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 Slate.com 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.

Maintain Energy Before a Break by Doing Something New and Unfamiliar

Community IN THE

In football, there is the two minute drill.  In basketball, there is the fourth-quarter, full-court press.  In a marathon there is the home stretch.

In the classroom, there is the time before vacation.

These situations involve pressure, an energy boost, but also opportunities.  They are times choices are made.

For teachers these choices center around questions like  How will I react to the buzzing environment?  Will I stay focused?  What can I do to finish strong?

A simple response to this situation of increased distractions outside of the classroom and increased energy and “uneasiness” inside the classroom might be to buckle down on the modus operandi–make sure students are on-task and on-time.

This post asks you to consider a different perspective.   … Read more…

Follow in My Booksteps: The Ultimate End of Year Assignment

Empower your students to leave a legacy with the Follow in My Booksteps project.

In The Fault in Our Stars, John Green wrote “Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”

This student-centered reading experience  fosters a love of books through peer recommendation and mentorship. Older students serve as guides for younger readers, with personal notes of encouragement to spark a love of reading.

What makes this different is that it is not the teacher handing a student a book with a study guide saying, “read this and answer these questions by such and such a date.” Follow in My Booksteps is giving the gift of a worthy reading experience. It is an organic means of developing reluctant and passionate readers alike. It is about looking a student in the eye and saying, “this book meant something important to someone else and I think it can mean something to you as well.:

Let students pay-it-forward. Allow them to put great literature in the hands of younger students today.

Here’s how it works:

1. Students donate books from their personal library that they loved and that they wish to share the possibility of a similar love with  someone else.

2. Students write an inscription, explaining what they loved about the book and encouraging others to enjoy it as well.

3. The collected books are then distributed to younger students to foster a love of books and reading.

June Summer Read Choices

Here are the choices for June’s non-fiction read. So many great books, so little time. May the best read win.

1. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.
On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.

Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she became a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize. … Read more…

The Secret to Close Reading Success

Community IN THE (12)

Wait a minute… if you hand out a study guide and ask students to find the answers in the textbook, that doesn’t count as close reading?

That is what some of my high school teachers did. They had stacks of ‘em. Finish one ditto and they would whip out another. Classwork and homework simply became a scavenger hunt — scan topic sentences, search for dates or figures, guesstimate where an answer would be — and you didn’t have to really read. The work was predictable, routine, and easy.

But did deep understanding occur? Were we learning? … Read more…

The Talks with Teachers Summer Book Club



It’s summertime and the reading is…a bit more relaxed.

Ready to lose yourself in the imaginative world of a novel? Ready to restore your spirit with inspirational non-fiction? Are you searching for a way to grow professionally with an educational book?

Talks with Teachers can meet all three needs. We have an awesome community that will support, inspire, and expand your thinking. … Read more…

The Top 15 Books for Teachers

Community IN THE (10)

Summer is fast approaching and it is time to think about the slow life  — backyard bbqs, cold glasses of lemonade on the porch, and books by the pool.

I went through all of the episodes of the podcast and reached out to teachers on Twitter to share the best professional book they have read recently.

Are you looking for the most impactful, the most inspiring, the most beneficial books that will help you succeed in the classroom? Perhaps you need ways to improve the way in which you motivate students. Perhaps you want to build a better classroom culture. Need new ways to teach reading and writing across the curriculum? Or, you might be curious about trends like Genius Hour and project-based learning.

Boy, do I have a list for you. … Read more…