The 2015-2016 school year and my 12th year in the classroom as an ELA teacher is nearly a wrap. I have thoroughly enjoyed my new position in a new district and honestly have mixed feelings about the coming days–the group of seniors I have taught this year are the some of the nicest, most genuine people I have had the privilege to know and it is sad (but yet so exciting) to see them go.
As the only high school ELA teacher in my district, most of the rest of my students will return in the fall and enroll in the next level of English with me. That is exciting and nerve-wracking as the buck literally stops with me. Am I doing all I can to prepare them for the ELA rigors of college and the real world? How can I improve? What else should I try? I have been pondering these questions for the past few months, compulsively bookmarking teaching ideas found at CORElaborate (including Alicia’s recent posts about integrating the arts, Kristin’s mostly appropriate resources, and Johanna’s reflections regarding standards based grading and growth mindset) and beyond (Dave Stuart, Jr.’s blog is also a fantastic resources) so that I can return to them in the summer with renewed interest and vision. I have also purchased a number of books recommended by fellow educators because, as I always tell my students, reading makes us smarter.
I would argue the stacks surrounding my nightstand are organized; professional books go in that pile, while that one is for the classics I know I should read. This one closest to the bed is for in-progress and I-can’t-wait books. By now, blog readers are probably picturing me as a crazy book lady. But I have a plan and that plan is to read a chapter of something that (hopefully) makes me a smarter teacher each day this summer. I am sharing my list here in hopes of finding an informal, online book club.
- A number of colleagues and ELA PD facilitators I respect have recommended Zwiers and Crawford’s Academic Conversations: Classroom Talk that Fosters Critical Thinking and Content Understandings for a few years. I have tried using their Academic Conversation Placemat with varied levels of success and am hoping this book will help elevate the level of discourse in my classroom. (Do you see what I did there?)
- I honestly cannot remember how I hear about Beers and Probst’s Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies. I always require students to annotate class texts with varying degrees of compliance and skill and I would like to better model my cognitive processes as I mark more complex nonfiction sources. I hope this resource will provide some ideas for how to describe my thinking
- My Bridge to College Community of Practice read Reading Rhetorically by Bean and Chappell, and it really helped me understand the course’s framework. Graff and Birkenstein’s “They Say / I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing was also recommended by course developers, and after listening to an interview with them, I’m looking forward to digging into this text as well.
- I purchased Conley’s College Knowledge: What It Really Takes for Students to Succeed and What We Can Do to Get Them Ready on a whim after listening to another Dave Stuart Jr. interview. I am working to get an AVID elective course up and going for next year and am hoping this helps me figure out how narrow a year’s worth of curriculum into a semester.
- I am really looking forward to Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. “Grit” is a bit of a buzzword these days, but I’m happy to jump on this bandwagon!
- I am pretty sure Schmoker’s FOCUS: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning will encourage me to limit the scope of my efforts which I recognize sound pretty expansive right now. My administrator friend needs a reading buddy for this one and I’m looking forward to talking about it with her soon.
So, what do you think? Do any of these books appeal to you? What are you planning to read that I might also enjoy? I don’t have a fancy structure in mind discussing these or other books–maybe an email strand, a Google hangout, or even comments posted here would suffice. I am open to suggestion…
Sidenote/Afterward: I recently decided to invite my students to also read a chapter of something that makes them smarter each day this summer. I have assigned each returning cohort a novel or series of articles to read for the first week of school in August, but beyond those (really very short) assigned texts, the sky is the limit. A number of students have borrowed books from my shelves, and I have been impressed by their enthusiasm. Will everybody read this summer? Probably not. Will some read more than they would have as a result of this work? I hope so and am eager to hear about it in the fall.
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