6 Professional Development Books for English and Language Art Teachers to Read This Summer

I look forward to summer break somewhere around November 1st. I’m not kidding. I love Thanksgiving and winter break just as much as the next teacher, but I’ve usually got one thing on my mind that’s keeping me moving forward: three. months. off. And not just off, but off with nice weather, camping, swimming, and all the things. 

But aside from attacking the family bucket list with vigor and vim, I also have an obsession with reading and studying the craft of teaching (aka pedagogy). 

I thoroughly enjoy reading professional literature about teaching throughout my summer. I also love scouring forums and blogs, reading candid conversations between teachers about favorite texts and strategies, books that changed their lives, and books that didn’t. 

I’ve compiled a list of books that literally changed my game. If you’re looking for a few great reads to add to your summer reading list, be sure to check these ones out!

Reimagining 180 Days With Students

Friends, I went to CCIRA two years ago with my content partner and we were BLOWN away! Kelly Gallagher & Penny Kittle were the keynote speakers and their session was unbelievable. I was a total fangirl! We bought their latest book, 180 Days, devoured it, and made plans mid-February to completely flip everything as we finished out the school year. I’m talking warm-ups, grammar, vocabulary, reading, writing, THE WHOLE THING. We fell in love with the routines and structures by the end of the year and found that we could get pretty close to “fitting it all in” with a logical flow that felt good. Whether you teach in 45-minute, 60-minute, 75-minute, or 90-minute periods, this book is completely adaptable to fit your needs. If you’re struggling to fit in all 1,247 language arts standards – give this one a try.

Feeling More Confident With Writing Instruction

I’m not going to lie, when I first took the Language Arts position in 6th grade, I felt extremely under-qualified to teach middle school writing. I’d never had this problem in elementary, but just having the title somehow elevated the task and created intense pressure. I spent my summer reading Kelly Gallagher’s book Write Like This. (Can you tell I love Kelly Gallagher?) Y’all, this book literally WAS my first-year writing curriculum. It contains so. many. great. ideas for teaching engaging writing units, but it also really drives home the importance of modeling writing for your students by being a writer in front of them. I felt raw and exposed. I felt embarrassed by my writing more times than I can count (and, hello, I taught 11- and 12-year olds, ummm…?), but I stuck to it. I connected better with my kids, I showed them more of who I was, and I also {unintended consequence} gave my struggling writers a starting place. This one is an evergreen!

Creating Powerful Readers

With all the pressures of state-testing, performance frameworks, and teacher evaluation models, it can be easy to get stuck in the weeds of standards-based instruction and lose sight of the big picture in education. Disrupting Thinking  really helped me strike a balance with teaching the standards and also valuing the readers and writers in my classroom as people. It changed the way I spoke with students about our responsibilities as readers and writers, and it helped us to have richer classroom discussions. If you want to seriously confront the current state of reading in the classroom and think differently about creating powerful readers, add Disrupting Thinking by Robert Probst and Kylene Beers to your summer reading list.

Teaching Vocabulary in Context

If you find yourself struggling to fit in vocabulary instruction, Laura Robb lays out a wealth of ready-to-go lessons with paired texts for teaching vocabulary in context. The beauty of this book is that it can complement your poetry unit fabulously (if you choose to use it that way) and you can kill two birds with one stone. It also makes a great resource for intervention teachers working with students on reading comprehension. An added benefit is that you can access all of the resources Robb includes in the book through the online companion site – making it ridiculously easy to print and go.

Making Visible Learning Your Bread and Butter

Forgive me, but I’m going to toot my own horn for a split second. I often get compliments from classroom visitors about the structures I use in my lessons. The way I facilitate thinking routines and classroom discussions makes me look like a far-better teacher than I probably am. Here’s my secret: years ago, I read Making Thinking Visible front to back and filled it with highlights, post-it flags, dog ears, scribbles, and anything else you can imagine. I pulled every last drop of information from that book that I could. Then, I created a folder of resources from which I could quickly pull and integrate into lessons all year long. It made planning easier, but more importantly, it helped me more easily guide students into deeper thinking and establish a culture of critical thinkers from day one. Do yourself a favor: make visible learning your bread and butter by reading and implementing this one. Your admin will thank you.

Learning Remotely Made Easier

As much as I want to ignore the elephant in the room, I won’t. With the current state of education amidst a global pandemic (thanks, COVID-19), teachers everywhere are scrambling to reinvent their instruction for distance learning. While simply substituting digital versions of paper resources isn’t the ideal way to integrate technology, it is a bit necessary right now. Matt Miller offers a quick read with ready-made digital resources and ideas for teachers to use right now in Ditch That Textbook. However, Miller will also push your thinking about technology integration by challenging you to think about how you can better use technology to augment, modify, and redefine learning in the future. Grab this one to help you survive distance learning right now, but hold on to it for when you return to the classroom and begin to rethink how you use technology.

Increasing Student Voice in the Classroom Through Inquiry

If you are a novice with inquiry-based learning but want to increase learner agency in your classroom, Trevor Mackenzie’s Dive Into Inquiry will offer a scaffolded approach on how to get started. Whether you offer your students opportunities to drive their learning with structured, controlled, guided, or free inquiry, you will certainly see increased engagement among your students. This book provides incredible student examples from Mackenzie’s Canadian classroom of what inquiry-based learning is capable of. An inspiring and quick read that will motivate you to shift the ownership of learning in your classroom.

If you give any one of these books a shot this summer, drop back in and let me know what you think. I love to hear from other teacher readers!