I have been an avid reader since birth. There are more pictures of me “reading” to my baby dolls than there are of my flesh-and-blood brother who came along five years later. And by the time I could walk, I was teaching “school,” complete with rolling chalkboard and miniature chairs, in my parents’ garage. There has never been a time when reading and education didn’t go hand-in-hand in my mind. But reading for the purpose of becoming a better educator was not at the top of my priority list—that is, until I was called out by a savvy ELAR department chair a few years back.

Called Out on Professional Growth

In that Wednesday morning department meeting, she asked these questions:

Are you a professional?
Do you want to be respected as a professional?
Do you want to be paid as a professional?

The resounding responses were, of course, yes, yes, yes!

“Then we have to be informed like professionals. Doctors read medical journals; lawyers read court briefs and transcripts. If we truly want to be respected and paid as professionals, we have to inform ourselves by reading the latest research and trends.”

An Informed Professional

That was the punch in the gut I needed to put down the Twilight series and pick up Teaching the Best Practice Way: Methods That Matter, K–12 by Harvey Daniels and Marilyn Bizar. And you know what? It was pretty darn good. It forced me to rethink my aversion to collaborative learning because research reveals that the majority of students learn at a deeper level when interacting with their peers. I had always been a passionate and determined teacher, but now I was an informed teacher.

A Teacher Gets Schooled

Last summer, I read The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens and I Got Schooled: The Unlikely Story of How a Moonlighting Movie Maker Learned the Five Keys to Closing America’s Education Gap by M. Night Shyamalan. The former was purely for entertainment while the latter caused me to look at the modern school system in a whole new light.

You’ve probably been working on your summer reading list since winter break, but I’ve got a few page-turners for you to check out this year.

And I have to ask:

Are you a professional?
Do you want to be respected as a professional?
Do you want to be paid as a professional?

The Professional Teacher’s Summer Reading List

Here is a list to get you started on your summer reading challenge, including key takeaways for each title.

On Instruction

The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction by Sean Cain and Mike Laird

  • Frequent, small group, purposeful talk to cement student understanding and reset attention span.
  • Critical writing prompts that conclude each lesson to facilitate processing.

Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement, 2nd Edition by Ceri B. Dean, Elizabeth Ross Hubbell, Howard Pitler, and Bj Stone

  • Includes teacher tools that can be used today—charts, rubrics, and graphic organizers.
  • Tons of real-world classroom examples.

On Memory

How to Teach So Students Remember by Marilee Sprenger

  • “If you can’t reach them, you can’t teach them.”
  • “Reflection is not a luxury; it is a necessity.”

Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger, III, and Mark A. McDaniel

  • Assessing new learning moves information from short- to long-term memory with higher retention than explicit instruction.
  • Mastery and long-term retention are maximized when practice is interleaved rather than massed.

On Reading

Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst

  • Contrast and contradictions—recognize characters’ actions that are “out of character” to make predictions about the plot.
  • Words of the wiser—recognize when an older character imparts wisdom on a younger character to determine the theme.

Reading Nonfiction: Notice and Note Signposts and Questions by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst

  • Three big questions—What did the author think I already knew? What surprised me? What challenged, changed, or confirmed what I already knew?
  • Quoted words—recognize when the author uses a direct quote to determine the author’s point of view, bias, or purpose.

When Kids Can’t Read by Kylene Beers

  • Three levels of reading: independent, instructional, frustrational.
  • Say Something—sentence starters provided in categories titled “Make a Prediction,” “Ask a Question,” “Clarify Something,” “Make a Comment,” and “Make a Connection.”

On Writing

10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know by Jeff Anderson

  • Provides published mentor texts as models.
  • Lead Strategies—sensory, hint, shocking image, comparison, context, it’s not, list, question, thought, action, people, dialogue.

Teaching Adolescent Writers by Kelly Gallagher

  • Write about what you know!
  • Grade essays, according to Gallagher’s method, to enhance improvement and minimize frustration for students.

Write Like This by Kelly Gallagher

  • Real-world writing.
  • Specific writing purposes—express and reflect, inform and explain, evaluate and judge, inquire and explore, analyze and interpret, take a stand/propose a solution.

Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark

  • 50 doable techniques that will take writing from the mundane to the extraordinary.
  • Writer’s workshops at the end of each chapter to practice the skill discussed.

On Grammar and Mechanics

Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson

  • Observe, discuss, and model grammar and mechanics using authentic text.
  • Utilize wall charts and posters.

The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English by Roy Peter Clark

  • “Consult a thesaurus to remind yourself of words you already know.”
  • “Use the question mark to generate reader curiosity and narrative energy.”

Are you ready for the summer reading challenge? Yes, yes, yes!