Tuesday, January 1, 2019

8 Professional Books You Should Read

Everyone’s coming out with their favorite books from the past year, and though I’m a little late I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon. To keep it simple, I’m restricting my list to professional books only, though I read SO many good novels this year too.

This book tops my list mainly because I just finished it a few days ago and it’s still on my mind daily and will continue to be. Through so much of it I found myself nodding, and wondering how she put into words what I’ve intuitively felt and known about how we make decisions around comprehension instruction. Her writing style is filled with references to her work with students, so it automatically feels trustworthy, and while her ideas are complex, they make complete sense. It’s a book I’ll want to revisit a few times. Overall, her premise is that we should take a problem-based approach to our work with kids. Vinton suggests that we’ve been doing too much of the work for kids – that we’ve over-scaffolded their thinking, and thereby prevented them from practicing the work they’ll soon be doing on their own, when we’re not by their sides. Step-by-step she shows us how to create deeper thinking readers through mini-lessons, small group work, and conferences. This is a great book for anyone familiar with workshop who wants to take their instruction to the next level.

Understanding Texts and Readers by Jennifer Serravallo
I blogged about this book earlier  and feel that it’s a phenomenal book for a school book study (as are any of these books, honestly). We’re beginning a book study on Understanding Texts and Readers at my school and my only complaint is that Jennifer hasn’t come out with a study guide yet, that I can find. This is an amazing tool for teachers that has the potential to radically change how we confer with readers as we learn what to look for in texts and readers.

Embarrassment by Thomas Newkirk
This jewel of a book is a conversational jaunt through an emotion most of us hope to avoid at all costs. Newkirk gives us a great deal to think about, not just about the “emotional underlife of teaching and learning”, but about how we present ourselves to the world, how we learn, and above all, how to write well. The book feels like a comfortable conversation with a fascinating friend – a bit meandering, chock-full of stories, and with a liberal sprinkling of surprising ideas and connections.

Student-Centered Coaching: The Moves by Diane Sweeney and Leanna Harris
This is an excellent follow-up to Diane’s original book. Very clear, specific writing that describes more of a partnership approach than the gradual release model that she was a proponent of in her earlier books. The moves include: micro-modeling instead of long-term modeling; noticing and naming, when teacher and coach use a sheet to describe how students respond to the lesson; sorting student work; thinking aloud, which refers to both coach and teacher and also helps with limiting the amount of time both plan outside of lessons; setting goals for coaching cycles; using learning targets to break down those goals; providing strengths-based feedback; and measuring the impact of coaching by looking at student work. The coaches in our district are doing a book study on this and it is great fodder for discussions.

The Impact Cycle by Jim Knight
I always love Jim Knight’s books, and this one was no exception. It seemed to pull together a lot of what he’s been saying over the years into a very clear structure. Jim pulls together Hattie’s research on effective instruction along with a wonderful book by Atul Gawande called The Checklist Manifesto about the power of checklists as a way to support knowledge workers with complex tasks. Finally, of course, he layers in his own and others’ research on coaching as a partnership as opposed to an administrative or advice-giving approach. 

A Mindset for Learning by Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz
If you’re fascinated by the growth/fixed mindset phenomena and want to know practical strategies for including growth mindset work in your own classroom, get this wonderful book. It’s written in a very fun style (I laughed out loud at their opening story about a fire drill on the first day of Kindergarten) with very practical suggestions and tools for folding growth mindset work into the work you already do.

Real Revision by Kate Messner
I stretched this book out because I didn’t want it to end. Kate has a very readable style in which she addresses the reader both as a middle school teacher and as an author of middle grade books. Her book is a compilation of revision strategies from herself and her author friends, interspersed with examples from her own writing. It brought to life the revision and writing process, and really helped me understand the processes published authors go through in re-envisioning their writing. Lots of excellent quotes throughout, and very practical ideas, even for adult writers to follow.

Infusing Grammar Into the Writer’s Workshop by Amy Benjamin and Barbara Golub
If you’re looking for a clearly-written, not-too-threatening book about teaching grammar in authentic ways, then check out this book. Amy writes the sections providing the background knowledge on grammar that most of us never received when we studied to be teachers, and she does so with a non-threatening, practical voice. Barbara, a coach and staff developer with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, provides the applicability piece by showing us what it looks like to teach these concepts within the classroom.

I hope you enjoyed this short list – here’s to more wonderful professional reading in 2019!

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