One of the ironies of teaching– where there’s a plethora of great teaching strategies (and acronyms to match)– is that we fall into ruts. We go to conferences, read trade books, subscribe to journals, and we receive so many effective tips that it’s almost too much of a good thing. For me, I get excited about everything and I want to use it all RIGHT NOW. Enthusiasm is great, but practice is another. I often feel overloaded and overwhelmed and uncertain how to implement all of the strategies I want, so often times I fall back to my comfort zone, feeling like the failure the media and society makes teachers out to be.
This is why I value teacher Kelly Gallagher and his book Deeper Reading: Comprehending Challenging Texts, 4-12. This is my go-to book for when I get into my ruts. He provides clear explanations as to why it’s important for students to go through first and second draft reading of texts and how to get them to discover the texts meaning on their own by making their own connections. He has tips for guiding and assessing comprehension and how to encourage kids to get through those trouble zones where they want to give up reading. His strength is how to direct students into delving beyond the surface of the text. He shows how metaphorical thinking allows students to better understand character motivation and themes. His section on taking his students from what a text says, to what it means, to why it matters is particularly helpful. There are strategies for students to apply themes to their own lives and world, and collaborative group work ideas that make sense.
I could go on and on about the virtues of Gallagher’s book, and you could easily see how one might be over-whelmed. But this is what I like the most about this book, all of his suggestions are low-prep and can easily be added to the curriculum. I don’t have to re-invent the wheel or overhaul my lesson plans. He provides many of his own examples of student work, so I know what it’s supposed to look like. Plus, the majority of his strategies are fun (a benefit to student and teacher). Since I have tried some of them in my classroom, I know that they challenge the students to think without intimidating them. On the flip side, the book challenges me to be a better teacher without intimidating me.
Educators, which books have the top spot on your teaching bookshelf?