Top Favorites

Atwell, Nancy. In the Middle: New Understandings About Writing, Reading and Learning. Heinemann, 1998.
This is a great book to get your writer’s workshop started. It gives a very prescriptive model for setting up a writer’s workshop that I have found to be excellent. It is short and succinct. Although it is written for middle school, it can easily be adapted to any grade level. (the second half of the book is on reader’s workshop)

Berger, Ron. An Ethic of Excellence : Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students. Heinemann, 2003.
What an inspiration! Written by a teacher, Berger outlines how his school has created a culture of excellence. Through the use of project based learning as the core of the curriculum, they inspire the students to create products of high standards. He explains how and why they do this. His stories of his students show us how all students can produce amazing work. This book reminds us of what real education can and should look like.

Calkins, Lucy McCormick. The Art of Teaching Writing. 2nd ed. Heinemann, 1994.
Calkins’ step by step instructions for how to create a writer’s workshop in your classroom and how to deal with the problems and come up, with lots of descriptions and examples of student work and dialogues. It includes chapters based on grade level as well as topic. This is a great resource to keep coming back to as you develop your writer’s workshop.

Cary, Stephen. Working with English Language Learners: Answers to Teachers’ Top Ten Questions (2nd edition). Heinemann, 2007.
In each chapter Cary uses an actual classroom vignette to illustrate the each question, and how that teacher dealt with it. He then provides a more general and theoretical answer based on that example. A very practical and useful book.

Charney, Ruth Sidney. Teaching Children to Care: Management in the Responsive Classroom. Northeast Foundation for Children, 2002.
This is the best book on classroom management for those interested in a student directed classroom. This is a how-to book on teaching that independence by a teacher who does it. Get beyond rewards and punishment techniques and into self directedness.

Chittenden, Edward and Terry Salinger with Anne M. Bussis. Inquiry into Meaning: An Investigation of Learning to Read. Teachers College Press, 2001.
This is one of the best books on learning to read. A team of researchers from the Educational Testing Service used a qualitative research approach to follow a few dozen students over about 2 years in their progress in learning to read, using the descriptive review process. They then develop theories about how different children learn to read, and how that is connected to their overall approach to life. They end with 3 chapters that each look at an individual child in detail.

Cummins, Jim. Negotiating Identities: Education for Empowerment in a Diverse Society, 2nd Edition. California Association for Bilingual Education. 2000.
This is a powerful book on the theory, practice and research around teaching second language learners. While focused on the issue of bilingual education and second language learning, it very much is based on the premise that learning and schooling is about identity. One of his conclusions is that successful education for minority children must deal directly with issues of empowerment.

Duckworth, Eleanor. The Having of Wonderful Ideas and Other Essays on Teaching and Learning. Teachers College Press. 1987. 151pp.  Recently reissued, this is a magnificent inspiring book about how children (people) learn. The writing is inspired and inspiring. This is a series of essays on discovery learning in science.

Meier, Deborah. In Schools We Trust,
2002, 200pp. and The Power of Their Ideas. Beacon Press, 1995, 185pp.  (and others)
Her books are proof that public education can work for all! She defends democratic, public, small schools of choice, through discourse weaving stories and examples from the highly successful Central Park East Schools in New York City and now the Mission Hill School in Boston, schools which she founded and directed starting 30 years ago.

Ohanian, Susan. One Size Fits Few, 2002 182pp. and Caught in the Middle, Heinemann, 2001, 195pp. (among others)
A scathing critique of the standardization movement. Well written with a good sense of humor. She has many other excellent books on testing and teaching.

Rose, Mike. Lives on the Boundary. Penguin Books, 1990.
A wonderfully written book, in a very narrative style. This is an autobiographical account of what it takes to make it from the slums into the academic world, and what the author has done to make that possible for others. Mike Rose has a beautifully descriptive writing style in which he really paints pictures for you! All his other books are superb as well.

Rothstein, Richard. The Way We Were: The Myths and Realities of America‘s Schools. Twentieth Century Fund Press, 1998.
This is for those who are interested in examining the real history of whether schools are getting better or worse. He writes engagingly, though it is a pragmatic look at statistics and data.

Sapon-Shevin, Mara. Widening the Circle: The Power of Inclusive classrooms. Beacon. 2007
The subtitle is “The Power of Inclusive Classrooms,” which is the theme of this book. It makes the argument that there is no place for separating students based on any quality, but specifically this book is aimed at separating student labeled for Special Education. She makes the argument mostly on what type of society we want to build–only by modeling and doing inclusion can we have an inclusive society where we do not grow up to divide people into “other.” She also argues that it is better educationally for all. She explains what types of changes would need to occur to make it work on the school and classroom level, and gives lots of examples from real schools and classrooms. Written with passion and clarity.

Sizer, Theodore. Horace’s Compromise, Horace’s School and Horace’s Hope. Houghton Mifflin.
This trilogy has quickly become the classic of contemporary high school reform. Horace’s Compromise sets out the situation of how even the best well-meaning teachers can only have a minimal impact given the structure of today’s high school, through the eyes of a composite teacher. This book is based on years of research and investigation in many high schools throughout the country. The second book lays out in more detail what reforms need to happen, and the third book looks at what has happened to education since his initial investigation. Engagingly written.

Smith, Frank. The Book of Learning and Forgetting; Understanding Reading; Reading Without Nonsense; and many more! Most of his books are available from Heinemann Press or Teachers College Press.
Smith is a brilliant writer on language learning and learning in general. His writing is engaging and full of humor, metaphor and examples to acquaint the reader with his take on learning theory.

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