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Book Studies


Academic Conversations: Classroom Talk That Fosters Critical Thinking and Content Understandings

by Jeff Zwiers and Marie Crawford
Academic Conversations will assist teachers build the following:

  • Academic vocabulary and grammar

  • Critical thinking skills such as persuasion, interpretation, consideration of multiple perspectives, evaluation, and application

  • Literacy skills such as questioning, predicting, connecting to prior knowledge, and summarizing

  • Complex and abstract essential understandings in content areas such as adaptation, human nature, bias, conservation of mass, energy, gravity, irony, democracy …

  • An academic classroom environment brimming with respect for others’ ideas, equity of voice, engagement, and mutual support

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Best Practice: Today’s Standards for Teaching and Learning in America’s Schools, 3rd Edition

by Steven Zemelman, Harvey Daniels, and Arthur Hyde

“This is a book about excellent teaching and powerful learning. Its principles come from authoritative and reliable sources—the major professional organizations, research centers, and subject-matter groups in American education. Its recommendations draw upon scientific research of rigorous design, both experimental and qualitative. The classroom stories woven through the book come from some of the country’s most accomplished teachers. And the practices endorsed here have proven their effectiveness with students from kindergarten through high school, across the curriculum, and among learners of diverse languages, abilities, personalities, and learning styles” (Preface V). 

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Dancing with the Pen: The Learner as a Writer

by Published by the New Zealand Ministry of Education 

The Ministry responded to a shift from writing product to writing process in the 1980’s.  “Teachers seldom looked beyond the surface features – the weaknesses of spelling, punctuation, grammar and usage….Writing was seldom considered as a tool for communicating, recording and understanding.” 

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Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning

by Mike Schmoker

In this book, Mike Schmoker encourages teachers to zero in on what he calls the "three essential elements" of high-quality schooling: coherent curriculum, effective whole-class instruction, and purposeful reading and writing.  Schmoker describes a coherent curriculum as a pared down but rich body of academic content knowledge that would allow teachers to delve deeply into essential subject-area topics and draw on a variety of source materials. Effective instruction includes guided practice, formative assessment, and ongoing adjustment to instruction. Schmoker emphasizes authentic literacy.  He believes that students should be doing a great deal more close reading and analytical writing than they commonly do.  He provides detailed chapters on how this literacy-intensive approach would work not only in language arts, but also in social studies, science, and math. 

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Reading To, With, and By Children

by Margaret E. Mooney 

This book is based on the author’s New Zealand experiences as a teacher, consultant, editor, and educator.  The book is based on the premise that what happens during reading time is affected by and affects everything that happens during the entire school day.  The book is intended to support teachers with making informed decisions about the learning opportunities that are offered to students to ensure that reading is an enjoyable and successful experience. 

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Rigor is Not a Four Letter Word

by Barbara R. Blackburn

Even if you read this book right after it was published (2008), it would be helpful to reread it with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Learning Observation Instrument (LOI) in mind.  Both are very much related to the content of this book.  The author includes research, explanations, and specific strategies to help teachers provide challenging learning experiences in their classrooms. In this book study, elements of the LOI are underlined to draw your attention to the elements as you consider the questions. 

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Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner

by Persida Himmele and William Himmele

This ASCD Study Guide is designed to enhance your understanding and application of the information contained in Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner published in July 2011. You can use the study guide before or after you have read the book, or as you finish each chapter.  The study questions provided are not meant to cover all aspects of the book, but, rather, to address specific ideas that might warrant further reflection. Most of the questions contained in this study guide are ones you can think about on your own, but you might consider pairing with a colleague or forming a study group with others who have read (or are reading) Total Participation Techniques;  Making Every Student an Active Learner. 

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