pledge that everyone signed to agree to end making fun of the color pink.

Many of the students were happy I addressed this. During our class discussion, I had a kindergarten boy share that he loved pink and it was his favorite color. Many of the girls shared that when the boys made fun of pink because it was a “girl” color, they were in turn making fun of girls.

After this day, I never heard another student make fun of pink for the rest of the year. I even noted that some of the boys who initially made fun of the color were using it in their drawings.

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Best Books for New Teachers (Part I)

One of the hallmarks of any profession, including teaching, is the requirement to stay abreast of the field, to keep up with the "state of the art." But between the press of the classroom--planning, grading, meeting the myriad needs of individual children--and the obligations and needs of the teacher's own personal life, time is a premium for every teacher.

Every minute counts. So teachers need to know which books are best worth their limited time.

It's with this in mind that we offer these book lists--which represent some of the best thinking on motivating students, instructional techniques, and classroom management strategies.

This is Part I, covering How-To Teach books and Teaching and Learning books. 

Teacher How-To Teach Books

In our reading, we've come across some books that offer useful guidance for teachers with tips, inspirational stories, and strategies. These books will be especially helpful for new teachers in suggesting ways to set up and manage their classrooms to maximize learning and minimize distractions. Even experienced teachers can learn from seeing what works in other classrooms:

  • Tools for Teaching by Fred Jones - This book is part of a series of books, videos, and seminars based on observing successful teachers for over 40 years. The book shows teachers how to use classroom management and discipline tools to increase time available for teaching.
  • Teach Like a Champion 2.0: 62 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College by Doug Lemov - Asserting that great teaching can be taught, this bestseller is a very practical book with lots of how-to advice on classroom management. The 2.0 version includes video clips showing real teachers using the techniques.
  • See Me After Class: Advice For Teachers By Teachers by Roxanna Elden - This book provides no-nonsense survival advice for new teachers through stories from teachers of the things that went wrong in their classes. Instead of the Hollywood storyline of the superhero teacher, this book shows struggling teachers how to survive the challenges not covered in teacher prep.
  • Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire by Rafe Esquith - This "cookbook for teaching" shows how Esquith has taught high-poverty, immigrant Los Angeles fifth-grade students algebra, economics, and Shakespeare. The book expands on his mottos "Work hard, Be nice" and "There are no shortcuts" with techniques, exercises, and innovations that other teachers can emulate.


Teaching and Learning Books

Other books go beyond day to day practice to examine the science of teaching and learning. This helps teachers understand the larger context in which they work and the principles that undergird all effective teaching:


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8 steps to effective K-12 assessments

assessments effective teachers

By taking these steps for effective assessments, teachers can effectively give students ownership over their learning.

Developing quality assessments can be challenging for a number of reasons. And, because assessments are essential in so many student-focused decisions, it’s important to get them right. Here are eight steps that teachers and curriculum directors can use to create high quality, effective assessments:

1. Use assessments to uncover good decision-making evidence. Assessment should be considered integral to the instructional process, and the development of assessments with lesson-planning improves learning outcomes. When done right, planning assessment while planning lessons not only gives instructors the evidence they need to make sound decisions, but it also ensures that curriculum, instruction, and assessment form a cohesive program around which informed decisions can be made.

2. Align learning targets with assessment methods. Mismatches between the target and the assessment method will lead us to making incorrect decisions about a student’s position on the learning continuum. For example, knowledge learning targets are efficiently assessed using traditional selected-response type questions. However, learning targets requiring demonstration of a skill or the creation of products will require more innovative item types in order ensure the learning target is being assessed accurately.

3. Don’t mistake rigor with difficulty. Rigor relates to the extent to which students must transform knowledge (i.e., cognitive demand) in order to display proficiency. Think of it in terms of the thought processes occurring for students: demand connected to interacting with the question affects difficulty, while demand connected to forming a response affects rigor.

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5 ways to enrich communication at the start of the school year-and why it’s essential

communication school parents

An elementary teacher shares her best practices for getting off on the right foot with both parents and students.

Good communication is essential in any relationship, whether it is employer to employee, spouse to spouse, or teacher to student (or student’s parents). In my time as an educator, I’ve seen what a difference good communication can make. When communication channels are open between parents, students, and teachers, students have increased motivation for learning, improved behavior, more regular attendance, and a more positive attitude about school.

Back to school is a great time to build up these communication channels, since so much needs to be discussed at this time of year. At our school, we collect health information, addresses, phone numbers, birthdays, and transportation information.

As a teacher, you also need to help students transition smoothly into a new class schedule, routines, and teacher expectations. Here are some great ways to ensure that your communication—with both parents and students—gets off to the right start:

1. Take advantage of in-person events when possible.

At Long Elementary, we have a Meet the Teacher night prior to school starting. I take great pride in building relationships with my students and their parents. This benefits both the students and parents by providing an avenue of constant support for their children. Parents also become more confident about the value of their school involvement, and they develop a greater appreciation for the work the school does.

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