For the first time this year, I put the work into bringing Black History Month to life in my library. It was such a wonderful month of questions, discussions, explorations, and growth! It changed the way that I look at displays and celebrations in my space, and the deep thinking they can inspire. As we came back from Spring Break this week, I found myself excited to continue the conversation on our complicated history, equality, and overcoming adversity in a new way: Women’s History Month.
“March is Women’s History Month – commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.” (source)
You’ve probably noticed by now that art isn’t my greatest skill, so I knew I was going to need some help creating an eye-catching display. Thank goodness for talented teachers that create amazing resources and share them online for the rest of us! I’ve put together a quick list of the resources that I used to share the message of Women’s History Month, get students thinking, and spark conversations in our library. Over the course of the month, I’ll also be sharing read alouds and activities that are a hit with my readers, as well as mistakes that I make along the way (those are often the most valuable!).
Here are some of the resources that I’ve used to bring Women’s History Month to life in our library:
Downloadable STEM Role Model Posters
These beautiful posters from Women You Should Know are hanging on our circulation desk, where little hands and eyes can reach them easily. My first grade class yesterday begged me to read each one aloud to them while they touched the colorful pictures. They’re available for free download in multiple languages – I wish we had the display space to hang them in other languages too!
Women’s History Month posters from Mike Rawls
Another beautiful set of posters, these ones created and shared by the incredibly talented Mike Rawls of The Book Wrangler. 29 women are featured, and the simplicity of the pictures fascinates my students! I love the illustrative style, and the conversations that it starts. I left off the posters of the women who had just been highlighted during Black History Month, because our space is limited. Most of the posters are on our large display wall, but a few of them are on the library doors, where students are sure to stop and look. There’s also signage on the door to lead them to the rest of the display.
My favorite way to get students thinking is to ask them why they think the artist chose to leave the womens’ faces blank. Thoughtful little ones have responded with answers ranging from “Because faces are really hard to draw“, to “Because it doesn’t matter what you look like, it only matters what choices you make“, all the way to “So that I can imagine my face there because I can be amazing too.” I created a short, kid-friendly biography blurb to go along with each poster, because my students always have a million questions about famous historical figures. Just like our Who Said That display, the pictures and blurbs have students excited about learning more.
At the center of our display featuring Mike Rawls’ posters is another, larger poster. I’ve got a creative mind, but not the hands to match, so when it comes to large displays, I love to project simple images on the SMART Board and trace them. This Women’s History Month poster from Black Hawk College is so powerful, and it traced beautifully. It makes the perfect centerpiece for our collection of powerful women.
Women’s History Month books
Our conversation about Women’s History Month all started when a coworker sent me this amazing list of 70 Books to Inspire Science-Loving Girls, asking me if we had any in our library (thank you, Heidi!). Many of the books in our Women’s History Month display came from this great list of books featuring female scientists throughout history. From there, I pulled biographies from our collection to add, as well as feminist favorites like Herstory and Strong is the New Pretty. If you’re looking for more, I also loved these lists from Pernille Ripp, Barnes and Noble, A Mighty Girl, and Here Wee Read.Check out a few of the books in our display via the Instagram video below.
Women’s History Month Lessons and Conversation Starters
Are you following The Tutu Teacher yet? She’s both awesome and hilarious, and shares great recommendations and resources. This week she shared this slideshow of Important Women in History, and I’m excited to look through it with my classes. Headed back to The Book Wrangler, I loved this idea for a directed drawing of RBG after reading I Dissent – which my 1st graders heard this week and loved.
During Black History Month, I saw a post from an educator that I respect and admire that brought new context and depth to my conversations with students. Here is the post from Naomi O’Brien, educator behind the social media account ReadLikeaRockStar:
That simple message shifted my perspective completely. It had a huge impact on the way I shared information and stories with my students, and I am determined to bring that into my Women’s History Month discussions as well. Every time I introduce the first woman to reach a goal, hold a position, earn a degree, or something of the like, I ask, “Think back to our conversations during Black History Month, about how some people are treated differently than others because of the way they look or the way they are born. Why do you think she was the first woman to do this, when men had been able to do it for so long?” Your conversations regarding women in history can be as complex or as simple as you want, but I found that no matter where this question leads us, it’s always worth the extra few minutes to get students thinking critically.