5 Books To Start a Book Club for Teachers

There is something special about book clubs that you don’t get from other forms of teacher PD. I love the feeling of finally being able to share what I’ve read with a group of likeminded individuals, all of whom have a different perspective on the same source material. In book clubs, everyone comes in as an expert (presuming that you’ve read the book), and even when chapters are rushed through or skipped altogether, the main ideas can easily be jigsawed together by a nice bit of conversation with coffee on hand.

The following are 5 books for professional book clubs that I’ve had the pleasure of either facilitating or attending in recent years. I hope you find them useful in starting up a book club in your school or organization.

1. Clever Lands by Lucy Crehan

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This is the most current Book Club selection that we’ve been reading at my school, and it is an easy and important read for our time. As PISA scores continue to influence policy around the world, it’s important to take into account what makes these so-called successful school systems so great, and what makes their contexts unique and inimitable.

The best part of using this book for a book club is that you can frame each meeting as a “journey to a foreign land”, as the book is split evenly between 5 of the top PISA ranking countries: Finland, Japan, Singapore, China (Shanghai), and Canada.

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2. Creative Schools by Sir Ken Robinson

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Creative Schools explores the entire breadth of the philosophy behind Ken Robinson’s famous TedTalks, such as “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”. While his writing isn’t as humorously tangential as his videos, the ideas presented in Creative Schools are equally intriguing. While those box checkers among us may come away feeling desperate for concrete solutions to the industrial model of education, us creative folk cannot help but leave inspired.

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3. Never Send a Human to Do a Machine’s Job by Yong Zhao and Co.

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This book literally kick-started my journey towards a truly blended model of teaching and learning. As the title suggests, Zhao goes into what machines are good for, and what they are limited to (at the moment), but he also helps us to learn from the mistakes of early adopters of educational technology, and to be more intentional in our instructional design when using technology in the classroom.

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4. The First Days of School By Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong

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While not as up-to-date as the previous three books, I never go a year without flipping through a few pages of The First Days of School. Even as my practice has adapted in response to changes in my own life and environment, including the diverse populations that I’m serving, I find solace in the Wongs’ simple charts and graphics that help beginning teachers create an environment that responds to every child’s needs. The idea that every day, especially the day after a bad day, can be reworked into a first day of school, is reason enough for me to keep a copy of it on my shelf.

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5. Trivium by Martin Robinson

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It wouldn’t be a book club if someone came without reading the book, and Trivium was my moment to carry the torch. I guess this book was about where the three divisions of classical education (grammar, rhetoric, logic) meet, and how this conceptual framework can be used to help students today. Basically, I’m just repeating what it says on the cover of the book.

Did I come even though I didn’t read it? Yes. Did I talk about things that I didn’t know much about? Yes. Did I write on some chart paper? Oh yes. At the end of the day, I had a good time and met and talked about my favorite subject in the world while sipping on iced coffees. Totally worth it.

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Can a Class Teddy Bear Raise Achievement?

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A few months ago I attended a fantastic session on how teachers can do their own Action Research at an AISA conference. In the session, I decided that I wanted to see if teaching my 2nd grade students specific strategies for what to do when they get stuck would help raise their achievement. To make it easier to track progress, I would start by looking only at math and if the strategies did help, I would move towards also looking at other subjects.

How does the teddy bear fit in?

In addition to my session on Action Research at the conference, I also went to a session on Habits of the Mind with Karen Boyes (see her blog here). She gave me a number of fantastic ideas on how to develop these and one that stuck with me was using a teddy bear.

Talking out tough problems

As an adult, lots of my thinking is done silently, but when I really need to flesh out an idea or I am completely stumped, I need to discuss my thoughts orally. Although it is a priority for me to give students ample time to talk to each other about their ideas, there are situations in which a student is stuck and no one is available to work it out with them. That’s where the teddy bear comes in. Students can go over to him, sit at his desk and talk out their thinking. It feels a little silly at first, but it actually seems to work.

Practicing reading out loud to improve fluency

Although I’m not taking data on reading for my Action Research project, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to use our teddy bear in reading as well. Many of my students are English Language Learners and although their reading comprehension is coming along well, to read more fluently they more practice reading out loud than they are currently getting. While students read to self, I always take one student to read with and now our teddy bear does too. They sit with him in their favorite spot and read away, loving it and getting that extra practice they need.

Having a teddy bear is really fun

My students love him. They love him so much that they brought in an old school uniform so he matches the class, set up his desk with all of the materials any teacher could ever want and have even started talking about the possibility of him being alive after a student said she saw him blink.

Will the Teddy Bear Raise Achievement?

I will have to wait and find out, but I think his chances are good. And, whether or not he makes their math scores rise, he is making school an even more fun place to be, so he has definitely been worth the investment.

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Has anyone had similar experiences with class stuffed animals or toys? If so please comment below.

By @SGroshell