Professional Development Reading

Summer means family, rest, and for most teachers, professional reading. Here’s what some people in our community have been reading this summer:

52 Things I Learned in 52 Years (2017) by Shanna Peeples

Reviewed by Susan Barber


This ebook is a gem and is FREE. Shanna Peeples, 2015 National Teacher of the Year, shares her learned lessons on fear, living, time management, and other subjects that teachers – and people – need to consider. This book is part inspirational, part instructional, and all Shanna. As an added bonus, the ebook is full of hyperlinks to authors, sites, and books that go with each lesson; this in itself is invaluable. This book is divided into seven chapters which taken week by week would be a great way to start the first seven weeks of school.

Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters (2017) by Kyleen Beers and Robert Probst

Reviewed by Adrian Nester

Ask yourself these questions about your own reading:

Do you like to have someone tell you what to read and when to read it? DT

Do you require yourself to take a quiz at the end of every four chapters?

Do you run to Hobby Lobby to create a poster or diorama of a book when you finish it?

Probably Not.

Now, think of your favorite books:

Do you remember how you love the ending? How the book changed you or your thinking? How a certain scene made you feel? Certainly.

How about the name of the main characters’ boss from page 166?  What about the name of the street where the church was located?  Maybe, maybe not. Here’s a better question: does it even matter? What matters is that you loved that book.

Kyleene Beers and Robert Probst’s book, Disrupting Thinking, has an intriguing subtitle, Why How We Read Matters.  I have spent so much time thinking about WHAT my students will read, I have not given enough consideration to the HOW.

Beers and Probst explore issues around the reading classroom breaking the book into three sections:

The Readers We Want

The Framework We Use

The Changes We Must Embrace

These pages apply to elementary – secondary reading instruction.  Even when things seem more geared towards K-8, there were always things that I could find to apply to my high school classroom.

Before this past year, I rarely gave students choice in their reading, and I certainly did not give them time to do it in class.  Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) or Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) were too old-school, too elementary for my high school classroom. And there was no time!

Well, now I see that I do not have time to NOT let my students read in class.  Beers and Probst say, “Giving kids time to read is necessary, not optional” (136).  And they have the classroom experience and the research to prove it.

Research aside, once I implemented 15 minutes of independent reading each day starting in January, the students were devastated when we couldn’t fit it in. This year I will work even more diligently to make this time sacred for my students of all levels.

If you find yourself unsure about any of the following questions, I want you to read this book:

Should I teach a whole-class novel? If I do, HOW should I do it?

How do I create meaningful classroom discussion?

How do I evaluate independent reading without a book report?

Is “popcorn reading” effective?

What should I do during silent reading time?

Isn’t reading for home? Shouldn’t I be leading instruction for the time that I have the students?

This might work for my on and above-grade level students, but what about my “other students”?

Does the Accelerated Reading program work to encourage and foster lifelong reading habits? (Spoiler alert….NO!)

I want you to read this book not because you will agree with every page and practice, but because it will certainly disrupt your thinking about teaching reading. And that is healthy. That is necessary. You need to read the full text and absorb the colorful infographics to begin to buy into this concept, especially if you are skeptical.  Then I would love to hear what you think.

I have a long way to go in my own classroom to implement what Beers and Probst call “next practices” not just “best practices,” but the first step has to be to disrupt my previous thinking.  This book accomplished just that.

Digging Into Literature (2016) by Joanna Wolfe and Laura Wilder

Review by Susan Barber


This book is a great resource for teachers who teach literary analysis. While the content may not be earth shattering or new to the veteran teacher, this book details several strategies for reading, analysis, and writing and provides a working vocabulary for each strategy. I love that each section also gives a list of words for students to use when employing each strategy.  I tend to say the same things year after year, and this book has given me some different ways to explain concepts and strategies to my students. This book will definitely be on the resource shelf closest to my desk because I see myself pulling this out over and over again during the year.

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood  . . . And the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy in Urban Education (2016) by Christopher Edmin

Reviewed by Julie Adams


In an effort to address the metaphorical “elephant in the room” regarding the unintentionally ineffective pedagogical styles of urban educators, Christopher Emdin crafted the book titled For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood …and the rest of Y’all Too.  In his text on reality pedagogy and urban education, Emdin explains how educators from all cultural backgrounds including “white folks” can successfully reach and teach urban youth, but to do so requires an immersion in the cultural experiences of urban students. Emdin presents the all-to-common problem that most educators in urban schools drive in and drive out of the very space that their students inhabit, but never actually exist within the culture and environment of the kids they are trying to reach. Emdin asserts that without investing in the spaces that urban youth inhabit, well-meaning educators try to impose the cultural norms of a society that is altogether unfamiliar and restrictive to urban youth of color. His solution is complex and time-intensive, but invaluable. This book is a must-read for teachers of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds who truly want to connect and educate the urban student.

The Digital Writing Workshop (2009) by Troy Hicks

Reviewed by Amy Adams


As an English language arts teacher, the use of a device as a word processing tool is common place. The laptop is the new composition book within many of our classrooms. However, simply replacing the tool of pen and paper for an electronic device does not make it digital writing. As mentioned in The Digital Writing Workshop, Hicks writes that this substitution does not mean that we are embracing the full potential of digital literacy; instead, he maintains that we must change our mindset, not just substitute one tool for another (2009, p. 2). The ideas that are written digitally can be shared with a wider audience and be used a catalyst of collaborative conversations with classmates as a way to share, edit, revise, and reflect. When students share their writing with a wider audience through the Internet and other messaging services, we begin to see the power that writing has when it becomes truly digital. Digital writing consists of advertising, creating cartoons, sending text messaging, writing blog posts, or tweeting to one’s followers. Digital writing moves away from the teacher being the only audience a student writes for, it becomes a gateway for the student to share and express ideas with a variety people in a variety of contexts for a variety of purposes. There are a number of resources and ideas for implementing digital writing in the classroom. Hicks shares web pages and sites with explicit instructions on how to bridge skills from writing to word process to students writing to share ideas with a more broad audience outside the classroom walls.

Poor Students, Rich Thinking (2016) by Eric Jensen

Reviewed by Adrian Nester


In Eric Jensen’s book, Poor Students, Rich Thinking, Jensen reminds educators why we should care about students in poverty. The large majority of poverty now is rural and impacted by “adverse social and economic risk factors” (6). He relates four mindsets that are important for change for both educators and students: the relational, achievement, rich classroom climate, and encouragement mindsets. Jensen gives educators the tools to make immediately impactful changes in their classrooms.

This is an excellent read for summer reflection before starting a new school year.  This text will help you focus on how to create a classroom culture that embraces students already struggling with poverty.

What professional development books did you read this summer? More importantly, what did you learn from them? Please share and enjoy the rest of summer. 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash