Are you having trouble getting some students to read? For your fiction lovers, there are so many popular series right now - Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, and Percy Jackson to name a few.

Some of your reluctant readers might prefer nonfiction. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with the fiction genre, it is also important that we incorporate non-fiction books into our classrooms and households as well. Nonfiction can help support learning in both science and social studies, as well as broaden students' experiences about the world and careers.
Discover ten must-have nonfiction books and series for every elementary classroom!  Post focuses on books for elementary and middle school students. Post summarizes each book and provides the target age range for the book or series.

With the new Common Core Standards, nonfiction readings are being heavily encouraged. At nearly every grade level, students are expected to develop research skills across content areas with a strong focus on nonfiction, including literary nonfiction, essays, biographies and autobiographies, journals and technical manuals, and charts, graphs, and maps (ASCD.org, 2012)

Here are ten must-have nonfiction books and series for every intermediate classroom!
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An easy way to freshen up your classroom is with photos!  Most phones today have a great camera, but instant cameras have also made a comeback.  Polaroid or Fuji cameras are both popular and relatively inexpensive instant cameras.  The convenience of instant cameras makes them extremely usable in the classroom.  Imagine how much time you would save - no more running to pick up photos (or having to remember to pick them up!)  Just make sure that you have good lighting with an instant camera - what you see in the viewer is what will print.  Also, don't overstock the film, as it does expire if you don't use it within a few months.

10 Easy Ideas for Using Photos in the Classroom - Do you love to take pictures but need ideas on how to use them? This post discusses ten ways teachers can integrate photos into their classroom organization and learning activities.
By the end of this post, you will have ten ideas for using photos in your classroom.  In addition,go through our blog hop of 10 teachers to get more fresh ideas to use in your classroom.  Links to the other posts are at the bottom.

1.  Seating Chart

I know I had to work really hard to learn the students' names the first few days of school.  The instant photos have a space to write at the bottom, so you could use permanent ink to write the students' names on each photo.  When you need to change your seating charts, you can move the photos around!  Subs would love this, too.

2.  Introductory Activity

Every year I did introductory activities, but I remember being shocked when students still didn't know all of their classmates mid-year - especially in middle school.  If you do a getting to know you activity, you could post the photos near the door so students can look at them on their way in or out.  That way they could learn peoples' names without being too embarrassed to ask.

3. Birthday Chart

If you are one of those teachers that is really good about birthdays - or aspire to be one of those teachers, you could use photos to organize the birthdays.  I know I would remember better if I had pictures to remind me!

4.  Label for Student Bins

One year I tried having student cubbies or bins.  The students were supposed to write their name on the end so it would be easy to identify each box.  Let's just say that not all of them understood the concept, and it was a struggle to grab the correct box.  Tape each student's photo on the end of their cubby or bin to help identify it.

5.  Star of the Week

One of the most successful things I ever used in the classroom - even in the upper grades - was to have a Star of the Week board.  Every Friday I announced the Star, and I made it a really big deal.  Students couldn't wait to find out who it was.  The way I announced it was by reading a personal note that I had written to the student's parents for him or her to take home.  I didn't announce their name until the end,  In the note I talked about what the student had done or how they contributed to the class.  It wasn't just based on grades or academics, but character traits.  On Monday, the student was allowed to bring in personal items to share with the class and hang on the Star of the Week board.  I hung a Dollar store certificate up with their name on it and whatever they brought in.  I know academics squeeze out almost any extra time, but this was so beneficial and it took maybe 10-15 minutes each week.  Adding the student's photo to their certificate would just make it a little more special.
10 Easy Ideas for Using Photos in the Classroom - Do you love to take pictures but need ideas on how to use them? This post discusses ten ways teachers can integrate photos into their classroom organization and learning activities.

6.  Select Student Partners or Groups

If you like to walk on the wild side, use photos to help you randomly select student partners or groups.  You may end up with some unfortunate pairings, but it would help randomize this activity.  Along the same idea is to use the photos to select students to answer questions.

7.  Time lines

Honestly, students are not getting enough practice using timelines.  Time lines help students with math skills (integer number lines) and are important o understanding history.  Students could create a time line of their life or you could make a time line of the students' birthdays.  Use their photos on the time line.

8.  Holiday Crafts

I know a lot of teachers try to do a craft around the holidays for kids to take home.  Photos are a great way to make those crafts personalized (and parents love it.)  I know before winter break I made solo cup ornaments (or suncatchers).  Students liked to put their photo on those.  (Learn to make them here.)

9.  Class Photo Collage

I know my team mate turned her door in to a class collage.  As the year progressed, she added pictures of her class to the door.  The students really enjoyed seeing all the things they had done.  At the end of the year, it was easy to take the photos down and put them in a memory book.

10.  In Progress Pictures

Sometimes it is helpful for students to take a picture of an experiment or project.  If they are working in stages, a photo is a great way to show what they have done or prove something happened during an experiment.  Instant film can be expensive, but it might be worth it once in a while.

I hope you enjoyed these tips.  For more fresh ideas, click the picture below.  Each logo is hyperlinked to their blog post - just click and you will be taken to the post.

I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work in bringing you downloads of value and information about educational resources. The link below is an Amazon affiliate link. You can read my full disclosure here.

The giveaway is over, but Fujifilm Instax Cameras and film are available at major retailers.

10 Easy Ideas for Using Photos in the Classroom - Do you love to take pictures but need ideas on how to use them? This post discusses ten ways teachers can integrate photos into their classroom organization and learning activities. Cinnamon's ClassroomAmy MezniKirsten's KaboodleELA BuffettMrs. Russell's RoomThe Room MomStudy All KnightBrittany WashburnMiss StefanyMeredith AndersonImage HTML map generator

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Do you want to hook your students on American history?  Integrating music into social studies can be a great way to get kids interested in history.  Teachers can use both songs from the time period and songs about historical events.  Songs can be used as an introduction to a unit.  Students could analyze lyrics and then research the event to fact check the song.  Also, songs with opposing viewpoints can be compared, such as The Ballad of the Green Berets and War from the 1960s.

The Ultimate Popular Music Guide for American History - Hook your students on American history with popular music.  Post contains a list of songs from historical time periods, as well as songs about historical events.
This list is organized by time period.  Each song has a short description after it.  The titles are linked so that teachers can easily use find the songs.  Please preview all songs before using them with your students.

18th Century Songs

American Colonies

Greensleeves (English Folk Song)
Lavender's Blue (English Folk Song)
Yankee Doodle (A Common Drinking Song in the Colonies) (Great video here explaining "macaroni" in the song.)
Springfield Mountain by Woody Guthrie (American Folk Song)
Amazing Grace by Judy Collins (English song from late 18th century)

American Revolution

Fife and Drum music
Johnny Has Gone For a Soldier by Wallace House (English Folk Song)
God Save the King! (Queen) and My Country Tis of Thee (The British Anthem starts at 2:19.)
The Liberty Song written by John Dickinson (Patriot Song)
John Paul Jones by Johnny Horton
Too Late to Apologize by Soomo Publishing (A parody about the American Revolution set to the popular tune.)
The Hamilton Soundtrack (not all of these songs would be appropriate in every classroom.)

19th Century Songs

Early America

Low Bridge by Pete Seeger (about the Erie Canal, built in the 1817 - 1825)
Camptown Races by Stephen Foster (Minstrel Song)
Old Folks at Home (Swanee River)  by Stephen Foster (written from a slave's point of view)
Turkey in the Straw (American Folk Song)

War of 1812

Battle of New Orleans by Johnny Horton 
The Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key 
On the 8th Day of November by Wallace House 

Westward Expansion

Oh Susanna by Stephen Foster (American Minstrel Song)
Oh My Darling, Clementine (American Western Folk Ballad) 
Red River Valley (Western Folk Song)
Home on the Range (Western Folk Song)
Legend of John Henry's Hammer by Johnny Cash (about the African American Folk Legend) 
Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill (Folk Song about the Building of the Railroads)
Wabash Cannonball by Doc Watson (American Folk Song about a Fictional Train) 
Jim Bridger by Johnny Horton (Mountain Man, 1804 - 1881 )
Comanche by Johnny Horton (Gen. Custer's horse, survivor of the Battle of Little Bighorn, 1876)
North to Alaska by Johnny Horton(Alaskan Gold Rush, 1899 - 1909)
Ballad of Casey Jones by Johnny Cash (Railroad engineer who died trying to stop his train in 1900)
Indian Reservation (Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian) by Paul Revere and the Raiders (Forced Removal of Native Americans and the Trail of Tears)
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Buffy Saint-Marie (Native American Point of View)
Now that the Buffalo's Gone by Buffy Saint-Marie (Extinction of Buffalo and Treatment of Native Americans through the 20th Century)

Battle of the Alamo/Texan Independence

Battle of the Alamo by Marty Robbins
Ballad of Davy Crockett

Civil War

My Old Kentucky Home by Stephen Foster (An Anti-Slavery Song from 1850s)
Two Brothers (About a Family Split by the Civil War)
When Johnny Comes Marching Home (Civil War)
The Battle Hymn of the Republic (Civil War)
Battle of Bull Run by Johnny Horton
Dixie (Minstrel Song)
Goober Peas (Folk Song - popular with Confederate Soldiers)
The Bonnie Blue Flag (Confederate Marching Song)
Johnny Reb  by Johnny Horton (Song starts at about 50 seconds)
Rebel Soldier by Waylon Jennings

Other

Mrs. O'Leary's Cow (The Chicago Fire of 1871)
Sixteen Tons by Tennessee Early Ford (about a Coal Miner and debt bondage)

20th Century Songs

Turn of the Century

Coming to America by Neil Diamond (Immigration in the 20th Century)
Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin (Ragtime)
The Entertainer by Scott Joplin (Ragtime)
Oh, You Beautiful Doll (Ragtime Love Song)
By the Light of the Silvery Moon (Popular Music)
I Ain't Got Nobody (Popular Music)
In the Good Old Summertime (Tin Pan Alley Song)
Alexander's Ragtime Band (Irving Berlin's First Major Hit)
America the Beautiful (Popular Patriotic Song, 1910 - U.S. Geography)

World War I

Keep the Home Fires Burning (British Patriotic Song from WWI)
It's a Long Way to Tipperary (Popular Song with Soldiers in WWI)
Mademoiselle from Armentieres (Hinky-Dinky Parlez Vous) (Popular with Soldiers in WWI)
Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag (WWI Marching Song)
Over There (Patriotic American Song during WWI)
Pipes of Peace by Paul McCartney (Christmas Truce on the Western Front)

Women's Suffrage/Rights Movement

Victory Song (Theme Song of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League - Song Starts about 0:25)
Since My Margaret Became a Suffragette
Your Mother's Gone Away to Join the Army by Billy Murray (Starts 1:05)
Bad Romance Women's Suffrage by Soomo Publishing (A parody on Women's Suffrage set to the popular tune.)

Roaring Twenties

Sweet Georgia Brown (Jazz Standard)
Ain't Misbehavin'/Stormy Weather by Fats Waller (Jazz Standard)
Minnie the Moocher by Cab Calloway
Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin (Jazz Standard)
The Charleston (Jazz Song Written to Accompany the Popular Dance)
My Blue Heaven (Popular Music)

Great Depression

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? (The Great Depression)
You Oughta Be In Pictures by Rudee Vallee (Unofficial Anthem of the Motion Pictures Industry.)
God Bless America by Irving Berlin (Popular Song by Kate Smith in the 1930s)
This Land is Your Land by Woodie Guthrie (1940s)
In the Mood by the Glenn Miller Orchestra (Big Band Popular Music)
Pennsylvania 6-5000 by the Glenn Miller Orchestra (Swing Jazz Popular Music)
The Great Dust Storm by Woody Guthrie (The Dust Bowl)

World War II

Twenty-One Dollars a Day Once a Month (Popular Song During World War II - refers to the pay of a private in the military)
We'll Gather Lilacs (About Wishing for the War to End)
D-Day by Nat King Cole (D-Day)
Sink the Bismarck by Johnny Horton (the sinking of the German submarine during WWII)
The White Cliffs of Dover (Refers to the Battle of Britain)
Swinging on a Star by Bing Crosby (Popular Music)
Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (Popular Music - about being apart during wartime)
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy by The Andrews Sisters (Iconic Song from Era - Popular Music)

The Cold War

If I Had A Hammer by Pete Seeger (In support of the Progressive Movement)
We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel (Cold War)
Heroes by David Bowie (Cold War - lovers separated by the Berlin Wall)
Space Oddity by David Bowie (About a fictional astronaut - people were very interested in space)
Radioactive by Imagine Dragons (Not specifically about the Cold War but refers to an apocalypse including a radioactive nuclear fallout.)
Where Have All the Flowers Gone? by Pete Seeger (Anti-War)
Nikita by Elton John (Cold War/East Germany)
Operation Peter Pan by Tori Amos (Operation Peter Pan/Cuban Missile Crisis)

The Civil Rights Movement

Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday (Racism and Lynching - for older students, be sure to listen to the song first.  It is pretty graphic.  Written in the 1930s, so not technically part of Civil Rights.)
We Shall Overcome (Civil Rights - unofficial anthem of the movement)
Lift Every Voice and Sing (Civil Rights - Negro National Anthem)
The Times They are a Changin by Bob Dylan (Civil Rights)
Abraham, Martin, and John by Dion (Refers to the assassinated champions of social change: Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy)
Blackbird by The Beatles (About race relations in the United States)
Pride (In the Name of Love) by U2 (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Vietnam War/Counterculture Movement

19 by Paul Hardcastle (Anti-Vietnam War)
Hell No, I Ain't Gonna Go by Matt Jones
8th of November by Big & Rich (Operation Hump during the Vietnam War)
War by Edwin Starr (Vietnam War)
The Ballad of the Green Berets by SSgt Barry Sadler (Vietnam War)
Goodnight Saigon by Billy Joel (About the effects of the Vietnam War and poor treatment of vets when they came home.)
Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen  (About the poor treatment of Vietnam Vets when they came home.)
Eve of Destruction by Barry McGuire (Refers to a number of events in the 1960s.)
San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) by Scott McKenzie (Unofficial Anthem of the Counterculture)
People Got to Be Free by The Rascals (Counterculture)
Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (Kent State Shootings May 4, 1970)
What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong (Popular Music - written as a counter to the racially and politically charged climate in the U.S.)
Blowin in the Wind by Bob Dylan (Considered a Protest Song - Dylan never explained the lyrics.)
A Hard Rains a-Gonna Fall by Bob Dylan (Again he doesn't refer to a specific event but more of the times.
Soldier Boy by The Shirelles (Popular Music - about staying true to the soldier away at war.)

1970s

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot (Wreck on Lake Superior in 1975)
American Pie by Don McLean (Not Exactly Anti-War, but McLean eventually stated that the song is about life in the U.S. going in the wrong direction.)
Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell (Environmentalism)
Stayin Alive by the BeeGees (Popular Music)
Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin (Popular Music)
The Wall by Pink Floyd (Popular Music)

Reagan Era


99 Luftballons by Nena (Anti-War Song)
Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears (Anti-war Song)
Right Here, Right Now by Jesus Jones (Perestroika)
The Final Countdown by Europe (About the destruction of Earth)
God Bless the USA by Lee Greenwood (Gulf War - popular song with U.S. troops)
Praying for Time by George Michael (Social Consciousness)
Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson (Social Involvement/Self Consciousness)

Gay Rights

I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor (Female Strength and Gay Anthem)
True Colors by Cyndi Lauper (Adopted by the Gay Community as an Anthem)
Come to My Window by Melissa Etheridge (About a Lesbian Relationship)

21st Century Songs

War on Terrorism

My City of Ruins by Bruce Springsteen (Originally about Asbury Park, but adopted new meaning after 9/11)
The Rising by Bruce Springsteen (9/11)
I Can't See New York by Tori Amos (9/11)
Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning by Alan Jackson (9/11)
Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American) by Toby Keith (Afghanistan)
Enough by Bullyproof Music (Peace Song)

For more ideas on how to use music in your lessons, read Michele Luck's blog post.

What are your favorite songs to use in class?
As much as I love to read, sometimes I dreaded teaching reading.  I was reading by four and everything in language arts came easily to me - it just clicked.  When I had students that didn't improve their reading with my strategies, I didn't understand why.  Now that I am working with my son, I am understanding why many of those strategies just don't help him.

5 strategies that help struggling readers improve reading comprehension - Post discusses dos and don'ts for parents and teachers who want to help struggling readers.

Don't Read the ENTIRE Reading Passage

Oh boy.  I learned straight off the bat to stop my son from doing this.  What a nightmare!  Students who struggle with reading don't like to read.  All he did was keep reading no matter what happened.  He would skip words and entire lines, misread words, and make all kinds of errors.  His goal was to get done with reading as soon as possible.

Instead Read One Paragraph at a Time

A poor reader gets overwhelmed easily.  Looking at a whole page of reading causes panic and frustration.  Instead, tell your students that you are only focusing on one paragraph.  Stress the importance of identifying the key ideas in each paragraph before moving on.

While reading the paragraph, highlight any unknown words, then identify the main idea of the paragraph.  Identify the support for or any example of the main idea.

Don't Pre-read the Test Questions

I remember being taught in a PD session to have students read the questions first, then read the passage.  I faithfully taught students to do that for a number of years.  I watched my son use that strategy and soon realized why he didn't pass reading comprehension tests.  Instead of trying to comprehend what he was reading, my son looked for the key words in each question.  If - and I mean IF - he found the section that answered the question, he had no idea what it meant and just copied the sentence with the key word in it.

What I realized is he couldn't answer the questions because he didn't understand the text.  As a strong reader, I can search for the keyword, read that section, and know how to answer the question.  A student that struggles with reading comprehension needs to focus on understanding the reading first.

Instead Focus on Reading Comprehension

Just focus on comprehension of the article.  If the student understands the article, he will be able to answer the questions.
5 strategies that help struggling readers improve reading comprehension - Post discusses dos and don'ts for parents and teachers who want to help struggling readers.

Don't Tell Students to Look Back in the Text

Again, this is a great strategy for kids who are strong readers.  I know I always felt that having an open book test made it "easy" for kids.  However, some kids can have an open book and never find the answers.  My son has poor reading stamina, so after the first question he will just stop looking in the text and guess.  It is too much text for him to focus on and look through.

Instead Take Notes

For struggling readers, as much as they may hate it, they need a good note system.  For a reading passage, I use a small sticky note for each paragraph.  On each one, we write the main idea of the paragraph and jot the support at the bottom.  Since it is so hard for low readers to scan the text, I want the key ideas to be on the notes.

Once students know how to do that, teach them how to use the sticky notes to help answer the comprehension questions.  We read the question and check the main ideas notes.  Many times the answers are related to the main idea.  If it isn't, we use the main ideas to determine which paragraph most likely answers the question.

For textbook comprehension, such as in science or social studies, I personally like to use interactive notebooks.  It is important that the key ideas be easy to find.  Like many kids with processing issues, my son's fine motor skills are a work in progress.  In his interactive notes, the main topics and questions are printed so it cuts down on how much he has to write.  (I do cut the interactivities out and glue them.  When I taught, I had my artsy students help other students.)

**I would like to clarify that my son is considered a low reader, but he isn't really low.  He is on grade level but struggles.  I have started homeschooling him because of a vision processing issue.  The problems caused by processing issues are very similar to ADHD and other development issues. This article is based on my work with him.**

The article I used in the example is from my resource Paired Passages: The 13 Colonies.
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