Doug Lemov's Teach Like a Champion is on Amazon's top-100 list for 2010. Are there any how-to books you would recommend to other teachers? Any that have significantly affected/improved your own teaching?
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Funny you should mention that book. A colleague passed me in the halls today and asked if I was teaching like a champion. "No", I replied, "I'm teaching like a maniac".
All joking aside, I get almost all of my new teaching strategies and ideas from other teachers, usually from AP workshops I get to conduct, so my educational reading is usually more issue and philosophy based titles, such as Horace's Compromise, and Horace's School, by Theodore Sizer, and anything by Jonathan Kozol.
I did like Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire as well. I am currently in the second draft stages of a book specifically for history teachers called The Guerrilla Warfare Guide to Teaching History.
I have read that book and consider it one of the weaker books on teaching. It is merely techniques that teachers can use and utilize in class but with varying success. It does nothing for the class culture and are merely gimmicks. If a teacher is looking to really improve, one must improve the class culture so that students will want to learn and allow the teacher to teach, and I don't mean mere techniques or trick in class. The best books on teaching are books by Rafe Equith:
1) There Are No Shortcurts
2) Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire
3) Lighting Their Fires: How Parents and teachers can raise extraordinary children
I have an excellent book which I think comes from the UK called How to be a Brilliant English Teacher which is good especially for new teachers. I have also enjoyed the Set Shakespeare Free series - very useful on ideas on how to get your class to get to grips with what can at first appear to be impenetrable texts.
There are several books that I would place on the "Best Practices" list for teachers of English. First would be Dr. Thomas Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor. This book breaks down literature into different categories for analytical reading; it gives great inspiration for teachers on what literary elements to focus on, and it's wonderful for students to help them understand "how" to read.
I would also highly recommend Kelly Gallagher's Deeper Reading. As a former English teacher, Mr. Gallagher offers up numerous different activities that scaffold and break down difficult literature for students. His writing style is relaxed and speaks to the most novice, as well as experienced teachers.
My final recommendation would be Cris Tovani's I Read It, But I Don't Get It. This book gives specific practices that work well with students of the bottom third, or middle-grade students.
I agree with several of these suggestions--I use How to Read Literature Like a Professor in my pre-AP classes.
I also like Stephen King's On Writing as an insightful book for teaching creative writing. I usually have the students read excerpts and try out the exercises and practices he suggests.
William McBride's Entertaining an Elephant is useful, too. He was our guest speaker at the beginning of the year pep rally to get us all ready for the new academic school year.
I would second the suggestion of two previous posters suggestion of How to Read Literature Like a Professor. It has totally changed how I approach my honors level classes.
Also, I would recommend anything by Jeff Wilhelm. The man is a genius in terms of helping in the Language Arts classroom grade 4-12. His best work that I like is Action Strategies for Comprehension. This has helped me be more active in my classroom.
On a totally different note, I had to read a book for one of my English methods classes back in the early '80s and I periodically read it even now. (My copy is nearly an antique, as it was written in the '60s.) Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman is a delightful reminder that what we do in the classroom matters despite what happens in the front office or hallways or wherever. It's a "how-to" to keep sane in an often insane environment. Great suggestions so far; just wanted to add a little levity to the discussion.
I have read the book "How to Read..." but that is very specific to English Literature, and if you match it up to a McDougal Llit or Holt textbook, the chapters cover the same material, except for two or three of the more adult nature. It reads like its simply a synopsis of an anthology. I have the feeling that it helps teachers more than students.
I think it depends on if you are looking for a book on techniques or a book to inspire you. I think if you are looking for technique or theory Schmoker and Marzanno are both good authors to look at.
A wonderful teacher memoir is Losing My Faculties by Brendan Halpin. Though it's not a how-to manual per se, he has a lot of good stories and experiences to learn from. The book is also written humorously and frankly. I have recommended it to "outsiders" who ask me what it's like to be a teahcer. It doesn't glorify our profession.
I think that brainstorming ideas with other teachers is sometimes interesting or enlightening. However, teaching is a personal thing and what works great for one, may sink like the Titanic for another. That aside, any books during professional development that have been thrust upon me over the years, have been dull and boring and usually not written by someone in the actual trenches. Therefore, I would say that a good teacher teaches, re-teaches and constantly changes their techniques, using differentiation for all students in the room and constantly trying new ideas out. Whether it is good or bad, you can still learn from the experience, better than in a manual or a book.
I like reading books by teachers, but I can't identify any specific one. I think the more practical books are best for new teachers, and the more philosophical ones are best for more experienced teachers. It's hard to have time to read, but teachers need to keep up to date.
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