Keen on Reading in 2014!

I mentioned in a previous post that one of my goals for this year is to try to maintain a connection to the broader world of education beyond my school and my classroom. To that end, I’ve decided to finally tackle some of the books that I kept writing down in the margins of my notes during graduate school but never had the time to read when I had so much other reading to do.

So, here’s my list. I am including it here both to find out if any of you have read these books and to let you know what the subjects of some of my future posts are likely to be. I plan to write up my thoughts and reflections on these titles as I read my way through this list. My hope is that they will leave my more well-informed about many different facets of education, inspired and prepared to implement more “radical” practices in my own classroom, and endowed with a stronger critical lens through which to filter my teaching experiences.

I’ve broken the books down by category — it’s going to be a busy year for reading!

Gender and Sexuality:

  • The Second Sex – Simone de Beauvoir
  • Real Boys – William Pollack
  • From the Dress-Up Closet to the Senior Prom – Jennifer Bryan

Language and Literacy:

  • Literature as Exploration – Louise Rosenblatt
  • The Experience of Reading – John Clifford
  • Mosiac of Thought – Ellin Keene and Susan Zimmerman
  • Readicide – Kelly Gallagher


  • Teach Like a Chamption – Doug Lemov
  • Make Just One Change: Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions – Dan Rothstein
  • Invent to Learn – Sylvia Martinez
  • Place-Based Education – David Sobel
  • Real Talk for Real Teachers – Rafe Esquith

The Broader World of Education:

  • Reign of Error – Diane Ravitch
  • The Smartest Kids in the World – Amanda Ripley
  • The Death and Life of the Great American School System – Diane Ravitch
  • The Flat World and Education – Linda Darling-Hammond

Inequality, Diversity, and Multiculturalism: 

  • Teaching Toward Freedom – Bill Ayers
  • Rethinking Multicultural Education – Wayne Au (Rethinking Schools)
  • Open Minds to Equality – Nancy Schniedewind and Ellen Davidson (Rethinking Schools) 
  • The Skin That We Speak – Lisa Delpitt
  • Multiplication is For White People – Lisa Delpitt
  • The Price of Inequality – Joseph Stiglitz
  • There Are No Children Here – Alex Kotlowitz

What titles are on your “to-read” lists?


One Week Down!

I am so glad that the first week of school was only four days – the first few days were at times exhilarating, sometimes frustrating, always eye-opening, and extremely exhausting! Overall, though, I felt that my first week was one of the smoothest that a first year teacher could have. None of the scenarios I’d pictured in my nightmares, like kids screaming and running wildly through the room, came even close to being realized…thank goodness!

This year, I’ll be sharing my classroom with 14 (soon to be 15 when my new student arrives during the third week of school) bright-eyed and curious students. Because my school is so small, I am the only second grade teacher and all of my students were in class with each other last year. Thus, this week, I didn’t have to expend a lot of energy on ice-breakers and get to know you games — though I do plan to utilize lots of these types of activities during the early months so that I can hopefully shake up some of their pre-established friendships. Things seem a little bit “cliquey” in my class — there are definitely certain groups of students that always congregate together. Thus far, I’ve been using popsicle sticks with their names on them to randomly assign groups in hopes of getting them to mingle with each other a bit more. So far, they’ve also taken my requests to talk to someone new to heart, which I hope will continue to happen.

We’ve done so much this first week! We started our September read aloud book Matilda on the first day and the kids adore it — they were very disappointed on Thursday when I didn’t read it to them during their snack because I was also hungry! The students have also been great sports during the benchmark spelling and math tests that I gave them to assess where they currently are in terms of second grade material. At my school, we’re also working on having flexible grouping of kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders, so we’ve had our first few “get to know each other” meetings. My students have really impressed me with their ability to act like role models for the younger kids.

My kids had a ball brainstorming our classroom rules. I asked them to picture the WORST classroom that they could imagine — a place where no learning could possibly take place — and we wrote down their descriptions of that classroom on the board. Then, we brainstormed our own rules that will ensure that our room doesn’t turn into that nightmare room. The kids loved sharing the details of their imagined classrooms. We also learned all about blogs and made our first blog post together; talked about the purpose and importance of school and equity while reading The Story of Ruby Bridges, the first book in our biography unit; and spent time exploring the five iPads that I received from my district for my classroom.

The students favorite activities of the week were the classroom scavenger hunt that I designed as a more exciting way to familiarize them with our classroom. classroom_scavenger_hunt and filling out the applications for our classroom jobs. (Announcing that not everyone got their first choice job, however, could have gone a little bit better!) My principal came in to check up on how I was doing during these activities — if he keeps coming in during all of the best moments, he’s going to think I know what I’m doing!

Overall, things have been going really well. I’m eager to start to delve into some of the curriculum that I’ve been working so hard on, but I am also trying to balance that with establishing our routines and procedures, because I know we’ll get far more accomplished if the students are invested in and familiar with how things work in our classroom. I’ll be sure to post some of our classroom community creations and describe my September unit of study — biographies — in more detail in upcoming posts.