Four Books for Your Summer Reading List

Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win one of these books.

Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win one of these books.

The stacks of books in my home office were getting out of control for awhile since I was finishing Craft Moves, my forthcoming book about how to use mentor texts in the classroom, this past month. (I submitted the manuscript to my editor two days ago!)  As May drew to a close, I felt like I had a good handle on my workload so I tackled one of my TBR piles in my office.  And I’m thankful I did (and not just because my I have less books stacked up in my office)!  While I read several books, four inspired me as both an educator  and a person.  It’s my hope at least one of these will be added to your summer reading list since all four of them are gems.

sharing-the-blue-crayonSharing the Blue Crayon by Mary Anne Buckley
Have you ever wondered how to foster a stronger community in your classroom?  How could developing social readiness skills help your students become better readers and writers?  Buckley provides an integrated approach to fostering social-emotional skill development throughout the school year in Sharing the Blue Crayon, which is geared to K-3 teachers. Buckley teaches readers how to implement a Friendship Workshop to help “children identify and regulate their emotions so they can make choices that support their relationships and their schooling. It reframes how you react to their behaviors in order to support the literacy work you are already teaching. Friendship Workshop is a means for mindfully being with your students and building a caring, supportive community that learns and grows together” (2015, 3).  In chapter 3, Buckley outlines the friendship workshop format, which is similar to the flow of writing workshop. There are elements of the Responsive Classroom approach in Friendship Circle, which makes this book a nice pairing with The First Six Weeks of School, 2nd Edition, which I will discuss next.
The body of Buckley’s book provide ways to blend literacy instruction with life lessons. Chapter four goes into great detail about how to link the skills (e.g., empathy, kindness, responsibility, perseverance) to literacy instruction.  In addition, Buckley includes a list (pages 28 – 29) of picture books she uses to support the Friendship Workshop themes. Throughout Sharing the Blue Crayon, Buckley provides suggestions and choices rather than one way of teaching students social and emotional skills. Finally, she makes a case for the importance of making time for this kind of work — because it really matters as much as the academic standards do — on pages 178-180.
Do you sometimes struggle with basic classroom management?  Do your students’ social issues often get in the way of smooth transitions and productive writing workshops?  If so, then you’ll want to try out the Responsive Classroom approach to teaching, which values both the academic and the social-emotional curriculum.  I attended Responsive Classroom training in 2006, which changed my teaching for the better!  If you can’t attend a Responsive Classroom training this summer, then you’ll want to read this book so you can learn how to:
1)  Create a climate of warmth, inclusion, and safety.
2) Teach classroom routines and behavior expectations.
3) Help students get to know and care for the classroom and school environment.
4) Establish expectations for academic work.
If you take the first six weeks of the school year to work towards these goals, then you will have a classroom that runs smoothly all year long!
The second edition of The First Six Weeks of School is divided into sections for Kindergarten, first, & second grades, third & fourth grades, and fifth and sixth grades, which means the support is targeted to your students’ developmental needs. The book includes sample schedules, ideas for teaching collaboration, discipline guidance, tips about teacher language, and lots of ideas for morning meeting, which I believe is the best way to ground students each and every day.

Would you benefit from having a literacy coach on-call to help you solve pressing writing workshop-related problems? Colleen Cruz tackles teachers’ most predictable workshop-related issues in her new book, The Unstoppable Writing Teacher.  While you can sit down and read this book from cover-to-cover, a smarter way to use it is by looking at the table of contents and starting with the chapters that cover the issues you face the most as a workshop teacher.  That’s the way I read it.  I thought about the issues I face when I work with teachers of writing.
I started with chapter three, “I don’t know what to teach this student. He’s a much better writer than I am.”  Too often teachers gloss over the strong writers in their classrooms since they are a grade-level or more ahead of their peers.  What could they possibly teach this child right now?  Well, Colleen will help you find lots of things you can teach sophisticated writers since they are deserving of just as much of your time as the other writers in your classroom.  Some examples of things you can do to support advanced writers, as detailed in chapter three of Colleen’s book:
  • Adopt an editorial stance when working with sophisticated writers.
  • Up the ante with higher level, age-appropriate, mentor texts.
  • Increase your own knowlege about writing so you can use your own writing as a mentor text with your higher-level students.
  • Create a list of common go-to teaching points to lift the level of sophisticated writers’ work. Some things  you can help advanced writers do better are to uncover the true signficance of their writing, write with more complex structures, combine structures and genres, write with an economy of words, research their topic regardless of genre, etc.
  • Encourage advanced writers to have an independent writing project in process at all times (which they can work on once their workshop-related work is complete each day.

The chapter, “I never have enough time,” was helpful to me as a consultant. Wherever I go — public school or private — I hear that refrain. Like Colleen, I believe writing workshop needs to happen at least four days a week for 45-60 minutes (with 30-45 minutes of independent writing time). Whether it’s assemblies, test prep, or specials conflicts, it’s rare that writing time happens for that long daily. Some things Colleen suggests to help you find the time you need to teach writing daily are:

    • Make writing workshop a priority in your daily schedule. Make sure students know that writing time is important.
    • Find hidden time by minimizing transition times. Eradicate unnecessary things like copying homework (which can be posted for students on a class web site or Google Drive).
    • Enlist your students to help with materials distribution and collection.
    • “Fire-test” your teaching, eliminating anything unnecessary from your curriculum.  It’s okay to let go of things you’ve “always done” if it isn’t valuable to student learning.
    • Talk to service providers about pushing in, rather than pulling out, to work with students.
  • Keep an open line of communication with administrators about scheduling issues. Talking with administrators about limiting disruptions (e.g., public address announcements, excessive assemblies or interruptions) so you can maximize your teaching time.

There are useful resources, such as the following writing survey, in the book as well.

Used with permission from the publisher. All rights reserved.

Used with permission from the publisher. All rights reserved.

Colleen’s entire book is helpful.  It’s a must-read this summer so that you’ll be the unstoppable writing teacher you want to be when school starts this fall.

Has the school year that’s finished/finishing left you exhausted or weary? Are you in need of inspiration?  The brilliant minds over at Chronicle Books curated 14 commencement speeches that will inspire you while you’re lazing in a hammock or on your couch this summer.  (Reading this book beats sitting on a fold-out chair or bleachers for three hours listening to hundreds of names being called at a graduation ceremony!)
The book contains all sorts of advice, from serious to silly to inspirational, throughout this book.  Here are five favorites of mine:
  • “Nothing that’s easy is really worth very much.” -Madeline L’Engle
  • “Make courageous choices; take bigger risks.” -Dick Costolo
  • “At the end of your days, you will be judged by your gallop, not by your stumble.” -Bradley Whitford
  • “The good news is that you can will things into existence.” -Ira Glass
  • “We all have a set number of days to indent the world with our beliefs, to find and create the beauty that only a finite existence allows for, to wrestle with the question of purpose and wrestle with our answers.” -Jonathan Safran Foer
  • This giveaway is for a copy of Sharing the Blue Crayon, The First Six Weeks of School, The Unstoppable Writing Teacher, and Way More Than Luck. Many thanks to the Center for Responsive Schools, Chronicle Books, Heinemann, and Stenhouse Publishers for donating a copy of these books (i.e., four winners, each of whom will receive one of these books.)
  • For a chance to win this copy of Sharing the Blue Crayon, The First Six Weeks of School, The Unstoppable Writing Teacher, and Way More Than Luck, please leave a comment about this post by Friday, July 3rd at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Sunday, July 5th.
    • Please specify which book(s) you’re most interested in.  Every effort will be made to match winners up with the book of their choice.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, my contacts at Center for Responsive Schools, Chronicle Books, Heinemann, and Stenhouse Publishers will ship your book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the one of these book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – 4 BOOKS YOU SHOULD READ. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

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Thanks to everyone who left a comment on this post.  I did the giveaway this morning.  Here’s who will receive the books:

  • Sharing the Blue Crayon will go to Susie.
  • The First Six Weeks of School will be sent to Teacher Geek.
  • The Unstoppable Writing Teacher will go to aebartlein.
  • Way More Than Luck will be sent to barbarasut.