Two books that changed my practice

To celebrate and honor National Book Month, The Compelled Tribe’s topic for this month is to share books that have impacted us personally and/or professionally. For two weeks, I have been debating which books to share. Teachers don’t have a lot of time on their hands, so when you recommend a book, it had better be powerful and worthwhile. If you have read either of these books, I would love to hear if you agree or disagree with my choice(s). If you haven’t, I wonder if I convinced you to pick them up!

Book #1

Set the scene: I was 21 years old and it was my first year teaching 28 fabulous fourth-graders. I already loved my job so much and I felt right at home in a school, in a classroom, with joyful kids.

Introduce the problem: My undergraduate teacher program prepared me to teach kids to read and how to provide a balanced literacy program. However, I did not feel prepared to teach these sweet kids in front of me, who were already reading how to become stronger readers and writers. Yes, I did whole-class novels. *sarcastic gasp*

The solution: “In the Middle” by Nancie Atwell

In the MiddleNancie Atwell not only amazed me in her book, In the Middle, but she also improved everything about my teaching…and inspired me to pursue a M.Ed. in Literacy. Her book was my first introduction to the workshop model, student voice and choice, a student-centered classroom, and creating curricula with students. It drives me absolutely nuts when people say Lucy Calkins or Teacher’s College at Columbia developed reader’s and writer’s workshop. Hogwash! We have the workshop model because of Donald Graves, Donald Murray, and Nancie Atwell researching the power of coaching students. Nancie Atwell published the first edition of this book in 1998 and has received multiple awards, including the NCTE award and MLA prize for her research in the teaching of English. This woman is amazing and the book details how to run a fabulous reader’s and writer’s workshop. If you want to learn from the original, the best, then read this book.

It’s inspiring. It’s s transformational. I think I’ve just convinced myself to reread it 🙂

Book #2

Set the scene: It’s 2016 and I just finished my first year teaching 5th-graders at a top-notch international school. It was an intense year of adjustment, but I learned so much…

Introduce the problem: …I also realized how much I still had to learn! Before moving here, I took two years out of the classroom to take on the role of a literacy coach. I felt a bit [read: REALLY] behind my colleagues, especially in math instruction.

The solution: “Mathematical Mindsets” by Jo Boaler

math mindsets

I’ll just go out and say it: I have a serious girl crush on Jo Boaler. She is doing phenomenal work to improve math instruction in the UK and the USA. The best part is that she knows that in order for real change to happen quickly, it needs to get out to teachers. So, she has produced two online, self-paced courses available through Stanford (How to Learn Math for Teachers and Mathematical Mindsets, which enhances the book), created and maintains the resourceful and informative website, YouCubed, and has written some powerful books on math instruction. My favorite, Mathematical Mindsets, helped me put Carol Dweck’s research on Growth Mindset into actionable steps in my math class. For sure, my students now know that everyone is a math person and everyone can learn math at high levels.

If you teach math and haven’t read it, you should. Also, look her up; I’m sure you’ll develop a professional crush on her too 🙂

Happy Reading!

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