August Back-to-School Book


Ready for back-to-school?

I’m slowly starting to think about my classroom, my plans, and my goals for the year.

I’m also ready to read an education book to get me in that mindset.

If you want to read and grow with over 200 educators, grab a copy of Learn Like a PIRATE, and join our Facebook group.

Want to Know More About the Book?

Here’s a summary:

Collaboration. Empowerment. Student Leadership. These buzz words get a lot of press, but what do they really mean for today’s students? Can students really handle the responsibility of leading the class? Can they actually learn what they need to if they are working together so often? Won’t all this freedom cause chaos in the classroom? Not if you’re teaching them to learn like PIRATES!

Peer Collaboration builds community and supports teamwork and cooperation.
Improvement-focused learning challenges students to constantly strive to be their best.
Responsibility for daily tasks builds ownership in the classroom.
Active learning turns boring lessons into fun and memorable experiences.
Twenty-first century skills engage students now and prepare them for their futures.
Empowerment allows students to become confident risk-takers who make bold decisions.

Charlotte Danielson says:

“In Learn Like a PIRATE, Paul Solarz explains how to design classroom experiences that encourage students to take risks and explore their passions in a stimulating, motivating, and supportive environment where improvement, rather than grades, is the focus. The particular techniques (and the underlying philosophy) he offers are highly consistent with teaching practice at the distinguished level in my Framework for Teaching. In that model, I tried to describe, at the distinguished level, classrooms in which the teacher has created a community of learners, with the students themselves assuming much of the responsibility for what occurs there. Mr. Solarz offers specific ideas for how to accomplish that.”

#72 — Penny Kittle: Engaging Readers and Building Better Writers


Penny Kittle is an English teacher, literacy coach, and director of new teacher mentoring at Kennett High School in North Conway, New Hampshire. She teaches 10th, 11th, and 12th graders each fall and also occasionally in the alternative night school for adult students.

Penny is also currently the National Council of Teachers of English Policy Analyst for the State of New Hampshire. You can follow her at

In this episode you will learn:

    • Penny’s travels as a teacher and educator in various states throughout the country
    • Her time as a woodcarving teacher
    • What it takes to be a good coach in sports and how that is transferrable to coaching teachers
    • The impact Donald Graves had on her teaching
    • The importance of teachers existing as writers
    • Mini lessons are most efficient and least effective and conferring is least efficient yet most effective.
    • How to turn dependent learners into independent thinkers
    • What type of feedback matters to students
    • The two books that are fascinating her right now:


  • Why teachers need to help students set specific, measure goals
  • Why every teacher needs to feed his or her own curiosity and fascination
  • How the Book Love Foundation has come to define her professional life and serve as her biggest source of pride.

August Choices

In July, there were over 100 threads on Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, totaling well over 700 comments.

That’s what we do in the TWT Summer Book Club. We read, discuss, share, and learn. It is a community that is rich and supportive, and we want you to vote for the book that will create a brighter, bolder, better you in the classroom. Join us this August as we prepare for back to school and help you craft a better, bolder, brighter you in the classroom. To be a part of the group, just submit your email at the bottom of this post.

Read more…

#71 Michael Dunlea — Listening to Student Voices

mike d

Michael Dunlea became a teacher for the same reason most did, he wanted to make a difference. He decided to become a teacher via the alternate route after working in restaurant/hotel management for over 20 years. He was a finalist for the NJ State Teacher of the Year, which set him on a path of teacher leadership that included becoming a Teacher Fellow with America Achieves in 2012 and Hope Street Group in 2014.

In this episode you will learn: … Read more…

Books on the Nightstand


By day I’m working my way through Go Set a Watchman. At night, I turn to professional books.

Here’s my summer reading checklist as a teacher. What’s on your nightstand  I’d love to read about it in the comments below

Is Homework Helpful: 5 Question Every Teacher Should Ask

Copy of Community IN THE

This post first appeared on

The Common Core has asked teachers to increase rigor by diving deeper into the material. Consequently, everything has been ramped up, classwork and homework no exception.

My nephew, a fourth grader, has 40-50 minutes of homework a night plus independent reading and projects. When you include a snack break, the distractions from his younger sister, and his fourth-grade attention span that is bound to wander, that time often gets doubled. He is hard working and conscientious, but many nights result in distraction, frustration and anxiety.  … Read more…

July Will Sizzle in the Summer Book Club

Here are the choices for July for the TWT Summer Book Club. So many great books, so little time. Vote for your choice  and may the best read win.

1. Go Set a Watchman: A Novel

An historic literary event: the publication of a newly discovered novel, the earliest known work from Harper Lee, the beloved, bestselling author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Originally written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman was the novel Harper Lee first submitted to her publishers before To Kill a Mockingbird. Assumed to have been lost, the manuscript was discovered in late 2014.

Go Set a Watchman features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Returning home to Maycomb to visit her father, Jean Louise Finch—Scout—struggles with issues both personal and political, involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama town that shaped her.

Exploring how the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird are adjusting to the turbulent events transforming mid-1950s America, Go Set a Watchman casts a fascinating new light on Harper Lee’s enduring classic. Moving, funny and compelling, it stands as a magnificent novel in its own right.

2. Chains (The Seeds of America Trilogy)

If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl?

As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.

From acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson comes this compelling, impeccably researched novel that shows the lengths we can go to cast off our chains, both physical and spiritual.

3. Wonder

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face.WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

“Wonder is the best kids’ book of the year,” said Emily Bazelon, senior editor at and author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

  4. 11/22/63: A Novel


In Stephen King’s “most ambitious and accomplished” (NPR) and “extraordinary” (USA TODAY) #1New York Times bestselling novel, time travel has never been so believable. Or so terrifying.

Dallas, 11/22/63: Three shots ring out.

President John F. Kennedy is dead.

Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in a Maine town. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away…but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke… Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten…and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

Vote for your choice

A New Definition of Rigor


This post first appeared on Edutopia

You would think that it would be more prevalent than it is. But it appears only four times in the Common Core State Standards. Why has a word that is mentioned so little caused such dread, anxiety, and confusion among teachers?

I’m talking about rigor.

When We Say Rigor, What Do We Mean?
Comb through all 66 pages of the ELA standards, and you will find it hiding amid larger conversations about analyzing author’s choice, evaluating sources, and writing arguments. Look in the math standards, and you will not find it at all.

Read more…

The June Choice for the Summer Book Club

The votes are in and Sir Ken Robinson’s The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything is our non-fiction choice for June.

elementSusan Jeffers, the bestselling author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway and Life Is Huge! said of the book“Ken Robinson presents the theme of creativity and innovation in a way that makes you want to go out and make your dreams a reality. In his wonderfully easy-to-read and entertaining style he presents the stories of many who have done just that. This is a valuable book for educators and community leaders … most important, it is a book that lightens and lifts the minds and hearts of all who read it.

It edged I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by a narrow, two-vote margin.

We will begin discussing the early parts of the book during the first week of June on the Community Forum. You can order your copy on Amazon by clicking here.