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From our bookshelf
OK, so I’m old school. It’s hard to beat the feel of a book in your hand (although I have become partial to audiobooks when driving), particularly when you want to take notes and need to re-read passages. So, the books you’ll find below are those that I have marked up, re-read, re-used, and generally relied upon in my quest to be a better teacher.
There is no method to the books I have listed here, other than I have found them either a) really interesting, b) really useful, or better yet, c) both. You can filter the books using the terms on the left of the page, or search for an item in the search bar. I know you’ll find them useful, I hope you find them interesting … and I think you’ll find them to be both.
There is no method to the books I have listed here, other than I have found them either a) really interesting, b) really useful, or better yet, c) both. You can filter the books using the terms on the left of the page, or search for an item in the search bar. I know you’ll find them useful, I hope you find them interesting … and I think you’ll find them to be both.
Skim, Dive, Surface: Teaching Digital Reading
Jenae CohnI've been giving a lot of thought to the use of texts in my classes, particularly the impact CoVid has had on not only students' reading habits but also the equity of accessibility across all students in remote settings. So, I spent the fall looking into reading practices, particularly in digital form. Cohn's book has become my favorite, even if it has caused me to go back and revamp all my syllabi. If you'll be asking your students to read this semester, particularly digital sources, this book is a godsend.
Here's what really mattered to me after reading this book. First, Cohn did a great job of critically providing the research on whether text-based or digital reading was "better." The answer, like most things, really is that it depends. Some students (and many faculty) believe religiously that text-based reading is the only way to learn. Others, well, maybe. Cohn's insight is in showing that that is, in many cases, a socially learned trait, but still matters.
So, her sage advice: take time to show your students how they should read for your class … don't assume they know how to read a text. And if it will be digital, show them how to access the text, how to read, and how to take notes when they can't scribble in the margin. Then show them how a digital reading can offer immediate context via digital linking.
The second takeaway for me was Cohn's 5Cs framework for digital reading: Curation, Connection, Creativity, Contextualization, and Contemplation. She provides great examples of each, particularly with respect to the ability to easily curate information in a variety of digital forms and her discussion of contemplation to cement deep learning from digital reading. A great approach, worthy of your time, and well explained.
Finally, Cohn does and outstanding job of raising the ethical/equity issues surrounding the use of digital texts. For me, a critical issue that leads me to digital texts is to ensure that my students, most of whom work, have access to textual/digital information wherever and whenever they need it. Thus, I think digital texts allow for a much more equitable access to key information for all students. Importantly, though, Cohn reminds us of the privacy and accessibility issues associated with the storage of digital footprints: web sites that a student visits, notes that they take, and the ability for the students to control and maintain access over those digital footprints.
If your students will be using digital texts, this book will really help you help them be better digital readers. Perhaps just as importantly, Cohn's book admonishes us that we need to also help protect our students and allow them to read and connect in the digital realm, but in a way that respects their privacy.
Love this book.
Online Teaching with Zoom
Aaron JohnsonI think this is my favorite book on using Zoom in the classroom. It's close, but I give this one the edge over Dan Levy's Teaching Effectively with Zoom, mostly because I felt more comfortable with this one.
Johnson's book reads more link a guide, but not the type of guide that puts you to sleep after 10 pages. This is more like a textual trail guide or trainer … it's with you as you go along the Zoom path, and you feel like Johnson's there with you.
Don't get me wrong; the author hits all the necessary technical high points about Zoom in the book. However, the technical discussion revolves around the teaching; it doesn't stand out as a separate subject. I think that's what sets this book apart … it's Zoom as you teach, not for when you teach next.
There is a lot of good stuff here. In particular, if you use breakout rooms, you'll really like his discussion. Again, it's not just how to set up and run breakout rooms, he also offers some good advice on what to do with the breakout rooms to deliver learning outcomes.
Another helpful section focuses on the student's perspective while using Zoom. You may be far enough into your term that this seems a bit of a moot point. However, you never know what kind of crazy things can pop up and confuse your students. This section in Johnson's book is a good investment in "always prepared."
I go back and forth between this book and Levy's Teaching Effectively with Zoom. In the end, you won't go wrong with either one. Johnson's Online Teaching with Zoom just feels a bit more comfortable … a reliable companion while teaching with Zoom. Get it … don't look back.
Teaching Effectively with Zoom
Dan LevyHere's a timely life-saver for those of you who are trying to learn how to use Zoom as a teaching platform. Many of us were rushing to adopt Zoom in the spring of 2020 as teaching moved from the classroom to some version of online delivery. Now, with the move to fully synchronous teaching this fall, Levy's book could not be more of a godsend.
This book is a readily accessible and practical guide to using Zoom as your teaching platform, if not partner. The book offers an easy-to-follow guide of the key tools available to you within Zoom. Just as importantly, you probably have noticed that Zoom is constantly evolving. No problem for Levy … he has included links within the book for updated guides and tips as Zoom evolves.
Levy is very much keyed into maintaining engagement and active learning while presenting in the classroom. This book is no different, offering plenty of tips and examples of how to best use Zoom as a meaningful tool to engage your students. He covers all the key Zoom tools and even offers some cool "why didn't I think of that" tips.
For instance, if you've taught a large class via Zoom, you know that keeping control of the participant list and the chat function can be tough. Also, noticing all the little gestures, like a raised hand, can be daunting when you're talking, presenting, and trying to remember where the camera is in the classroom. So, rather than squint to see the "raised hand" icon, why not have students hold up a white 3x5 or 4x6 index card in their video feed … much easier to see, allowing you to be that much more responsive to your students.
I can't recommend this book highly enough. Get it on Kindle … one of the better investments a teacher can make in 2020.
Small Teaching Online
Flower DarbyI've been working with a few high schools to help them transition to online teaching. Darby's book has been a valuable tool, both for me and the teachers I have been working with.
Not many K-12 teachers have taught online. Yet, they were expected to jump right in as schools shuttered in response to the CoVid pandemic. So, moving to online classes has been a big step for them. This book has helped me show them that they can make the move just by taking some focused, small steps.
Darby, working with James Lang, extends Lang's Small Teaching vision to online platforms. There is a good amount of discussion about the tenets of Small Teaching, but an even better amount of extending the concept to online efforts. Darby does a nice job of highlighting the importance of faculty presence in online teaching, and offers a nice set of suggestions as well about maintaining student engagement. She also offers a nice discussion of backward development and the use of multimedia in online classes.
This is a really solid addition to your online library. Just enough of a pinch of research, a good amount of examples, and a dash of small step practicality … a recipe for a really insightful and helpful tool for the online teacher.
Oliver Caviglioli & Ian HarrisI am a big user of mind/cognitive maps in the classroom. The ability to visualize how others link words and concepts is a powerful discussion aid. This book has a really good discussion of the use of maps (models, in the parlance of the authors), and for that alone is worthy of an investment.
I particularly like this book because of its focus on language, particularly how to visualize the use of language. If you are a heavy user of discussion to build meaning in class, this is a great reference. If you want to broaden your students vocal knowledge structures, this is a great tool. If you like good theory supported by practical and useful artifacts, you’ll like this book. If you want your students to be able to critically analyze the language of others, well then, toss this book in your bag.
Dixie Lee SpiegelWithout question, the book I have used the most as a teacher. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I am a discussion-oriented teacher. So, the title alone should say it all.
Another book with ample theory, this book is flat-out practice oriented. Packed with examples and diagrams for use in your class, this is the veritable toolkit for structuring and leading meaningful discussions in your class. Although written for a K-12 audience, I have used numerous tools and techniques from this book in my Management classes … all to good effect.
Like to use discussion in class? Then get this book and don’t look back.
Presenting. The Professor's Guide to Powerful Communication
Norman Eng, Ed. DWhat a great and useful book … I really wish I had found Professor Eng's gem of a book much earlier in my career. I admit to being a bit biased; the ex-marketer in me was drawn to Eng's premise that faculty should think like marketers when they present. But bias aside, Eng really delivers a thoughtful, practical, and useful discussion for any teacher who likes to use media (Powerpoint/Keynote in particular) in their classroom.
Eng's bottom line is that we should always remember that the point of our classroom interaction should be to engage students in learning. And if Powerpoint is your tool of choice, it should be sharpened in a way to help reach the goal of engagement, not disengagement. Like any good marketer, Eng reminds us that you have to let your audience know why your product matters to them. And so, we should always build our presentations from the base of why our material should matter to our students. That builds engagement from the start.
I really liked his discussion of "Distill and Distribute," the practice of distilling the information to its core, and distributing our information across slides, rather than packing it in to one slide. I know I fall prey all too often to the overuse of bullet points; now I know that I need to remember Distill and Distribute every time I power up Keynote!
I also really appreciated his discussion of how to integrate class participation into my presentations. I like to think I'm pretty good at driving discussion and participation in my classes, but the reminder that we should engage the class in activity every 10 minutes is a valuable reminder. As Eng mentions, "The standard for effective classroom participation, therefore, isn't to get some students to talk. It should be to get everyone actively involved." He illustrates the use of Turn and Talk, Stop-Jot-Share, and clicker technology to get to the golden standard of 100% participation in your presentations, thereby maximizing your students' take-away and their knowledge construction.
Don't even think about it … just get this book. Your presentations will be much, much better for it. More importantly, so will your students.
Design For How People Learn
Julie DirksenI teach strategy, and my classes always include a good bit of gap analysis. So, you have to know I'm going to like a book about pedagogy that starts with: "There’s a gap between a learner’s current situation and where they need to be in order to be successful … If you can identify those gaps, you can design better learning experiences."
The best thing about this book is that it grounds course design in the needs of the learner, not the habits of the teacher. Every good presenter knows that you have to understand your audience, and that's just what Dirksen has you focus on in course design.
Dirksen walks you through the areas where learner gaps may hide … knowledge gaps, skill gaps, motivation gaps … and then walks you through the process of designing your course in a way that will fill those gaps.
I was particularly happy to see her discussion of motivational and attention gaps in learners. She also identifies two types of motivation; the motivation to learn and the motivation to do. I think this plays out even more in online environments. And that is my only criticism of the book. I would have liked to see more emphasis on practical approaches to address gaps that manifest themselves online..
With that exception, this will be a powerful book in your design tool box. It will keep you focused on the target … the learner … and offer you a set of great roadmaps to get the outcomes you desire. A definite buy.
Teaching with the Brain in Mind, 2nd edition
Eric JensenIf you've ever wondered what's going on inside those heads you're staring at in the classroom, well … this book is for you. There is a lot of information packed into this book, a lot to like about this book, and a lot you can do with this book.
The fundamental premise of the author is simple and straightforward: your students' "brains are highly susceptible to environmental influences - social, physical, cognitive, and emotional. And, more important, their brains will be altered by the experiences they have in school." (Jensen, 2005: 10)
Jensen provides a wealth of well-researched information on how the brain functions with respect to learning. With this as a backdrop, he lays out a nice discussion of how teaching approaches, environments, and interactions can be developed to maximize cognitive growth. Among other areas, Jensen touches on classroom environment, student engagement and motivation, memory-forming, and the differentiated brain functions of age-grouped students. Jensen also provides some sound practical suggestions to help you construct brain-friendly classroom settings and activities.
As someone who believes in constructivism, Jensen's book speaks to me. As he says, "… the most amazing new discovery about the brain might be that human beings have the capacity and the choice to be able to change our own brains.” (Jensen, 2005: 10). His book provides a wonderful picture of how we, as teachers, can help our students change their brains most effectively and efficiently.
Dynamic Lecturing: Research-based strategies to enhance lecture effectiveness
Christine Harrington and Todd ZakrajsekLectures as a teaching tool seem to have been relegated to the dust bin. Thankfully, the authors of this book decided to drag lectures out of the dust bin, brush off some great research, and demonstrated that the use of lectures with a few modifications can deliver some powerful learning outcomes.
The book is very well supported by research. In fact, if you are uncomfortable with research and citations, you won't find refuge in this book. The authors have thoroughly researched learning through presentation, and have done a great job of establishing a premise and backing it up with a ton of research.
The key to the book, in my opinion, is that they demonstrate that lecturing that is interspersed with appropriate media can be effective. Even better, they demonstrate that lecturing that is mindful of cognitive attention spans, offering shorter segments of presentation along with breaks for directed activity, elevates the effectiveness of straight lecturing.
I was particularly impressed with the authors' discussion of using reflection, both during lecturing, and after class, to help solidify learning. This is a hallmark of constructive learning … it essentially turns lecturing into a constructivist tool.
There are plenty of examples of effective techniques in the book to help you put the authors suggestions into practice. If you do, it won't be your grandparents' lecture any more.
Excellent! Online Teaching: Effective Strategies for a Successful Semester Online
Aaron JohnsonThe real reason for teachers who are new to online teaching to get this book is right up front in the preface: "… what the online teacher needs more than anything is to develop a set of habits: regular and clear communication, demonstrating compassion, and developing the discipline of prompt feedback. It’s one thing to do these sometimes, but it’s another for them to become routine. That’s the core challenge of teaching online, and it’s what separates the excellent online teacher from the just okay one. It’s the one thing you need: habit."
Aaron Johnson will help you do this in a mere 50 pages.
It is really hard to understand just how much the nature of the time you teach changes when you go online. Johnson gets it, though, and his book can be a great resource to help you plan for, and build in support for, an efficient online teaching experience. The book presents as an in-depth "how to," starting right out with a short chapter entitled, "Am I Ready?", followed immediately by a chapter dedicated to, "Where Do I Begin?" There is no messing around here … the book is all about how to get it done.
If I have two points of criticism, they might be the following. Most presentations by Aaron are quick and to the point without a lot of depth. This is a backhanded critique, though, in that the beauty of the book for me is it's "how to" focus and "can do" approach. Secondly, citations and discussion of supporting research is spare in this book. Again, this is not designed to be an academic tome, it's meant to get you up and running online. Again, a bit of a backhanded critique … I'm the geek that likes the research.
Cheap critiques … did I mention the book is only 50 pages long? Not a lot of room for a bunch of citations there.
If you're new to teaching online, just go get this book … your online teaching life will be much better for it.
What the Best College Teachers Do
Ken BainA really intriguing read with one fatal flaw … how could the author's exhaustive research manage to miss me as on of the best college teachers ever (I jest, I jest. My exclusion probably does more to validate their research!)?
Seriously, this is a valuable review of the mindset, if not the specific tasks and tactics of exceptional teachers. Based on qualitative reviews of some 63 select teachers, the author settles as much on midst as skill: a commitment to in depth knowledge of the instructional field, a commitment to your student, and a commitment to developing an environment of real critical inquiry within the classroom.
This is what struck me the most … the pathway to impacting your students doesn't run through your lesson plans and your classroom exercises. Rather, that impact runs through the mindset you bring when you develop those lesson plans and develop those exercises.
You'll find good examples of how these exceptional practitioners ply their craft and will see how profoundly your commitment can influence your students by opening up pathways of exploration and classroom experiences.
If not inspirational, I think you'll find this study reformative and transformational.
Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding, Engagement, and Building Knowledge
Stephanie Harvey & Anne GoudvisThis book has a long and comprehensive title, elegantly and entirely backed up by a wealth of information and suggestions on teaching reading for comprehension. It is a grand revision of a revised classic, and worth every penny of your investment.
The focus of this book is kind of a "meta-reading" approach, asking us to help our students read with a critical learning outcome in mind. They authors get right to the point in Ch. 1, describing it as "reading is thinking." The authors develop their thesis as strategic reading, suggesting that, "Strategic reading refers to thinking about reading in ways that enhance learning and understanding."
I could stop right there and be happy, but the authors go on to offer a wealth of discussion on how to help young readers begin to think about what they are reading, comprehend their experience with the text, and synthesize useable knowledge from their effort. As a college instructor, I can only hope that their approach continues to take flight and strengthens my future students' reading comfort and skill.
As usual, Harvey and Goudvis do a great job of injecting theoretical support for their approach throughout the book. Their references are well cited, and the bibliography alone might be worth the price for an educator. The real value, though, lies in the detailed discussions of techniques and approaches to build strategic reading skills. I was particularly interested in one tip on having readers use music to synthesize their reactions to text, offering a quick guide on how to use Garage Band to produce the learning artifact.
As a complement to close reading, they also have a great tool for helping students think about "close viewing." I think that's a critical skill, and was glad to see the book is refreshed for more digital "readings" and applications.
I could go on and on about this book, but there's not enough space. Just go get it … you won't go wrong.
Discussion-Bused Online Teaching To Enhance Student Learning: Theory, Practice, and Assessment
Tisha BenderThis book was a life-saver when I prepared to teach my first online course. I tend to be a discussion-oriented teacher and use a lot of case studies. So, I was confronted with a real challenge as I thought about how to set, manage, and assess discussion via a digital platform. Tisha Bender to the rescue.
Bender is clearly a believer in active learning and does a great job of illuminating how discussion can be an active tool even when we can’t see each other. Rather than lose all of the non-verbal signaling, we can actually build forums, rules, and techniques to allow students the freedom to express their views and engage others in free exploration of counter views.
Steeped in a solid theoretical base, Bender offers some exceedingly informative approaches to structuring effective online discussion for your desired learning outcomes. She also points out the pitfalls that arise with online discussion, but tempers that with some useful solutions. Backed up with thoughts and approaches to meaningful assessment routines, this book can get you up and running great online discussions in no time. A must read for anyone engaged in online teaching.
Thinking Skills & Eye Q
Oliver Caviglioli, Ian Harris & Bill TyndallThis is just a great book … well researched, well written, and presented in a clever and useful manner. Truly, this is one of my go-to’s when planning and delivering a class.
The premise of the book is that we construct knowledge through observation of objects and/or mental thought objects, and consider the relationships and interactions around us by manipulating these visual and mental images. So, when it comes to helping others construct meaning, visual approaches have some usefulness: “Visual tools make the private thinking of teachers and learners public and available to each other. They support interaction and active learning. They are the constructivist’s tool kit.”
The authors’ do a good job of presenting their practical visual tools on a foundation of succinct theoretical support. Fishbone diagrams, development of schemas, visual reading tools, mapping, thinking in action, critical path analysis … if you are a constructivist, this should be in your go-to tool kit, too.
Richard E. MayerThe essence of this book: A picture is worth a thousand words, as long as it is presented properly.
Another of my go-to’s. Mayer’s book steeps the use of media in the theory of how imagery affects cognition. You’ll learn about how the relationship of words to images can affect learning, or how the temporal sequencing of words and imagery can influence meaning. IN addition, the author is keen to remind us that we need to avoid cognitive overload through the misuse of multimedia.
If you are devote of Powerpoint, this book is a must. If you are considering, or have embarked upon, a flipped classroom, this book will really help you with structuring pre-class materials to maximize retention. Highly recommended.
William A. DravesThis was one of the first books I used when I started teaching online. I went back to it recently and found that while dated, it still offers a good foundation for new online teachers. Sure, the technology is much different now than 2003, but many of the practices Draves outlined still resonate today.
I'd point out two chapters in particular. First, Draves has a nice discussion in Chapter 6 of how to go about organizing your online class. This is critical grounding for teachers who have been thrown into the online world. He points out knowledge is driven deeper, not broader. Secondly, constructive units of knowledge are more critical than objects of knowledge when laying out your course. Third, original sources become more prominent when setting up your course. And, finally, your online course becomes a digital artifact now … it lives past the end date of the course.
I also thought his discussion of online learning environments was helpful. One of the difficult things to cope with when moving online is the loss of physical cues between students and moderator/instructor. Draves points out some effective ways to build guides and guard rails into the structure of your class to help them keep moving forward while protecting them from straying off course.
Invent to Learn
Silvia Libow Martinez & Gary StagerI was a bit nervous about this text at first. An outgrowth of the Maker Movement, there seems to be a bit of a faddish movement around this book. But, I was glad to find my nervousness unwarranted.
At its essence, the Maker Movement in education suggests that students will learn better if they are asked to solve a problem, construct a solution to that problem, and then communicate their actions and findings to a localized group. The emphasis here is on solve and construct. See, think, solve, reflect, communicate … seems like a good learning process to me. I’m not sure it needs its own name, as it seems good teachers have been doing this ever since the first students took their seats in class.
Backed by solid research, the authors do a great job of showing you why this approach should work, as well as how to make it work. If active learning is what you’re all about make it a point (see what I did there?) to read this book.
Connecting Teachers, Students, and Standards
Deborah Volta, Michele Jean Sims & Betty NelsonIf you are a big believer, as I am, in the importance of the classroom environment to learning, then you’ll like this book. The book is aimed at illustrating ways to enhance the inclusion of all students in the instructional activities, while still differentiating to their needs. I particularly liked the authors’ discussion of classroom environment and their focus on creating a learning culture. Although culture is a soft aspect of organizational environment, it has a powerful effect on members’, in this case students’, behaviors. Well worth a read if you want some grounding in positively moderating instructional interaction in learning environments.
Developing Critical Thinkers: Challenging Adults to Explore Alternative Ways of Thinking and Acting
Stephen D. BrookfieldThis book is directed more at college-level and above learners. Brookfield offers an opening discussion of critical thinking that is as good as it gets. He follows that up with a series of techniques that can help you develop critical thinking skills in your class. And they are practical, effective, and lucid techniques.
I find that my students are prone to leave assumptions unchallenged, or attack them like a charging bull … neither approach is very helpful in critical thinking. Brookfield’s discussion of critical questioning and how to develop it was life-saver to me, and helped me elevate my students’ listening skills dramatically. The whole chapter on strategies for developing critical thinkers was a virtual primer … sets you up for more effective teaching.
Highly recommended if you are searching for an approach to develop critical thinking in your classroom.
Judgment In Managerial Decision Making
Max H. Bozeman & Don A. MooreIf you are interested in an exceedingly well written and accessible treatment of rational thinking and biases, this is a go-to book. I have found this book extraordinarily helpful not only for my own thinking, but invaluable when working with students on critical thinking.
Meta-cognition relies upon the individual being able to perceive his/her own thinking processes. This text can help illuminate the subtle traps and heuristics that adjust our thinking. Consider the authors’ treatment of temporal shifts in cognition, the struggle between what I want to do now as opposed to what I know I should do in the longer term. Or, their discussion of how framing arguments can affect our ability to negotiate positions. If you are pushing critical thinking in your classroom, or are focused on meta-cognitive development, give this a read.
Charles LeadBeaterThis is not an educational book, per se. Rather, the author offers some insight into the capability of the internet to boost creativity through broad sharing of knowledge. Not necessarily an unique premise, but one that bears some inspection.
Leadbetter posits that the future economy will revolve around innovation fostered by web-based knowledge sharing. If so, it might be wise to have our students ready to participate in a world where information is open, not restricted. That means they must know where to access the information, how to critically analyze it for validity and reliability, and understand how to build upon that information to participate in future innovation. It’s called critical thinking … this book places it in the context of critical web-thinking.
This is a good book for the teacher of critical thinking, and for advanced 10-12 grade/higher-ed students.
The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach
Howard GardnerYou might think of this book as kind of a add-on to a classic. Gardner’s seminal 1983 work, Frames of Mind, introduced us to the concept of multiple intelligences. In this book, Gardner extends that concept to question how teachers and schools should respond to those differences in the day-to-day management of their classrooms.
New technologies and tools have opened up the classroom from what Gardner described as one teacher with one textbook in front of 30-40 students. If there is a message in this book, it is that modern educational environments can be designed to better enable us to reach different intelligences through differentiated approaches. This is a great linking piece between the concept of multiple intelligences and the quasi-differentiated practices pursued in many enlightened settings.
Cycles of Meaning: Exploring the Potential of Talk in Learning Communities
Kathryn Mitchell Pierce & Carol J. Gilles, Eds.This is a research-oriented piece focused on how readers and build knowledge in group conversation and reflection. Illustrated with in-class case studies, the editors offer a great selection of action-research on how readers convert the written to knowledge through the spoken word and reflection. My critical take-away was the thought of learning as a cycle of pre-work, discussion, reflection. That forms the basis of my in-class discussions to this day.
How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School
John. D. Bransford, Ann Brown, & Rodney R. Cocking, Eds.The focus of this book is “research on learners and learning and teachers and teaching.” (Branford, Brown & Cocking, 2000:14) Simply put, the editors offer insight into how people learn, and how teachers are, and can, teach more effectively.
The overarching structure of the book has three key supports:
1. students come to education with some measure of “pre-knowledge”
2. Knowledge structures require students recognize, gather, organize and manipulate facts in the context of a conceptual framework
3. a metacognitive approach will help students develop the ability to continually add to and manipulate knowledge within conceptual frameworks
The second half of the book: how can you as the teacher actively mediate that learning process.
A bit deep at times, but you’ll come out of it with a better conceptual framework of what it involves to teach to learning.
Teach With Your Strengths: How Great Teachers Inspire Their Students
R. Liesveld & J. A. Miller, with J. RobinsonTeachers are constantly bombarded with the latest tools, techniques, and classroom strategies, all designed to make you a better teacher. An admirable objective, but how practical is it? This book implies … not too practical at all. In fact, its message is clear: stop trying to be every other teacher and focus on what makes you good at what you do.
Much like the pitcher facing a good hitter in the bottom of the 9th, you shouldn’t let yourself get beat using your third or fourth best pitch. If the game is on the line, go with your best stuff. Teach With Your Strengths is all about convincing you that there are just a few things that help your students get your message. Stop comparing you to all the other teachers, focus on you. Drop all the other stuff and go with your best stuff. For me, that’s discussion. I’m better at leading a group to explore through discussion than by way of practice and drill, So, I spend my limited time on getting better at what works for me, not what works for others.
If this book was the movie Major League, its line would be “Give ‘im the heater, Ricky.”
Tools for Learning: A Guide to Teaching Study Skills
M. D. Gall, J. P. Gall, D. R. Jacobsen & T. L. BullockThis is a solid, nuts-and-bolts tome on study skills. I don’t know about you, but even at the college level, students seem less and less able anymore to actually sit and study.
The authors offer a good opening with some research on the effectiveness of studying, and then get right down to business … solid “how-to’s” that stand the test of time. I was particularly fond of the chapter on self-management, which provided thoughts on how to manage external time demands and how to manage space and materials.
Although a bit dated, it offers a veritable primer of the tools that can get your students on the study skills path.
Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms
Stephen D. Brookfield & Stephen PreskillWhether online or face-to-face, discussion is my preferred (and, I like to think, most effective) way to interact with students. This book offers a wonderful collection of ideas for the discussion-oriented teacher, including ideas of how to plan as well as to guide productive discussions. Solidly balanced between the practical and the theoretical, it can help you get discussions going, and show you how to move them along a meaningful path.
One of the key selling points to me was the authors’ focus on inviting equitable discussion among everyone in the class discussion … democratic classrooms. Addressing gender, cultural, and psychological differences, this book is a must read if you want everyone in on the discussion bandwagon.
The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing
Alfie KohnDebunking a myth is always a great hook, getting us to say, “Aha … that’s interesting.” And Kohn’s book is both interesting and insightful. Kohn raises three issues with homework: 1., it is intrusive on family life, 2., the research supporting homework is spotty and often mis-interpreted, and 3. it is often a quantity issue as opposed to quality issue.
One stand-out issue with this book is that it places the nature of homework front and center. Homework should be concise, directed at a learning outcome, and be amenable to be done away from the instructor/teacher/coach. This, to me, is the foundation of flipping your content. Make homework preparatory to the learning activity in the classroom. That way, the work done at home need not overwhelm a student … you can clear that up when working with the material in class.
In brief: the benefit of repetition at home after a lesson is useless if the student didn’t understand the lesson. Kohn’s tome can help you see the light when it comes to allocating work between class and home.