For Teachers

Resource to celebrate Women’s History Month all year long!

I love discovering new resources to research the lives of amazing women throughout American history. As March is National Women’s History month, I set out to learn more about the history of the movement and ended up finding an incredible online source for research.
I uncovered the National Women’s History Museum, which for the time being does not have a physical building to visit, but offers a ton of information on their website,

The history buff (aka nerd) in me got wide-eyed and downright giddy as I scrolled through the vast collection of historical entries, photos, and biographies. The stories abound!
I learned about how the 1913 Women’s Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C., devised by Alice Paul, became a turning point for the women’s suffrage movement in the United States.

Photo credit: Library of Congress

The images of female athletes through the years are intriguing. The collection includes pictures of tennis great Billie Jean King, gold medalist runner Wilma Rudolph, the incredible multi-athlete Babe Didrikson and shots of young women playing sports over the years.

The Women of NASA exhibit shares the journeys of women involved in the space exploration and the race to the moon. Do you know what the National Aeronautics and Space Administration used to be called? Check it out:

Photo Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi

There is even a tab for students and educators!

Near and dear to my heart is the Biographies section. I discovered the stories of Charity Adams Earley who led the first African American women unit of the army overseas during World War II. And then there is business leader Maggie L. Walker, the first female bank owner.

I also discovered that you can nominate someone to have their biography featured. I did just that, nominating Virginia Hamilton, the subject of my most recent book. Virginia was the most honored author of children’s literature, and the first African American to receive the Newbery.

So, here’s to the women of our great country, and to discovering their great stories and sharing them with young readers all throughout the year!

Writing Tips from Writers

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting schools to do writing workshops. As a former teacher, I loved having a chance to work with students again on their writing. As an author, I had a new perspective on it.

With my life now devoted to writing, I realized certain things about teaching writing I hadn’t before. So I thought it would be interesting to hear what tips authors of books for middle grade readers had for teaching writing to middle graders. Here are their tips, as well as some of my own.

Tip 1:
Have students get all of their needed writing materials ready before beginning the writing lesson. I found that, when I have an idea, if I need to stop to locate a pen and paper, I might lose my idea. If you’ve gotten your class excited about a topic, you don’t want them to lose that momentum sharpening a pencil or locating their writing folder.

Natalie Rompella
Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners (Sky Pony Press)
The World Never Sleeps (Tilbury House)

Tip 2:
Appeal to 5 senses to expand descriptive writing. Close eyes and bring in unidentified sounds or freshly popped popcorn or something sticky.

Carolyn Armstrong
Because of Khalid (Tiger Stripe Publishing)

Tip 3:
Encourage young writers to read, read, read.  What better way to learn what good–or bad–writing is, build vocabulary and sentence structure, and identify different genres?

Marlene Brill
Picture Girl, Golden (Alley Press)
Dolores Huerta Stands Strong (University of Ohio Press)

Tip 4:
The follow up to that would be to write, write, write.  Not formal writing but journals and diaries to freely get feelings–and words–out and for students to use their words to express themselves.

Marlene Brill
Picture Girl, Golden (Alley Press)
Dolores Huerta Stands Strong (University of Ohio Press)

Tip 5:
Word swap: make a game of swapping out boring words with better ones to enhance writing.

Carolyn Armstrong
Because of Khalid (Tiger Stripe Publishing)

Tip 6:
Teach not just writing but revision. Let students know that ALL the books on shelves went through multiple revisions before they became books, so students shouldn’t judge their own work based on the books they’re reading. But instead, teachers should build in revision techniques and time for classes — even for essays — so students can see how their work slowly improves.

Samantha Clark
The Boy, The Boat, and The Beast (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster)

Tip 7:
I always try to impress upon kids the power of revision. Just because you wrote a “first draft” doesn’t mean your piece is done. Rather, you have a starting point for revision! Now you can take your time and choose just the right words to make what you have written stronger. They are shocked to hear that some of my poems may go through 15 different revisions!

I keep a paperweight on my desk that says:
The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little EXTRA.
Revision gives us that EXTRA!

Eileen Meyer
The Superlative A. Lincoln (Charlesbridge, Nov. 2019 release date)
Sweet Dreams, Wild Animals (Mountain Press)

Tip 8:
Five Ws and the H will always help in any type of writing. Who are you writing for, what does your character want more than anything else, when does the story take place, where does it take place, why does this story have to be written and how does your character overcome obstacles to reach his or her goal?

Catherine Ann Velasco
Behind the Scenes of Pro Basketball and Behind the Scenes of Pro Baseball (Capstone Press)

Tip 9:
Writing success for the day can be small: even one word. It’s okay to spend a writing session on one sentence or even trying to brainstorm that one perfect word—authors do it all the time! Quality over quantity.

Natalie Rompella
Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners (Sky Pony Press)
The World Never Sleeps (Tilbury House)

Do you have a writing tip for middle grade teachers? Share in the comments section.

Delve Into a Good Book: Celebrating Black History

by Robyn Gioia

Where can we experience different cultures, meet new personalities, visit old friends, drop by for a minute, or stay for as long as we want? Where can we learn about things we never knew existed or explore things on a new level? Where can we look through the eyes of another and suddenly understand the pain and sorrow of their emotions? Or the happiness that comes through accomplishment and success? Books speak directly to the soul. The following books come highly recommended by classroom teachers.

Celebrating Black History Through Books

Henry’s Freedom Box:  A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine

Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: he will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday — his first day of freedom. Henry “Box” Brown became one of the most famous runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad.   Scholastic Teacher Guide

The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano adapted by Ann Cameron

Kidnapped at the age of 11 from his home in Benin, Africa, Olaudah Equiano spent the next 11 years as a slave in England, the U.S., and the West Indies, until he was able to buy his freedom. His autobiography, published in 1789, was a bestseller in its own time. Cameron has modernized and shortened it while remaining true to the spirit of the original. It’s a gripping story of adventure, betrayal, cruelty, and courage. In searing scenes, Equiano describes the savagery of his capture, the appalling conditions on the slave ship, the auction, and the forced labor. . . . Kids will read this young man’s story on their own; it will also enrich curriculum units on history and on writing.  Scholastic Teacher Guide

One Last Word by Nikki Grimes    

“Through a chorus of contemporary voices–including proud parents, striving children, and weary but determined elders–Grimes powerfully transposes the original poems’ themes of racial bias, hidden inner selves, beauty, and pride into the here and now.” –  starred review, Publishers Weekly      Bloomsbury Teacher Guide

A 2017 New York Public Library Best Kids Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2017, Middle Grade
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2017, Nonfiction

The Hero Two Doors Down by Sharon Robinson

Steven Satlow is an eight-year-old boy living in Brooklyn, New York, which means he only cares about one thing — the Dodgers. Steve’s love for the baseball team is passed down to him from his father. The two of them spend hours reading the sports pages and listening to games on the radio. Aside from an occasional run-in with his teacher, life is pretty simple for Steve.

But then Steve hears a rumor that an African American family is moving to his all-Jewish neighborhood. It’s 1948 and some of his neighbors are against it. Steve knows that this is wrong. His hero, Jackie Robinson, broke the color barrier in baseball the year before.

Then it happens — Steve’s new neighbor is Jackie Robinson! Steve is beyond excited about living two doors down from the Robinson family. He can’t wait to meet Jackie. This is going to be the best baseball season yet! How many kids ever get to become friends with their hero?    Scholastic Teacher Guide

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

Eleven-year-old Elijah lives in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves near the American border. Elijah’s the first child in town to be born free, and he ought to be famous just for that — not to mention for being the best at chunking rocks and catching fish. Unfortunately, all that most people see is a “fra-gile” boy who’s scared of snakes and tends to talk too much. But everything changes when a former slave steals money from Elijah’s friend, who has been saving to buy his family out of captivity in the South. Now it’s up to Elijah to track down the thief — and his dangerous journey just might make a hero out of him, if only he can find the courage to get back home.   Scholastic Teacher Guide


Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn It Out!  Games, Songs, and Stories from an African American Childhood

Patricia C. McKissack, Illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Educator’s Guide: This engaging treasury of games, songs, and stories reflects the rich tapestry of the author’s African American childhood. Along with an array of activities, award-winning author Patricia C. McKissack weaves in anecdotes from growing up and facts about black history. The collection will appeal directly to students while also tying into the curriculum. Children will recognize hand claps like “Patty-Cake,” jump rope rhymes like “Hot, Hot Pepper,” and songs like “Amazing Grace.” Many children will have learned games and songs from their families that are similar to those in the book but not exactly the same, reflecting our diverse cultural heritage. These connections will draw in students and create enthusiasm for the meaningful curricular activities suggested in this guide. Students can share what they’ve learned with younger children as service projects, performing for them or making them books.  Educator’s Guide

Chains (The Seeds of America Trilogy) by Laurie Halse Anderson

If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl?
As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom. (Amazon website) Teacher’s Guide