Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer Reads

It has been my goal to read at least one book a month during the school year and three books a month in the summer.

Sometimes I have a lot better luck than other times, depending on the paper load during the school year.

So far this summer, it's been a little slow, but here is the list for this summer:

Penny Kittle -Write Beside Them.

This is a re-read.  I first read it about four years ago, and while it really blew me away, I didn't fully let the book sink in.

This time, though, it's different.  This book is going to totally transform how I teach College Composition I.

So I'm taking my time with it.  I read it for a second time in about a week.  Now, though, I'm slowly working my way through it - and as I do - I'm jotting down notes and devising lesson plans with an eye on implementing them in CC next fall.

I can't recommend this book highly enough.

Zig Ziglar - Born to Win.

I just started this one last night.  While I've listened to dozens of podcasts, namely those featuring Seth Godin and Dave Ramsey, that talk very highly about Ziglar, I have never read any of his works before, so this is my intro to him.

So far it's phenomenal, and it was really hard to put down last evening.

Plus, any book that has a QR code on the cover is awesome!

Best of all, I won this book as a result of my addiction to the podcast enterleaderhip, which gives away books with each new episode.

Thomas Newkirk - Holding on to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones.

This book also came highly recommended from a Heinemann podcast I was listening to featuring Nancy Atwell.  Her school read this as a PD read.

The core thesis of the book is to explore how the rise of "bad" ideas came to dominate our education landscape.  Those "bad" ideas being mainly the dominance of high stakes (and very low quality) tests (thanks to NCLB and backed up with RTTT and now still dominated by WBWF - don't know what those acronyms means?  Don't worry.  There will be new ones in a few months anyway) and reading strictly for "skills" as opposed to reading for pleasure and the dominance of the five paragraph theme style of writing that chokes any pleasure out of writing for students.

Newkirk is one smart man.  And his chapter on "Expressive Writing: Maybe the best Idea of All" is a great history of the rise of expressive writing, touching on some of the biggest names in comp theory: James Britton, Peter Elbow, and Donald Murray.  Great, great stuff.

And it's a good reminder for me as we - as a department at LHS - take the plunge into a very standardized curriculum (far more standardized than we have ever had before) - that regardless of how amazing the curriculum is, the developers of Collections don't know (and can never know) the 15 kids in my Lit and Lang 9 class as well as I do.  There will always be a need to inject a little creativity and personality into our curriculum to tailer it to meet the needs of our kids.

Tom Romano - Crafting Authentic Voice.

Like Kittle's book, this one is a re-read.  When I read this about ten years ago, I found it to be the best, most useful teaching manual on writing that I have ever encountered.  It changed how I taught writing every single day in my class.

Now I'm re-reading it on the heels of Write Beside Them to hopefully catch any snippets of prose to use in class as mentor texts or ideas to use to improve my teaching of writing.

The chapter, "The Five Paragraph You Know What" is worth the price of the book.  In fact, I have bought this and given it to several of my former students who have graduated and are considering becoming English teachers.  It's that good!

The Benham Brothers - Whatever the Cost.

This was another freebie that I got for listening to the entreleadership podcast.

This book has a stronger religious bent than any I have read before, as the Benham brothers are strong Souther Baptists, but it doesn't overwhelm the real reason I'm reading the book, which is their idea of how you must "die to your dreams," which is very similar to Seth Godin's concept of The Dip.

Their point is you have to chase your dreams with everything you have, but in the end, you have to hold your dreams with an open hand, for they may very well not come true.  Then what are you going to do?  Call it a life?

Nope.  Let them go and trust in the lord to offer you a new dream to chase.

Erik Larson - The Devil in the White City.

This is a new addition to my College Comp 2 curriculum.  I read this a few summers ago and added it to my classroom library.  This is one of the few free reading books I have my students choose that every kid just loves and finds fascinating.

This is the story of the Chicago World Fair in 1893 (that is the White City of the title), which also coincided with one of America's first serial killers, J.J. Holmes (he is the devil of the title).

Since I read it casually several years ago, I'll have to read it with a more diligent eye this summer to develop some curriculum around it, just as I did last summer when I got The Ghost Map to use in my CC 1 curriculum.

Marc S. Tucker - Surpassing Shanghai.

I actually bought this book last summer with some classroom budget dollars, but I never got around to reading it (it's still in the packaging wrap), so I'm saving this one for later this summer to give me some insights that will help me with my UND Teaching and Learning 250 class this fall.

I'm an ed policy junkie and could read stuff like this all the time, though I still have to read the next book too that has sat on my shelf for far too long.

Diane Ravitch - Reign of Error.

Ravitch is one of my all time favorites in the world of education reform.  Her book - The Life and Death of the Great American School System, which I devoured a couple summers ago, was one of the best serious looks at the modern education landscape I have ever read.  This should be mandatory reading for ever single teacher in America.

Her most recent book will work well with Newkirk's book.

Thomas C. Foster - How to Read Literature Like a Professor.

Who wouldn't want to read this book with a title like that?

I saw this in a textbook magazine a few years ago and ordered a sample copy (we currently use this in our AP English class).  I just haven't had time yet to read it, which I am planning on doing mid-July.

And finally a couldn't go a summer without reading one of my all-time favs: Seth Godin.

I just bought his classic, Tribes, on my iPhone (the audiobook) and will listen to it while I log some miles on the treadmill.

I was just listening to Michael Hyatt's podcast and he said he devours books while on the treadmill.  I never thought of that before. (Coincidentally, this book made Hyatt's all time top ten list . . . Who doesn't love Godin's work?)

I'm currently on a weight loss regimen, which include bouts of high intensity running with short walking bursts, so that requires some good old rock and roll (AC/DC, Judas Priest, Def Leppard, Metallica) to survive.  However, I do a warm up mile and then a cool down mile where I like to just let my mind wander.  I think this will be an excellent place to listen to Tribes, especially when Godin himself is the narrator of the audio book.

Well, hopefully I can knock those off before my birthday at the end of summer.  Despite all my high hopes of keeping up with my reading, once school starts and those papers start to roll in, reading is not as high of a priority as it is in the summer.

Wish me luck!

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