Inspirational Teacher Characters in Literature

I am a sucker for inspirational teacher characters in literature. I love books that include a teacher (or coach or mentor) who provides quiet support for a main character at just the right moment. I just finished reading Towers Falling by Rhodes and cheered for Mrs. Garcia when she quietly helps Deja adjust to the new school and anticipates Deja’s frustrations. In Hate That Cat, by Creech, I want to be the character, Miss Stretchberry. Miss Stretchberry is that once-in-a-lifetime teacher who changes a child’s entire school career. She sees all of the hidden strengths in Jack, the narrator in the story, and spends time nurturing those qualities.

Inspirational Teacher Characters book list in children's literature

Characters such as Miss Stretchberry and Mrs. Garcia are some of my favorites. They are not the only teacher characters in literature who inspire me. I love the way Mr. Burton in No Talking embraces the students’ creativity in participating in class with as few words as possible. I have so much respect for Miss Harris in The Great Gilly Hopkins when she negotiates Gilly’s anger in a positive way. I learn something valuable for my teacher toolkit from every teacher character in these books.

No Talking by Andrew Clements

My Favorite Inspirational Teacher Characters Book List

  • Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  • Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
  • The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  • Hank Zipzer by Henry Winkler (pay attention to the music teacher)
  • Homesick by Kate Klise
  • Love That Dog and Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech
  • Mrs. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson
  • No Talking by Andrew Clements
  • The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen, 7th grade+ (pay attention to the math teacher)
  • The Secret School by Avi
  • A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
  • Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
  • The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio
  • Word after Word after Word by Patricia MacLachlan
  • The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill

For adults (and particularly teacher adults), try the book Educating Esme by Esme Raji Codell.

Need more book ideas? CLICK HERE for a list boys will love, and CLICK HERE for a list with strong girl characters.

Back to School Teacher Snack Bar

I abandoned my traditional Teacher Emergency Kit back to school gift this year for a teacher snack bar that all the teachers at my school could enjoy. My children attend the school where I teach, and traditionally, I have made THESE KITS for my kid’s homeroom teachers. Well, my son and daughter are in middle school now (*sniff*), and they see multiple teachers throughout the day. I thought setting up a snack bar in the teacher kitchen for everybody to enjoy would be a great way to thank all the teachers.

back to school teacher snack bar teacher appreciation gift idea

Last spring during Teacher Appreciation Week, I put together a BEVERAGE BAR, and I used that same idea but with snacks. The interesting thing is that everyone commented on loving the salty snacks. I think when people bring treats for teachers, it is often cookies, cakes, muffins… I made a mental note to provide salty teacher treats more often.

back to school teacher snack bar teacher appreciation gift idea

Setting up a Teacher Snack Bar

I made Spicy Ritz Crackers, Tijuana Tidbit Snack Mix (CLICK HERE), and my daughter baked brownies. We put the mixes in cookie tins, the brownies on a platter, and set out napkins, small plates, and small 5-oz plastic tumbler cups to hold the snack mix. All the snacks were on the counter in the common teacher kitchen, and people walked by throughout the day and grabbed a little bite. The seasoned Ritz crackers were the crowd favorite. I was worried they would be too spicy but that is why everyone loved them.

back to school teacher snack bar teacher appreciation gift idea

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. melted butter (one stick)
  • 1 packet Ranch dressing mix
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 T. red pepper flakes
  • 1 t. garlic powder
  • 1 box original Ritz crackers

Directions

  • Let melted butter cool slightly. Mix butter, Ranch dressing mix, grated Parmesan, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder.
  • Put Ritz crackers in a mixing bowl.
  • Pour butter mixture over the Ritz crackers and gently stir to coat crackers.
  • Put crackers on a foil lined baking sheet in a single layer.
  • Bake at 300 degrees for 15 minutes.
  • Let cool and store in a Ziploc bag or airtight container.

All the snacks were gone before lunchtime! It was an easy teacher appreciation gift, and I will definitely set up something similar again.

back to school teacher snack bar teacher appreciation gift idea

Using Post-it Big Notes with Students

I have several weaknesses, and cool office supplies is definitely one of them (mini sized things and cupcakes are close behind). Recently, several sizes of Post-it Big Notes caught my eye as I wandered up and down the Staples aisles. How could I resist? Post-it notes are a teacher’s best friend, and there are so many uses for them. With a regular sized Post-it note, my favorite activity is to print rubrics with them LIKE THIS. But, the giant Post-it notes opened up a whole new catalog of classroom activity ideas.

using post-it big notes with students in the classroom

I decided I needed an activity tout de suite for the giant sized sticky papers. I emailed the 8th grade teachers to see if we could plan a group activity to review summer reading the first week back at school. I wanted the students to compare aspects of a hero. Both grades read books over the summer that dealt with heroes and mixing the two groups helped encourage more discussion about the topic.

using post-it big notes with students in the classroom

We asked the students to create a thinking web. The students wrote the word hero in the middle of the sticky note. Students added words that describe a hero to the first layer of the web. Attached to the vocabulary words, students added details from their summer reading books that supported the descriptive words. Finally, the students made a generalization about heroes. The older students read Unbroken by Hillebrand and my students read Poppy by Avi. Even though the books are vastly different, there was quite a bit of common ground. The finished webs helped the 8th graders develop an essay about what makes a person a hero. The 4th graders used the webs to trace Poppy’s hero’s journey.

using post-it big notes with students in the classroom

Since we could move the Post-it notes and stick them to the board, walls, or other areas around the room, the students could easily compare ideas with other students. I could have students working in different locations whether they were standing up or sitting down, and we could move and group the giant notes based on our different discussions.

Other Ways to Use Post-it Notes with Students

  • Have students write their favorite detail from a story and then move them into the order that follows the story plot.
  • At the end of a unit, have one giant Post-it note for a specific sub-topic or concept within the unit. Students add notes about the topic. Each Post-it note becomes ideas for a paragraph in a writing assignment or summary of the pieces of a unit to build a final overview of the unit.
  • Write the title of the novel you are using as a read aloud, in reading groups, or in book clubs at the top of the Post-it note. As students find favorite quotes, copy the quote on the big paper. Or, copy quotes onto regular sized Post-it notes and attach to the big Post-it. Quotes can be moved or grouped to reveal character information, themes, conflicts, etc.
  • Write a book genre name at the top of the Post-it. As students complete books, they add a title that matches the genre to the appropriate big Post-it. The book lists become a book recommendation wall. In place of writing the title, you could print a small image of the book cover and attach the picture to the giant Post-it.
  • Practice perspective and point of view by pasting an image that includes a group of people in the middle of the big note and assign a group of students to each Post-it. Students practice point of view by making a comment from the point of view of people in the picture using first person, third person, third person limited, etc.
  • Write a spelling rule, pattern, root word, or any specific vocabulary “family” at the top of the paper. Add examples as you find them and keep the Post-it in view, so student can see the growing list. This would work well in science and social studies classes too.
  • Design a timeline for history topics. Label a Post-it for a time period and add notes, images, ideas to the Post-it. As you study new periods, stick the Post-its side-by-side in time order. It is a great visual to see progression in technology, culture, industry, movement of people and goods, and other themes.
  • Write a topic or concept that you are studying in class at the top of the Post-it. Any time students find examples in their daily life, they write the example on the big note. If you are reviewing comparative adjectives, students can write words they use during the day that are this type of adjective (faster, slower, sharper, colder…). This idea would also work well in a math class, so students could see a variety of examples of a new concept.
  • Any type of anchor chart! The fact that the Post-it paper sticks to most surfaces and can be moved and re-stuck is great for teacher anchor charts. You can have the information in a prominent area and then move it to a side location in your classroom where it can still be viewed but is not taking up prime real estate.

using post-it big notes with students in the classroomThere is one drawback to the big Post-it notes– the price. They are a little more expensive than chart paper, so I am saving them for special activities. To read about more classroom activity ideas, CLICK HERE and HERE.

 

State Regions Mini Book

My fourth grade students start the year studying geography and create a state regions mini book in our history class. We review landform definitions first; then we practice map skills. As a culminating activity, students identify the main regions in the United States and design the mini book. The mini book includes a small U.S. map and brief facts about the region. As a group, we try to look for generalizations about United States’ climate, geography, resources, and industry. These facts form a strong foundation to help us later in the school year when we study Native Americans and talk about how cultures developed and adapted to their environment in order to live.

state region foldable mini book

Before students make the mini book, they research general information about a region in the United States. I follow our school history book when identifying the regions and the states that are included in each region. Our textbook names 5 U.S. regions– southeast, northeast, southwest, midwest, west, but I have certainly seen different options for grouping states. The students complete these U.S Regions Project Notes and then are ready to build their booklet.

How do you Make a Mini Book?

  • Gather your materials
    • 4×6 notecards
    • scissors
    • rubberband (medium sized)
  • Fold 2+ notecards in half the “hamburger” way making sure the corners line up neatly. That means the 6″ side would be folded. Press down firmly along the fold.

spelling mini books folded

  • Once each card is folded, stack the cards, so they are nesting one inside another and line them up evenly. The region mini books use 2 cards, but I think 3-4 cards is is a nice amount if you are making this booklet for a different project.
  • Following the center fold, cut a 1/2″ notch from the top and bottom edge of the stack of cards.

mini books cut knotch

  • Wrap a rubberband around the stack of cards. Have the rubberband sit down into the cut sections of paper to act as the mini book binding. If the rubberband is too tight and pulling on the paper, cut your notches a little deeper.

mini books rubberband

  • Decorate the cover and add notes, drawings, information… to each page of the booklet. For the states regions booklets, students cut out a small U.S. map and color the states that are in the region they researched. That map is pasted in the center pages. On the cover, the student names the region and adds his/her name. The blank pages before and after the center U.S. map page are for the general region information. The students can add the information and illustrations in any order they would like.

These mini books are great for many projects. CLICK HERE to see other ideas for using this craftivity with students. To view and purchase some of my map skills and geography resources for upper elementary students, CLICK HERE.

Middle School Boy Books

 

Mr. Star Wars finishes 7th grade in two days. He has always been a voracious reader and reads at a high level. It has been a challenge this year to keep books in the pipeline that have (mostly) appropriate content for a middle school kid because he is at a place where he can read books intended for an adult audience. Since he is a boy, he gave the polite pass to some of my standby recommendations for middle and high school students (Celia Garth by Bristow and Life as We Knew It by Pfeffer).

middle school boy books

I hesitate to classify books as “boy” or “girl”, but it is just a fact that boys typically read books with boy main characters, and girl readers tend to be less gender specific. We hit on some titles that were highly enjoyable. Most fall in the dystopian category because that is such a hot genre right now. We also found several that are spy/secret mission style books, which are en vogue right now too. All have boy central characters.

High Reading Level

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • The House of the Scorpion and sequel by Nancy Farmer
  • The Martian (some bad language) by Andy Weir
  • Cherub series by Robert Muchamore
  • When the Legends Die by Hal Borland
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  • Cloak of the Light series by Chuck Black

Average Reading Level

  • Beneath and Above by Roland Smith
  • Peak by Roland Smith
  • The Bodyguard series by Chris Bradford
  • Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz
  • Crossover series by Kwame Alexander
  • Things Not Seen series by Andrew Clements
  • Loot series by Jude Watson
  • Ranger’s Apprentice and Brotherband series by John Flanagan
  • Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord
  • The False Prince trilogy by Jennifer Nielsen
  • Knightley Academy series by Violet Haberdasher

On our middle school summer “to read” list

  • Freakling and Psi Chronicles by Lana Krumwiede
  • The Neptune Project by Polly Hollyoke (girl main character!)
  • The Ability by M.M. Vaughan
  • Ghost and companion books by Jason Reynolds
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (need at least one classic)