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Our teachers shared their favorite classroom items under $40 that bring a million bucks’ worth of usefulness, relief, or ease to their school day.
The right little things can make the biggest difference. Anyone who reaches for the good scissors knows what we mean. Our Teacher Facebook Community shared their favorite classroom items under $40 that bring a million bucks’ worth of usefulness, relief, or ease to their school day. Take a look and find your new favorite deals!
The 2023 version of the classic school bell? A wireless doorbell! It’s a portable, pocket-sized attention-getter, transition time signal, and voice saver.
“This doorbell has over 50 different chimes that can be changed as the day goes on. The doorbell is wireless, so I will be able to carry the button with me around the classroom. When the students hear the sound, they know to freeze and follow further instructions. Having a device that is able to change sounds will help keep the students on their toes and will get their attention easily.” — Sounds in the Classroom, Mrs. Vernon, Grades PreK-2, North Carolina
This one’s for the easily distracted students, the overly engrossed learners…and the adults. Timers with visual and auditory indicators are a simple way to keep the class on track and reinforce time management skills for everyone.
“My students rely on visual supports to help them navigate our schedule each day. The large color display and audible reminder will help my students remain focused on their task. They will know exactly how long they have to complete an activity, and when they are permitted to take a break. The timers will also help the many adults in my classroom follow our daily schedule.” — No More Time's a Wastin', Mrs. E., Grades 3-5, Ohio
Vibrant, multi-size sticky notes are possibly the most versatile tool in the classroom. Students can use them as exit tickets, to self-submit answers, to share positive feedback on peer work samples, to flag unknown words in books, and so much more. Can you ever have too many sticky notes?
“We need a lot of vibrant post-its to re-energize our eager readers. Our second graders know that post-it's can be used to stop and jot character traits, predictions, empathetic comments, and when they notice "college words" in their books. ” — Sounds in the Classroom, Mrs. Vernon, Grades PreK-2, North Carolina
We can’t say it better than this high school math teacher from our Teacher Facebook Community: “PENCILS! There are some battles I refuse to fight and pencils are on that list. Don't have a pencil? Here's one you can have. You need to borrow one every day? Fine! (If they're borrowing every day I make them return it at the end of the hour).”
Pencils in bulk. Just do it. There’s no reason to let a broken or missing pencil disrupt learning for more than the 30 seconds it would take to grab one from your stash.
Sometimes all the technology in the world can’t replace the simplicity and ease of its old-school counterpart. Dry erase boards can help enhance cooperative learning, facilitate communication, serve as practice notepads — and save paper! No WiFi required.
“With a dry erase board for each student we will be able to practice writing letters, numbers and eventually words. Being able to carry a dry erase board from location to location allows for learning to continue in multiple areas. My kids love having items that are not common in their lives. Dry erase boards will provide them that. Using a dry erase board is more fun than sitting at a desk and writing on paper.” — Wipe It Off And Write It Again!, Mrs. Gordanier, Grades PreK-2, Missouri
Mrs. O’Shea in Brooklyn has a very valid question for you: ”Wouldn't you love someone to acknowledge the hard work you do every day with a jazzy sticker or a pat on the back?” Teachers in our Facebook Community are reporting skyrocketing scores and student smiles from these timeless classroom incentives. And the options are endless!
“Shopping for stickers is mind blowing. There is such a wide variety of stickers for all ages, out there! There are glitter stickers, holiday stickers, goofy character stickers, angry bird sticker, gold star stickers, cartoon character stickers, Cat in the Hat stickers, reptile stickers, butterfly stickers, inspiring word stickers, just to name a few. Every kid loves to get a sticker and every kid needs a bit of motivation to do a great job on their homework assignments.” — Splendid Stickers for Spectacular Students!, Ms. O'Shea, Grades 3-5, New York
Giving sticky notes a run for their money as the most versatile classroom tool: Velcro. Here’s a short list of ideas and one awesome project example that uses Velcro in at least four ways.
A learning tool disguised as a toy, what’s not to love? Play-Doh gives students a hands-on medium for any subject, any lesson. Or for those five minutes between lessons when everyone needs a brain break.
“Academically, my students can use Play-Doh in our literacy centers to identify letters, learn sight words, and towards the end of the year they can use Play-Doh to build sentences using the stamps. Play-Doh can be used in many different ways in our Math and Science centers too! My students can use Play-Doh during the free-choice time to be creative and use their imagination. No two students learn the same way, so the addition of Play-Doh in my classroom allows me one more method to teach my students.” — Squish, Mold, Roll...Where is the Play-Doh, Mrs. V?, Mrs. Vultaggio, Grades PreK-2, Michigan
By teacher definition: “Kwik Stix are like a mix between crayons and tempura paint. They make it easy for the child to paint with brilliant, bold colors but no mess. They also give lots of control which is great for a child with fine motor goals.” (Thanks, Ms. Doman!)
A no-mess option for artistic expression in the classroom? We’ll take three.
“The Kwik Stix are a fun tool for painting, poster making and experimenting with color mixing. Some students don't like painting because it can often be messy and hard to control. These painting sticks make it easy to explore painting without the mess.” — Exploring Kwik Stix in the Painting Center, Ms. Brown, Grades 3-5, New York
You may not have heard of these but we guarantee your students have! Teachers in our Facebook Community have found tons of ways to turn these popular stress-relieving fidget toys into bona fide classroom aids for everything from math to reading to sensory tools.
“Pop It Fidget devices have a multitude of possibilities for use within a Kindergarten classroom. We would like to use the Pop Its to support our kiddos in all areas. In reading, we can use the Pop Its to count the number of sounds within a word and to help tap out our words. The Pop Its can also be used to make the shapes of letters. We can use the Pop Its in math to add, create a number and even subtract.” — Pop It Learning!, Ms. Ruder, Grades PreK-2, North Carolina
Dreaming of a quieter, more focused classroom? No judgment here – just a great idea for making it happen. Over-the-ear headphones are surprisingly inexpensive and give students independent access to all the audio resources they need.
“My students love using technology in the classroom to aid in their learning. There are a lot of great resources available, but most use audio. Headphones are required so as not to disrupt other students' learning, and allow for more technology to be used during independent work, which is done every day during guided reading. These headphones will also allow students to create projects that showcase their learning, because they have a microphone that they can talk into.” — We Can Hear It Now!, Mrs. Weaver, Grades 3-5, South Carolina
The yellow #2 pencil will always be a staple, but pens have their place, too. Teachers for all grades find use in PaperMate Flair Pens (standard black and every color!). One teacher in our Facebook Community reports that after a year and a half of remote laptop learning, Flair pens helped motivate their 7th graders to use their writers notebooks. Little learners can benefit from pens, too!
“The advantage to having the pens instead of pencils, is to be able to see the child’s thinking. When children make mistakes using a pencil, they simply erase. I am able to see the thinking work that my students go through with pens instead of pencils. Cross-outs, attempts at solving a tricky problem, or the spelling of a tricky word can tell me so much about what my students already know and what they need to learn next. Pens enable us to teach our students and our school community that we value process as much as we do product.” — Writer’s Workshop: Beyond the Pencil, Mrs. Morris, Grades PreK-2, Texas
Take a look at the new projects teachers are working on to show their students that learning is the best kind of adventure, then start your own low-cost project!
We asked our teachers what keeps them going as educators. Here’s what they had to say.
Let’s be real. In a lot of ways, this year has been a tough one for teachers and their students. Many public schools across the country remain underfunded and understaffed. Often, students are still working through the learning loss and emotional impact of COVID-19. All while news stories about violence and the divisive political climate light up our screens.
Despite these challenges, teachers show up for their students every day. As a teacher-founded nonprofit and the most trusted classroom project funding site, we at DonorsChoose know just how meaningful that dedication is. We’re all a little bit better because a teacher helped us along the way — but as Teacher Appreciation Week approaches, we wanted to know what helps them keep going, too. That’s why we asked teachers, “What makes you proud to teach?” Here’s just a few of the powerful answers we got back:
“It's like nothing else when a child has worked so hard at something and the lights finally turn on for them. When they feel proud of their own accomplishments and celebrate those of their classmates', I know I'm doing something of value.”
Call them “aha” or “light bulb” moments. We heard from so many teachers that it’s that incredible moment when a student just “gets it” and reaches an understanding about something in their learning that makes them beam with pride as an educator.
“These kids have been through a lot. I teach K-5 special education and have had some of my students since before Covid started. We've been through a lot together and seeing how much they have overcome and how well they are doing fills my heart with joy.“
Without a doubt, the pandemic also came up a lot when we asked about what makes educators proud to teach. The level of challenges still being faced in classrooms due to COVID-19, and the continued resilience of students and teachers alike is more than enough to explain why.
“Seeing my students succeed in any form. From the biggest successes like getting into the middle school they wanted, to the smallest success like finding that missing pencil.”
For a good number of educators, it was all about the small wins and big growing moments like these that made them proud to teach. That’s because DonorsChoose teachers know the little everyday lessons can add up to major achievements when it comes to changing young lives.
“The fact that I can help a student feel more comfortable with learning — to step out and try something new in a safe and nurturing environment. I may not see how it affects the course of their life, but I know for a season, I was able to tend to a child's emotional, physical, and intellectual health.”
Building community in the classroom and providing safe, inclusive environments for their kids was also a major contender from teachers. Teachers understand better than anyone that empowering their students with the tools and classroom space for taking big risks in their learning journeys is essential to great education.
“Having the opportunity to be part of a child's story. I love that my students hunt me down — even 30 years later — to let me know what they are up to!”
Young people will ultimately be the ones deciding the future and that importance was not lost on our educators. Being able to play a key role in a child’s story and the future world they’re growing up in was another big answer from our teachers.
“For me it has been a journey of a lifetime to be a teacher and I made it this far. I am proud of all the teachers who put so much energy in being the best they can be and I include myself in that. I am proud of my students, no exceptions. We meet each other where we are and go forward.”
Many of our teachers also spoke of the immense pride they had in their fellow educators and how honored they were to be a part of a dedicated community of individuals who are doing so much for their students every day, despite constant challenges. We couldn’t agree more.
“Despite being overwhelmed, I ❤️ my job. I ❤️ seeing my gems get excited when they have mastered content. It takes a SPECIAL person to be an educator!”
We wanted to end on the answer that likely won’t come as a surprise to you: Overwhelmingly, DonorsChoose teachers answered that the thing that made them most proud to teach? The kids.
It may have been a tough year in many ways, but these teachers never stopped giving their all to help every student become their best selves. And that’s something to be tremendously proud of.
Creating the perfect DonorsChoose project for your classroom just got faster! Learn how you can use the latest "cart copy" feature on DonorsChoose to make your life easier.
Chances are if you’re teaching something, other teachers have probably taught it too.That’s why we’re excited about cart copy, the new feature that lets you browse the site for inspiration and put that inspiration into action.
Here’s how it works:
When you’re browsing other teachers’ projects, and you see the Makerspace starter kit of your dreams, just hit “Copy this cart.” You’ll be brought to a new draft project, with those exact same items ready for you to request.
Once you copy a teacher’s cart, you’re still in the driver’s seat. You can change quantities to reflect your student count and still personalize your wishlist the way you usually do to make sure the resources are exactly what you need. (Bonus: Unavailable items will be automatically excluded from your cart. Once you’re done shopping, you’ll still write your own description of how materials will make an impact for your students.
Now, it’s easier to find a cart to copy. If you go to the Search page, you can find more than 40,000 ideas from teachers. That’s a lot of inspiration, but what if you’re looking for something specific? You can filter projects by grade and subject using the checkboxes to the left of the search page, or search for any items you’re especially in the market for at the top.
Use these tips and templates to spread the word about your book project on DonorsChoose!
Coming on March 30: Every donation to DonorsChoose book projects on DonorsChoose will be doubled, while funds last.
This is your chance to “put some time on the books” and stock your shelves! The best way to take advantage of this special funding opportunity? Make sure your community knows about the awesome work you and your students do by sharing your project link! Teachers who take one of the 5-minute sharing actions below have a 89% success rate on DonorsChoose. (Seriously.)
To help you give your projects an extra boost, our DonorsChoose team designed some resources to make sharing your project super simple, so the only question left is:
Which action will you choose on March 30th?
On Thursday morning, pick your favorite graphics from our collection and share at least twice on social media. You can mix & match your favorite platforms (i.e. 1 Facebook post + 1 TikTok), do a morning and evening post on the same platform, or post and re-share your own content (Insta feed + Insta story!). Wherever you tweet, post, snap, or share, make sure you include a link to your project!
On Wednesday, use the template below as a guide to write about your students and then , copy and paste the text (with your project link!) into a group text chat or an email with your favorite 3-5 bookworms. Wherever you send it — your starred group chat, that DM thread with your book club, your family email chain — make it super personal to their favorite teacher (you!).
This option is your best bet to #FillEveryShelf in your classroom: A way to let all the book fans and (self-proclaimed) literary critics in your network know about your project and the big match day. Complete these three steps together to give your project the momentum it needs:
Not sure who to reach out to? Get some ideas here!
Build your students' love of reading with these popular graphic novels.
“Graphic novels not only promote reading, but they also help to improve reading comprehension, vocabulary, and reading stamina.” — Mrs. Ureta, middle school teacher, Texas
Readers of all ages love graphic novels. Students get especially excited when they see a graphic novel on their reading lists! (What teacher doesn’t want that?) These ten graphic novels are the most requested by DonorsChoose teachers — check out these top picks and add them to your library!
After finding themselves in trouble, five unique middle school students are forced to complete community service together. At first, they assume that they have nothing in common aside from being Spanish-speakers. When they meet a girl who needs help, they come to learn that they have more in common than they realized.
Frizzy is the story of a young Dominican girl who has a complicated relationship with her naturally curly hair. With the help of her best friend and her Tía Ruby, she begins a heartwarming journey of embracing herself and her curls.
The third installment of the I Survived series, is about an eleven year old boy and his family that try to ride out Hurricane Katrina in their New Orleans home. This graphic novel series became popular for the way it combines historical facts with a truly captivating story.
Mary Anne's Bad Luck Mystery is the seventeenth novel of the well loved The Baby-sitter’s Club books. In this story, Mary Anne ignores a chain letter and then experiences a series of unfortunate events along with her friends. When she discovers a new note, Mary Anne and her friends become determined to solve the mystery and find out who is behind the letters.
This middle-grade graphic novel features one of Marvel’s most loved superheroes, Spider-man. As Miles Morales (aka Spider-man) navigates the balance of swinging through Brooklyn and being a regular kid, he also uncovers secrets that force him to go after some big threats.
Moon Rising is the 6th book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Wings of Fire series. This fantasy graphic novel hooks readers in with a mystical world full of dragons., prophecies, and special powers.
When Grace is on a school field trip, she comes across an old mysterious woman who gives her a dragon egg. After the dragon hatches, Grace and her friends have to protect it from sinister forces.
The Tryout is a touching graphic novel based on author Christina Soontornvat’s life in middle school. In this story, Christina and her best friend have to navigate trying out for the cheerleading squad as the only two students of color in their Texas school.
Naomi, Melvin, Poppy, Gilbert, Curly, and their siblings are thrilled to start making funny and original comics again. When these baby frogs work collaboratively, they learn that small things can have a big impact.
Mindy and her best friends own a booming dog walking business and things couldn’t be any better. But when Mindy experiences some growing pain at home and at school, she has to learn to let new people into her life.
Are you excited to get these graphic novels for your students? Create a DonorsChoose project and let our community help you get the resources you need!
Check out these top requested books from each grade level!
This post was published in February 2020 and was updated in February 2023.
March is National Book Month, so what better time to uncover our teachers’ favorite books? Check out these five most requested books from each grade level, and learn why you should bring them into your home or classroom.
Mrs. Norris’s goal is to give her students a book that “embodies the sense of love and unity we have in our classrooms, while also having beautiful and engaging artwork to inspire students." In her book Our Class is a Family, Shannon Olsen reminds students that classrooms are places where it’s safe to be yourself, okay to make mistakes, and be a friend to others. The top books on this list remind us all that kindness, self-esteem, and identity are at the heart of learning.
Our Class is a Family by Shannon Olsen
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
I Am Enough by Grace Byers
The Magical Yet by Angela DiTerlizzi
The Smart Cookie by Jory John
Mrs. Turner chose Wonder for her 25 students to practice creative and critical thinking. Wonder is a warm, uplifting story that stirs different emotions and teaches students about life, discovery, perseverance, and respect. “I picked this book for our book study because not only can we use it for reading strategies, but also for lifelong lessons.”
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
The Baby-sitters Club Graphic Novels by Ann M. Martin, adapted by Gale Galligan and Raina Telgemeier
Dog Man: The Supa Epic Collection by Dav Pilkey
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
A Newbery award-winning graphic novel, New Kid drops students into a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real. Ms. Dempsey loves it because “the realism effortlessly pivots readers and teachers into unexpected and profound topics of conversation. The story may be heartbreakingly accurate as it explores topics such as class, race, microaggressions, and self-identity.”
New Kid by Jerry Craft
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
The Hate U Give has been one of the most requested books on our site for several years. Teachers like Mr. Perkins uses this book to empower their students to discuss shared experiences and envision social change.“ This novel has so many key pieces that they struggle with each day. My hope is to not only find something they can relate with but to allow them to feel comfortable and empowered to share those struggles to empower each other.”
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
Teachers, today is the perfect day to get these books on your shelves! Create a project and bring these popular stories to your students.
If you want to help teachers put these books in students' hands, support a book project today!
Books can take us to new worlds (windows) or affirm our own identities (mirrors). Explore our collection of inclusive reading lists that will bring both to your bookshelves today.
“There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you until the day you begin to share your stories. And all at once … the world opens itself up a little wider to make some space for you.” —From The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
When we say books are magic, it’s not just a phrase to throw around. Books have the power to act as windows, allowing us to see into worlds beyond our own — while just as easily mirroring our experience and reflecting and affirming our identities. DonorsChoose teachers know how essential this level of representation is to every classroom and student, not just for special months but all year-round.
We pulled together a collection of our best reading lists made for diversifying your bookshelves, featuring stories by and about women and Black, Latino, LGBTQIA+, AAPI, Native American people —and beyond. They’re divided up by grade level for easy shopping. Enjoy!
Explore this list: 19 Must-Have Books by Black Authors For Your Class Library
These are stories of Black joy, love, and life for all readers. Explore belonging with young readers in the lyrical The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, or dive into a haunting graphic novel in verse in Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel by Jason Reynolds. Or read the powerful American memoir written to the author’s teenage son in the bestseller Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Explore this list: 12 Must-Read Books That Celebrate Hispanic and Latino Voices
You can join Alma on an adventure of learning about her name and her family history in Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal, read the story of a pre-teen boy whose family is separated by U.S. immigration policies in the deeply honest Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros. Or you can learn the history of four women fighting for freedom under Trujillo’s dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez.
Explore this list: 9 Must-Read Books That Celebrate the LGBTQIA+ Community
Fill your shelves with Pride year-round. You can ride the subway with Julián and his Abuela on a story of self-discovery and acceptance in Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, read the coming-of-age story of a girl finding herself in the wake of a tornado in Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake, and join the sisters Camino and Yahaira Rios in the novel-in-verse about grief, loss, and love, Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo.
Explore this list: Must-Read Asian American and Pacific Islander Books
In this list, you’ll discover a lyrical story showcasing the lives of Muslim American women in Under My Hijab by Hena Khan, the moving family saga unfolding during the Japanese occupation of Korea in Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, and the Pulitzer-Prize winning tale of an American educated Franco-Vietnamese communist spy in The Sympathizer, a novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen.
Explore this list: 15 Books by Women Authors to Celebrate Women in History
Readers of all genders can find a story to appreciate in these selections. Dig into world history with the beautifully-illustrated Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World by Vashti Harrison, read the story of a young girl who must leave her home in Syria to the U.S. in Other Words for Home, by Jasmine Warga, or travel back to 1937 during the Harlem Renaissance in the American classic Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.
Explore this list: Native American Book List
Choose from 9 titles featuring a breadth of stories centering Native peoples’ voices and culture. Go on a journey of adoption and family identity in I Can Make this Promise by Christine Day, learn more about the history of boarding schools in Two Roads by Joseph Bruchac, or read the multi-generational tale all leading up to a California Powwow in There, There by Tommy Orange.
Teachers know the classroom should be a space where all students can find their mirrors and their windows. Through diversifying our reading with books like those on our lists above, we can all gain a more complete, more honest picture of the world. And that is pure magic.
Want to see what books public school teachers are currently requesting? Find them here on DonorsChoose.
The Allstate Foundation supported more than 4,500 classrooms through their Racial Equity Match Offer.
Over the past three years, the Corporate Social Responsibility sector has blossomed with support for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives — with racial equity campaigns front and center. Thanks to our 23 year history funding teachers’ resource requests and focus on racial equity, DonorsChoose is uniquely positioned to help companies who want to build inclusive, representative classroom environments where teachers and students of color alike can thrive.
Through the development of their Advance Racial Equity focus, The Allstate Foundation (TAF) sought nonprofit partners who could close the racial opportunity gap for careers with thriving wages. Connecting this area with their existing philanthropic portfolio around Empowering Youth, TAF recognized that combatting the current racial inequities in education is foundational to closing those opportunity gaps later in life.
Inspired by our previous collaboration supporting teachers’ social and emotional learning requests on DonorsChoose, TAF challenged us to build a $1.5 million national campaign that would support teachers of color and help classrooms access diverse and inclusive learning resources.
In addition to tapping into our teacher demographic capabilities, we developed an entirely new subject category to help The Allstate Foundation and other donors support learning resources related to racial equity easily and at scale.
Funding Teachers of Color
Starting in 2019, we invited teachers to optionally share with us demographic information, including their race, gender, and the year they began teaching. Since then, more than a quarter million teachers have shared their information, and nearly 75,000 of them are teachers of color, creating one of the largest databases of teachers of color in the country.
Using this information, we were able to target a portion of TAF’s grant to match individual donations made to projects from first-time teachers of color. In doing so, TAF was able to directly improve the classroom conditions for these teachers of color, while introducing them to our platform for accessing additional classroom resources.
Funding Racial Justice & Representation Resources
When TAF first approached us about supporting projects that bring racially diverse and inclusive learning materials into the classroom, we didn’t have a way to target funding to those projects at scale. Knowing that this desire to support these projects would only grow and was deeply aligned with our equity focus, our team launched a new Racial Justice & Representation project category that teachers can select when creating their projects.
With this new project category, we’ve been able to match donations to racial justice & representation projects with the same accuracy and speed as we can support Math projects.
In fall 2021, we launched The Allstate Foundation Equity Match Offer, doubling $1.5 million in donations to project requests from teachers of color who’d never before received funding, and teachers of any background requesting projects in the new Racial Justice & Representation project category. In addition to creating this impact on classrooms, this campaign received an honorable mention in PR Daily’s 2022 CSR & Diversity Awards.
“Thank you so much for your contributions. My students love the space for their multicultural library. This year, I am teaching 2 groups of ENL students, a group of 5th graders, and a group of 2nd graders. They both love the multicultural library space and use this space to engage with peers on topics like diversity, inclusion and justice. THANK YOU!”
—Ms. Shaw, Grades 3–5, Syracuse, NY, Building a Multicultural Library with Flex Seating
Since 1952, The Allstate Foundation has led national programs, partnered with national organizations and offered grants to local nonprofits to create innovative, long-term solutions for those in need. The Allstate Foundation strives to give people the power to achieve their aspirations by empowering youth to be the next generation of leaders, disrupting the cycle of relationship abuse, advancing racial equity and strengthening nonprofit leadership skills.
DonorsChoose is the leading way to give to public schools. Since 2000, more than 5 million people and partners have contributed $1 billion to support 2 million teacher requests for classroom resources and experiences. As the most trusted crowdfunding platform for teachers, donors, and district administrators alike, DonorsChoose vets each request, ships the funded resources directly to the classroom, and provides thank yous and reporting to donors and school leaders.
We looked at our top requested books and compiled a list of "classics" that still make students smile.
What was the first book that changed how you see the world? Of the millions of books requested by teachers on DonorsChoose over the last twenty years, these nine stand out for their impact on countless childhoods. And when teachers use them in the classroom, kids are still thrilled.
To create this list, we looked at the books that teachers have requested for their students most frequently and got the teacher skinny on what they consider “classics”.
It’s no coincidence that when you search for “books about friendship” on Google, Charlotte’s Web is the first result. The bond between Charlotte and Wilbur taught a lot of us about compassion, empathy, and selflessness. White writes for children without talking down to them, treating young kids as individuals capable of understanding deep emotional moments.
“[It’s] been amazing to see how excited they get about the story! I am sure we all got the chance to read this classic story about kindness and friendship and I am so excited to share this with my students for years to come!” - Ms. Burel, 2nd Grade, on Charlotte’s Web
The curse on Stanley Yelnats is only slightly less powerful than the hold Sachar’s book has had on readers for more than 20 years. At boys’ detention center Camp Green Lake, there’s only one goal: dig holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep. With more questions than answers, Stanley and his fellow wards look to dig up the truth and change their own fates.
Through the eyes of 10-year-old Annemarie, we experience the rescue of Danish Jews during World War II. This suspenseful, deeply human account is still must-read in classrooms across the country (along with Lowry’s other modern classic, The Giver). Lowry is the thoughtful, skilled writer you remember, but make no mistake — both books are riveting, unabashed page-turners.
Few books have inspired more laugh-out-loud fun than this classic, beloved by grade-schoolers everywhere. The tale of Peter’s relationship with his brother, Fudge, helped countless of reluctant older siblings come to terms with the idea that the little monsters monopolizing our parent’s attention would not, in fact, be returning to the hospital but would instead be a constant presence of the rest of our lives.
If all the books on this list have one thing in common, it’s that their writers understand that the best children’s literature can handle adult topics. Madelene L’Engle certainly doesn’t shy away from big themes and ideas: A Wrinkle in Time is about nothing less than a cosmic battle between good and evil. She takes a stand for individuality over conformity and thinking over mindlessness. Most of all, she tells every reader: “Be yourself.” A timeless message indeed.
The House on Mango Street is a classic coming-of-age novel. Narrator Esperanza Cordero grabs you by the hand and wades with you through the waters of her life. Each vignette is an invitation to explore the rich cultural and historic contexts that shape our lives and, at times, collide with our desire to be known and seen as our truest, most authentic selves. It’s no coincidence that Esperanza means hope; this luminous swirl of autobiography and fiction leaves every reader with plenty.
Brian Robeson survived a plane crash – with nothing but a hatchet and a windbreaker with which to face an unwelcoming wilderness. Such begins an epic tale of survival, family, and discovery that has given decades of young readers a taste for adventure and gratitude for home.
What happens when a kid invents a new word, his classmates love it, and his teacher hates it? Meet Nick Allen, mastermind behind ‘frindle’ whose curiosity and well-meaning experiment with words takes on wildly unexpected consequences. Clements creates a one-of-a-kind student-teacher dynamic with a twist ending that will forever bind clever, uncontainable students and the teachers who stand by them.
An unforgettable read, Roll of Thunder follows the Logan family as they navigate Depression-era Mississippi. Taylor manages to fill the pages with laughter, grade-school high-jinks, and the comfort of a close-knit family without undermining the racism and turbulent national history that permeate the lives of her characters. Now more than ever, we need this big-hearted book.
Of course, we know this list is far from comprehensive — and we want to hear from you! What was your favorite as a kid? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram!
Help give the next generation of kids access to life-changing books! Support a classroom book project today.
More than 25,000 classroom projects funded near Panda Express locations
For the growing number of companies with workforces spread across the country, supporting employees’ hometowns isn’t as simple as writing a check to that one local charity. When Panda Cares, the philanthropic branch of Panda Express, wanted to support schools surrounding its 2,200+ Panda Express locations, they knew they needed a nonprofit that had a national reach and the ability to target donations to the communities they care about.
Teachers at 86% of all US public schools have used DonorsChoose to request learning resources for their classrooms, and at any given moment, there are 50,000–100,000 resource requests seeking funding on our site. Through our platform, donors give any amount to the resource requests that inspire them, and we’ve designed mechanisms specifically for partners who want to target their classroom support to select hyperlocal geographies.
Year-round at every Panda Express location, you’ll find Panda associates fundraising for Panda Cares, the philanthropic arm of Panda Restaurant Group. Panda Cares uses those funds raised at point of sale to serve Panda Express communities by supporting organizations that benefit the health and education of youth in the community as disaster relief support. Panda Cares empowers employees to give back, inspiring morale and pride.
Panda Cares wanted to deepen and personalize their associates’ engagement in Panda philanthropy by funding local public school classrooms across the country — our reach combined with our ability to support schools by zip code made us a natural fit.
“Panda and DonorsChoose is a win-win partnership where in-store donations made by our guests and associates are poured back into their communities nationwide,” said Winnie Chan, Director of Panda Cares Foundation.
Over our three years of partnership with Panda Cares, their team has inspired us to further hone our hyperlocal funding mechanics so Panda associates know that the funds they raised at their location are going right back into their neighborhood schools.
Year by year, we honed our approach for local funding based on what we’d learned in the previous year, and our growing capacity for supporting hyperlocal giving. For all campaigns, qualifying projects were from schools where most students are from low-income households to ensure the funding would make the biggest impact.
Year 1: Zip code funding
We started off with our bread and butter of local giving — funding teacher requests based on the zip code of their school. All resource requests from schools within 10 miles of Panda Express zip codes had their projects fully funded.
Year 2: Radius-specific match offers
For the second year, we dove a little further into the nuance. Instead of fully funding all projects, we launched tiered match offers. Projects from schools within a 5-mile radius of Panda Express zip codes had donations tripled, while projects from within a 5- to 10-mile radius had donations doubled.
Year 3: Zip code funding allocated by local POS fundraising
This year, we made giving the most specific yet. We returned to a direct project funding model, this time tying the amount fundraised at each Panda Express location to the funding for those local schools. This local funding connection inspires even more employee engagement, as locations who raise more at point of sale can support even more resource requests.
To further deepen these connections, we helped to facilitate Panda associates delivering Panda Express meals to the local schools they supported through their campaign during Teacher Appreciation Week — to everyone’s absolute delight!
Thank You @PandaExpress and @DonorsChoose for our staff lunch today! #TeacherAppreciationWeek pic.twitter.com/kWKYahXwAK— The Fabulous Vegas Teacher (@FabVegasTeacher) May 4, 2022
The DonorsChoose team designed, curated, and mailed customized thank-you packages so that all 2,201 Panda Express locations received thank-you notes directly from supported students, a flier sharing an overview of our partnership, and a letter announcing our next campaign. In all, we shared more than 8,800 thank-you notes to 2,201 Panda Express stores.
Over the past three years, Panda Cares has had a remarkable impact on their communities through these hyperlocal initiatives, funding more than 25,000 classroom projects and reaching thousands of public schools in their target zip codes.
Employee engagement surrounding Panda Cares remains high, with 84% of associates feeling that Panda is committed to supporting the communities in which it operates — compared to 70% overall benchmark.
“I receive a great sense of honor knowing that I work for a company that does so much for the community.” —Panda Associate, 2022 Associate inspiration Measurement (AIM) Survey
Teachers flocked to social media to share their gratitude for the campaign across social media.
My @DonorsChoose project was fully funded by Panda Cares @PandaExpress and I am so grateful!! 👩🏫— Sarah Romer (@mrssarahromer) June 14, 2021
omg i love @pandaexpress !! makes me love them even more!!!— Ms. Jasmine (@jaaasminerice) September 9, 2022
Want to learn more about how we can target funding to support schools in the communities you care about most? Reach out to us!
Check out these top picks and find your students’ (or your own!) next read.
Teachers know: Students thrive when they can see themselves in their learning materials. Classroom libraries come to life when the shelves are filled with diverse stories, characters, and authors. Black students especially deserve to see themselves in stories beyond those of suffering; stories by and about Black folks filled with joy, love, and magic are essential for every classroom.
We broke down the data and these are the most popular books by Black authors that teachers request on DonorsChoose. Plus, we added a couple of buzzy new releases to add to your list too. Check out these top picks and find your students’ (or your own!) next read.
Hair Love tells the story of a Black father who jumps in to style his daughters hair when her mom is away. This heartwarming depiction of a father-daughter relationship was also turned into a 7 minute animated film.
Skin Like Mine celebrates the beauty of diverse skin tones. Already love Skin Like Mine? Check out another Latisha M. Perry teacher fave from the Kids Like Mine series, Hair Like Mine.
Sulwe, written by actress Lupita Nyong'o, tells the story of a young girl who wishes her skin were lighter. The 2019 children’s book explores colorism and, ultimately, how to love yourself.
“Sulwe is a book that promotes self-love, and acceptance, while helping children to be proud of who they are and realize they're just as beautiful outside as they are within. This book is a sweet take on ways young children can be helped to confront colorism.” —Mr. Romelle, Self Love
Alvin Ailey broke ground when he founded a Black modern dance company in 1958. This illustrated children’s book shows off Ailey’s childhood, choreography, and founding of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
In her New York Times bestseller, Jacqueline Woodson explores difference and belonging in The Day You Begin. Lyrical and beautifully illustrated, the book speaks directly to young children and can help foster community within a class.
Nic Stone’s first novel Dear Martin has already made her a staple in many high school classrooms. Her first middle grade novel, Clean Getaway, follows an 11-year-old on a road trip with his grandmother.
“Clean Getaway by Nic Stone will be the foundation of our project, allowing us to build an understanding of civil rights history through a character that our students can see themselves in.” —Ms. Tuttell, The Pride of Southeast Raleigh
Jewell Parker Rhodes’s book looks at the school-to-prison pipeline through the story of two biracial brothers — one who presents as Black, and the other who presents as White — and a world that doesn’t treat them equally.
“Providing my readers with the opportunity to read Black Brother, Black Brother as a whole class at home will enable them to view the world through different perspectives, research other connecting events, and have the tough but all-too-necessary conversations required to change the future.” —Mrs. Stegall, Black Brother, Black Brother: A Novel for Racial Equality
Class Act is a companion book to New Kid, winner of the 2020 Newbery Medal, the Coretta Scott King Author Award, and the Kirkus Prize. The graphic novel shows the lives of middle schoolers as they come to terms with the realities of privilege.
Jaqueline Woodson’s novel-in-verse and winner of the Coretta Scott King Author Award Before the Ever After tells the story of a family dealing with the impact professional sports — specifically football — has on Black bodies.
Long Way Down is a graphic novel in verse with illustrations by Danica Novgorodoff that centers the story of a boy who witnessed his brother die in a fatal shooting. As he weighs his options for revenge, he’s visited by people from his past.
“Jason Reynolds speaks to my students, especially my young men who struggle to engage with literature. His work offers a different perspective than the classics that we typically find on the shelves at school. Students deserve to read his books.” —Ms. Rausch, Long Way to Literacy
Lawyer and activist Bryan Stevenson’s book Just Mercy depicts his experience as a young lawyer defending wrongfully incriminated clients in the south. This version, adapted for young adult audiences, shows students a glimpse into the broken US justice system.
This 2018 fantasy novel and #1 New York Times Bestseller by Nigerian-American novelist Tomi Adeyemi has become a fast classic. First in the Legacy of Orisha series, Children of Blood and Bone incorpoerest Adeyemi’s West African heritage in a story of fighting injustice and discrimination.
“Children of Blood and Bone is an amazing read that explores powerful female characters and social issues that are relevant to the world we live in, as well as magic and adventure that keep readers on the edge of their seats.” —Mrs. Majeski-Turner, Help Amazing Young Women Read Children of Blood and Bone
Looking for a book like The Hate U Give? Angie Thomas’s new novel Concrete Rose revisits the same neighborhood 17 years prior, exploring Black boyhood and manhood through the story of 17-year-old Maverick Carter.
Co-written by award winning novelist Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of The Exonerated Five, Punching the Air is a YA novel written in verse about a wrongfully incarcerated boy.
“In my 13 years as a professional librarian, [Punching the Air] is one of the finest books I have ever read for young adults. All of us will read the book as a learning community, to discuss and explore.” —Mrs. May-Stein, Punch Out Illiteracy in the Time of COVID-19!
Truly no library is complete without Langston Hughes. Written in 1925, “The Weary Blues” is a seminal work of the Harlem Renaissance, and Hughes’s first collection of poetry still resonates today.
Ta-Nehisi Coates’s 2015 nonfiction bestseller weaves personal narrative and history, and is written as a letter to his teenage son. Inspired by the writing of James Baldwin, Coates interrogates the "racist violence that has been woven into American culture."
“Ta-Nehisi Coates makes these real world struggles personal and engaging. What started as a letter to his son, now has grown into a memoir and meditation for all teenagers and adults to understand what others go through.” —Mr. Steinman, Between the World and the Heights
Winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Nickel Boys follows the story of two boys unjustly sent to a reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.
“The Nickel Boys promises to be a novel which inspires engaged discussion, thoughtful reflection, and even some soul-searching in the high school classroom. To move forward as a diverse country requires us to examine some of the tragedies of our disparate paths. This book provides the opportunity for readers to do just that.” —Ms. Furlong, A New and Necessary Novel: Colson Whitehead in the Classroom
Are you looking for new conversation starters and tools to discuss racial injustice in your classroom? This interactive workbook, co-written by DonorsChoose Board Member W. Kamau Bell, challenges readers to think critically and do the work.
Life in Motion: Unlikely Ballerina depicts the life of Misty Copeland, the first Black female principal ballerina in the American Ballet Theatre. This young readers edition is a great opportunity for students 3rd - 7th grade to learn about her journey to becoming a history making ballerina.
Spot a book you’d love your students to read? Create a project today: www.donorschoose.org/teachers
No one has gotten creative on TikTok quite like our nation’s teachers. See which TikToks and reels are making our followers smile.
What’s better than a video that warms the heart or makes you burst into laughter? Among other things, teachers use TikTok to shine a light on the hilarious and sweet sides of teaching. Here are some teacher-created TikToks guaranteed to make you smile.
Check out what happened when this teacher showed her class who her favorite student was.
They could be the early bird arriving before the custodians. They might even be the hallway mayor saying “good” morning to everyone they pass.
Looking for more TikTok videos to brighten your day? Follow us on Instagram.
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