The mention of PD books can make some people cringe, but I once heard someone say that “Leaders are Readers”, and I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. We all went to school and learned much during our collegiate years, but a lot of what we learned will get lost unless we use it. Have you ever had a moment where you weren’t sure what to do and then remembered a book that you read and could potentially hold the solution to your problem(s)? Books are amazing and they are a great way for us to continuously grow as educators. I am a fan of PD and of great books. Over the summer, I usually attend several Professional Development classes and add a few books to my growing collection. I’ve compiled a list of 10 books that have allowed me to learn new things and to implement different approaches that have been beneficial for my students. Each book can be accessed and purchased through Amazon (affiliate link), by simply clicking on the picture of the book.
1. 99 Ideas and Activities for Teaching English Learners with THE SIOP MODEL
I work with a high population of ELs. It would be a disservice to them if I wasn’t prepared to teach them and to understand some of their struggles. The best thing about differentiating to meet the needs of ELs is that all of the strategies can also be effective for students whose native language is English. This book provided me with a wealth of ideas that I could easily implement. The ideas offered in this book are tested and tried. Each idea or activity includes explicit instructions, reasons behind the methodology, and materials needed. Complete with exemplars and some organizers for copying and use in the classroom, this has been one of my favorite additions to my library.
2. Disrupting Thinking: why how we read matters
This book was a game changer. So much so that I often found myself reprimanding myself for my past actions. My favorite thing about being an educator is that I grow constantly. There is always new research that allows us to become better at what we do. Some of the new data that comes out can often be overwhelming as more and more buzzwords hit the education scene; however, if you can weed through the buzzwords and find value, you’re on the right track. There is still so much to be learned about reading and thinking. Our students are ever evolving and so are we. I loved this book because it provided me with a deeper understanding of how students think and how to be a better facilitator of such.
3. Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids
It took me a while to fully embrace this book and its method, because I was simply in denial and didn’t want to “drink the Kool-Aid.” Alas, I drank the Kool-Aid, and guess what? I liked it! When I first watched the videos on YouTube, I thought I was looking at some sort of Utopian classroom. I was intrigued by it and decided to give it a go. I bought the book and immersed myself in all things Whole Brain Teaching through their completely FREE website. At first I thought Whole Brain Teaching was only for behavior management and soon I learned that teaching strategies were part of the whole deal as well. I noticed that my students were responding better and becoming more engaged, and I was sold.
4. Whole Brain Teaching 122 Amazing Games
If you decide to try WBT, this book will be a great addition. It is packed with games that engage and challenge students.My favorite “game” is the Super Improver Wall. My students set educational goals for themselves and then work at reaching those goals. I love it because it focuses on progress towards mastery, but students are celebrated for progress. Students develop self-awareness and become responsible for their work. There is really no reward other than knowing that their goal was met. It allows them to believe in themselves and to strive. There is nothing more exciting to me than to see students grow and for them to understand the power of that growth.
5. Children’s Mathematics: Cognitively Guided Instruction
Math can be very complex. When I first began teaching I used to get frustrated when my students didn’t understand a concept and I would quickly try to solve the problems for them. This book was eye opening. It allowed me to see how different students perceive different problems. It also taught me the importance of number talks and the process of inquiry. Students are able to decipher problems and look at things in ways that we ourselves cannot. Allowing them the opportunity to talk about their thinking, find patterns, and link ideas on their own fosters higher order thinking and removes barriers that we sometimes place ourselves without realizing it. Our students can do hard things and this book sheds light on that.
6. Reading and Writing the World with Mathematics: Toward a Pedagogy for Social Justice
In college, I learned the importance of cross-curricular content. Why teach only one subject when you can cover multiple topics and standards within one lesson? I always considered cross-curricular to be limited to math, science, social studies, reading, and writing and did not place much emphasis on the ability to link these topics to social justice and our everyday lives. This book in particular provides helpful integration ideas for teachers who teach middle and high school, but can also be effective in providing a mind shift for elementary teachers. Think of problems that actually affect our students and are relevant to developing well rounded individuals who are cognizant of the world around them. This book pushes the reader to not remain complacent and to think very much outside the box. Students often say, “why do I need math? and “how will I use this in life?” Consider the average income of a low income family, family size, minimum wage, housing costs… Can you see how math and numbers are relevant? This book contains a plethora of ideas and ways to reach our student mathematically via a lens of social justice.
7. Empowering Science and Mathematics Education in Urban Schools
Jobs in Science and Math fields are some of the highest paying jobs, so naturally one might think that Science and Math are at the forefront of education. Sadly, this book sheds light on the lack of resources and push for Science and math in urban districts. This leads to a continued cycle of educational inequality. This book truly resonated with me, because coming from an urban district myself, I do not remember much emphasis being placed on these subjects when I was a student. It also motivated me to research more and do better for my students. I want them to be up to par with their suburban counterparts. If you are passionate about educational equity, this book is a great choice.
8. Diversity Matters: Understanding Diversity in Schools
As educators we are always focused on bridging the gap, but we so often limit ourselves to looking at the quantitative data and not the qualitative. There are many influencers in education and in today’s classroom, diversity is one of the most prominent. We must then become better informed about our students’ diverse backgrounds so that we can create an environment that fosters acceptance and inclusion. This book provides insight into different cultures and how we can make changes in our schools to meet their diverse needs.
9. The Motivated Brain
I’ll be completely honest and say that this book was a dry read. Unless you are completely engrossed by talks of the brain and its function, this book may not be the best option right before bedtime. Despite its very technical way of presenting information, the information is invaluable. It offers a view into why and how children become motivated. I had several A-HA moments while consuming the contents of this book. I was able to understand some of my students better and why they behaved the way they did. It changed my mind as to how I approached certain situations. My favorite part of this book is the way it promotes play. The way education is now, play seems to be the last thing on administrators’ minds. I love that I was able to learn scientific proof that supports the power of play. The stakes in education are high, but by discovering how effective play can be and learning ways it can be implemented in the classroom, I felt a lot more empowered.
10. Picture-Perfect STEM Lessons: Using Children’s Books to Inspire STEM Learning
STEM is one of those things that have some teachers excited and some not so much. The reason why I think many are still not on board is because STEM looks like play. In fact, it is play, but it is also learning. There are so many areas of the brain that are tapped into when students are engaged in STEM. There is much to be said about students problem solving and engaging in conversations and collaborative work to find solutions. STEM prepares students for the real world. It allows them to be hands-on and to show their individual talents and abilities that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to identify. This book brings STEM into the classroom while being cross-curricular. It gives students the opportunity to think deeply about the comprehension strategies in ELA and to look at books from a different lens. If you want to give STEM a try, this book is a great starting point.
So, what do you think? Are you ready to dive in and get some reading done? What other books have you found to be life-changing for your career as a teacher? I hope if you decide to read any of these books, that they are truly beneficial and you are able to implement many of the strategies learned.