It's the end of the school year and I'm so looking forward to a relaxing summer! One thing I definitely want to do is catch up on my reading list. I have a whole stack of fun books just waiting for me.
But I also want to fit in a few education books - because 16 years into my teaching career, I know there's always more to learn. To get some new ideas, I recently polled some of my teacher friends and colleagues to find out what they've been reading.
Here is list of favorite professional development books recommended by real teachers. They span all grade levels, include books for new teachers and veteran teachers alike, and are full of practical advice you can use in your own classroom. Take a look!
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Books About Teaching Reading
If you teach beginning readers, you may have noticed that many of the Dolch and Fry words aren't actually sight words that need to be memorized. A large number of them are decodable words that happen to occur very frequently in written English. This book focuses on the phonetic concepts in the most common Dolch words.
The author gives you 67 instant lessons you can start using right now. Rather than helping students memorize a certain sight word each day, you teach one bite-size phonics concept each day. Each lesson is designed to be delivered in less than10 minutes simply by reading it aloud and then helping students sound out the sample words. The beauty of this approach is that once the student learns the target phonics concept, they can easily transfer it to other words that follow the same pattern. This one is a must-read!
The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller
This book helps teachers support students of all levels on their path to reading success. The author forgoes old-school approaches to reading instruction like book reports and comprehension worksheets and instead embraces student choice in book selection and independent reading. She clearly conveys a passion for reading that is truly inspiring and the results are impressive. No matter how far behind Miller's students are when they enter her 6th grade classroom, they read an average of 40 books a year, achieve high test scores on standardized assessments, and internalize a love of reading that lasts long after they've left her class. I also recommend the companion to this book Reading in the Wild.
The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo
In this practical guide, the author shares 300 strategies to support learners across thirteen reading goals - everything from fluency to literary analysis. Each strategy is explained briefly, followed by prompts, examples, and anchor charts. There are also side notes that crosslink the appropriate F&P level, type of text, and the main focus of each strategy. This is a book you will refer to often!
Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters by Kyleen Beers
All too often, no matter what you do as a teacher, some students remain disengaged and reluctant readers. This book shares new strategies to increase student engagement, encourage responsive reading, deepen comprehension, and create lifelong readers. It's a quick, easy read full of inspiring case studies and lots of ideas grounded in research. If you want to move towards a student-centered approach to reading, you'll want to check out this book. I particularly like the discussions on "fake reading" and the practice of silent reading in class.
This book by Jim Trelease is an oldie but goodie for sure. I discovered it many years ago when I was homeschooling my own kids. It was one of my favorite books about creating a real love for reading. This New York Times Bestseller is geared toward parents but holds a lot of value for the classroom teacher too. The latest edition does a great job of conveying the benefits, rewards, and importance of reading aloud. Supported by anecdotes as well as the latest research, it offers proven techniques and strategies - and the reasoning behind them - to help children discover the joy of reading and set them on the road to becoming lifelong readers.
An easy and useful read for anyone who teaches reading at the elementary level. The authors, Meredith and David Liben, address the importance of building strong foundational skills with ideas, strategies, and suggested resources that help you as a teacher implement best practices that directly impact student learning. It's a great book for anyone who teaches young children, especially first year teachers.
Books About teaching Math
Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler
This book provides strategies and activities to help teachers show all children that they can enjoy math and succeed in it. It will definitely make you rethink the phrase "I'm not a math person". I can't say that this book is not an easy read, especially the first few chapters. The author cites a lot of research studies and discusses what's happening the the brain when we do math. But it also incorporates a lot of real-world examples and tips on how to invite students to engage in authentic, critical thinking. There is a heavy emphasis on developing a growth mindset towards math and how to instill that in your students. I think this book is well suited for PD or a school-based book study because it gives you a lot to discuss.
Beyond Pizzas and Pies by Julie McNamara
If you teach math in the intermediate grades (3 to 5) you need this book! It is an excellent resource for building a thorough understanding of fractions. Each chapter contains really useful and specific activities that you can implement right now. I particularly like the author's use of scenarios that demonstrate erroneous thinking that happens in classrooms everywhere. McNamara provides the math research to back up her strategies, lesson plans for how to teach them correctly; and reproducibles you can use in your lessons. There is even a DVD and QR codes you can scan to watch demonstration lessons.
Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics by Peter Liljedahl
This book is a game changer when it comes to teaching math. As it turns out, the traditional methods we have been using for more than a century aren't the most conducive to critical thinking. The author lays out 14 practices, backed by 15 years of real classroom research, that create the ideal environment for deep thinking. By implementing his practical techniques, you will see an increase in engagement and student achievement.
The book is easy to read and the strategies an be applied at all grade levels, kindergarten through high school. I really like that it includes a discussion on rubrics and grading in addition to the teaching strategies. Each chapter is focused on a specific practice with examples of real classroom implementations and lots of student interviews. There are also FAQs with clear, specific answers. This one tops my list of the best books for teaching math.
Mine the Gap by John J. SanGiovanni
What I love about this book is that there are 3 versions: K-2, 3-5, and 6-8. While other books look at methods for teaching math, this book focuses on intervention, student outcomes, and how to move students who are struggling. They key is to see where their misconceptions lie, find the cause, and then fix it. The author examines specific skills for each grade level range, shows multiple examples of student work for each, and shows you where the gap in student thinking exists. This book is a wonderful resource that explains how to pinpoint a problem and determine the next best steps.
This book is full of great ideas for facilitating math discussion in the classroom. It is based around six main concepts - Open Strategy Share, Compare & Connect, What's Best & Why, Define & Clarify, Troubleshoot & Revise, and Why? Let's Justify. Once you learn these techniques, you will have a clear understanding of how to structure math talks and support students in their math conversations. I particularly like the sentence starters and planning guides included in the book.
We all know that learning basic math facts is essential. Yes, students definitely need to know how to problem solve and think critically. But a solid foundation in math facts can't be overlooked. It's a fundamental skill that is required for success in higher-level math. But what's the best way to get there? Are flash cards, drills, and timed tests the answer? If so, why do students go into the upper grades still counting on their fingers? What does the research say?
This practical book explains the 5 fundamentals of fact fluency and then gives you specific strategies for teaching the facts, the correct order to teach them, 60 games to use with students, ideas for communicating with parents, and a variety of observation tools for gathering data on student progress.
Books about special education
This is a great book for a book study at school. It will really bring everyone together for the good of our special students. It is full of real-life examples and even interviews of people with disabilities that will change the way you think about students with autism. The author shows you how to support students on the spectrum and allow them to be an integral and valuable part of the general education classroom.
The subtitle of this book is "How to Create Meaningful and Measurable Goals and Objectives" and that's exactly what it delivers. Whether you're a new or veteran special education teacher, this book is a lifesaver. It provides easy-to-understand explanations of the IEP process along with a wealth of content area-specific sample goals and objectives, templates, and general teaching tips for maintaining the IEP. A very practical and useable guide!
30 Days to the Co-Taught Classroom by Paula Kluth & Julie Causton
As more and more schools move towards a co-teaching model, this book is very timely. The full title is 30 Days to the Co-taught Classroom: How to Create an Amazing, Nearly Miraculous & Frankly Earth-Shattering Partnership in One Month or Less. Sounds like a miracle, right?
The book is divided into 30 topics that include essentials such as vision building, time management, lesson planning, establishing roles and expectations, differentiating, co-teaching structures and relationship-strengthening ideas. It's an entertaining read written from two teachers with real-world, real-classroom experience. I like that it covers both the "big ideas" of co-teaching and the smaller details that can make or break a co-teaching partnership. This would be a great book to keep in your school's professional development library.
Books about Classroom culture & management
The Curious Classroom by Smokey Daniels
Ever wonder how to get students genuinely engaged in the curriculum? Or wish you could let them explore all of the amazing questions that swirl through their heads? If so, this book provides research-based suggestions that help you connect what kids wonder about to the what you have to teach them in your curriculum.
The author shares 10 easy strategies for incorporating inquiry into an otherwise curriculum-driven classroom (which describes most public schools today). The book includes full-color photographs and many examples of student work, plus specific suggestions for assessment and grading. Geared toward elementary school classrooms.
Whoa, long title, right? If you feel like your classroom management can use a tune up, this teacher's guide is a great place to start. It is full of very practical tips that can be applied easily to any classroom setting. I especially like that the strategies in this book help build essential life skills such as empathy and teamwork that will serve students well into adulthood. This is a good book for any educator and a GREAT book for newer teachers. Easy to read with very specific suggestions.
Take Control of the Noisy Class by Rob Plevin
Packed with powerful, fast-acting techniques – including an easy way to get any class quiet in 15 seconds or less – this book helps teachers across all age groups connect and succeed with hard-to-reach, reluctant learners. Concise and specific, this book won't bog you down with tons of research. The author just shares his tried-and-true tips that work with young people of any age.
I Wish My Teacher Knew by Kyle Schwartz
This book has gotten a lot of hype and honestly, it seems to be a love-it or hate-it kind thing. You just have to read it and see for yourself. The author starts out by asking her elementary students to complete the sentence "I wish my teacher knew...". The responses she got were surprising, entertaining, and often heartbreaking.
The book outlines and tackles real issues that face many of our students - hunger, loss, and poverty, for example. She gives practical suggestions for a variety of situations, from how to welcome new children into your classroom to incorporating "family learning projects" into your instruction. There is a strong focus on making things equitable vs. equal. I like how Schwartz uses many examples from her own and other real classrooms.
Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14 by Chip Wood
This book isn't exactly about classroom management but it can certainly help you with it. Basically, it's a guide to how most children typically act, think, and behave at any given age. Depending on their developmental stage, kids have different needs, cognitive abilities, and ways of reasoning. Sometimes those in the educational system lose sight of the fact that we work with CHILDREN. They aren't mini adults. The needs of students truly do change as they grow. This book is a great reminder of that. It gives specific examples and ideas you can really use. A lot of of the information is grounded in educational psychology, but this book is easy to read and applicable to our daily lives as teachers.
The Classroom Management Book by Harry & Rosemary Wong
This book is by Henry and Rosemary Wong, the same authors who wrote The First Days of School (essential reading for EVERY new teacher). It is a step by step guide for teaching 50 procedures that can be applied, changed, adapted, and incorporated into any classroom management plan. They are suitable for all grades, all subjects, and all teachers. I like that the suggestions are very specific and clearly explained with examples from real classrooms. They are research-based but practical. I also like how the book draws important distinctions between rules and procedures. It's an excellent refresher course for any teacher and especially helpful for newer ones.
Books about being a teacher
Go See the Principal: True Tales from the School Trenches by Gerry Brooks
If you spend any amount of time online looking at teacher stuff, I'm sure you've come across Jerry Brooks' videos. He's a principal turned youtube star who tells it like it is. In this book, he covers a wide range of topics from social media use in the classroom and parent-teacher conferences to more lighthearted sections such as "Pickup and Dropoff: An Exercise in Humanity" and "School Supplies: Yes, We Really Need All That Stuff." Slightly more serious in tone than his videos (but not much more), this collection of essays is a fun read. The last chapter contains a list of the best ideas from various teachers and principals that you will surely want to add to your arsenal of teacher tools.
Seven Myths about Education by Daisy Christodoulou
This isn't a new book, but it might not be one you've come across before. In it, the author examines seven widely-held beliefs that are holding back students and teachers in our educational system. Each chapter outlines the theoretical basis for the myth, including important educational figures who have promoted it. Then, the author explains why it is actually just a myth. One thing to note is that the examples come from the British educational system, but the information is still applicable anywhere. This book attempts to counteract much of the pseudo-scientific pedagogy that has made it's way into our teacher preparation programs and schools.
Happy Teacher Habits by Michael Lisin
Written in storytelling style, this book guides you through 11 habits of the happiest, most effective teachers. If you need a refresh and recharge, put this title on your list. It gives simple, actionable strategies to eliminate your teaching stress and empower you to really love your job again. It's a quick, relaxing read and especially enjoyable to listen to with the audio book version. It's one of the best books geared toward fighting teacher burnout written by someone who truly understands the struggle we teachers have each day.
The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy
Ok, so this one isn't exactly a professional development book for teachers. Written acclaimed author Pat Conroy, this book tells the story of the year he spent teaching on Defuskie Island off the coast of South Carolina. This wasn't some cushy job in an affluent school. No, he was teaching mostly illiterate black children in 1969 who had been cast aside by the educational system. This is Conroy's memoir of that year spent trying to engage, empower and expose these children to the wide world outside of their constrictive environment. It is an inspiring, uplifting, and heartwarming book that every teacher should read.
Most teachers I know are dedicated lifelong learners, so I hope this list of PD books helps you discover new ways of teaching and brings personal growth. Be on the lookout for my next post with a list of purely FUN books to enjoy in your downtime (maybe over summer break?). If you know of any other excellent books for educators, please share your recommendations in the comments below! I'm always on the lookout for new teaching ideas and inspiration.
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