Every January, I spend some time going through my professional bookshelf. I find that during the bustle of the school year, I forget some of the ideas and practices I was so excited about implementing this year. Sometimes I even come across ideas from years past that would be helpful to bring back. This week, I revisited a few favorites, and I’d like to share them with you.

The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners by Carol Ann Tomlinson

I first learned about Tomlinson during my first graduate classes for my GT MA. Since that first semester, I’ve read many of her articles and books. Tomlinson gets it. She understands the many demands on teachers, and she writes for an audience that is already stretched but still looking for ways to improve. Her suggestions are practical, easy to implement, and they really work. This book has completely changed the way I approach my planning and instruction, and my students are engaged like never before. Seasoned teachers will note several tried-and-true strategies (like the jigsaw), but there are some newer, research-based strategies, as well. Each is presented within a narrative of its use in an actual classroom, and Tomlinson discusses the why, what, and how of differentiation with a purpose. If you buy no other professional texts this school year, buy this one.

The English Teacher’s Companion by Jim Burke

This book covers it all: reading, writing, speaking, listening–all with practical activities that are backed by sound pedagogy.

The Art of Styling Sentences by Ann Longknife and K.D. Sullivan

This remains my favorite way to teach grammar and punctuation. The sentence patterns give students impressive ways to improve their syntax. This was one of my favorite parts of my AP Lit class. I’m always looking for ways to do a better job teaching the patterns (my teacher friend and I are working on video lessons!).

Never Work Harder Than Your Students by Robyn R. Jackson

The first time I read this book, I was just a couple of years into my teaching career. I ended up taking pages of notes for every chapter–notes that I continue to revisit several times each school year. I love the practical solutions to make the classroom student-centered and to help students take ownership of their learning and success.

Book Love by Penny Kittle

This book was a gift from my beloved student teacher. Our school is rife with proudly self-proclaimed non-readers, and getting kids to actually read an entire book (!) is sometimes a challenging task. Kittle embraces this challenge and provides strategies for engaging every student in reading. I’ve implemented many of her suggestions, and I’m pleased to say that students have made tremendous strides in their identities as readers. Students cheerfully pick challenging books and stick with them, even engaging independently in insightful discussion about their reading! Isn’t that the English teacher’s dream?

The Collaborative Teacher by Cassandra Erkins, et al

This was actually the focus of a book study I did with an administrator-led group last year, but it is proving particularly useful this year as our school has committed to developing stronger Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). The book provides a framework for developing teacher leadership, collaborating (even with those who are resistant to collaboration and change), and improving instruction–all through PLCs. The tips in this book have led to some intriguing discussions with my peers across content, but they have also helped me navigate some difficult and frustrating professional relationships with very positive outcomes.

Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This book was given to me by a beloved teacher and mentor; she had received a copy from her mentor when she started teaching. It’s a serene reflection on finding inner peace. Gift from the Sea reminds me to simplify my life and focus on what’s important. This is my go-to on a tough day, over the summer, whenever I need renewal.

What are the go-to texts on your bookshelf this year?

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