Archive for January 2014

5 Books Anyone Concerned about Education Should Read

January 26, 2014

American education is at a crossroads. There are two paths in front of us: One in which we destroy our strengths in order to “catch up” with others in test scores and one in which we build on our strengths so we can keep the lead in innovation and creativity. Yong Zhao

Anyone interested in a different perspective on PK-12 education and learning might find the following five books fascinating reading. These books will showcase a variety of perspectives that may challenge or change the way you currently perceive educational practices as well as the way in which you perceive learning in general. Any one of these books would make an excellent choice for a study group or book club.

 Catching Up ZhaoCatching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization by Yong Zhao

The above quote is from the introduction and best describes the importance of what Zhao is advocating in his book.  Zhao challenges readers to consider the criticism of schools, which he thinks is misleading and misinformed, while taking into account the impact of globalization on the economic and social landscape. Ultimately, Zhao advocates for leaders to take five actions to ensure a world-class education for American students—actions that are realistic and doable.

Armstrong Best SchoolsThe Best Schools: How Human Development Should Inform Educational Practice by Thomas Armstrong

Armstrong makes a strong case for changing the way we talk about education, moving away from academic achievement discourse toward human development discourse. He argues for developmentally appropriate practices that emphasize play for early childhood learning, theme and project-based learning for elementary students, active learning that focuses on social, emotional and metacognitive needs of middle school students, and mentoring, apprenticeships, and cooperative education for high school students.

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink

Both Zhao and Pink use the words innovation and creativity. According to Pink, the 18th century was the Agriculture Age (farmers), the 19th century, the Industrial Age (factory workers), the 20th century, the Information Age (knowledge workers), and the 21st century, the Conceptual Age (creators and empathizers). In order to maintain our lead in innovation and creativity, Pink advocates that we need to complement our L-Directed reasoning (L for left-brain functions) by mastering six essential R-Directed aptitudes (R for right-brain functions).

Those six high-concept, high-touch senses are:

1. Not just function but also DESIGN.Pink Whole New Mind

2. Not just argument but also STORY.

3. Not just focus but also SYMPHONY.

4. Not just logic but also EMPATHY

5. Not just seriousness but also PLAY.

6. Not just accumulation but also MEANING

The rest of the book defines and describes these six senses with a variety of activities to develop and refine those senses—of which many are fun and easily adapted to the classroom.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

For anyone who teaches any age student, this book is a must-read. Pink supports his theory of motivation with numerous research studies and anecdotes. While it isn’t a surprise that humans are intrinsically motivated, Pink addresses rewards in the following list:

CARROTS AND STICKS: The Seven Deadly FlawsPink Drive

1. They can extinguish intrinsic motivation.

2. They can diminish performance.

3. They can crush creativity.

4. They can crowd out good behavior.

5. They can encourage cheating, shortcuts, and unethical behavior.

6. They can become addictive.

7. They can foster short-term thinking.

 Those who have read Alfie Kohn will appreciate the support that Pink provides for Kohn’s ideas about punishments and rewards.  Included is a list of 15 books for further reading.

The Invisible Gorilla and Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

Of all the books listed, this is the one that will definitely challenge your belief that you see yourself and the world as they really are, but in reality, we’re all missing a lot. The topic is intriguing, the writing is witty, and the answer to why we all see the same situation in different ways becomes more apparent. And for those of us who believe in intuition, this book may change all that. We may want to rethink how we teach and how we keep our students attentive.invisible gorilla

Our goal is to incorporate many of the concepts in these books into the teacher materials we create.  Check out the books and check out our teacher materials at

Surviving to Thriving TPT


The Reason I Jump

January 18, 2014

You can’t judge a person by their looks.  But once you know the other person’s inner self, both of you can be that much closer.  Naoki Higashida

I just finished reading The Reason I Jump, written by a thirteen year old with autism.  Reason I JumpIt’s a quick read that will stay with you for a long time, especially if you are a teacher or someone connected to a child with autism.  Listed below are just a few quotes from this amazing book:

“But, like everyone else we want to do the best we possibly can.  When we sense you’ve given up on us, it makes us feel miserable.  So please keep helping us, through to the end” (Higashida, p. 42).

“I want to grow up learning a million things!  There must be countless other people with autism who have the same desire, the same attitude.  But our problem is, we aren’t capable of studying by ourselves.  To be able to study like other people, we need more time and different strategies and approaches. And those people who help us study, they actually need more patience than we do.  They need to understand our eagerness to learn, even though from the outside we may not appear to be keen students.  But we are.  We, too, want to grow” (Higashida, pp. 81-82).

“The person who’s suffering the most is the one who’s causing all the headaches for everyone else—that is, the one with autism” (Higashida, p. 100).

While Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine is a work of fiction, it also takes the reader into the world of a child with Asperger’s, an autism spectrum disorder.  Another novel about an adult with Asperger’s is 600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster.  Both engaging novels.

For teachers, we have developed an extensive unit plan for Mockingbird.  The more students learn about the differences among people, the more they learn that we are all more alike than we are different.

Higashida, N.  The reason I jumpThe inner voice of a thirteen-year-old boy with autism (Translation) (2013). New York, Random House.

Mockingbird medium-776321-1

600 Hours of Edward

Mockingbird Book

The One and Only Ivan

January 11, 2014

“With enough time, you can get used to almost anything”.  Ivan

In today’s world, have we all gotten used to people treating each other with disrespect, unkindness, and rudeness?  It’s on the news and on the Internet and in shopping malls and schools and…when does it stop?  Certainly there are people who are respectful, kind, and polite, but often those are not the people who are always seen and heard.

Children need positive models and practice in being respectful, kind, and polite.  That modeling and practice often occurs in classrooms.  Many teachers create classroom communities where all learners are treated with respect, kindness, and politeness.  They support that modeling and those practices by reading aloud books like Wonder by R. J. Palacio and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.  While both books are very different, they both offer stories where respect, kindness, and politeness win out.

My colleagues and I recently uploaded a unit plan for The One and Only Ivan on Teachers Pay Teachers and have three different products for Wonder.  If you’re a teacher looking for great novels to read aloud, check out Ivan and Wonder.

wonder book bitesIvan Cover

Ivan Bookmarks

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