Whether it’s for professional growth, a fun beach read, (or both!) we’re all talking about the books we want to read this summer.

Here are some summer reading suggestions from educators for educators.

Book: The Zen Teacher by Dan Tric27163769.jpgarico

Author’s Website:

Recommended for: Pre-Service Teachers, Teachers, Administrators, Parents

Recommended by: Rich Czyz, Director of Curriculum and Instruction

“A very easy read with practical strategies for incorporating mindfulness into your classroom and life!”


12979592.jpgBook: What’s Your Evidence? by Carla Zembal-Saul, Katherine L. McNeill, and Kimber Hershberger

Recommended for: All Teachers

Recommended by: Kathy Renfrew, Proficiency Based Team, Science Specialist

“Excellent read on constructing explanations in K-5 science. The book is easily understandable and has very practical, bring back to the classroom suggestions.”


28015715.jpgBook: DIY Literacy by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts

Authors’ Website:

Recommended for: All Teachers

Recommended by: Nicole Jordan, Reading Specialist

“This book will spark so many ideas for the upcoming school year. You’ll be excited to put those ideas to practice with your students.”


9661920.jpgBook: Ready to Lead? A Story for Leaders and their Mentors by Alan Price

Recommended for: Pre-Service Teachers, Teachers, Administrators, Parents

Recommended by: Adam D. Fried, Innovation Leader

“This book allows individuals to break down the process and allows you to think about how and what you want to be when you grow up…”

Have a book that you would like to recommend? We’d love for you to fill out the form below:


~What did YOU do in school today?


readreflectreapeatWhat if we all read #SixtyBooks a year?

Every single one of us.

Students. Teachers. Parents.

What if we carved out time in each day and set it aside for reading? What if we read a few pages whenever we got the chance? What if we read books recommended to us by others in order to expand the story we know about the world? What if we read a variety of authors, books from every country, books representing many experiences and perspectives?

What if we spent more time talking with one another about what we’ve read, and what we’ve learned from what we’ve read?

What if?

Imagine a world in which every one of us reads #SixtyBooks a year.

They can be books we want to read for fun or books we read for information, required reading, suggested reading, shared reading, books read to us, books we read to other people, books we’ve read once (or many times) before, any book at all.

Now, imagine the conversations we would have with one another.

Imagine the topics we might discuss.

Imagine the levels of understanding and empathy we would reach.

This is what #SixtyBooks is all about.


#SixtyBooks is more than a reading challenge or a reading goal, because it is actually the result of what happens when we make reading a priority.

It’s not about the number of books that we read; it’s about what we learn and share because of the books we read.

It’s about who we become as a result of what we learn and share.

#SixtyBooks is a reading movement.

It’s a simple pledge that we can all make by stating:

“I will make reading a regular part of my daily routine.”

Please visit the #SixtyBooks website to find out more, take the pledge, and join this reading movement.

~What did YOU do in school today?

#Read4Fun on Twitter


PURPOSE: What started as a conversation about a love for reading has evolved into a movement to connect passionate educators with books and with each other.  is an upbeat, ignited chat designed to inspire educators to Read4Fun!

Conversations about books, reading for fun. Challenges are put out to the community related to books, authors, reading, etc. Once a month, a #ReadingHero is featured.


CUqcGG2VEAEaZWm.jpgThe creators say, “We are inspired by those that join us each week as we spread the joy of reading and encourage ‘adults’ to find the time to start/continue to each day! We are all passionate about this work.”


SPECIFIC DAYS: Chat times are 1st & 3rd Sundays at 7:00-7:30 pm EDT; the hashtag can be used at other times with posts pertinent to reading for fun.

OTHER INFORMATION: For more information, visit:

Click here for more about the TODAY IN SCHOOL…HASHTAG series.

~What did YOU do in school today?


For the fourth year, teachers are going to writing camp this summer.

Teachers Write! is a voluntary, free, online camp designed for educators and anyone else interested in developing their own writing skills and becoming a better writer. The idea is that by writing every day at camp, educators will hone their craft, gathering ideas and experiences to take back into the classroom and share with student writers. new-teachers-write-2015

Camp is structured; each day there is something planned including writing prompts, mini-lessons, and opportunities to chat directly with the camp hosts, Kate Messner (@KateMessner), Jen Vincent (@MentorTexts), Gae Polisner (@GaePol), and Jo Knowles (@JoKnowles).

Through this camp, teachers have access to published authors who are willing to take the time and mentor them, give feedback on their work, and coach them through the process. Teachers will also gather mentor texts — including the ones they write themselves during camp — and other resources to use with students in their own teaching practice.

Not all of our students are natural writers or even enjoy writing, yet we ask them to live and breathe as writers, every day in school, even when writing may be the last thing in the world that they want to do. Like our students, not all educators are natural writers. This type of professional development activity, therefore, is a true testament to just how dedicated today’s educators are about improving their craft. This type of professional activity pushes teachers out of their comfort zone, forces them to think differently, try new approaches, and experience authentic vulnerability as writers that our students feel each day.

Writing every day, publishing and sharing that writing with others, and reflecting on the writing and the process, is exactly what we ask of our students in school, and it is what teachers are doing through Teachers Write! camp this summer.

For more information about Teachers Write! or to connect with participants, follow the #TeachersWrite hashtag on Twitter.

~What did YOU do in school today?


Not all book club members are alike.

Webb's Depth of Knowledge Wheel

Webb’s Depth of Knowledge Wheel

Whether students are grouped into book clubs by reading level, by interest in book selection, the students choose their own groups, or the grouping is totally random, tiered resources make differentiation and individualized learning possible throughout the entire process.

Using Norman Webb’s Depth of Knowledge Wheel as a model, we can tier book club resources to individualize the learning experience and appropriately challenge all students.

If all students in the class are reading the same book, a tiered book introduction is a good way to accommodate for students whose reading level may be below or above the whole-class selection. As in the example below for The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis, the levels of Webb’s Depth of Knowledge are used to scaffold the the reading for students who are reading below the level of the book by providing the students with the basic information necessary to comprehend more of the complex ideas in the text. Similarly, students reading above the level of the book are also accommodated by being presented with questions that require them to extend their thinking.

With a resource such as this one, there is no set rules for how to use it.

  • A teacher can provide all students in the room with the same sheet and have them move through the depth of knowledge at his or her own pace…
  • or, a teacher can decide to provide students with one level at a time, moving them to the next appropriate level after conferencing with them.
  • Each student in the group can work on the same level at once…
  • or individual students may be assigned different levels.

While it would be nice to have a tiered book introduction written for every book the students will ever read, this is not always possible.  In cases such as these, when book clubs are reading different titles, tiered discussion guides are helpful.

In the example below, all students are reading books in the fantasy genre.  Though the questions are not specifically designed for a particular book, they are designed to work with any book in the genre.  As with the resource above, the teacher coaches the students as to which questions they should be focusing on at a given time.

Sharing the Depth of Knowledge Wheel with students is a great way to encourage that students take ownership of their own thinking and learning.  While the levels do not necessarily need to occur in a specific order, the students can use the wheel as a sort of “student facing checklist” to evaluate the type of work they are doing.

Whether it be their contribution to a group discussion, reading responses, a conclusion in a lab report, or an essay in social studies, students can refer to the wheel and see what type of thinking they are doing most. From there, students can make sure they address any levels of thinking they’ve neglected or not yet fully developed. These strategies also work well when students are reading independent books, reading in partnerships, or when the entire class is reading the same text.

~What did YOU do in school today?


Figure 1 – my annotated example of the text.

For many middle schoolers, writing poetry is a daunting task.  For some, they believe poetry is a sing-songy way to write nonsense for little children.  For some, they believe poetry is a cryptic way to write confusing ideas that no one will ever understand.

For most of them, when asked to write their own poetry, they simply do not know where to begin.

Exposure to many poets and styles of poetry is helpful in breaking down the stereotypes that students bring with them when studying poetry, however, mentor texts are not always enough to build up confidence or breakdown resistance from the most struggling students.  Sometimes, if the students still find the writing to be juvenile or confusing, their resistance to writing poetry will persist.

A fun exercise to use at the beginning of the year, or at the beginning of a poetry unit, is having students create found poetry from a well-known piece of literature.

In the case of this example, I chose a page, at random, from Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.  (I chose this book because a)  the language in the book lends itself well to many poetic devices,  b) most of my students will read the novel next year as part of the 8th grade curriculum, and c) I simply love the book.)

I started by showing students my copy of the text and how I lightly underlined words that “spoke to me”, sounded poetic, or just seemed interesting.  Then, I modeled how I went back through my annotations to try to fit the words, in the order that they already appeared in the text, into phrases that would be come my own poetry.  I circled the words and phrase that I wanted to use, erasing all other marks.  (See figure 1.)

Next, I read my found poem aloud to students:

Free of it
Men collapsed, followed by a flurry of groups
We found out next day it had
Slid across the street
The smoking black hole
Did not want to talk
I found myself clutching my shoulders
I turned for an answer
Away from everybody

They liked the poem and found it interesting that while it “sounded” like a poem, it came from the page of the novel.  Once they seemed to get the hang of what I was asking them to do, they tried it on their own.  For the students who still needed more clarification, more convincing, or just a little more time, we completed one more example together.

This time, rather than modeling the example on a paper copy projected via a document camera, I used a whiteboard application on my iPad and projected the via the AppleTV.  (The intention behind changing modalities was simply to vary the way the concepts were presented; I hoped this would help engage students who might not have responded to the first example.  See Figure 2.)

Figure 2 – second example using a whiteboard app, iPad, and AppleTV


Once students were all engaged in “finding” their own poems from the text, you could hear a pin drop in the room.  They, even the most resistant to poetry, were writing poems!  The students were also all eager to share what they had written with the class.  It was fun for them to see how they each created something very different, even though they were using the exact same page of text.

We explored a number of ways to publish the poems, and here are a few examples:

Figure 3 – Jacky’s illustrated poem directly on the photocopy of the original text.

Figure 4 – Oliver’s cleanly typed, and simply illustrated poem

Figure 5 – Brittany’s poem in her writer’s notebook – art journaling style.

Later in our poetry unit, I could see that the confidence gained from this exercise was directly transferred to other types of poetry students wrote.  It is an exercise that I plan to continue using in the future.

What did YOU do in school today?


No matter what grade level we teach, we ask our students to respond to what they read.

Gone, are the days of the “book report” and instead, we now expect our students to think deeply and respond to literature.

Ultimately, we are teaching literary writing skills that students will use for the rest of their lives, and whether they are going to write an essay, a review, or criticism, they need to become comfortable with taking notes and recording their ideas while they read.

Asking students to “jot” the ideas they have while reading – on something like a sticky note – often incites a chorus of moans and groans.  Many of them absolutely hate doing it.  I even had a student recently and dramatically tell me, “Post-Its are the death of me.”  However, the bottom line is that we need “evidence” of the students’ thinking while reading, and those sticky notes are just so darn easy to organize and move around in notebooks, charts, organizers, and so on.  Many educators keep going back to using them simply because they aren’t sure how else to go about it.

The monotonous act of peeling off a new sticky note from the stack, writing the idea on it, and adhering it to the book sometimes makes reading that much harder for readers who already struggle  – or it becomes the “straw the breaks the camel’s back” for reluctant and unwilling readers.  The last thing we want to do, as educators, is turn kids off of reading.

Today’s technology provides new options for these students, and for us.  The available technology makes it possible for students to show evidence of their thinking in different ways, and they never have to touch a piece of paper if they don’t want to.

One remedy that has presented itself for students who use readers like Nooks, Kindles, or the iPad, is the way that they can actually create and organize notes right there, inside the electronic book.  This is a great option for them, but not all students have such readers.  (This option is a future blog post in and of itself!)  For the students who are still reading “old-fashioned”, paper books, there is another way to integrate technology and accomplish the goal of proving thinking while reading.

The ABC Notes app for Apple products is a current favorite app among my students.  They love it because the notes look just like sticky notes that we use in class and can be customized for color and size.  Students find the app easy to navigate; creating new notes, organizing the notes, and deleting them is very easy to do and does not require much time to learn. The students can color code the notes, add small images, or change the font style or color if they choose.   They can tilt or rotate the notes on the screen if necessary, and the notes expand to accommodate the amount of text typed on them.  The notes can then be exported easily, either one by one or all at once, through email.

The free version of this app allows for one “desktop” at a time, and the paid version allows for multiple “desktops.”  Most of my students use the free version and simply export their work and then clear the app before beginning a new set of notes.  I do like the idea of keeping multiple sets of notes, however, for middle school students, fewer notes to organize inside the app may actually be a good thing.  Clearing the app whenever they begin a new set of notes gives them a fresh start each time.

Once the notes have been exported through email, students can continue editing them, or they can save, print, or store them to be used later.  Because the notes are already in typed format, students can also copy and paste the ideas electronically when elaborating on their ideas further, as with formal essay writing.

I chose this app to share because I’ve noticed struggling and reluctant readers start to read much more and produce better evidence of their thinking while reading when using this app.  They enjoy it, and there are absolutely no moans or groans when my students are asked to record their thoughts while reading – if they get to use this app.

• 88 backgrounds to choose from
• 45 note skins
• 27 badge designs & 115 icons

• 15 virtual desktops
• Scale, rotate and drag notes
• Easy to edit, duplicate, move between desktops
• Supports any iPad orientation

• Email notes and desktops
• Copy note image to any application
• Synchronize notes between iOS devices
• Save notes as image and place to lock or home screen

What did YOU do in school today?