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10 Books to Read During Summer Break

Jacqui Murray

Summer break is a great time to reset your personal pedagogy to an education-friendly mindset and catch up on what's been changing in the ed world while you were teaching eight-ten hours a day. My Twitter friends, folks like @mrhowardedu and @Coachadamspe, gave me great suggestions on books to read during summer break that I want to share with you. But first, a comment on the selections: I did get more suggestions than I could possibly list, so I focused on books that were positive and uplifting rather than dark and foreboding. Yes, there is a lot wrong with education around the world, but I wanted a selection of books that would send me -- and you -- back to teaching in the fall with a can-do attitude for how to accomplish miracles with your next class of students.

Our Granular List of Teacher-Approved Books to Keep You Busy this Summer Break

Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times

by Eric C. Sheninger

Digital Leadership defines a strategic mindset and set of behaviors that leverage resources to create a meaningful, transparent, and engaging school culture. It takes into account recent changes such as connectivity, open-source technology, mobile devices, and personalization of learning to dramatically shift how schools have been run for over a century.

Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns

by Clayton M. Christensen

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Selected as one of Business Week's Best Books on Innovation in 2008, Disrupting Class is filled with fascinating case studies, scientific findings, and insights into how managed innovation can unleash education. As important today as it was a decade ago, Disrupting Class will open your eyes to new possibilities and evolve your thinking. For more detail, read my review, Disrupting Class.

For more on how innovation is changing education, see also Disrupting Class, Expanded Edition: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.

Ditch That Homework

by Matt Miller and Alice Keeler

In Ditch That Homework, two fresh voices in education philosophy discuss the pros and cons of homework, why teachers assign it, and what life could look like without it. Miller and Keeler share parent and teacher insights and provide data analysis that you can apply to your unique student group. Ultimately, they build a convincing case for ditching or minimizing homework with strategies for improving learning through differentiation and student agency.

A Handbook for Beginning Teachers

by Robert E. MacDonald

Though printed in 1999, this handbook for beginning teachers continues to offer a well-balanced approach to teaching methods bridging both the idealism of teaching and the realism of American schools. It offers strong historical perspectives while introducing current coverage such as the use of technology in the classroom.

How We Think

by John Dewey

Though John Dewey died in 1952, he remains one of the premier educational philosophers whose wide collection of topical education books are included in many (all?) teacher training programs. In How We Think, Dewey shares his views on the teacher's role in training students to think well. Though written in the early 1900s, few of the basics have changed in how to encourage thinking, a cornerstone of authentic learning (read this article on Habits of Mind). Explore this book as much to discover one of the influential figures in education reform as for the content.

This book is free online. The link above takes you to Amazon for a free Kindle download.

The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity

by George Couros

In The Innovator's Mindset, Couros explains how you as an educator can respond to a student's natural curiosity, feed his/her passion to explore, and shape the way s/he learns. It includes practical suggestions as well as authentic accounts of leaders and learners who are innovating “Inside the box.”

The New Yorker Book of Teacher Cartoons

by Robert Mankoff

This is a hilarious compilation of more than 100 pithy cartoons that capture the joy, terror, excitement, anxiety, fun, and bedlam that teachers experience every day. Through the eyes of The New Yorker's best-loved cartoonists, educators will learn how to take their profession with a "Grain of salt and three grains of aspirin". Keep this in your bottom desk drawer for those days when you wonder if it's time to light your hair on fire.

The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined

by Salman Khan

The mastermind behind Khan Academy who single-handedly (almost) brought free high-quality education to anyone with an Internet connection, Salman Khan's The One World Schoolhouse explains Khan's vision for equitable education. Discover how millions of students, parents, and teachers use Khan Academy's free videos in a growing number of classrooms and homeschools around the globe.

Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College

by Doug Lemov

Teach Like a Champion provides effective teaching techniques to help educators become champions in the classroom. These techniques are concrete, specific, and easy to implement immediately. At the end of each chapter are training activities to help the reader reflect on and apply the ideas to their own students.

Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity and Transform Your Life as an Educator

by Dave Burgess

Teach Like a Pirate encourages teachers to reinvigorate their classes by tapping into their passion for teaching, their personal well of creativity, and the energy that originally drove them to become teachers. This book includes practical techniques and innovative ideas as well as more than 30 hooks and 170 brainstorming questions. You will turn the last page ready to innovate in ways that will increase student engagement and transform your life as an educator.

The Understanding by Design Guide to Creating High-Quality Units

by Grant Wiggins, Jay McTighe

The Understanding by Design Guide to Creating High-Quality Units offers instructional modules on the basic concepts and elements of Understanding by Design (see my review of Understanding by Design for more detail), the "Backward design" approach used by thousands of educators to create curriculum units and assessments that focus on developing student understanding of important ideas. The eight modules are organized around the UbD Template, and feature components similar to what is typically provided in a UbD design workshop.

Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning

by John Hattie

Visible Learning for Teachers analyzes 15 years of education research with the goal of explaining how inspired students learn and how effective educators teach. The author offers concise and user-friendly summaries of the most successful interventions and practical step-by-step guidance to successful implementation.

For more detail, see my review of John Hattie's Visible Learning philosophy.

The Four O'Clock Faculty

by Rich Czyz

The Four O'Clock Faculty identifies ways to make professional development (PD) meaningful, efficient, and, personally relevant by explaining why some PD is awful and what you can do to change that.

Five Minds for the Future

by Howard Gardner

In Five Minds for the Future, bestselling author Howard Gardner, author of The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, shows how we each must master "Five minds": The Disciplined mind, the synthesizing mind, the creating mind, the respectful mind, and the ethical mind.

Howard Gardner, aside from or because of his seminal research in multiple intelligences, has been cited by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the one hundred most influential public intellectuals in the world.

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Pick one or more of these oft-discussed books, be it pedagogy or hands-on experiences, overarching or specific applications. Or read them all. You will come away feeling informed and current on the best thinking in the education field.


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of more than 100 ed-tech resources, including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, and K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in ed-tech, master teacher, webmaster for four blogs, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on ed-tech topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning. Read Jacqui’s tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days.