10 LGTBQ+ Books You Should Have In Your Classroom Library

Have you ever read a book and thought, "wow I'm just like the main character"? Have you ever read a book and wished that one of the characters was a real person because they would be your best friend? Shouldn't everyone feel that way at one point or another? Having a diverse collection of books in your classroom library is extremely important. Often teachers can't control the list of books they teach to the whole class, but teachers can make sure that diverse books are available to meet the needs of their students. Here are some suggestions of LGTBQ+ young adult books that would make a great addition to any secondary classroom library. 


Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo: Camino and Yahaira are half-sisters, but neither has any idea the other exists until a plane crashes, taking their shared father with it. Camino, who lives in the Dominican Republic, was used to rarely seeing her father, while Yahaira, a lesbian who lives in New York City, knew her father took a lot of business trips. Finally meeting means piecing together his life of lies, but it also means finding someone who understands exactly what they're going through, and maybe that's exactly what they each need to help them get through it.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green: Two teens, one gay and one straight, meet accidentally and discover that they share the same name. The boys are complete opposites, but their lives become intertwined as one begins dating the other's best friend. The book is told from both characters’ point of view in alternating chapters. 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz: Fifteen-year-old Aristotle (Ari) has always felt lonely and distant from people until he meets Dante , a boy from another school who teaches him how to swim. Ari’s world opens up while they discuss life, art, literature, and their Mexican-American roots. Additionally, the influence of Dante ’s warm, open family is shaping Ari’s relationship with his parents, particularly in regard to a family secret; Ari has an older brother in prison, who no one ever mentions. The story swells to a dramatic climax as Ari’s loyalties are tested, and he confronts his most deeply buried fears and desires. 

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell: It’s Simon Snow’s last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and it’s not going as planned. His magic, always unstable, has been even more unpredictable, which is bad news with the magical world’s most infamous bad guy after him. His girlfriend is distant, and he’s afraid he’ll lose touch with his best friend after graduation. But most unsettling of all, Simon’s frustrating, evil, pretty-sure-he’s-a-vampire nemesis/roommate hasn’t come back to school. Baz is probably just off plotting somewhere, but what if he’s really in trouble? And why does Simon care so much, anyway? 

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar Bengali: Irish teen Nishat can be anything she wants to be—anything except a lesbian, that is. Her parents think she can simply "choose" to be straight. Nishat's childhood friend Flávia, a Brazilian Irish girl comes back into her life, and she instantly has a crush on her. Nishat needs to figure out if her all-consuming feelings are worth defying her parents over. 

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper: Cal is a Brooklyn teen and a social media phenomenon. When his passenger-pilot father gets the call from NASA to join a Mars probe program, Cal and his mother, who suffers from severe anxiety, have to move with him to Houston. Cal develops a crush on new neighbor Leon, who is battling depression. The boys fall in love but their parents are both competing for the same spot in NASA’s mission.

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron: It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again. Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her stepsisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew.  

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo: After surviving a brutal attack, Amanda moves from Georgia to Tennessee for the new school year. She plans to stay focused and get through senior year, but kind, attractive Grant causes a distraction that wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for her deepest secret. Amanda is transgender and no one in her new school knows. Amanda struggles to live the life of a “normal” teen. The story goes back and forth between present day and the past before Amanda moved. 

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle: Sixteen-year-old Quinn Roberts is hiding from the world because her sister died in a car crash six months ago. Quinn is ready to give up his dreams of writing screenplays. Quinn’s best friend Geoff insists it’s time for Quinn to go out and have some fun. Geoff drags Quinn to his first college party, where instead of nursing his pain, he meets a good looking guy that he’s interested in. Quinn starts imagining a life where he’s a screenplay writer and living a happy life once again. 

The Black Flamingo by Dean Alta: Michael always knew that he was different in more ways than one. He would compare himself to the black flamingo of Cyprus. He was anatomically the same, but a standout amongst his flock. When he comes out during high school with uncertainties about what exactly his sexual preferences are, he’s faced with a lot of big questions related to his family, friends, and ultimately who he wants to be in the world as he prepares to take off to university.

Previously I wrote another post about this topic: 6 LGTBQ Books You Should Add to Your Classroom Library. Both lists of books are good for secondary students. If you have any YA book recommendations let me know. 



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3 Ways Co-Teachers Can Work Together in Distance Learning

3 Ways Co-Teachers Can Work Together in Distance Learning



Co-teaching can be so rewarding. It benefits the students with two teachers and teachers benefit from having some to constantly collaborate with, but throw in distance learning and it is a whole new ballgame. How do co-teachers work together in distance learning?  Take a look at these 3 ways to ensure the co-teaching relationship continues to benefit everyone involved!


Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More


Co-teaching is a fine art of communication. Oftentimes in the classroom, co-teachers do not even need to use words to communicate what will come next, but enter distance learning and more than ever, co-teachers need to make time to TALK.


A really effective way to make some time for those valuable discussions are to schedule check-ins, and try to make each other a priority. Be flexible and make time to check in even on unscheduled days. As an educator, you know how quickly anything can change.


Here are some  tips for your scheduled planning time. First, make the expectations together. I’m not just talking about expectations for the scholars either! Talk about what you expect from one another! Yes, you need to start with the basics because distance learning is not even close to in-person learning.  Be flexible with one another, but make sure to agree on how you will  evaluate student work, what live lessons will look like, and make decisions about who is creating the lessons. There are just so many variables in this type of learning that planning what works for your students is most vital to your co-teaching success. 


Another tip is to use FaceTime or Google Meet for planning sessions. Being able to see our co-teachers and being able to work simultaneously really does make a difference. Using Google Slides or Google Docs works really well also because you can collaborate on the same document. There are so many possibilities, but most importantly, both teachers need to be visible to our scholars, as they would be in a normal in-person classroom.


Share the Work


Alright, so you have planned and you know what you want to teach and how. Now is the time to buckle down and get it done. This is where you must share the work, but it isn’t just lesson planning. Take a look at some more ideas:

  •  Communicating with Families- We all know, as teachers in distance learning,  this communication with families is uniquely vital. Share this responsibility; don’t become overwhelmed with the amount of phone calls and emails. A quick tip, make sure to CC your co-teacher on all correspondence!  Also, document the conversations with families to talk about it in your planning meetings!

  •  Video Lessons- These types of lessons are very helpful in distance learning, so why not do them together? You would teach a lesson ping ponging ideas, so do it on a video too! (Google Meet allows you to share your screen and Screencastify records what is on your screen so those tools could help you with this!) The goal is to make both teachers visible, so even if you don’t record together, split the responsibility!

  •  Feedback for assignments- We know as teachers, feedback has to be timely to be effective, so take some time to plan how this will work and make sure to avoid it being overwhelming by sharing the workload. 


Be A Team


It is so important to remember that distance learning is a new puzzle for most of us. Co-teaching relationships take time to grow and flourish in a normal in-person classroom, but by making teamwork a priority, you are halfway to a terrific co-teaching relationship. Check out the co-teaching models and see what works for you. It is ok if what worked in the classroom doesn’t work in distance learning, just continue to  work as a team and see what works best for you. 


Possible Co-teaching Models


  •  One teach- One support-  You could have one main teacher and a moderator checking for engagement, behavior, cameras on, etc.

  •  Team Teach-  You could be equals in the lesson bouncing ideas off of each other, both teachers being leaders.

  •  Station teaching-  In this style, you divide the students into smaller groups and differentiate their learning with each teacher taking on a group. If you are using breakout rooms, you may even have an independent group that you check in on occasionally. You can share that responsibility also!


Finally, regardless of the model you choose, be a team. Use “we” when you speak to the students. Share your successes about your students. Also, make data accessible to both teachers, ensure both teachers post assignments and make sure both voices are heard.  Although distanced, our scholars need to see and hear us so continue to be rockstar co-teaching teams and use these 3 ways co-teachers can work together in distance learning!



4 Knockout Ideas for Distance Learning

 4 Knockout Ideas for Distance Learning


Distance learning can at times feel like you were put in a blender without the top on. Just because we are distanced from our students doesn’t mean we have to feel so mixed up. Take a few pointers for the 4 knockout ideas for distance learning so you don’t feel the pressure, so much!


Keep it Simple


Remain organized and keep everything simple. It really is the key to successful distance learning. Use the same lesson plan template each week. This helps to make sure students know what to expect each week. Pick a day for grammar. Be clear what the goals are each week. Be clear with due dates. Do not lower your expectations, but make them clear. If students do not turn their cameras on in virtual meetings, then make it clear from the beginning that is an expectation. Make sure students know how they are being graded and what to expect in terms of grading. How often is your gradebook updated? Do you provide feedback on all assignments? Where should they find the feedback? (I am a big fan of Google Docs comments and Kaizena if you are looking to share your voice!) 


Stay Connected


Being connected to your students is more important than ever. Showing students that you care, you are invested in their learning, and you want them to succeed is of utmost importance during distance learning. Take time to get to know them. Do the icebreaker activities and make students feel a part of the community. You can also use a website to promote and  to display student work. You need to continue to show pride in what they are accomplishing, so they do too! (Google sites are really easy to use!) You may even have a student help you maintain the website giving opportunities to students who want to do more. 


Also, make connection with families a priority. Yes, it is time consuming, but when distanced, it is even more important for families to be in the communication loop. Social emotional health is a serious issue during distance learning and being in contact with families will avoid seeing students that are often overachievers becoming slackers. Families need to know how their children are doing to be a part of the support system. There are great resources out there like Remind that allow you to stay connected without giving out your phone number! Decide what works best for you and stay connected!


Keep it Light


Distance learning should have high expectations, but when we’re in in-person class there are so many times that you go off on tangents, or play games, or even watch movies. Don’t forget all of that just because we are distanced. Do play games.  One of my favorites is Scattergories. You can easily find lists online and choose a letter! Play with words and have some fun! You can easily share game sites like Kahoot or Quizizz in synchronous time by sharing your screen.


Also, keep up with the motivation! Continue to do rewards. Even distanced, extrinsic motivation matters.


 Here are a few ideas: 

  • Play games!

  • Watch a movie together

  • Second chance on an assignment

  •  Drop lowest grade

  • Choose a recipe the teacher makes in a synchronous meeting. (Even more interesting if you’re not a great cook or a student gets to give you directions!)

  • Choose a dance the  teacher has to do synchronously. (TikTok dances are huge right now).


The possibilities are endless. Be creative. Ask the students what they want. Let them earn the rewards and not just grades.  Grades are not motivators for many students and our ultimate goal is to help our students become lifelong learners, not just pass a specific grade.


Use All the Tools


Lastly, use all of your resources.<strong>Use the technology and use your colleagues! Reach out to your technology department. Share successes and failures with others in your department or on your team. Stay in communication with guidance counselors and administrators. Find your support team within your school and utilize it. No one should have to jump into distance learning alone.  


When distanced, your world is upside down.
 Don’t let it bog you down. Get creative and use the 4 knockout ideas for distance learning here.  Be flexible and reflective and distance learning could be one of your best years yet!




3 Ways to Use Classroom Libraries with COVID Concerns

3 Ways to Use Classroom Libraries with COVID Concerns

 


Independent reading is a huge part of English classrooms. With COVID 19 lurking, English teachers need to make some changes to using their classroom libraries. Don’t worry though, with these simple steps, independent reading and book choice can absolutely continue in your classroom!  


Here are 3 ways to continue to use your classroom library with COVID concerns.


Digital Checkout System

Scholars love to peruse our books, touch them, read the back, flip through to see how many chapters, or to read a few pages to evaluate their interest. This feels like a big downfall with COVID, as we don’t want our students touching the books and returning them for someone else to touch. However, there is always a solution!  You can use a digital checkout system. There are some great ones for organizing classroom libraries and many of them are free! 


  •  Booksource or Libib are great choices. Even better, take the time to inventory your library in one of these systems and use it forever! It may take time in the beginning if your library is large, but totally worth it in the end. 

  • If you know you don’t have the time to set up something like a digital inventory, use Google Slides to introduce a few books at a time. You can have an image, a few pages, and the back cover! This sounds like a great project for students to do too! Can we say book reviews? Our students would be so proud if you were to reuse their work as a classroom library preview! 

  • Another option is using Google forms for check out. If a student wants to check out a book, have them fill out the form and then you can document check out, check in, and everything in between. Simple and effective. 

  • If you're going for simple, have students search titles and descriptions of books in your library on the Internet and that could still be touchless without any of the work on your end!


72 Hour Rule


Now that you have options for check out, let’s talk safety. When a child takes a book home during this pandemic, you may shudder by the thought of it being returned. However, COVID-19 is being studied in multiple settings and reports are claiming that the virus does not continue to live on paper or books after 72 hours. This is great news for classroom libraries. Here are some more ways to keep the library safe for everyone:


  •  Use clear contact paper for your covers so when it is returned the student simply wipes down the cover with a disinfectant wipe. Then it must go into quarantine before the next student can use it. Lysol and other sprays are not recommended, but you can also wipe down the book with a disinfecting wipe.

  • When a book is returned, have the student place it in a specific box for quarantine. You will need a few plastic boxes or you can even use ziplock bags! Mark the date on the plastic with a post-it or an expo marker! 

  • Make your procedures for checking in books clear and make check in days only on Mondays. This helps especially if you do First Chapter Friday, because the books could potentially stay in quarantine for a week making them even safer. If you always choose Monday, the time in quarantine is documented in a very organized way.


Go Digital


If you still feel uneasy about continuing to use your classroom library, there is always the option to go digital.


  • Check out digital library sites like getEpic.com, which has tons to choose from.

  • Find the tons of free PDFs online that are easily accessible. This is especially true for the classics.

  • Lastly, most libraries allow you to borrow ebooks. It may take a lesson or two, but students could easily keep reading your favorites from the safety of their personal devices. 


Safety is obviously number one priority, but students need to be reading. Some libraries remain closed and our students continue to see us as the experts on what they should be reading. (Of course, because we are!) Keep the recommendations coming and keep the books flowing.  Keep using your classroom library with COVID concerns, but do it with precaution and preparation!. COVID has changed our lives, but literacy lives on!





 

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