As teachers get ready for the new school year, we thought it would be fun to ask our staff of education experts what books they are reading or have read that impacted them. As former teachers and as current researchers, our team is always digesting great reads. If you’re an educator and are starting to gear up for the new school year, here are some books worth considering and why they should be on your reading list.
1. How’s it going? OR Assessing Writers by Carl Anderson
Both of these texts provide a student-centered approach to writing instruction and assessment. As a teacher, I often felt ill-equipped to measure how well my students were writing. After digging into Carl Anderson’s books, I found that engaging in writing assessment as it related to students’ identities, interests, and motivations as a human was the key. These books provide educators with meaningful and easy-to-use information about holding space for writers and literacy in your classroom.
2. Strategies that Work by Stephanie Harvey & Anne Goudvis
This text is not about formative assessment specifically; however, it provides teachers with a comprehensive breakdown of the fundamentals of reading comprehension in a way that promotes high-quality instruction and assessment of each component. For each reading strategy presented in this book, Harvey and Goudvis also provide examples of how teachers might design their own formative assessment in ways that shine light on students’ thinking during learning. Honestly, this book was my bible as a reading specialist, especially when I was teaching my middle school struggling readers. At that point in school, students struggling with reading are often unmotivated and discouraged, but engaging them in learning opportunities where they can connect personally with text is a great way to improve engagement in reading.
3. The Dreamkeepers by Gloria Ladson-Billings
In my undergraduate studies, this was one of the first books assigned on culturally-responsive teaching or racial/ethnic diversity’s relationship to instruction. As a researcher, Gloria Ladson-Billings has pushed the education field in ways that truly counters common narratives. For example, she refers to education leaders’ tendency to partake in “gap-gazing” as they look at achievement gap data. In The Dreamkeepers, Ladson-Billings provides beautiful narratives about students’ experiences in a multicultural education environment and asks educators to consider being critical and transformational as they engage with such a diverse student community.
4. Results Now by Mike Schmoker
When I read this book, and reread bits and pieces, I’m reminded of the power in simplicity. There are just solid teaching and learning practices that aren’t that complicated and the chapter “Isolation: Enemy of Improvement” motivates me.
5. Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani
This is a great book for educators who want to help students build their creative thinking skills and have students create their own learning paths by being curious. This book will help educators know how to empower students and still teach those standards and meet the curriculum expectations.
6. Transformative Assessment by W. James PophamAND Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word by Barbara R. Blackburn
I love how they both have practical ideas on how to meet the needs of leaners and move them forward in their growth.
7. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
Is your glass half full or half empty? After this read, your glass will overflow! This book is an opportunity for teachers to change the lives of their students as well as their own! It is an essential read not just for teachers, but for parents, as well.
8. Essential Assessment: Six Tenets for Bringing, Hope, Efficacy, and Achievement to the Classroom by Cassandra Erkens, Tom Schimmer, and Nicole Dimich Vagle
On many pages of this book, my thought was “I wish I had written that.” The authors provide an organizing framework for classroom assessment that stresses the use of assessment to bring hope, efficacy, and achievement to all learners. Essential Assessment: Six Tenets for Bringing, Hope, Efficacy, and Achievement to the Classroom, delivers real-life scenarios of traditional educator experiences with assessment along with “a new vision” of what teacher practice and student experience might be. Each chapter ends with a “pause and ponder” set of questions well-suited for learning community discussion starters and opportunities for personal reflection. This book serves as a resource for building assessment literacy in educators covering topics such as assessment purpose, assessment construction, accurate interpretation of the data, and communicating the results. Remembering that assessment should be a support for learning, Erkens, Schimmer, and Vagle offer history, research, and practical guidance to support teachers in their everyday practice of assessment. The ideas about instructional agility (or responsive teaching), a teacher’s ability to make in-the-moment adjustments that move learning forward, are about a combination of planning and using formative instructional practices. Easy to read and logically organized, this book supports educators in deepening their general knowledge of assessment and classroom assessment literacy and strengthen conversations about making assessment a support for learning.
Here are two additional staff favorites for your list:
9. Passionate Learners: How to Engage and Empower Your Students (2nd Edition) by Pernille Ripp
10. The Growth Mindset Coach: A Teacher’s Month-by-Month Handbook for Empowering Students to Achieve by Annie Brock and Heather Hundley
Do you have some favorite books that have helped you prepare for the school year? Share them on our Facebook page or via Twitter with the hashtag #backtoschoolbooks. We’d love to include them next time!
And thanks to my terrific colleagues Christine Pitts, Misty Sprague, Jill Valdez, Candi Fowler, Robyn Sturgeon, and Christina Hunter for their recommendations!