Are You a Clean Desk Club Classroom?

I’m a proud member of the clean desk club! I was throughout school and still (somewhat) continue to be. 

As an elementary school student, I felt so much pride as a member of the clean desk club, as I’m sure many do! But what about those students that aren’t part of it? 

Becoming a mom and spending time teaching has widened my view of the clean desk club. I have one child who will clean and organize all day every day if I let her, and while I haven’t seen her desk at school, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was part of the clean desk club at any given moment, too. 

On the other hand, I have a child whose brain just does not work in a way where things around him are organized or clean. The more chaotic his surroundings, the better he does in general. 

What I’ve learned is that some people just genuinely don’t want or need their workspace to be clean. 

So why is the clean desk club a thing? Or desk cleaning days? Or teachers micromanaging the state of their student’s desks?

My first thought is that the teachers doing this know they are more productive when they are organized and tidy, so they feel like their students will be the same. However, we have to also consider the teacher’s needs as well as the students, maybe it’s taking time out of their day to constantly have to wait on students who are searching a messy desk for a paper or book. 

How can we as teachers find the balance between a well-run classroom, while also giving our students space to be themselves and feel comfortable in the classroom? 

Allot the time to your students who need it to find items in their desks. Give them an early heads-up to start their search while you finish up other miscellaneous tasks. 

Minimize the space your students have to keep tidy to cut down on clutter. A teacher I know got rid of desks in her classroom and switched her students to tables. They have their pencil boxes, a shelf in the classroom with book boxes for their books, and a spot in their coat cubby for papers. Everything has a place and it’s easy to eliminate clutter when there’s no space for it. 

Stop praising the clean desks. This automatically places shame and guilt on those with messy desks, which is not helpful for those students. 

Have real conversations with your students, ask them what their needs are. Do they like clean desks? Do they work better with messy desks? How can you work together as a classroom so that everyone wins? 

What is your stance on the clean desk club? 

Scholarship Optional Strategy Plan Due Date Reminder

Due date reminder!

Our optional Strategy Plan is a Google Form that gives you a very small glimpse of our final scholarship submission. It’s a few questions that generate critical thinking about the project you’re working on and planning to submit for the final application. It gives your project organization and meaning.

On top of all of this, it’s an opportunity for feedback from our scholarship team. Each strategy plan submission is read and then responded to with specific feedback as well as all questions submitted are answered.

This part of the scholarship process is not required but can be extremely helpful and can give scholarship applicants a big advantage.

The strategy plan for 2024 is due on March 1, so the deadline is quickly approaching. If you know anyone planning on submitting a scholarship application this year, send this their way!

Even if you miss the strategy plan deadline, you are still qualified to submit a final scholarship application by April 8, 2024.

To see more about our scholarship program, head here.

Valentine’s Day Picture Books

There is nothing I love more than an excuse for a good picture book! Picture books, despite popular belief, are for all ages. I think more middle school and high school teachers should incorporate more picture books into their curriculum, but that’s another conversation for another day. 

Here are the three Valentine’s Day books that we’re reading on repeat this year! 

The Love Letter by Anika Aldamuy Denise

A cute book that teaches us the impact we can have on one another in our small acts of kindness.

The Day It Rained Hearts by Felicia Bond

I love the illustrations in this book! So simple but so beautiful. And a fun, cute Valentine’s Day book, too.

This Is Not a Valentine by Carter Higgins

I love that this book shows that Valentine’s Day is so much more than sending cards to one another.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov:

St. Patrick’s Day Word Search- Free Printable

Okay, I know Valentine’s Day hasn’t even happened yet. But I also know that teacher planning doesn’t happen in a day, and most teachers are looking forward at least a month in advance, if not longer!

So to all those teachers out there who are already thinking ahead to St. Patrick’s Day even though Valentine’s Day is still our main focus, here is a free printable resource for you! A fun, St. Patrick’s Day themed word search, with an answer key.

This word search is geared a little more towards 3rd grade and up, but younger grades can still be successful with help.

If you download it and use it in your classroom, let us know how it goes! And Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

And if you’re still looking for a Valentine’s Day resource, check out our FREE word search printable.

Photo by RDNE Stock project:

Graphic Novels: Is It Really Reading?

The other day I spent some time in Barnes & Noble just browsing, picking up books, and flipping through pages aimlessly. It was so nice! 

One section caught me a little off guard in the children’s section, a whole wall of graphic novels! My first thought was that to my knowledge, there weren’t really enough graphic novels out there for a whole wall of these books, so I explored more. There were the classics, Dog Man, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Captain Underpants. And then there were more. 

The Secret Garden as a graphic novel. The Babysitter’s Club. A modern telling of Little Women as a graphic novel. 

There may be some out there who have a “bah humbug” attitude about graphic novels in the hands of children, “It’s just all pictures! It’s not real reading!” they claim. But flipping through the books on the shelf, I was so excited about this new phenomenon! 

First, it’s showing the world that graphic novels aren’t just for boys. When I was growing up, only boys read comic books/ graphic novels. It was such a boy thing. But now the options of books for both boys and girls are endless! Books are gender-neutral by default, but with the vast options available now, there’s certainly a book for everyone to connect with. 

Graphic novels are an incredible resource for reluctant readers. The pictures do a great job of helping tell the story, leaving fewer words on the page. For struggling readers or readers with anxiety, fewer words on the page is extremely helpful. They are also smaller, bite-sized wording on a page instead of paragraph after paragraph like a chapter book. It’s so much less overwhelming and feels doable to read one speech bubble and move on to the next. 

from The Tryout by Christina Soontornvat

Are graphic novels still reading though? 

Oh, absolutely! Reading is reading, my friends! There are words on the page that brains are working hard to piece together and figure out. Their brains are working hard to take in the input of information between the pictures and the words on the page and create a story in their minds. It is absolutely reading! 

Is there an age limit for reading graphic novels? No. Absolutely not. Reading is reading!! So if you see a high school-aged kid reading a graphic novel, celebrate the reading happening!

Graphic novels are a great resource in the reading world and I am so excited that they are gaining more and more traction as time goes on. Yay for graphic novels! 

Be honest, what are your thoughts on graphic novels? 

Final Kid’s Chapter Book List 2023

Recently I posted my 2023 book list, but these books were specifically the books I read by myself. Here’s a list of chapter books I read to my kids in 2023. For reference, my kids are 6 years old, 4 years old, and 1 year old. Obviously, the listening levels of the three different ages were not all the same. But learning a love for reading is more important than actually knowing the storyline at this age!

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

This was our first chapter book read together and of course, I bawled my eyes out at the end. I always do.

Stuart Little by E. B. White

We decided to keep up with the classics, you cannot go wrong with two E. B. White books in a row! This book was a fun read and we enjoyed comparing the book and the movie!

Matilda by Roald Dahl

I won’t lie, this book mostly went over my kid’s heads. It was a little too advanced for their ages and the British English took a lot of explaining. But we’ve been very into Matilda the Musical at our house, so it was fun to read the book and the background context of knowing the movie well made it a little easier for them to understand. It’s on our list to read together again a few years from now when they can understand it better!

Luna’s Rescue by Erica Richardson

I cannot sing this book enough praise! It was the perfect academic level for a read-aloud given my kid’s ages, and the storyline had us all hooked! There is a second book in the series and it’s on our list to read in 2024 because we are dying to know what happens to Luna’s friend, Hoover.

Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows

Starting the Ivy and Bean series was a great choice for us. There are a lot of books in this series and Ivy and Bean are fun kids to read about. Again, another book that led to more books added to our “To Be Read” list.

The True Gift by Patricia MacLachlan

I was on a mission to find a Christmas/winter-themed book for the Christmas season that was age and developmentally appropriate for the ages of my kids. There are SO many good kid’s Christmas chapter books out there, but I needed something simple. This book was the ticket, it checked all of the boxes perfectly and was a cute story. I can see us reading this book together again next Christmas season.

Final Book List for 2023

My final number for books read in 2023 came in at 58 books. I always set a goal to read 50 books in a year, so accomplishing 58 felt great! Here is my list of books read. Please note that not all of these books will be appropriate for everyone. Please do your research on whether a book is right for you or not. Please also feel free to comment to ask about any particular book, I’d love to chat about it and give insight.


👂🏼 Audiobook
📕 Physical book
📘 eReader

1The Summer I Turned PrettyJenny Han👂🏼
2Crying in H MartMichelle Zauner👂🏼
3The Case of the Missing MarquessNancy Springer👂🏼
4The Hotel NantucketElin Hilderbrand👂🏼
5The Last Chance LibraryFreya Sampson👂🏼
6House of GoldNatasha Solomons📕
7A Court of Thorns and RosesSarah J. Maas📕👂🏼
8Hiroshima DiaryMichihiko Hachiya👂🏼
9It Ends With UsColleen Hoover👂🏼
10Thank You For ListeningJulia Whelan👂🏼
11Mad HoneyJodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan👂🏼
12HitchhikersBernard Poduska📕
13Beach ReadEmily Henry📕
14A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and MayhemManda Collins👂🏼
15EdenbrookeJulianne Donaldson📕
16The Beach ClubElin Hilderbrand👂🏼
17Maybe SomedayColleen Hoover📕
18Maybe NotColleen Hoover📕
19A Corner of the UniverseAnn M. Martin👂🏼
20Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s StoneJ. K. Rowling👂🏼
21The Tattooist of AuschwitzHeather Morris👂🏼
22It Starts With UsColleen Hoover👂🏼
23Maybe NowColleen Hoover📕
24Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsJ.K. Rowling👂🏼
25We Were DreamersSimu Liu👂🏼
26Tomorrow and Tomorrow and TomorrowGabrielle Zevin📕
27Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanJ. K. Rowling👂🏼
28Enders ShadowOrson Scott Card📕👂🏼
29We Were LiarsE. Lockhart📕
30The Bookish Life of Nina HillAbbi Waxman👂🏼
31The Revised Fundamentals of CaregivingJohnathan Evison👂🏼
32Turtles All The Way DownJohn Green📘
33Harry Potter and the Goblet of FireJ. K. Rowling👂🏼
34The UnhoneymoonersChristina Lauren📕
35Britt Marie Was HereFredrick Backman👂🏼
36Hello BeautifulAnn Napolitano📕👂🏼
37Beneath a Scarlet SkyMark Sullivan📕
38A Place to Hang the MoonKate Albus👂🏼
39The Rent CollectorCameron Wright👂🏼
40This is Your Life, Harriet Chance!Johnathan Evison📕
41The Last Thing He Told MeLaura Dave📕
42The Ballad of Songbirds and SnakesSuzanne Collins👂🏼
43Good Man, DaltonKaren McQuestion📕
44The MeasureNikki Erlick👂🏼
45The Pumpkin Spice CafeLaurie Gilmore📕
46Demon CopperheadBarbara Kingsolver👂🏼
47One For the Murphy’sLynda Mullaly Hunt👂🏼
48Tokyo Ever AfterEmiko Jean👂🏼
49Forever, InterruptedTaylor Jenkins Reid👂🏼
50Tokyo DreamingEmiko Jean👂🏼
51The Mostly Invisible BoyA. J. Vanderhorst📕
52Counting the CostJill Duggar👂🏼
53The Cheat SheetSarah Adams👂🏼
54The Statistical Probability of Love at First SightJennifer E. Smith👂🏼
55Resting Scrooge FaceMeghan Quinn📘
56Little Fires EverywhereCeleste Ng📘
57A Return to ChristmasChris Heimerringer📘
58Found in a BookshopStephanie Butland📘

I cannot wait to see what 2024 has in store for my reading journey! What books would you recommend I add to my reading list for the year?