Preparing lesson plans can be overwhelming. I can remember during my first years of teaching when my entire weekend would be centered on my weekly lesson plans. Imagine curling up with teaching guides or making a date with grading papers. And let me not forget my favorite — the ultimate best — writing my lesson plans by hand. Doesn’t that sound exciting?
This process can become extremely time consuming without the right resources. As teachers, we want our lessons to be exciting and innovative and that takes time. Over the years, I have learned to develop my “Go To” kit of resources to aid in my lesson planning. Now I understand that with the Internet, I can “Google” or “Bing” any topic, but I feel that there is also a place for those resources that I can actually put my hands on.
My professional library is full of books and I have my favorites. The ones that I am going to share are in no particular order/rank. They happen to be the ones I use on a consistent basis. Although I am a literacy teacher, some of these books can be used across the curriculum. Please do not feel that they are just for reading and language arts. My top five are (drum roll please) . . .
Strategies That Work by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis
Reading and Language Arts Worksheets – Don’t Grow Dendrites by Marcia L. Tate
Revisiting The Reading Workshop by Barbara Orehovec and Marybeth Alley
The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller
Classroom Instruction that Works by Robert J. Marzano, Debra J. Pickering, and Jane E. Pollock
My principal, Eileen Brett, first introduced me to this book. She provided development for the instructional staff at my school on ways to increase student comprehension of text, especially nonfiction. This is a resource that can be used across the curriculum. It offers techniques for effective comprehension instruction in areas such as monitoring comprehension, activating and connecting to background knowledge, and questioning and determining the importance in text. (More strategies can be found in the book.) It is written in teacher-friendly language and has some great sample resources. (One of my favorites: anchor charts!) This is one of those books that I use when looking for a technique/activity to use with my students, especially when I am creating my target groups based upon need.
In November of 2013, I attended the New Jersey Education Association teacher's convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Marcia Tate, the author of this book, was one of the keynote speakers. So this book is a new favorite of mine. If you ever get the chance to hear her speak, please take advantage of the opportunity. She is amazing. Her book is full of ideas on how to keep students motivated. She calls these strategies, "20 Brain-Compatible Strategies." Instruction is geared to tapping into all of the senses to keep the students engaged. As I am crafting my lessons, I make more of an effort to include a song, dance, piece of art, or a mnemonic device for the students to hold onto whatever I am teaching. This book emphasizes that we all learn differently and how teaching needs to address the ways in which we learn in a creative way.
In my opinion, this is a must have for every literacy classroom. Revisiting The Reading Workshop gives a bird's eye view of what reading workshop should look, feel, and sound like in the literacy classroom. It is an easy-to-read, easy-to-implement how-to guide on setting up and managing your reading workshop in the classroom. I often revisit this book for ideas on mentor text, strategy lessons, and for student forms.
This is a staff favorite among the literacy teachers at my school. One of the more popular moments from this book is called "Steal a Moment." Whenever and wherever you are, steal a moment to read a book. Miller reminds us as teachers to model the love of reading and to make it practical for our students. Her desire that every child walks away finding that one book that speaks to them, that one book that will ignite the passion to pick up another book, is evident. This is a motivational book to inspire teachers to develop lifelong readers in the classroom.
Robert Marzano is primarily known for his research on improving student achievement. About four years ago, I attended a series of workshops where I was introduced to his work. Ever since then I have used some of the strategies from this book in my classroom. I developed my vocabulary strategies from this text. On page 128, the authors suggest the following five-step process to implement for vocabulary instruction:
Present students with a brief explanation or description of the new term or phrase
Present students with a non-linguistic representation of the new term or phrase
Ask students to generate their own explanations of the term or descriptions of the term or phrase
Ask students to create their own non-linguistic representation of the term or phrase
Periodically ask students to review the accuracy of their explanations and representations
I have found this process to be very successful and along with the vocabulary instruction, I include some ideas that keep the students engaged. I also ask my students to participate in activities and games to reinforce their understanding of the vocabulary terms such as Bingo, Charades, Pictionary, Concentration, Connect Four and Taboo to name a few.
I have only given you a sampling of what these texts have to offer. It is my hope that I have ignited some interest and you will give these texts a try. As always, please share your own favorites!