With taking on a new grade and curriculum this upcoming year (11th AP Language and Comp), I decided to change things up a bit in my classroom….moved around the desks, multitudes of bookshelves containing my classroom library, hung some new student art-work, etc… While sweating through this process in the middle of July, I happened to also move my professional library to a different part of the room. In doing this, I came across some of the more influential texts that I have encountered in my 12 years in the classroom. While not all of them are necessarily ‘teaching’ books, each one has led to some manner of my continued growth as an educator. Here they are:
1. Looking to Write by Mary Ehrenworth. If you EVER get a chance to hear this woman speak, see her present, or meet her…do it. A few years back, I was lucky enough to spend 4 days at Columbia’s Teachers College with Dr. Ehrenworth as my facilitator. Outside of being a national literacy consultant as well as a staff developer and researcher for Teachers College, she is an, in my opinion, incredibly creative, practical and inspirational educator. I picked up “Looking to Write” and it immediately increased and enhanced my use of visual text (photos, artwork, paintings, etc…) in my classroom. If you are looking to up the ante with visual literacy, this is a must read.
2. How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Everyday by Michael Gelb. I first came across this text in my ‘Creative Thinking and Problem Solving’ course during my master’s work. It is filled with practical, easily adaptable writing and cognitive activities that will help students begin to unlock the genius with them.
3. The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. For anyone who is a lover of the English language and the unique story of its intriguing history and elaborate existence, this is the book for you. It is just plain interesting (yet entertaining as well).
4. Guiding Readers and Writers by Fountas and Pinnell. This was a bit of a ‘belief changer’ for me; working with this book helped me debunk the myth that books written for elementary school teachers/students had no place in a middle or high school setting. While some of the suggested lessons, samples and material is ‘elementary’ …there is SO MUCH pedagogically rich content that, if adapted to the needs and level of the audience, is effective at any level, including honors level 12th grade.
5.How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines by Thomas Foster. While I now teach English, growing up I was always a math guy…in the sense that I had, and still have, more of a ‘math brain.’ I often struggled with the symbolic side of reading for meaning in fiction writing. A colleague of mine introduced me to this book and, in turn, I insist my 12th grade students buy copies for themselves for the school year and beyond. The concrete, easy to follow hints and tips for ways to help read for meaning have not only helped me lower my anxiety and increase my effectiveness in literary interpretation, but my students’ as well.
So, if you are looking for some good, intellectually stimulating and useful reading, I would highly suggest any one of these 5 books/resources. Happy Reading!