Summer is a time to savor the things you’ve been missing all year — the sun on your face, languid evenings, a glass of watermelon-lemonade, vacationing at the seaside with family and friends. It’s also a time to savor books and ideas, to build on thoughts you’ve had throughout the school year but haven’t “sat with.” We’ve chosen a few excellent books on classroom strategies, and a handful more for pure inspiration. Enjoy, and we’ll see you in the fall!
1 | Brave Enough By Cheryl Strayed. Wild author Strayed’s latest is a collection of “mini instruction manuals for the soul,” hard-earned wisdom that will have you laughing, crying, and nodding in agreement.
2 | F in Exams: Complete Failure Edition By Richard Benson. A follow-up compendium to the best-seller F for Effort! and three sister books, this also includes 100 new “sadly real, hilariously wrong” student answers to test questions.
3 | Reading Reconsidered: A Practical Guide to Rigorous Literacy Instruction By Doug Lemov, Colleen Driggs, and Erica Woolway. Guru of classroom strategies Doug Lemov (Teach Like a Champion) is back with advice on teaching kids to read like champions from some of the best classrooms in America; more than 40 video clips are included.
4 | The Big Book of Details: 46 Moves for Teaching Writers to Elaborate By Rozlyn Linder. Details, details. Bad writing contains the wrong kind, good writing sings with the best. Teach your students which are which and how to use them.
5 | Raising a Rock-Star Reader: 75 Quick Tips to Help Your Child Develop a Lifelong Love of Reading By Amy Mascott and Allison McDonald. Ostensibly a book for parents, Rock-Star Reader offers plenty that teachers of K–1 students will find useful — as well as tips to pass on to parents.
6 | Thank You, Teacher: Grateful Students Tell the Stories of the Teachers Who Changed Their Lives By Holly Holbert and Bruce Holbert. A welcome antidote to the teacher-blaming culture, this collection of 80-plus essays, from notables such as Maya Angelou, George Saunders, and others, serves as a testament to the power of great teaching.
7 | Happiness Is…500 Ways to Be in the Moment By Lisa Swerling and Ralph Lazar. You will love the charming illustrations that go along with 500(!) suggestions for unplugging, de-stressing, and slowing down all year round.
8 | How to Be a Wildflower: A Field Guide By Katie Daisy. This lovely “field guide” includes summer recipes, suggestions for communing with nature, things to make, quotes and meditations, and more!
Summer is a good time to think about re-creating your learning space. Here are five things to try from What’s in Your Space? 5 Steps for Better School and Classroom Design by Dwight L. Carter, Gary L. Sebach, and Mark White.
1 | Paint your walls bright colors to spur the creative muse.
2 | Start small. Choose one corner of the room to redesign, and decide how the new look will enhance learning.
3 | Involve students in the design process. Ask them: What else can we do to make this space fun and useful?
4 | Ensure the furniture is flexible enough to be rearranged for all students to see and to participate in various activities.
5 | Make your classroom tech-friendly with seating areas that allow students to easily type or swipe, and be sure to have enough outlets and power strips to plug in safely or to recharge.
Q&A: Katherine Bomer
Author, The Journey Is Everything
Q | Do students need to “fall in love with writing” to do it well?
A | Here’s the secret formula: choice of topic; ongoing encouraging response; and the freedom to explore their own thinking and passions. When kids write to a formula, the end product is usually detached and robotic, and occasionally nonsensical! They are not thinking about meaning as they write; they are doing the math, if you will, of the formula.
Q | Is there room to teach both the formatted essay and “the sparkling stuff”?
A | Most kinds of writing can and should sparkle. All texts benefit from powerful sentences, voice, elaboration, and an organization that makes sense for the content and purpose. But five-paragraph formulas won’t get kids there, and endlessly practicing how to write them kills any joy or desire to learn how to write well. [The format doesn’t] exist anywhere outside of schools, and so it becomes “what we have to do in school,” rather than what writers write.
Q | Who should students read to learn how to write excellent essays?
A | I have used the work of Brian Doyle, a favorite essayist, with middle schoolers. For children in grades 4 and 5, I often type up the texts of picture books or parts of novels that sound essayistic and are about the right length. The beginning of Roald Dahl’s novel Matilda has a lovely, sarcastic, snarky voice [that kids love]. And most of Byrd Baylor’s picture books sound as if she is thinking in bright and lyrical language about the natural and cultural world.
Photo: Adam Chinitz